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.’
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.
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.
It is one o’clock in the afternoon. I am hungry. My mind is drifting towards the beans and sourdough bread in the kitchen. I have been sat still for too long at the £10 IKEA desk. One of the cheap metal wire drawers is collapsed. I should fix it but each time I do, it surrenders to the greater forces of gravity and the weight of paper. The seat is an unwanted office chair. A memory comes of my partner smiling as he wheeled the purple and yellow ergonomasaurus across four lanes of traffic at Waterloo. I sat in the car under rumbling railway arches laughing at him.
A dull pain nags me in the back of my shoulder. The voices of two bin men drift through the open window as they wheel away used cotton buds, squeezed teabags and stale bread crusts. The sun is shining. Children are screaming and shouting from a nearby school playground. The jets of a Boeing 747 are roaring less than one mile above my head. A wood pigeon is cooing from the top of a sycamore tree in the garden. Four crows are cawing and doing acrobatics between the branches of an ash tree. A marble white butterfly flutters up the window. The school bell rings.
Switch on, filament sparks lighting a lonely bulb that hangs down from the garage ceiling over the sunroof of a carbon-fibred East Asian tiger cub. It lights up the web of tegeneria domestica. The house spider darts from illuminated exposure at the centre of its sprawling web into the dark-cornered sanctuary of rare-used wooden handled garden rake, shovel, fork and hoe.
Silver-birch seed-covered sun loungers and dusty parasols collapse in a forest of green plastic chairs. Milly Molly Mandy and Saucepan Man and Dick and Ann and an obligatorily blond-haired, perpetually fainting Princess dine on damp-aged paper and eat the rotten pea. As Five Get Into a Fix, Timmy barks and leaps from the margins to wrestle crisp and crunchy Crane fly carcasses from the fluff of a faded, luminous yellow tennis ball. Heavy-handled tennis rackets lean against brown brick and beneath their navy cases, muffled shouts and laughter of four squabbling sisters echo from nylon strings.
Dimpled balls cluster in plastic plant pots and gather around a homicidal Slazenger 9. In 1983, it left the iron of a clown-trousered, pastel lemon-wearing, Faldo wannabe across the grassy course, over the bunker, between mating magpies in Scotch pines, above blackened sandstone and through pink, blooming, honey bee-filled, buzzing rhododendrons. As Mother pegged towelling smocks in purple, pink, tangerine and lime green onto her prided rotary washing line, spinning three thousand times a minute and flying at one hundred and sixty miles an hour, the tight, white sphere, brushed by fluttering her fine auburn hair in its determined breeze and whispering ‘nearly’ in her ear.
Founded by the world-renowned BBC Aeronautics Correspondent Reg Turnill and his wife, Margaret, to celebrate the life and works of HG Wells and encourage creative writing, especially among the young, the prestigious HG Wells Short Story Competition offers generous Senior and Junior prizes and free publication of all shortlisted entries in a quality, professionally published paperback anthology.