Saturday, February 6, 2010

Challenge 3: Morepork

Noah shut his eyes, squeezing his eyelids so that his broad nose wrinkled and his lips curled wide into a half-grin, half-grimace. He listened intently, stretching his ears as far as he could. Out under the open window into the hazy Moana night Noah listened, as the wind hissed at Uncle Jeremy and hushed Mum to sleep.

More… Pork… he stretched his bony middle finger to count the third time he’d heard the ruru craw tonight. His two littlest fingers did grasshopper jumps on his palm, desperate to join the others. Five times, Hinekiri had said.
‘I’ll do the morepork five times at the gate, when I go out to the train tracks after tea.’

Hinekiri didn’t live in the little blue house with Uncle Jeremy anymore. She'd left on the train to go stay with her old aunty Nga in Greymouth. Noah missed his friend achingly. He still counted the ruru calls, and if there were five before the train came, he was sure the next day would be cool. The best, like her.

there it was again. Noah wriggled, and listened more earnestly.

Tomorrow would be Noah’s birthday. Before he’d wormed his way under the sheet to listen so desperately, Mum had wrapped his skinny elbows round her neck and planted a dry kiss on his wide cheek.
‘Happy last night of being nine, Noah’ she’d grinned, but she’d sounded a little sad. Noah had flashed his charmingly crooked teeth at her anyway.

his little finger jumped up to count five and Noah listened, urgently now, hoping for the distant rumble of the train.

Hinekiri was good at doing the morepork. So good that Uncle Jeremy couldn’t tell it was her. Hine was good at everything. She could run down the tracks so fast her thick hair would get all tangled.

She’d made a brilliant hut out of dead branches and toitoi. It was out past the bend in the tracks and over the deep, gouged-out ditch, and you couldn’t even see it unless you got really close to the steep edge. You had to jump over it. Inside the hut there was a blanket and a magnifying glass, and once, Noah had brought some gingernuts for them to share. It was a real pity Hine wasn't here now. There were three gingernuts left and he didn’t want to eat them on his own.

Noah wasn’t sure if – was that it? Was that the train? Perhaps his thoughts were just getting noisier.

Sometimes Hinekiri was late to school after they’d been out across the train tracks to the hut. She’d come to school with red eyes and say her leg hurt and that’s why she couldn’t ride her bike fast enough. After the bell had rung and Noah had scuffed his way back home, Uncle Jeremy would call Mum and grumble he was sending ‘that kid’ round because he needed her ‘outta his hair awhile.’ Then he’d sit in his overalls and turn up the volume on the TV.

Hinekiri would drink a milo at Noah and Mum’s place. She would discover ants with the magnifying glass and let Noah ride her bike, and stay up until her eyes were drooping and her voice was thin. Mum used to bundle her up in a rug then, and take her, soggy with sleep, back to Uncle Jeremy’s. Just before Hine went away though, Mum started putting her to sleep on the couch.
‘Your aunty Nga asked me to look after you,’ she’d say, and plant a dry kiss on her pointed cheek.

Then Hine wouldn’t do the morepork calls for awhile, but Noah always knew that she’d been out to the hut anyway. When they did go flying back out over the ditch, more of the gingernuts were gone.

Noah’s eyes leapt wide open for the rumbling, rushing, urgent train. It had crept up on him again! He took a thick, thrilling breath as his thoughts dashed out into the hazy Moana night, following the clinkety-clink and the whirr and the disappearing hiss. He closed his eyes, more gently this time. Tomorrow would be his birthday and it would be cool, the best! Out under the open window Noah dreamed, as the wind spat at Uncle Jeremy, speeding down the train tracks to soothe sweet Hinekiri to sleep.

wordcount: 721


  1. I think this is my favourite story of all so far :)

  2. Absolutely, this is so vivid and atmospheric. I am a huge fan of your writing darlin' - you put the rest of us to shame!

  3. Well that's certainly not true but I'm glad you enjoy it.

    Here is something interesting: I discovered there is no train between Motueka and Nelson! (Thanks Mum!) But there is a cute little town named Moana, about the perfect size, that sits right on the tranz alpine route Christchurch-Greymouth. It has the only school on the entire route past Springfield. And about 5km down the road is an area named 'Ruru', the maori name for morepork. (Thanks googlemaps).

    It seems there was a Moana in Moana and some rurus in Ruru and names may have to be changed.

  4. Edited. Motueka is now Moana, Nelson is now Greymouth. Moana is now Hinekiri, and there are still a lot of rurus around.

  5. And this is still my favourite :)

    Good on ya for doing research...even if it resulted in editing at some horrendous hour of the morning :P I hope that's just blogspot and you weren't actually on here at 2.30 in the morning! Not that I'm in any position to criticise :)

  6. >< guilty ><
    But thanks blogspot, for giving me something better to do than stare at the ceiling, when sleep isn't speedy!

    no position to criticise? You were obviously up by 9:30. Admirable, in my books.

  7. "soggy with sleep"

    Love this description. And very atmospheric story! Given the task it was set for I don't know if I should trust a word of it *laughs* but I loved it anyway.

  8. Haha, no, trust the story, I couldn't handle the lying to the reader thing. I just couldn't do it. I tried to tell half-truths though, from Noah's perspective.

    Did anyone pick up on Hine's story?

  9. I was certain there was more to Hine than was obvious but I wasn't sure what the deal was. Probably didn't help that I keep reading these things in the middle of my night!