Stories

Cyanistes Caeruleus or Daniel & Erithacus Rubecula or Robert

 robinredbreast_by_chibighibli

Daniel is eyeing the bird feeder.  It is suctioned to the kitchen window and contains a single, half-decimated suet ball with hulled sunflower seeds poking out of the top.  He leans forward readying for take-off.  There is a shadow on the other side of the feeder.  It moves.

Gavin spots it first and whistles: ‘Dan, Dan, Dan, Danny, Daniel!’

Daniel stops and looks at Gavin: ‘What is it mate?  I’m on my way to lunch.’

‘Shadows, moving shadows, pink hands; it’s big, really big.’

The giant shadow is standing at the sink.  It has bright pink hands that it plunges into something white and foamy.  It walks away.

Daniel grows impatient.

‘Sod this for a game of soldiers.  I’m Hank Marvin.’

Daniel stretches indigo wings, leans forward and pushes himself away from the protection of the thicket.  A flash of red shoots out from the cotoneaster and charges into Daniel knocking him off course.  The red pecks viciously at his sweet-lined eyes.  He is spun around and over and upside down before he falls to the patio floor.  He lies on his back and blinks only once.

Image source: http://www.deviantart.com/art/robinredbreast-39849967

Advertisements

Industrial Infant

Industrial infant

Industrial infant

 

 

The ticket booth is sepia-coloured.   The seller wears a beaked cap.  His mouth hides behind a thick moustache.  He tells me I can go on the steamboat or the train or even one after the other.  As my sleeve brushes the counter, my fingers turn shades of pale grey.  The gold pound coin falls from my hand and twenty silver shillings land in the centre of his square palm.

I step onto the platform.  I look down and there is a newborn baby in my arms.  There are black surgical pen marks tattooed all around his tiny cranium.  The bosomy, wide-hipped woman who takes my tea-stained ticket looks at him admiringly.  She does not see the oddity of his scars.

I board an open-top train and cling to the infant.  Together we ride around the roof of a red-brick wool factory amidst an industrial landscape, over and over again.

 

 

Source: http://www.steamsounds.org.uk/recordings.html

Cyanistes caeruleus or Gavin

Blue Tit in Trilby by Claire Tarling

Gavin is sitting on a bowed branch of firethorn outside the kitchen window.  His hat is gleaming as the sun runs fingers over his plumy skull.  He tilts his white cheek up to the right and blinks away the light to see a fresh, pale green shoot on the branch.  He stabs his short beak tearing the newness to shreds and inside he finds a sweet, juicy aphid just the colour of lime pulp.

‘Mm…I haven’t had one of these in yonks,’ he mutters through part-masticated flesh with two, fine legs dangling from his beak, before gulping down the succulent bug greedily.

Image source: http://www.jijikiki.com/collections/wall-art/products/blue-tit-in-trilby-art-print

http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/b/bluetit/

 

Boy with Balloons

Boy with Balloons, Mrs Mook’s Mantlepiece

When I was a girl, about four or five years old, my parents would leave me with a lady called Mrs Mook. She was a big lady; strong as an ox. She had great, wide hips and salt and pepper hair that had been set in pink, heated rollers. She wore slippers for wide feet and paisley, patterned polyester dresses. I liked it when Mum and Dad couldn’t pick me up before tea time. I liked sitting at her Formica table and eating beef in little squares with sweet, tinned peas and grey-vy.

Mrs Mook had the most extensive collection of porcelain I have ever seen. As we had a cuppa in the living room, Mother would raise her cup to her lips, believing it to be a greater shield than it truly was, and utter in harsh, hushed tones ‘Don’t touch,’ before measuredly sipping her tea and eliciting a demure smile as she lowered her cup.

The boy with balloons was my favourite ornament. He stood nearest to me on the left of the dark wood mantelpiece. The balloons were so appealingly edible and fruit-like with their shiny, glazed spheres. I just wanted to pick one and eat it and feel it crunch in my molars like a pear drop. But I did not. I was keenly observed.

