The Last Green Leaves of Summer
September 30, 2013 § 2 Comments
A very slightly macabre story – written through the eyes of a child – about the joys of summer and picking rather appealing berries…
Do you think it works? Is it too obscure? Is the ending a bit too blunt? Does the dialogue work?
Any comments for improvement gratefully received!
Michael was my enemy and his tadpoles were dying.
‘I’ve been thinking…’ he mused, poking the contents of the jam jar with a stick.
I aimed my catapult at him and missed. ‘What?’ I scowled.
‘I think I’ll be an operator when I grow up.’
‘What kind of machine will you be operating then?’
‘I won’t, stupid – it’s just another name for a spy.’
Michael was my best friend and the best person I knew to fight with. The reason I liked him was because he didn’t treat me like a girl, and the reason I hated him was because I’d swopped his catapult for my tadpoles and now most of them were dead.
‘But you said you were going to be an astronaut.’
‘That was last week,’ he replied. ‘Today I’m going to be a spy. I shall hide round corners and shoot bad people. I shall put poison in their coffee so they die a slow and agonizing death. I shall be responsible. Honour my country.’
I kicked him on the shin. ‘Copycat. My idea. And did you know that tadpoles wouldn’t die if you gave them something to eat?’
Michael stuffed some bright green leaves into the jar and fished out an anaemic looking tadpole. ‘Dead or sleeping?’ he grinned, flicking it under a rose bush where one of the dozing hens opened her eyes, pecked at it and settled back down again in a cloud of dust. ‘In any case I am feeding them on those leaves with the red berries I found growing in the potato patch. Mum says they’re poisonous, but the tadpoles go wild for them, and I did test them on the rabbits first and they’re not dead.’
Michael ran out of breath so he stopped – it was a sign he was getting over excited. He dropped two berries into the jar and stirred them around like he was making Christmas pudding. The water was turning a nice pink colour like the roses that dangled over his mum’s porch. ‘They really like eating them. See!’ he yelled, as the tadpoles surrounded the berries and turned into a wriggling black ball. ‘They’ve turned the water red like blood… and I’ve just remembered girls aren’t allowed to be spies.’ He pinched my arm ’til it hurt. ‘In any case you’ll be too busy having babies, and washing, and cooking, and scrubbing things.’
‘Oh yes they can. Who says I have to have babies anyway?’
Michael pressed his lips together, lifted his chin and stared. ‘I know about these things, and in any case do you really want to be a spy?’ He fished out another dead tadpole and flicked it at me.
I picked it off my dress and flicked it back. It stuck to his hair. ‘I might. But then I might have a shop and sell flowers, or have a factory and make perfume out of whales and get very, very rich and ignore you forever.’
‘Want to know something?’ he asked.
‘My mum’s always getting things wrong. Dad says. I think she got it wrong about these berries too. They look like little ripe tomatoes. I’m hungry. Shall we try some?’
‘You first, then,’ I said.
‘Cissy,’ he taunted, popping a shiny berry into his mouth and smacking his lips together.
‘Murderer,’ I grinned, squashing one with my tongue against the roof of my mouth.