Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Spirit stone

Manilla folders, bursting at the seams with copies of birth and death certificates competed for space on the aged work-stained table where numerous scraps of paper covered in scribbled notes were stacked haphazardly. The three cousins endeavoured to piece together the trail of their forebears who had arrived in New Zealand before the influx of Pakeha settlers. Several months earlier in idle conversation about life in the olden days, the idea was hatched that a Family Tree should be tackled before the remaining elderly aunts and uncles departed this world. Maggie launched into the self-imposed task with vigour bulldozing Lily and Cathy, who were younger, into acting as gatherers and collators of information.

Cathy, who prided herself on her extensive computer skills, was assigned the task of assembling the information into chronological order. Lily, the proud possessor of several faded sepia-toned photographs from a bygone era and who was privy to many family stories, assumed the compilation role. Lily enjoyed her duties. She was well known amongst the family as the one who kept in touch with relatives near and far, and it was to her that family secrets and desires were divulged. Lily was curious by nature and should a whisper of a tale reach her ears she would sit and write a long chatty letter unobtrusively placing her query in the middle, thus not making her curiosity apparent. She didn’t consider it nosey, and consequently her knowledge of family stories was incredible. The folders and notes amassed to mammoth proportions until it became essential they take time out from everyday interruptions to concentrate on the proposed contents of ‘The Family Tree’. They resolved to spend three days at The Crib in the Catlins where they would be assured of relative peace and quiet.

Cathy and Maggie leaned over the table engrossed in their latest discussion. Had great-grandfather chosen his life as a whaler, or was it thrust upon him because his parents had been convicts deported to Botany Bay? Maggie had almost convinced them that he had chosen that way of life, but secretly Lily, who didn’t think it important, had some doubts. Who, in their right mind, would choose to sail across the Tasman Sea to distant, almost uninhabited New Zealand, to chase whales in a small boat? Lily, who preferred the comforts of home, failed to see how any ancestor of hers could possibly choose a life of hardship over that of living in a civilised country. She had to admit that perhaps Australia was not all that civilised in the mid 1800’s, but she was positive life must have been easier than harpooning migrating whales in the inhospitable Southern Ocean.

At this particular moment a deliciously tempting aroma rising from the battered black enamel pot on the coal range was of greater importance. She was hungry. Breakfast had been a hit and miss affair as they had hoped to catch a fish on the incoming tide. No fish had taken the bait. A slice of over-cooked toast spread with marmite, and a cup of tea was not the type of breakfast Lily was used to. At home on the dairy farm, breakfast consisted of porridge, eggs and toast, followed by at least two cups of strong, sweet, milky coffee.

Perched above the river estuary with an expansive view of beach and bush, the Crib had undergone extensive alternations and additions, which updated the old dull green tin shed that had occupied the site for over fifty years into a comfortable, if somewhat, isolated, holiday home. With the coal range for cooking and heating, and a generator for lighting, it provided the extended family a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of daily living. Lily preferred city lights; the Art Gallery, the Museum or a shopping Mall, when in need of an escape, but had agreed to travel down the dusty highway and along the muddy potholed track as her contribution in hurrying along the completion of this historical document. Maggie and Cathy, convinced of the importance of a complete Family Tree to place in the archives of family history, were serious as to its final content.

Lily’s eyes roamed the room as Maggie and Cathy energetically debated the pros and cons of a convict’s life in Sydney. The range radiated warmth that enveloped the cousins. An elderly kettle, its marble rolling gently hissed steam as the lid jiggled, and the hand-knotted fabric mat fashioned by their grandmother covered a blotchy paint mark made by Maggie’s grandson when he accidentally knocked over an almost empty paint can with his fishing rod. Fleetingly she wondered who made the cushions on the rolled back sofa, but that thought became irrelevant when a glow in the distant cabinet captured her attention. The cabinet, which had originally been display shelves in the local chemist, had been consigned to the local tip after being replaced by a modern glass and chrome unit. Maggie, dumping garden rubbish noticed the cabinet and carted it home where she painted the exterior a deep teal and the interior pale sky blue. Not a colour scheme for a home in the town, but here in this remote Crib on the southern coast it fitted in perfectly.

