The Sparkly Man (a Short Story)

“I caught him. I finally caught him on camera,” I whispered over the noise from the TV. Dani had come over to watch a movie, but my heart was pounding so hard I couldn’t focus. I paused the movie. “Do you want to see?”

She slowly turned her head and raised her eyebrow at me. I knew she wouldn’t believe me, that’s why I had debated on even showing her.  My palms began to sweat. She stuffed another handful of popcorn into her mouth. The crunching sounded loud in the quiet room as I waited for her answer. The scent of butter drifted under my nose. My stomach lurched.

“I guess,” she said, blowing out a few bits of popcorn as she spoke.

The phone slipped from my hands, but I quickly grabbed it and pushed play. “I’m gonna post it on YouTube.”

“Shhh!” she hissed, as her eyes grew round. “What the?” She slapped my arm. “I can’t believe you caught him! Oooo, he’s ugly! His face is practically purp-“ she interrupted herself. “What’s he doing?”

“I think he’s wrapping the tree. See that fine shimmer as he circles it? I don’t know what it does, but it seems almost like a Bandaid or something.” I turned the phone sideways for a bigger view. “And watch, he goes right over the knot that he came out of!”

Dani grabbed the phone from my hand, spilling popcorn all over the floor. “What’s that squirrel doing?”

I pressed my nose toward the screen and then tried to make the image bigger, just as the tiny man disappeared and the video stopped.

“Oh. My. Gosh. I can’t believe you finally caught him. Are you really just going to post it on YouTube? You should totally try to sell it.” Dani wiped her hands on her pants and set down her bowl.

I asked her who would even buy it, as we picked popcorn up from the floor. “Mom’s going to kill me if we don’t get the grease out of this carpet.”

I went to get spray cleaner and ran back into the room. “He’s out there right now!” I pointed toward the kitchen window. Dani jumped up and I dropped the cleaner and rag and we hustled as fast as we could out the back door, trying to get to him before he disappeared. We didn’t make it.

“Dude, let’s sit out here and wait. Maybe he’s as curious about you as you are about him,” Dani said.

I nodded and we sat down in deck chairs. We stared at the tree. A squirrel stared at me from a branch. We agreed to sit very still, readjusting into more comfortable positions. Pretty soon the squirrel climbed down, venturing closer to us. Dani fell asleep and the squirrel paused, staring at us for a couple of breaths before skittering across the grass into the neighbor’s hedge. I sighed.

I must have dozed off because next thing I knew, I opened my eyes and the sun was setting. I rubbed my blurry eyes. I could see a faint outline against the tree, so I laid a hand on Dani to nudge her awake and whispered, “It’s okay, little fella. Whatcha doin’ by the tree?”

Dani softly snorted and he blinked. His clothes blended in with the tree bark, but they sparkled just a little bit. “Come on over, I won’t hurt you, I promise.” I said, holding my breath as my heart beated fast again.  He threw back his head and laughed, and then he disappeared.

I searched and searched and rubbed my eyes again, but couldn’t find him. “Ouch!” I yelped. Dani finally stirred and opened her eyes. “The little bugger pinched me!”

Dani laughed. I couldn’t see him, but I heard him say, “You couldn’t hurt me if you tried. You’re too slow!” His laughter dissipated, as if into a mist.

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