Wings swiftly beating, Amadou dodged saplings and swung wide around old soul trees, the wind pulling his curly, brown hair straight back. He felt the tree spirits slumbering in the cool midday, their leaves turning golden shades of autumn.
Amadou had been unfurling fiddlehead ferns all morning, and he needed to blow off steam. He was looking for a wide ledge of fungus, just the right height above the ferns. He could see it in his mind’s eye. That day, rain had created the perfect conditions. Diving sprites give a tremendous scream, arch their backs gracefully, wings folded. Then they take a running jump from the fungus ledge, falling through the thick, damp air, eventually bouncing from fern to fern and water slalom skiing in the dew on their tiny feet.
He got his name fungus diving on a dry day from a log covered in smoky bracket fungus. He had slid so fast down a fallen log that sparks flew from his heels, igniting the nearby fungi’s amadou layer, which is excellent tinder. Luckily, his former friend Oceanid, a water sprite, was with him, and she put out the flames with her water summoning powers. The memory made him shiver with cold all over again, remembering her fountaining water down over his head, howling with laughter the whole while. Then she started calling him Amadou, and now everyone did. He was still angry at her, and he refused to speak to her at all these days.
He put that image firmly out of his mind. He only risked diving after a good rain these days. He briefly considered heading for a nearby dryad’s saddle fungus, but the dryads had pelted him with woodlice last time. He was not fond of woodlice in his hair.
Below, he spotted Boris, a spruce grouse friend, looking vaguely up the trees.
“Boris, how unlike you to be out of hiding.” Amadou zipped a circle around the big bird.
“Hungry,” answered Boris. “Where are you going in such a hurry?”
“I’m headed for the artist’s conk fungus by your nest.”
“Uh oh. You’re fungus diving again.”
“Why uh oh? I’m not going to set anything on fire. That was a fluke. Can’t everybody forget about that?!”
“Um, I wasn’t talking about that. I kind of ate that artist’s conk. Last month.”
“You ate it?!” Amadou did a back roll, wings whining with annoyance.
“I was starving,” Boris protested.
Amadou sighed. He was sensitive about how he came by his name, and he was aware that he sometimes overreacted, lighting up like his namesake. “I saw some ripe raspberries back by Tiny’s Hollow,” he offered in apology.
Boris gasped in anticipation of raspberries. “I’ve seen some good turkey tail fungus over by Lost Creek.”
“Thanks, Boris, my winged bud!” He buzzed by Boris, who bobbed his head in farewell.
He hoped he would not see Oceanid, over by Lost Creek, but he really wanted to find a good diving ledge. When he saw the creek’s glinting waters, he hunted up dead trees looking for the best ledge. Soon, he was thirsty. He bounced along the purple loosestrife blooms, drinking rain drops held in the flower cups. He had forgotten Oceanid lived in a bubble palace among the loosestrife. Suddenly, she surfaced in a spout of glistening water. His heart sank, he had hoped not to see her. She had shiny pale hair and the bluish skin of a water sprite.
“Who’s shaking my palace?” Oceanid called. “Oh, it’s you,” she said when she spotted Amadou. “You were making my whole palace bounce.”
“Hey, I forgot you live down there. I was thirsty. Doesn’t the wind make your palace bounce anyway?”
“It doesn’t bounce so much when it’s all moving. Then it’s like being rocked in a cradle.”
“Well, I’m sorry, okay? See you.” Amadou zoomed off, hoping to shake her off. Trying to put their former friendship out of his mind. Maybe wanting to hurt her because he felt hurt. Spite is unusual in a sprite, but he didn’t know how to cope with his hurt feelings.
“Amadou, wait.” Oceanid called after him. He left as quickly as he could, tucking his wings and diving into the shrubs and out of sight. He stopped soon to rest on some wild asters. A bee buzzed quietly, ignoring him.
Part of him knew Oceanid would follow. Maybe part of him had remembered she lived under the musical creek waters and had wanted to see her again. He tried to squash those thoughts down, and he was about to flee again when she landed lightly next to him on a wide purple bloom, spreading out her skirts daintily.
“Amadou, we need to talk,” Oceanid said quietly. He sighed. Perhaps if she had been angrier, he could have stayed angrier. He tried to hold onto his anger at her.
“You had to call me Amadou, and now everyone laughs at me!”
“No one laughs at you. We all honor your strength and fiery nature. You belong to the fire element, and we acknowledge and cherish that.”
“What?” This was a lot for a wood sprite to absorb. He didn’t know what to say. Oceanid made it easy for him, as she always did.
“I laughed at the expression on your face when I doused the fire with water, because you looked so offended and out of your element. You reminded me of the time the Siamese cat fell in Lost Creek, and practically walked on water getting back out, his ears as far back as they could go.” Oceanid carefully did not smile at the memory, knowing how touchy Amadou could be.
Amadou sighed. “I was pretty cold. I think I was in shock.” He started to laugh at the memory. “I must have looked a sight, soaked and irate.”
“Well, I couldn’t help laughing, you looked so offended, but the flames were all around you. I had to soak you, too.” Oceanid’s voice was peaceful and calm.
“Thank you for dousing the flames, Oceanid. I got myself in that mess, and you got me out.” He pulled the words from deep inside himself.
“That was hard to say, wasn’t it?” Oceanid always seemed to know too much. Suddenly she hugged him. “I know just what you want,” she said laughing.
“You do not,” Amadou said, lighting up again.
“Yes, I do,” she gloated. “You want that turkey tail ledge!”
“How did you know?” Amadou was disbelieving.
“Only fungus diving would have brought you to Lost Creek.” Oceanid had a glint in her eye.
“Well, I’ve been really mad at you. Okay, you’ve got me. Where is it?”
Suddenly, she shook out her lotus flower skirt, and dove headfirst off the asters. She skimmed the grasses, shaking water droplets everywhere, then headed up into the blue sky, laughing all the way. Amadou could not stop his smile shining like the sun. He sped after her, keeping away from the wet grass, but soaring into the sky behind her.
The turkey tail fungus ledge was perfect. Amadou took the first running leap, holding his wings tightly closed. His back arched, and his arms akimbo, he floated downward. Tucking his legs, he swung them forward to meet the rain speckled ferns, using his wings to brake a bit and steer. He careened down, screaming like fire burning and cracking. Before he reached the ground, Oceanid was falling, screaming like a waterfall behind him. She shook water all over him when she landed on the first fern. He laughed out loud. The woods rang with their joyful bellows, ferns spilling tears of fun. And so a friendship was mended.
Copyright 2013 Brenda Davis Harsham
Notes: Two fungus photographs were used with the kind permission of acuriousgal, a very talented photographer.
Amadou means tinder that can be harvested from bracket fungi.