Lily’s mind began to drift. That cabinet held an inexplicable attraction. She attempted to ignore it and tried concentrating on the conversation of her cousins, but to no avail. Botany Bay, Sydney, stolen handkerchiefs, deportation; none of these held her attention. Her gaze kept returning to the cabinet.

Lily wandered around the room, stirred the stew simmering on the stove and noted that it was ready for eating. She looked out the window at the cheeky seagull that was perched on the clothesline pole. “Fly away Peter, fly away Paul”, she intoned quietly to herself. The seagull fluttered its wings, twisted its head in a comical way and stayed on the pole.

“I’ll bet that seagull caught all our fish this morning,” Lily said to Maggie and Cathy.

“Mmmmm, pardon, what did you say?” asked Cathy.

“Nothing, nothing of importance,” replied Lily.

Their only interest at the moment was finishing the Family Tree. Lily moved the old earthenware crock that her mother had used for pickling onions, and pulled out some of the dead greenery that leaned haphazardly over its edge all the time trying to ignore the cabinet and the irresistible drawing force it held. Moving slowly around the room she edged closer to the cabinet.

Several stone adzes held pride of place on the two top shelves. Great-grandfather had married a local Maori woman whilst whaling at nearby Tautuku Peninsula and these adzes had been in the family since those early days. Lily barely noticed a dried sea horse lying in solitude near a fragment of ambergris that had washed onto the adjacent beach after a southerly storm. On the bottom shelf she could see a stone, and it was this grey stone that glistened, and glowed, and attracted her. Fancy a stone glistening! For a moment Lily imagined the stone spoke to her, but shook her head in disbelief. She must need food. She was becoming lightheaded.

Maggie and Cathy sat at either end of the table absorbed in their discussion, totally oblivious to the dense sea fog drifting into the Crib and forming a curtain between them and Lily.

Lily opened the cabinet and quietly removed the stone with the hole in the centre. The fog swallowed up the room leaving Lily alone. The stone felt warm in her grasp and she could feel the hairs on the back of her neck begin to rise. She shivered without feeling cold. A moving shadow to the left caused her to swing around. Uttering a muffled cry of amazement she glimpsed, through the haze, a young woman standing near the door.

"I never noticed you before," she murmured. “Where did you spring from?”

Lily stared! This woman was not dressed like anyone she had ever met. She was a young Maori woman wearing a traditional flax skirt with a feather in her hair. A huia feather! Lily wondered where she found the feather. The huia had been extinct for years. The Maori prized huia feathers and wore them as adornment, or for ceremonial occasions. Lily wondered why the woman was there. Why she was dressed as in days of old? What did she want in this off the beaten track part of the Catlins? Perhaps she should ask? So many questions crowded her mind, but foremost Lily wanted to know why was she dressed like that?

Lily smiled in a friendly way. The young woman nodded her head in acknowledgement. Suddenly her eyes clouded in pain and Lily, kind hearted and gentle, hurried over and laid a friendly arm around the woman’s shoulder. The woman looked startled and squatted on the floor near the couch. Staring in surprise Lily realised the nature of the young woman's pain. She was in the throes of childbirth! Lily felt panic rising and called urgently to Maggie and Cathy. No reply came. She could neither see, nor hear her cousins. She could not see beyond that misty screen that hid the rest of the room. The coal range was not visible. She could not smell the aroma of the stew pot. There were no droning voices of her cousins discussing the Family Tree. There was only this stranger and herself. What was happening?

