There was once a garden overflowing with everything from apples to zucchini and radishes to watermelons. Like most gardens, there were many little critters running around feasting on the fruits and vegetables. Unlike any other garden in the world, these little critters were actually little people. And these little people were made out of clay. They were called Pretts.
The younger Pretts all looked similar: round eyes, smiles, and very simple features. Older Pretts, however, limped around with misshapen faces and squished limbs. They lived in fear of rain and the Giant who brought it.
The Pretts knew it rained when the Giant came around. Some Pretts speculated that he made them, but they were too afraid to stick around when he walked by. His shoe laces were the width of their arms, and his footprints were large enough for ten Pretts to lay inside.
When the Pretts heard his footsteps, they would sprint inside. Those caught outdoors were never the same. As huge drops pelted down from the sky, the Pretts crouched under leaves and stems and fruits and vegetables. Being clay people, the Pretts had to stay dry to keep their form. A single raindrop would forever alter a Pretts’ life.
The Giant always stretched out his hand to the small clay people, but they hid from this massive man who brought such destruction to their lives.
The Pretts would attempt to patch themselves back together after the rain. Sometimes, the dry Pretts would emerge from their homes and help re-sculpt their friends. Sometimes, the disheveled Pretts tried to fix themselves. Those caught in the rain became rough, crooked, and awkward. And, because of the damage to their legs, they walked slower, which made them more likely to get caught in the next rain.
Some Pretts were so disfigured that they barely looked like they did at first. Josellia was one of them. One of her legs was much longer than the other, and her right arm was attached upside-down. Her ears sprouted out of her neck, and one eye sunk in. And every time she was caught in the rain she became even uglier. She hated the Giant and dreamed about the rain each night. She refused to go outside.
Josellia stopped playing with the other Pretts, and she no longer gathered food. She couldn’t bring herself to step through her doorway. Even glancing out the window brought a wince and a shiver.
At first, her friends brought her meals. Soups, salads, pies, and cobblers graced her table. Josellia didn’t just hate the Giant though.
She began to resent other Pretts, especially those who had never been caught in the rain. She began to watch the smooth, symmetrical Pretts with furrowed brows and pursed lips. Those who fed her became the object of her bitterness.
“Don’t come here just to stare at me!” She shouted one day.
The angrier she became, the less she wanted help from anyone else.
“They only come here because they think they’re better than me. I don’t need them. I don’t need anyone,” she muttered to herself.
Meals became scarce until, one day, when the Pretts stopped coming by at all.
After days without food, Josellia began plotting the quickest way to get to the vegetables and back inside. She stared out the door, released the doorknob from her quivering fingers, gasped, and stepped out into the sunlight. She hobbled around her neighbors’ houses and down a short path. Each step shot pain through her tiny frame and reminded her how slow her walking was now.
“Six more steps. Five more steps. Four more steps,” she coughed.
Then, the ground shook. She heard a rumble. Josellia shrieked as drops began to fall from the sky. The Giant brought the rain.
The rain pelted down as it created divots in her fragile frame. It contorted her body as she sank into the mud. She began mixing with the dirt and water herself. Everything muddled together as her eyes slowly closed.
Suddenly, she felt as though she were soaring. She forced her eyes open and saw the vegetable garden below her and the Giant’s face above her. Josellia lay in the palm of his hand. Her jaw dropped, and everything faded to black.
As Josellia drifted in and out of consciousness, she felt intense pressure and sharp pain all over her body. She worried that the Giant was ripping her apart, but she couldn’t move and continued to pass out.
She woke an hour later in the strangest place she had ever been. Josellia was surrounded by knives, metal poles, and dishes of water that were larger than her entire body. In fact, everything around her was huge, but she was still too weak to run away. A strangely familiar scent hung around her, and she turned her head as the Giant walked in.
“I hope you’re feeling better, Josellia!” exclaimed the Giant. “You looked pretty rough when I found you in my garden.”
Josellia gasped and wondered how the Giant knew her name. He seemed excited to talk to her. His tone was gentle. All of her thoughts collided in confusion, and she couldn’t manage to say anything.
The Giant gazed at her quizzical expression and smiled.
“Let me start with a formal introduction,” he chuckled. “My name is Josh. I’m a gardener and an artist. I crafted all of the Pretts from clay, and you live in my garden.”
Josellia couldn’t believe her ears. This Giant who haunted her dreams and terrorized her days created her? She lived in his garden?
“Why do you torture us with rain?” she spat as she looked up into his huge eyes.
“Josellia, my child,” Josh began. “I have to water the garden so the plants will grow. If I don’t water the plants, you’ll starve. You can’t tend to them on your own. And, every time there is a thunderstorm, I run outside. I gather broken Pretts and carry them into my studio. I’m always around when it rains, but I don’t always cause the rain.”
She lay motionless on his work table, confused and still bitter. “I’ve spent years crippled because of you!”
“Can I help you stand?” Josh asked.
Josellia shrugged, so Josh reached down. His hand enveloped her completely. He slowly brought her to feet, and placed her in front of a shiny metal tool box. The instant she glanced at her reflection, she inhaled sharply and raised her hand to touch her lips. Every rough spot on her skin now felt like velvet. Her legs matched each other and her arms gracefully rested at her sides. Josellia’s face looked like it did before her first rain.
“I’ve been longing to make you new, but you always run away. I know that you’re afraid of the rain, but you’ve also been so scared of me that you haven’t let me fix you,” Josh said with a sigh. “I come to the garden every day without my watering can, but you all still run away. You Pretts won’t even let me tell you that I love you.”
Josellia remained in shock as she said, “Well, why don’t you protect us from the rain? You know that it burns us and cripples us. Why do you do that?”
Josh responded, “Do you see how you look now?”
Josellia nodded as she smiled at the lovely reflection staring back at her from the side of the tool box.
“I want to make you even more beautiful. I want to make you look even more like me; you’re designed to be more real than you are. But you’re made out of clay. The water that burns and changes you is what allows me to reform, transform, and mold you. When you ask a friend to work on you or when you try to put yourself back together, you end up crippled. I’m the only one who can shape you into the Prett you’re supposed to be. And I use the rain to do it.”
With eyes full of compassion and understanding, Josh watched the tiny clay woman tilt her head to the side, raise her eyebrows, sit down on the table, and then place her head in her hand.
“You’ve got a lot to think about,” Josh chuckled. “Why don’t I take you home?”
Josellia nodded again, and he picked her up. She noticed for the first time how warm and comforting his hands were. She felt safe, protected, and at home. She peered over his thumb as he walked toward the garden, where she saw Pretts running for cover. Josellia heard their screams, and she looked into the giant gardener’s face as a single tear rolled down his cheek.
He placed her at her doorstep, and she thanked him for taking her home. Josh handed her enough fruits and vegetables to last her for a couple of days. Josellia closed the door, ate dinner, and then got ready for bed.
A few days later, Josellia heard a familiar rumble; the same one that always sent a chill down her spine. She heard the Pretts shouting and running for shelter.
Josellia jumped up, dashed out the door, and ran outside to play in the rain.