Monday, January 20, 2014


For your summer reading pleasure, here’s a short story I wrote for a Creative Writing class about 14 years ago.

For Miss Boo (because I’m pretty sure she can see the fairies too).

I hadn’t seen Susan and Jim since their wedding 15 years ago. I'd gone to live and work in the city, while Susan and Jim went farming up the coast, about 2 hours drive away from the nearest town. I was needing a break so I invited myself up to see them for a week.

After following Susan's carefully dictated phone directions I found the place, and parked under a drooping pohutakawa behind the house. As I was walking around to the front, I became aware of being watched. I turned, and could see a girl peeking out at me from under a bush, with the sunlight behind her, picking up the highlights in her short bobbed hair.

She had a cheeky grin wedged between deep dimples that lit up her whole face and made her eyes sparkle and shine. Before I could say or do anything she was gone, scampering away and out of sight, like a small rodent.

When I met Cassie later at the house, she still had a slight, restless edge. But she shook my hand with poise beyond that of her 10 years, met my eyes with hers and glowed with an inner secret laughter.

“She’s got a wonderful imagination," sighed Susan over the mugs of tea at lunch. “But I’m worried about her growing up out here so far away from any friends her own age."

Susan volunteered Cassie to show me around the farm after lunch. I set off, expecting the usual tour of animals, paddocks, and tractor sheds.

“Follow me!" Cassie called, giggling as she skipped on ahead of me, “Come and see where the fairies live."

“Fairies?” I asked, “Are you really lucky enough to have fairies here?”

She only laughed in reply, and showed me a small gravelly beach beside the stream. The dappled sunlight sparkled in the water, bouncing reflections off Cassie’s face.

“See there, at those holes in the bank.” I squinted, and could only see a few insect-sized holes in the clay bank opposite. “The fairies live in there, Cassie explained to me, "they only come out when no-one’s there, and paddle leaf boats in the stream. Come on, I'll show you the eagle’s nest!”

She dragged on my arm, then kept telling me to hurry up as she ran across the paddock ahead of me to her favourite climbing tree. At the fork in the top lived an eagle, who wore a faded orange tee-shirt, denim shorts, scuffed mud-brown sneakers, and just happened to look like Cassie.

“Come on, come on, come and see my house." Cassie showed me where she had her very own cottage, built with manuka sticks and a ponga thatch.

“Come on, come on..." We explored the patch of bush behind the tractor shed, where Robin Hood’s merry men still roamed, fighting with supplejack bows and flax swords.

“Come on, let’s go see..." We climbed up to the rocky bluff, where cave people live and hunt with toi-toi spears, and slings made with scraps of denim. We visited the knoll where it's really cool to come out at night, and lie on your back to watch the stars. We visited the rock pools at low tide, where a whole world of little people live among the forests of mussels and sea anemones. We scrambled up the stream to the pool with a waterfall, where  a beautiful water nymph lives, with light brown hair and a pink swimsuit.

By the end of the afternoon, I could almost see the fairies too, superimposed on an innocuous wooden gate. They were hiding among the clumps of lichen, giggling among themselves and pointing at us before ducking back out of sight. They all had the same laughing grin, the same dancing eyes, the same cheeky dimples as Cassie did. Maybe they're kin.

I told Susan that I didn't think she needs to worry too much about Cassie. I think she'll grow up just fine.

She'll probably even grow up to be a writer.

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