Assessing the options available Lily knew she must assist in the imminent birth, and with that decision made a serene calmness descended upon her. The young woman's face grimaced in pain. Lily was unsure of the correct procedure. Shouldn’t she have boiling water available? No doctor or midwife were on hand; no nurse; no clothes for the baby; nothing, only this thick fog; and Lily and the mother to be. Gently she eased the labouring maiden onto the couch, placed a multi-coloured crochet cushion behind her head and taking the throw from the adjacent armchair laid it carefully over the pregnant form.

"What is your name?" Lily enquired.

Haltingly the young woman replied, "I am Te Haukawea."
Lily eyes flew open in astonishment. Her great-grandmother, Te Haukawea, had lived on this isolated coastline and was married to the whaler, of convict parentage, who emigrated from Australia. Lily’s Christian names were Lily Te Haukawea, as she had been christened in memory of her great-grandmother.

When another spasm of pain crossed Te Haukawea's face Lily rubbed her back slowly until the contraction passed. Te Haukawea looked grateful and smiled a tremulous smile.

“Is this your first birthing?” asked Lily.
“Yes,” replied Te Haukawea. “But I have helped family members to deliver their babies. I do know what happens.”

Lily smiled. She was glad someone knew what to do as she herself had given birth to her three children in the clinical environment of a hospital with nurses in attendance and the gas mask handy for when the labour grew stronger. Here they were miles from civilisation, and seemingly without assistance of any type.

"The baby is coming," Te Haukawea gasped as she gave a grunt.

Lily sprang into action. As the baby's head made its appearance Lily carefully eased it into the world. The baby was a little girl, with soft tendrils of black hair clinging damply to her brow. Lily felt a rush of emotion overwhelm her as she gazed upon the newborn.
"You have a daughter Te Haukawea. You have a beautiful baby girl."

Te Haukawea, a proud smile on her face, lay back exhausted by the effort. Lily reached into the tea chest beyond the couch, and searching deep to the bottom found a soft blanket, edged with white satin ribbon, that she wrapped the baby in. She carefully handed the infant over to Te Haukawea who placed her to the breast for her first milk. Lily looked on in wonderment.

This trip had been arranged for the sole purpose of making solid progress on the Family Tree, and here she was assisting in a birth. She had no idea of the whereabouts of Cathy and Maggie. They had been here in the room with her, but now the room was veiled in mist. Lily smiled to herself as a fleeting thought crossed her mind. Cathy and Maggie had missed the excitement of participating in this birthing; they would scarcely believe her when she told them what she had witnessed.
After Te Haukawea fed the child, and slept a time, she smiled at Lily and whispered shy thanks before rising to her feet, babe in her arms.
"I am naming this girl Mere," Te Haukawea told Lily. "I am grateful for your help, but I must go now."

Lily, reluctant to let her leave so hastily, handed Te Haukawea another blanket and embraced her, but before she could utter a word Te Haukawea and Mere disappeared into the mist. Lily was very close to tears. Her great-grandmother was named Te Haukawea and her first daughter, Lily's Grandmother, had been called Mere. Tears slid silently from Lily's eyes as the significance of what she had witnessed hit home. A trip back in time! Had she witnessed her own grandmother's birth?

Lily rubbed her eyes as the mist rolled back, and there at the table, still deeply involved in their discussion, sat Maggie and Cathy. The cushion on the couch showed a small indentation where Te Haukawea’s head had rested; the lid of the tea chest was open and the linen and blankets dishevelled as though disturbed.

Lily, holding the stone with the hollow centre, could sense it pulsating in time with her heartbeat.


“Yes Lily?” replied Maggie. “Lunch is almost ready. If you have nothing to do maybe you could set the table?”

“Maggie?” said Lily. “What is this stone?”

“Oh that,” shrugged Maggie, “that’s a spirit stone. It’s supposed to have supernatural powers; if you believe in that sort of thing.”

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Ringgggggggggggg, ringgggggg ......

