Figboot fumbled with his repair efforts and dropped another tree.
Trunks and branches really were among the fiddliest of fibres to work with, rendered fiddlier when three of his fingernails had already started to grow back into their awkward bulbous shape. Like big teardrops at the ends of his fingers.
A natural defence against lightning strikes, they were nevertheless a bother when it came to dexterous labours. Figboot had twisted them all off last night and stored them safely at home – all except the one he’d lost. That had snapped free too suddenly and flown off into the night. He’d lost one or two like that before. He like to keep them, partly because they were part of him, but mostly because he liked their glow with the lightning bottled up inside. Such a heavenly energy to strike from angry skies.
Figboot gave each of his half-formed nails a twist and broke them off, discarding the nuisances in the dirt. Some always grew really fast – too fast – when he slept, as though his body was anxious to be prepared for storms every day. Although of course, if he hadn’t been woken by some animal brushing against his hair he might still be pleasantly dozing away and he’d probably have a full set of bulbous nails for the next time he roused. By which time there could well have been more storms. And if lightning struck while he slept? Well, he supposed that even lying down he was taller than quite a number of lesser giants and lightning would prefer not to travel all the way down to their head height when there was a closer target at hand.
Fingers liberated, Figboot tugged up another tree between finger and thumb and began weaving it into the matted branches of his boot. He realised he had nearly picked the hills clean, but he only needed about twenty more to finish patching the damaged portions. Assuming he got his proper length of sleep next time he turned in, well, the trees ought to have plenty of seasons to recover. A great many came up roots and all, but the next couple he picked he made sure to suck the fruit and foliage off, savouring the sugary taste before spitting out the green and – he hoped – sowing a few seeds far and wide.
Threading a last few into place he examined his handiwork. He flexed a toe and watched the knitted trunks and branches bend as in a strong wind. They stretched some but locked their woody fingers together. Lovely. He reached down and patted the toe of the repaired boot.
Then, with an effort it would take for the earth to move, he rose to stand.
Turning with the patience of the world he set off for his cavern.
Five leisurely strides and he would be home.
It was hot, hard work and his tunic clung to his chest and slurped thirstily at his armpits.
He paused to run a sleeve across his brow. That sleeve was already soggy, so he had a go with the other one.
His tongue and throat panted for a wash of that cider. A dry crust of pasty would do him no good, but his mouth watered for the veg and meaty juices tucked up inside the pastry. After it was done watering, his mouth dried up all over again. But he couldn’t stop for lunch. He had to keep going. Press on. Keep digging.
He glanced easterly.
The giant was up and standing. A wispy belt of cloud streaked across his waist, but that soon broke apart when he took his first big stride through. Figboot’s boot crashed down, one less mile away. Down at Siggy’s feet soil crumbled and toppled from his neatly squared off edges to fall into the pit like miniature landslides.
He’d never get it done in time.
He pushed on anyway, putting his back into it. And his elbows and shoulders and every other part of him that went into wielding a garden fork. He forgot his neat edges and hacked up the dirt, digging up a rough and reasonably straight furrow.
Hoping and hoping that if the giant saw part of it he’d stop and let Siggy finish.
Figboot’s boot crashed to earth again. Another mile closer.
Siggy dug up a storm of dirt.
Figboot stopped half a stride from home.
He tilted his head forward and furrowed his brow. There were letters carved in the ground outside his home.
HELI, it appeared to say.
Or HEL and most of a straight line. Crisp and sharp excavations, giving way to a crude scratch towards the base of the last vertical groove.
Figboot bent down on one knee and leaned in for a closer examination.
That last upright line appeared to be growing. Little by little by little.
Figboot puzzled over this for some while before he saw it.
Digging as though in a desperate frenzy. Throwing up sprays of dust in his wake. Toiling so fast and hard it seemed his life depended on it. And yet, like all men, no matter how hurried the labours his progress was painfully slow.
Figboot felt sorry for him. But at the same time he wondered why the man would come to dig letters in the ground right outside his home.
HEL and this straight line continuing to lengthen fraction by fraction.
The desperation could mean only one thing.
The man needed Figboot’s help!
Figboot should have realised sooner. He could have saved the man minutes of toil. But a giant’s thoughts could sometimes be as slow and ponderous as his steps, with such a large brain to circumnavigate. Thoughts, Figboot was fairly certain, were tiny things – often tinier than men or squirrels – and lacked the advantage of long legs.
It was really rather clever of this man to write his call for HELP so large in the earth. But it might take him a year to explain the problem in any detail that way.
Figboot wanted to help in any way he could. And he knew only one way to talk to men.
Holding finger and thumb a hair’s width apart he dipped his hand down towards the tiny burrowing figure.
The man glanced up and started to run, which was going to make things trickier.
Men had to be handled much more gently than trees.
Figboot cupped his other hand across the man’s path, creating a wall. The man, not that much bigger than an eel really but surely not as slippery, halted and appeared to turn his head this way and that. So fast. Almost too fast for Figboot to catch the movements.
Quickly – as quickly as he could manage – Figboot snatched at the figure and plucked him, as tenderly as possible, from the ground.
Men were so small, he could barely feel them wriggling between the tips of his finger and thumb. But he couldn’t see the man any more and so was reasonably sure he’d got him.
Slowly he lifted him and lifted him.
And stuck him in his ear.
[To Be Continued…]