He wailed. He sobbed.
Curled in a ball of red pyjamas, he resisted Mama’s attempts to comfort him, Papa’s attempts to shout him out of it and Chloe’s attempts to just shut him up.
Finally, Parker trotted over. With a tolerant huff, his sloppy lick achieved what the rest of the family could not: Michael stopped. Then he launched himself around Parker’s neck and hugged him as tightly as he could.
The four-year-old Spider-Man had a fierce hug.
“Wish you could come,” he whispered into soft, golden fur. But Grandpa lived far away and his chickens didn’t like dogs.
Papa pulled Michael into his warm hairy arms. “Time to go, Mike-the-Tike,” he murmured.
Michael nodded, closed his eyes.
Grandpa’s house was rickety and old, with a rusty steel roof and narrow wooden stairs leading to the outside front balcony. Michael learnt to climb on those stairs. That was ages ago, though. He was a Kindy boy now, and he liked superheroes.
Grandpa’s Thomas the Tank bedspread had to go.
Parker would have loved the giant yard, the deep, dark bushes to explore, the tall shady trees to lie under. Michael thought the chickens were scaredy-cats. Parker would never hurt them.
Besides, they had a guard goose.
Chloe named the goose ‘Elsa’ because she had downy white feathers, but Michael thought that was stupid. Elsa in the movie could sing. Elsa the goose liked to run around and honk loudly, so that he woke up in the night scared a train was coming to get him. Michael did not like Elsa.
He missed Parker’s night-time cuddles and doggy snores. In Grandpa’s dark house the only snuggles were from an enormous Country Fair teddy with a leathery nose and two black button eyes. One was falling out.
Elsa’s alarm call made Michael jump and knock Teddy off the bed. Evening light still filtered through the blinds. He clambered over the fallen bear, tiptoed to the window, and peeked through the fly screen. Elsa chased here and there across the buffalo grass, wings flapping, feet slapping up dust and dirt and hay from the chickens’ coop. This continued for a while. It was kind of like when Parker chased invisible monsters.
They were all up before breakfast, when bright yellow sunshine lit the yard, the coop, the scuffed grass and the fox prints in the dirt. Chloe ran off tracking them. Mama called Aunt Mae. Papa went to check the fence. Grandpa, ignoring everyone, wandered over to the chickens. Michael followed.
Grandpa leaned creakily out of the coop and deposited one warm, round egg into Michael’s hands. Half a feather was stuck to its glossy shell. He held it, thoughtful and proud.
Elsa rounded the corner, honking. Michael jumped.
Then he looked at the object in his hands; at the chickens pecking happily; at Grandpa, collecting eggs.
He looked at Elsa.
Thanks for reading this slightly edited version of my entry to February’s Furious Fiction competition by the Australian Writer’s Centre. This month we had to write about a guard, with certain words included and two-word sentences to begin and end the story.
I felt like this story was more carefully crafted than previous months’. From the writer’s workshops I recently took part in, I was able to determine more about plot arc, motifs, character, theme and reducing fluff. Although I think the latter needs work for sure, I enjoyed writing this story… and to be honest was disappointed when I did not appear on this month’s long list. Then again, there were 1,200 entrants and I loved the winner. Also I appreciate how the judges give specific feedback about the shortlisted entrants, which helps me tune my writing. So every time I write, I am practising, practising, practising… For that one day when I nail that criteria!
Now tonight, the next FF drops. So here’s to a productive, creative weekend… And another story to share with you all.