The ringing of the telephone permeated Lynne's senses as she edged herself out of the bath and grabbed the fluffy blue towel from the floor before hurrying to answer the incessant noise. It wasn't every morning Lynne had time to relax in the bath, but she could be sure that the very day she had no pressing engagements with the vacuum cleaner or the dentist or hairdresser the phone would spoil the moment.

"Hello," she breathlessly intoned down the plastic mouthpiece. No reply. "Hello, are you there?"

There was a silence from the other end; that silence evidence of a connection not terminated. Lynne wondered if she sounded abrupt in her greeting. She hadn't anticipated a phone call at that hour of the morning and after a late night catching up with Annie's news; she was not exactly wide-awake. Lynne didn't envy those who woke sharp at daybreak and had their housework completed by breakfast time. In fact she felt sorry for them. She never had the worry of what to do next. There were always chores that needed completing and not enough time in which to tackle them.

Lynne drew in a deep breath, relaxed and once again said, "Hello, Lynne speaking."

"Good-morning Lynne," a cheery voice responded.

A long list of names flitted through Lynne's mind. Who was it on the other end? Not one of her friends who phoned regularly and with whom she enjoyed a natter and general catch-up of the latest gossip. From the deep recesses of her mind a glimmer of light was forcing its way to the surface. Was it Heather? How many years since she had heard from her, yet she knew Heather lived on the edge of town? Heather was a busy woman. She was in this little group and that little group; her name appeared frequently in the local rag with details of her latest helpful community work. On the committee for Stop Smoking Now, secretary to a group that helped teenagers whose parents had given up hope for their offspring. These teenagers, more often than not, didn't need an outsiders' help, just a little extra attention at home.

"Oh, good-morning," Lynne replied, "lovely morning?"

"Long time no see," chirruped the reply. "It's Heather speaking."

"Heather, how are you?" Lynne hoped Heather wasn't recruiting her for some committee or other. Committees meant more time from Lynne's busy day, and committees were not high on Lynne's list of priorities.

"Fine Lynne, just fine," replied Heather. "I just thought I would give you a phone call."

"Good," replied Lynne. "And how is life treating you?"

"Oooh you know me Lynne, always busy. Sorry I haven't been in touch for a while."

Lynne smiled to herself. For a while! It must be 30 years since she had passed more than a few words with Heather. They had worked in the same office upon leaving school, but Heather was ambitious even in those days, quickly working her way up the office hierarchy from junior to personal secretary to Mr Williams.

Lynne, content to stay in the typists' pool met Roger and married just before her 21st birthday. They lived in their modest, homely bungalow and raised three children who now had all left home to make their own way in the world.

Heather had married one of the junior partners in a legal firm. The marriage failed when Heather met an out of town judge whom her husband brought home to dinner. He had a wife in the city, and after a brief fling with Heather, departed when promoted to the High Court in the capital. Heather re-married a highflying businessman and from all accounts led the life of a social butterfly.

"It has been years Heather," murmured Lynne. "I hope life is treating you well?"

"Never been better," gushed Heather. "Later this morning a landscape gardener is coming to give the garden a make-over. Cottage gardens are so old hat now, and Eugene decided, with a little nudge from me, that an Italian garden would be wonderful.

You do know Lynne that our property lies so well to the sun and is sheltered from the prevailing winds. Of course we paid a lot of money for this life-style block. Are you still in the same little place? It must be almost over taken by industry now? I hear there is a vast growth of engineering firms springing up everywhere down your way."

Lynne stifled a yawn. Ho-hum, it seemed as though Heather was on one of her little excursions into being unkind. Lynne had heard, via the grapevine, that Heather was wont to unkind comments. Still, surely that didn't warrant a phone call?

"You are keeping well Lynne?" Heather enquired.

"Never felt better Heather," Lynne hid a little smile and winked at Annie who had entered the room. "I am enjoying a visit from Annie. You remember her? She is our second eldest and celebrates her 25th birthday tomorrow. Before heading home to Washington and her hubby and little son, she found enough time to visit her father and I for a few days. She has been here on business."