I was excruciatingly restrained, sitting on my hands lest they lose control and propel my child’s body up from my chair. They might fling me into the glass cabinet sending plates and coveted tea sets crashing to the floor, before dragging me across to the fireplace. My wayward left hand might lift my arm and force it in one neat line all the way down the mantelpiece decapitating the blue and white bonneted shepherdess with the upturned fingers, massacring the promenading Victorian couple, slaughtering the proud Dalmatian dog and finally murdering the boy with the balloons in one foul swoop with a crash and a smash into smithereens.

The shepherdess’s head would roll casually along the floor till it reached Mrs Mook’s slippered toe where it would rock gently and come to rest with a delicate nose, pressed between a rubber sole and worn carpet. The pink balloon would break free from the others and rather than float away to the boundless sky, it would land with a sure thud and nestle by my chair leg. My unruly hand might take the charlatan strawberry sherbet and conspire with my guileless mouth which, overcome by temptation and fateful opportunity, will weaken and allow wicked, tiny fingers to prise its lips apart just enough to gleefully pop the pink balloon onto my insatiable tongue.

I must sit on my hands.

I wonder where the porcelain boy is now and whether his knuckles are still white because he has been clutching china balloons for his entire life.

Tom the Dog

A dog called Tom

A dog called Tom

 

 

One day there was dog and his name was Tom.

Tom was walking.  He was a street dog.

He wanted an owner.  He got an owner and he was so happy.

The End.

Zara, age 7

 

I love the way that even in this short and sweet tale, my lovely niece has structured it in traditional storytelling form, with the introduction of our hero; Tom the dog, his plight and a happy ending.  I wonder whether we learn the structure of storytelling or if it is innate.  Zara has read plenty of books so she is influenced by her environment naturally, but perhaps there is a universal formula of narrative that reflects the way the mind processes information.

Zara delivers the tale brilliantly and she was delighted when I asked if I could share her story with you. I hope you like it. 🙂

 

A humble winter tree

Winter Tree

On a winter’s night, under an indigo-black sky a tree stands alone next to a yellow light on the corner of a city pavement. It is bold, youthful and strong yet quite ordinary.  An intricate spiral pattern emerges from light-reflecting, icy moisture on smooth, bare branches. Nature shows a face, an invisible web connecting each twig and sleeping bud with light and molecules and atoms, energy, cold and magnetism. Cars rush by.  A man walks his dog.  A couple argue on their way home from the pub.  Yet no one sees the trees incandescent display.  The secret remains within the humble roadside, ice-lit winter tree which, on occasion, reveals the hidden code of everything.

 

Eat my words

I will eat my words

I will eat my words

The red-haired woman is very angry with her husband.  She asked him to write a note, a sort of memo to the staff but he had done a very bad job of saying the right thing.  The angry wife tells me to review the note and re-write it. Then she says lots of things that she does not like about her husband till my head hurts and I forget where I am.

I find the husband hiding at the back of the book shop between self-help and foreign languages. He is tall, lanky, nervous and has poor control of his limbs, as though he just grew into a man only moments ago and hasn’t quite got used to his new proportions. He is wearing a navy jumper over a sage green shirt, mustard yellow corduroy trousers and tan moccasins. His short, brown, utilitarian hair is reminiscent of schoolboy crops.  I ask to see his note and he hands me a jar of puffed rice and it tumbles but I catch it before it smashes on the floor.  He pulls a crumpled handkerchief from his pocket and mops his brow.

I clutch the jar carefully to my chest and walk to the wooden bench in the window and take a pew on a wobbly stool.  I dip a stainless steel dessert spoon in and eat a spoonful of puffed rice.  It is coloured brown and seasoned with soya sauce and star anise.  As I chew a mouthful, a sentence emerges from mist in my mind. Each grain of rice is a word and each spoonful I eat, a sentence. The saltiness of the rice is so tastily moreish that I gobble more and more. Words drop down my jumper and land on the floor and passers-by tread on them and as grains of rice crunch under boot heels and get stuck in shoe grooves and carried to the pavement, their meaning is shattered into tiny alphabet crumbs.

I eat over half the jar, almost the whole memo, till my belly swells and I undo my belt and top button before remembering with a final gulp of Asia’s grain, that I cannot edit a note if I eat it all. But how strange it is, I ponder, that crumbs are the alphabet and rice is words and mouthfuls are sentences and a full jar of rice is one complete, imperfect note.