Those of you who read last Friday’s blog (2 September) may recall that I mentioned my first attempt at a novel, which I kind of discarded, on the basis that the plot action was
underdeveloped and the pace of the thing was too slow. Well, that got me thinking… there are bits of it that I rather like, so I’ve decided to foist one of those bits on the world,
or at least, on a few lovely people. I hope you enjoy the read.
Comments appreciated, as always, and now that I have this new funky wordpress blog page thingy, there’s a comments section at the bottom.
An extract from my sleeping
(and very unpublished) novel ‘The Sum of All Things’
The willow’s song
Imagine, a girl of four, a small, chubby girl with dark brown wispy hair that slopes out at the shoulders and big green eyes. Soft, rounded, pudgy. A girl with no edges. Imagine her in a soft blue and purple patterned dress, long white socks and white sandals, the sort with a buckle at the top, near the toes, and a buckle near the ankle. I can see her so clearly, so vividly, so awash with colour. She loves that dress. Its softness is perfection and
fills her up so that she doesn’t know where she begins and it ends.
Picture a garden, a long, wide expanse of glorious green. There’s a patio, crazy-paved, at one end, the house end, and two lots of steps stretching down to a long wide lawn, whose green fingers claw at a ragged fence. In places, the fencing has come away altogether and has been replaced by a rusting wire panel. Wavy borders creep down either side of the
garden, overflowing with reds and browns, blues and greens. At the bottom, three apple trees shimmy to the left and a solitary pear reaches skyward to the right. Beyond this, the garden shed, and a sleepy hedgehog who seems to have found something to nibble.
But that is not all. That is not the complete shape of it, for in the centre of the long wide sea of green, stands a willow tree whose drooping branches cast shadows upon the bricks that wall the patio, snakes of grey, twisting and turning with the breeze, slender leaves dancing across the grass. And to the left, closer to the house, closer to the little girl, a small pussy willow. The little pudgy girl in the purple patterned dress reaches up her small hand and grasps a soft yellow catkin between fingers and thumb. It is like a tiny living creature, nestling into the soft flesh, soaking up her gentleness and warmth.
Then she runs towards the middle of the garden, towards the circle of brown earth, towards the big willow, the huge dancing willow that stands at the centre of her world. As she runs she keeps hold of the soft catkin. She won’t let it go. She isn’t the sort of girl to discard such a treasure, to let it drop, wither and die. It has absorbed her heat; it lives and sleeps in her palm. She comes to a stop outside the wavering circle then walks between the weeping branches. She walks slowly and silently so as to feel every second of it, the
tickle of leaves against her forehead, the slight resistance of slender branches across her shoulders. Only when she is inside the circle does she kneel down slowly at the roots of the tree and lay down the catkin. You’re safe now, she thinks.
And then she twists around, turning on the dry earth at the tree’s roots.
It is spring. It is warm, warm enough to be in a soft blue and purple patterned dress and sandals. She likes to sit upon the earth, to feel its crevices and bumps, to brush her hand against the surface. She watches for movement. She looks up, searching the air, and sees how the light changes as the leaves dance. Then she hears the trees’ sounds. She soaks them up, listens to their chatter, tries to separate out their different songs. She hears the song of the willow, its whispering, hissing tinkle. Or is that the sound of the wind?
The sound of the wind as it meets the willow. The same air that allows a child to sing,
breathed in and pressed out. The willow’s leaves breathe in the spring air and expel it in a high sweet hiss. It is like forever. If forever could be a moment, then this was it.