"Oh," replied Heather. Heather hadn't time to rear a family in her pursuit of a life of the rich and famous. "That's nice."

"It's wonderful," replied Lynne. Roger and I are so immensely proud of her. Did you know she is ambassador for the Red Cross and in that capacity travels worldwide in the hope of persuading governments to increase their aid to poorer nations? Of course it is all pie in the sky, but she does her best, and such a selfless task is to be admired."

Lynne looked at Annie who was gesticulating wildly in an effort to work out who her mother was speaking to.

Lynne could sense Heather's evaporating warmth, but was curious as to the reason for the call.

"Heather, is there anything I can help you with?" she enquired.

"Well," replied Heather, "I was wondering if you have any baby clothes to donate as I am looking after a young family which has not long moved into the area. They are new settlers from Asia and find the temperatures a trifle cool. The baby I am especially worried about, and as you have long finished having a family, wondered if there were any little jackets or bootees you could donate?"

"Oh Heather," Lynne replied, "I am sorry, but as you say, it is over 20 years since my last baby and I donated all the clothes in decent order to the Salvation Army years ago. So sorry to be unable to help."

"Thank you Lynne. There is someone at my door. Byeeee."

Lynne placed the receiver back onto the wall and leaned, shaking with laughter, against the chair.

"Mum," said Annie, "was that Heather? What on earth did she want?"

Lynne folded her hands carefully over her pregnant stomach, giggling as she replied, "She was fishing Annie, fishing."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Where do Fairies go in Winter?

Marigold, the fairy, spends Spring dancing in the breeze, in the garden where daffodils, match-heads, snow drops and celandines show their fine colours and emit their sweet fresh perfume of the warming season. She leads a happy and carefree life. The Summer is ahead, those long glorious days when life has no cares nor worries.

Marigold dances, twirling her shimmering skirt as she flits from flower to flower, sipping the dewdrops nestling amidst the folded petals, and slides with her gossamer wings splayed outwards to keep her balance, down the rib of the long green shiny daffodil leaves. As yet the bees are still cocooned in the hive waiting for the sun to cross the equator and warm the hemisphere. Beneath the soil, worms are burrowing busily and excavating the soil, aerating it to make space for the roots of plants to spread and multiply. Marigold loves Spring.

Summer sneaks in haltingly and Marigold sets up house beneath the tall, shady gunnera, which acts as a parasol. When Summer showers sprinkle down, or thunderstorms hose the land from angry skies, Marigold is thankful for the tall gunnera. Even on very hot days when it seems as though the very sun has descended from the heavens sending its scorching rays onto the parched earth, tall gunnera is there, a shady refuge. She nestles in the flower heads and lolls the heat of the day away.

Autumn blows in. Leaves fly everywhere, branches of the plum tree bend as the last fruits splatter onto the dry ground. Gunnera is brown and wilting. His parchment leaves, now brittle, bend and break. Marigold's home is disintegrating. She gathers her belongings, stores them in an ivy-leaf bag, and sadly leaves her little corner of the garden.

The concrete path is strewn with dangers. Huge feet, clad in heavy shoes, plod along, and Marigold has to duck and dive to be safe. At one stage she trips and falls over the side of the path. Down, down, down, she falls, her wings acting as a parachute until she lands safely. The grass is a jungle. Tall spikes, straight at the top where the lawn mower has recently cut them, spread apart and Marigold tumbles onto the brown soil. She looks around. Just a few inches away a worm pokes his head ~ or is it his tail ~ above the ground.

"Oh," he thinks, "just another fairy."

Disinterested he goes back to his underground chamber to continue the endless task of renewing the soil. Marigold is thankful the grass is so tall. All those birds ~ peck; peck; pecking in their never-ending search for worms are less likely to see her among the long grass. Like vultures they search, head first to one side, then the other as they listen for the rumbling train noise of worm as he slides along his own-made tunnel.

