She stomped through the mud and in other houses trees twinkled. A robin looked tilty-head sideways at her but she didn’t see him. Angels flew past her in a soft winged whoosh of wings and bare branches bent before her, but she could only scowl, poor thing, and her heart was a lump of stone. You know the type.
In the mud, though, Mother Nature was playing a trick. She had left a seed and with the stompiest of stomps and whilst frowning to boot the woman trod on the seed with such force that she carried the seed home with her in the sole of her shoe.
The woman, whose name was Grace, left her shoes at the bottom of the stairs. She didn’t clean them, they sat at the bottom caked in mud not even paired together, just left in random order at the bottom of the stairs, hardening.
Poor Grace went to bed and downstairs on the street she could hear children carol singing badly and she pretended to hate everyone. But she knew she was only pretending and a tear slid from the corner of her eye, rolled down her cheek and over the pillow and slid down the bedstead onto the carpet, followed by another and another and another. Her head hung over the edge of the bed in misery as she tried to hate the world and the tears flowed.
Her house was built on a slope, with a slopey landing too, and the tears soaked a tributary along the carpet and out of the bedroom and along the landing and down the stairs to the shoes at the bottom in their sad disarray and they watered the seed and of course, you knew it, the seed grew.
The seed grew through the shoe, a determined shoot, poking through the sole and so next morning when it was time to stompy-stomp to work Grace could feel something digging into her foot. She stopped and looked but couldn’t find anything. She frowned, of course, and yet she stomped on, because even without goodwill she was still punctual. By the time she was at work the seed was in her sock, and by the time it was her coffee break the seed was in her foot and by the time she went for lunch the seed was buried in her flesh and she thought, well, whatever was in my shoe has gone.
That night she cried again. This time it was because Secret Santa had given her nothing useful, just a scared smile from her colleagues and she curled up into a ball and cried and tried to hate the world again. It went like this most nights, you get the picture.
Her tears slid down her face and onto her knees (there was some snot and dribble too, it really was that bad) and down it all flowed, down her bristly shin and onto her feet and so of course the seed grew more.
In her sleep the seed shot tendrils up inside her legs. Next day she poked her toe in her shoe and her foot said ‘Why, hello shoe!’ and the shoe said ‘My dear friend foot! How are you?’ Then on the bus that day, Grace’s knee said hello to the knee of the person sitting opposite and they had a moment of knee happiness together and the person said ‘Isn’t it busy today?’ and Grace saw that she had been given a smile.
By the time she was off the bus and had stompy-stomped to the office, the seed had grown some more and the leaves were coiling around her liver and she said ‘Shall I make the tea?’ and everyone stopped typing and skyping and tweeting and leafing through reports and cried ‘Yes, please, Grace!’
As she sat at her desk the leaves grew up as far as her chest and the strangest feeling stole over her heart; leaves budding in the left ventricle, a tiny tendril in her aorta and she smiled and hummed while she worked. Oh Grace! Thank God you stomped!
On the bus home the tender young stems caressed the inside of her throat and leaves lined her vocal folds and she started a conversation. Her knee chatted to other knees, her waist tickled an elbow and she exchanged a laugh with the elbow bearer.
By the time she was stomping home from the bus stop the leaves were massed beneath her cheeks. If you had stopped her and said ‘Hi! Think it might snow in time for Christmas?’ you could have looked quickly into the pupils of her eyes and there behind the dark circles you would have seen tiny tiny leaves and if you had looked even closer you would have seen miniature buds of blossom decorating the edges of her iris.
That night, before she went to bed to cry, Grace called her mother for the first time in ages. She arranged her shoes carefully in pairs. Then she decided to wear something different the next day. Maybe something a bit festive because it was Christmas Eve and her last day at work for a while. And as she held the phone and tidied the shoes and stroked her red blouse, little leaves sprung out from under her fingernails.
For the first time in months, she didn’t weep as she went to sleep. Instead, she sweated and smiled and heaved deep breaths and dreamt of passion and skin and sparkling trees and angels’ wings and friendly knees and in her sleep leaves grew out of her scalp and the buds burst and her head was crowned with flowers.
The next day she woke and yawned and petals fell on to the carpet. She carolled green song as she made her breakfast. She smiled as she walked to the bus stop through the mud and her walk was a dance and she caught sight, in the corner of her eye, of something feathery flitting past.
When she sat at her desk and exchanged banter, berries rolled from her and lay on the carpet. Trod underfoot, the berries burst and the seeds clung to her shoe and she strolled through the park back home saying ‘Happy Christmas’ to those she judged to have a smile close enough to the surface to call forth with ease, and as she walked the seeds peeled away from her sole onto the mud and burrowed down while the ground hardened overnight. Grace slept and smiled and in the morning friends came to visit.
And the seeds that were on her shoe? In fact, there is one seed still in the park to this day, hibernating. It is waiting for the most fecund tearful misery to come along, waiting for a night-time cryer and a daytime monster, waiting to feel the vibration of the earth from a stompy shoe, a stompy shoe to cling onto and be carried home by, and a staircase to lie by, a slopey landing to sit below, waiting for slippery tears to trickle down and give the seed the chance to grow and leaf and bud and blossom and berry and seed and spread goodwill all over again. Tread on it if you need it. It’s waiting for you.
Written by Alison Seddon from the keyword Goodwill