Monday, September 12, 2011


here is a little story... i wrote it for a writing competition in my school last year; the prompt was 'hope'. i'm a bit shy about it really, and i always thought it was a bit rubbish (it's definately not my best), but it won. i think that was one of the most flattering moments of my life... the most embarrassing was when they read it in front of everyone.
i'm sorry i haven't posted it sooner... i honestly thought i had, but i was looking for it on this blog and it was nowhere to be found. i'm just scatterbrained, like a bee in a kaleidoscope.
p.s. we had another writing competition this year and oops... i won this one, too.i don't deserve it, there are so many more talented critters than me. and they read it out in front of everyone again. never have i so acutely wanted to bury myself.

No one ever spoke to him. No one ever thought of him much, except for when they fished him out of the tank in their minds reserved for awkward silences with neighbours, the pretend-reluctant topic that just must be pursued when all pleasantries have been exchanged. Hungry for more information, they compared facts:

Man. Twenty-four, little more than a boy really. Such a handsome youngster, too, all curls and maple-syrup skin and big big eyes, hazel-green irises splintered with dark brown hollows. His eyes were always hung heavy with swollen dark half-moons. Tired shadows, the ghosts of sleep he never had.

He lived alone in a house built for a family in a neighbourhood of clones, each house exactly the same as the next for miles on end, like soldiers in an army. He rarely ventured from his own house unless for work. Never had he been known to bring anyone home, man or woman, during the day or night. He never expressed much interest in the sons and daughters of the neighbourhood that were his age on the rare instances he met any.

Well, the neighbours would finally sigh, with a bewildered shrug. There are oddballs all over the world. Not usually that young, mind, but still...

And they’d wonder what broke him.


And then one day he packed everything he owned away, lashed his furniture to the back of his pickup truck, and left. Later that day, realtors hammered a FOR SALE sign into the soft earth of his lawn.

“I just don’t understand it!” Exuberated one woman. She lived four houses down from the one now newly FOR SALE, and peered at the sundrenched street from behind her ruffled kitchen curtains. Her daughter watched her.

Her daughter had met the man/boy once before. It was an accident, an awkward crossing of paths as he came out of his house and made his way to his car at the same time as she passed by, walking her mother’s ridiculous little cotton bud of a dog. She’d said good morning and he’d smiled grimly; she’d commented on the layer of cygnet-down cloud, thick and woolly above them and he’d said nothing, just slammed his car door shut and drove away, cushioning the blow with another sad little smile as he passed her, stunned and a little miffed into silence.

She spent all of an afternoon begrudging him as rude and belligerent, raging at the-hide-of-some-people and generally sounding very much like her mother. But then, inexplicably, the angry tribal drumbeats of her heart lightened and sped up into hummingbird-wing beats of curiosity. If she were a dreamer, she’d have painted a picture of him all in a Turner-esque haze, something beautiful and storm-coloured but not quite clear. She might have fallen in love.

But the thing was, she’d never had much patience for dreaming. She was a biologist through and through, and she liked to bottle ideas and people up in jars and tuck them away for further study. Like a bee in amber, or the racoon placenta in the jar she once saw in the laboratory of her old school. She liked the starkness of biology as much as she liked the diversity of it. It was all about digging and cutting and investigating until you found the facts, the truth, and the truth was ugly and it was beautiful. It was the raccoon placenta and it was the bee – unashamedly, almost brashly, real.

But the boy she had run into by accident was unreal. It unnerved her.


“You wouldn’t believe what’s going around,” her mother continued, shutting the curtain with a sweeping huff. “They say – they say he’s built a shack in the woods! Gone wild! Can you imagine?!”

She could.

As it was, it turned out her mother was absolutely right. People had seen the strange man in the woods, his rough-timber hut built in a hollow just a few hundred meters from a popular hunting trail.

“He’ll be eaten by a grizzly bear!” The girl’s mother decided.

The girl didn’t sleep that night.


Ten minutes and she’d have all the answers she needed. Ten minutes and the questions that swirled around her head and coated her throat and sewed her lips together so nothing could leak out because they had no answers anyway would be burnt away. Ten minutes in the woods searching for a hut that might not even exist.

(She refused to believe her questions had no answers. Everything she had ever wanted to know had been answered for her, and this would be the same. Life was made of patterns. This strange new sea of uncertainty and instability she’d been baptised in would evaporate in a few words short and stark and real as a raccoon placenta or the loud hammering of a FOR SALE sign.)

Real real real. Everything was real and everything was simple.

(Real and simple were the pages that smothered her heart until it was dry and papery. A flower heart pressed for years in a heavy encyclopaedia.)

The midwinter wind had stolen the leaves from all the trees, leaving them naked gnarled nightmare-figures, clawing greedily at the sky, at the pale half-moon that scratched into view even though it was midday. Roots rose from the earth like mangled bodies, and she picked her way between them with the strangest feeling of walking through a battalion of thieves.

And there it was.

The hut. Dark brown slabs of wood hammered together and topped with corrugated iron in a manner that reminded her oddly of a gingerbread house. And through the glassless window – him. Barely a silhouette, a shadow-ghost in the bowls of a tomb, an oddity in a glass jar.

In a dream for the first time, she knocked on the door.

When he opened the door she found herself gazing into mole-hole eyes, eyes of tunnels that went nowhere, eyes of thoughts without tangents and the dark side of the moon and everything she didn’t believe in.

“Why are you here?” She blurted.

Same sad little smile of forever ago when she met him first. “That has no real answer.”


She ran away.


Go, leave and pretend it never happened. It wasn’t real anyway, the trees chanted at her, pointing cruel accusatory twigs at her and calling her a faded, sickle-moon girl, all made of facts and figures and nothing really important. Voices yelled at her in her head, too, telling her how similar hope was to love because they had the same number of letters and vowels. Same vowels, in the same order. And they yelled at her for the love of hope and love and enigmatic reality, go back go back go back.

Her hands found her phone in her pocket and her mother. Tried to explain, though there were not enough words in the world to say that the hut in the woods was real and so was the boy, sort of, and why she wanted to go back and never leave ever. Her mother stayed silent for a long time after her one ever-lost and always-wild daughter stopped talking.

Then she said, “Would it make you happy, to leave? Would he make you happy?”


Her sigh was soft, dandelion fluff blowing on the surface of water. “Then it’s perfect.”

The girl whose name doesn’t matter hung up. Turned around. Retraced her steps, ignored the trees as they clawed and grasped at her clothes. Knocked on the door again, was met with those eyes again.

She smiled. He opened the door wider.

She never left the forest after that.


  1. Oh this story was such a treat to read. You deserved your win; your writing is beautiful. xx

  2. This is beautiful, no wonder it won. Of course you deserve it. Do you think you might post the story you wrote this year?

  3. I am not at all surprised you won two competitions. I have always been a huge fan of your precious word-jewels, you know that. Love, love, love. This was beautiful. I hope one day you will let us read your other winning story, too.

  4. the Tom Robbins quote got my attention, and then your story ...
    i`ll be visiting you - although i might be in need of glasses ; )