After what seems forever, and with darkness fast approaching, Marigold is bewildered and lost. A big leaf rolls by, and by stretching up high, she is able to grasp its slender yellowed stalk and wraps it around herself, giving her shelter for the night.

Early next morning, as the sun is beginning to rise in the east, Marigold rubs the sandman's dust from her eyes and plans her next move. Best to begin now, and with a bit of luck she will find her winter quarters before nightfall. Picking up her belongings she begins the arduous walk across the grass, pushing apart the tall green shards as she gingerly picks her way towards the huge expanse of white concrete. The journey takes all day, but by dusk her goal is in sight. In a sheltered corner there is a pyramid of pot plants. Pots and saucers with several varieties of plants growing in them are stacked on a series of shelves outside the window of the garden shed. They are leafy all winter and offer a great home. One of the saucers has a nest of leaves and cobwebs and Marigold uses these to build a cosy home. The spiky cacti in the pot do not get watered over Winter and their prickly exteriors ensure that the black bob-tailed cat will not let curiosity over come him. She settles down to while the Winter away.

That is where Fairies go for Winter!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Snakes Alive

Once upon a time a slithery snake lived completely isolated from the hustle and bustle of towns and cities. Disliking cool weather, and with inborn adaptations to the sun's warming rays he roved across the saltpans of the Outback during the hot months of the year. Not for him the joys of snow and ice, snowmen and a white Christmas, skating or skiing, or singing songs around a camp-fire whilst wrapped in scarf, gloves and warm hat. A refrigerator and a deep freeze were not essentials to his daily living. Everything he needed could be found under the glowing ball of fire beyond Mercury.

Early one fine morning monstrous iron machines … a contingent of bulldozers, graders, rollers, and bitumen trucks driven by two legged creatures perched behind steering wheels … arrived at the saltpan. Carefully avoiding sacred rocks and rare plants the red-dust covered machines cut, sliced, and destroyed Mr Slithery Snake's backyard ... not only his back yard, but also the complete neighbourhood.

For untold generations Mr Snake had lived in an environment seldom inhabited by the two-legged species that walked the planet. For eons Mr Snake shared the Outback with Long legged Emu and Bouncing Kangaroo. As the seasons changed dark skinned men who crossed the territory in search of food left the landscape as they found it.

The machines scraping the red dirt mounded it into a long winding track leading towards a new settlement that would house a mining camp. This zone of the Outback is rich in iron ore, the base ingredient in the manufacture of dozers, graders, and bitumen trucks; the very vehicles hell- bent on diminishing Mr Snake's back yard.

Before the arrival of these earth-moving machines many natural hazards threatened the day, and night, of Slithery Snake. Carnivorous goannas and snakes living in the one back- yard nurtured a taste for similar small creatures. Mr Snake maintained a careful watch for the lizard-like creature, preferring to keep a discreet distance, and avoid what could be a conflict of interest. Some goannas reach large proportions, and could easily be mistaken by those who in their childhood read fantasy books as a land dwelling first cousin of Nessie from Loch Ness, with their short legs, and long swinging tails.

Mr Snake frequently wondered about goannas and Nessie. He had a theory, though to date no scientific analysis had proved him right, nor indeed had it proven him wrong … the idea, smaller than the size of a grain of sand had developed in his tiny mind. Once, a millennium ago before dreamtime, the earth had an extensive tunnel system that allowed creatures to visit other distant lands by following an underworld network of pathways. Nessie's ancestors, and those of the goanna, had rendezvoused in a crypt deep in the bowels of the earth. After a night of passionate lovemaking, they had, at first glimpse of the rising sun, crept back to their own land. A whole new species was born and roamed the earth until a catastrophe of enormous proportions occurred and much of the surface of the earth was laid bare. Later, much later, a crashing meteor impregnated Mr Snake’s habitat with iron ore and today, millions of years later, Man decided upon a virtual makeover of the terrain for short-term monetary gain … extracting this valuable mineral.

Flying high in the heavens, in an azure sky where white clouds seldom mar the view, the eagle soars. He fancies a meal of snake. His keen eye zooms in on the slithery movement of the snake on the saltpan. He swoops down picking the snake up in his beak. Higher and higher he flies, while the snake struggles in a valiant attempt to escape, though he is aware of the danger of a free fall to earth, as his smooth slender body will offer little resistance to the wind.

The eagle, struggling to devour the snake in mid-air, drops him from a great height, the snake's elongated form sliding towards the ground like a twisted balloon that children buy, along with candy floss and pop-corn, and a show-bag at the Royal Show. Eagle glides earthwards, following snake's flight path, to recapture and devour the fresh meal ... a tasty takeaway; minus chips.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Kathy watched the sleeping girl who clutched a pink ragged teddy bear in a loving embrace on the crumpled bed in an old fashioned room with a fireplace and two wooden beds. One bed was empty, but Kathy knew a boy should have been sleeping under the khaki blanket purchased from the Supply Store after the war, when surplus blankets and jackets had been offered cheaply to the needy. The eight-year-old boy frequently suffered from nightmares, and to feel safe he insisted on sleeping with his mother.

In the beginning, when Father had left temporarily to work offshore, a rule had been made … turns about sleeping with Mother. It seemed fair. It seldom worked out! Bobby saw huge bulls on the walls and cried out in fear. Kathy wondered if it was because he was forever poking pieces of long stick through the netting fence at milking time. The cows, with vapour from the cold morning air pouring from their noses and mouths, paced the fence line and made threatening noises and movements towards the antagonizing boy, who always managed to run away fast enough and was never caught. Kathy thought Bobby’s dreams must be the result of a guilty conscience.

She seldom slept in Mother’s bed except on the rare occasion, and even then Bobby would come crawling in crying about bad dreams. In the end it was easier not to bother. If she sneaked the torch under the blankets she could read a few more pages of ‘Black Beauty’ or ‘Heidi’. The world of books filled her mind as she lived, through the written word, the exciting adventures of people and animals. Her imagination soared and she never dreamed of bulls leaping out of walls. In her dreams she rode a dashing black horse over white painted jumps, she flew over ditches, and rode in triumph to the dais to receive the silver trophy proudly displayed on the delicately draped kidney shaped dressing table. Movies were Kathy’s next love. Every Saturday she rode her bicycle to the picture theatre and sat spellbound as cartoons and a serial flashed across the silver screen. The main attraction of a matinee was always suitable for children. She had even seen ‘Heidi’ in the movies. She marveled at the grandeur of the mountains and the almost primitive cottage that Heidi’s Grandfather lived in. She would have loved to spend time with Heidi, but that was only a book, a movie, it was not real life.

A muffled sob came from the other bedroom. Bobby must be dreaming again. She did wish he wouldn’t. It so disturbed her night. She wished Father was home. He would make everything right by playing the upright piano that stood in the corner of the living room. Just by imagining his voice singing, “I’ll take you home again Kathleen” made her feel less alone. It was all right for Bobby. He was young. He was the baby and he could cry. She was a big girl and had to be strong and help Mother. She had promised Father she would.

The sleeping girl lay still. Kathy wondered about her. It was only when she floated up to the ceiling that she noticed the girl, who had her long golden hair tied up in pieces of white sheet to give her ringlets in the morning. Ringlets were the fashion. Kathy looked down. It was a long way to the bed. She had never told anyone about floating up to the ceiling. No one would have believed her. As it was Mother often said Kathy had too vivid an imagination and needed to come back down to earth. Sometimes she thought it might be better to stay up there in the corner of the ceiling. She didn’t know if Mother would see her. She wasn’t sure that Mother would even miss her.

The girl on the bed began to quietly stir, and Kathy taking her cue, gently slid back into the body on the bed. Perhaps she should stop floating, as one day she might not be able to return.