Thursday, April 8, 2010

Challenge 15: The carving

The dark patches of shadow have retreated and the dusty street is lit up. The carver shifts on her green plastic chair and moves closer to the dirty plaster wall, out of the sun. In one hand is a damp grey rag; in the other, a square piece of wood. The shopfront across the street is dangling wood and coconut-shell cutlery, wooden statues, and little wooden pencil holders or key holders or sets of hooks meant for holding something (no one knows what) or sets of holes meant for holding something (no one knows what), with images of palm trees and boats, and thick, gleaming varnish. It is nearly identical to the shopfronts on either side of it. In fact, if one were to wander down the street (the only street that is apparent in this village) it would be clear that all of the shopfronts are nearly identical - apart from one which sells everything else; that is, packages of biscuits and fizzy drink, jandals, bulbs - even though no one has electric lights, batteries, matchboxes, plastic toy cars, metal boxes, figurines of gods (and that's just the front of the shop). Fruit and vegetable stalls have sprung up this morning just outside of the village.

The carver has made a knot across the front of her skirt, so it hangs just above her knees. The soles of her bare feet rub indulgently against the soft, pale grey dirt on the ground. Tiny dark wood chips are scattered where her chair was before. The wood in her hand is a proud but warm brown, the brown in a cuckoo's feathers. Out of the wood comes a bird with tiny carved feathers- not a cuckoo - a bird with alluring, womanly eyes; elegantly curved tail; a beak like parted lips from which emerge swirls (water, or flame, or ribbon).


Sunrise has revealed a strong blue sky and a warm day. It's still early - there's no one else about on the wooden walkway as a girl in boots, tartan blanket under arm, strolls beside the wide river, gazing into water that doesn't seem to be flowing, but must be because the ducks are moving fast and they aren't paddling. Trees droop into the leaden water, and around the boardwalk is a little forest of ferns and vines.

She stops at an embayment where the walkway juts out close to the river. Angular letters are scratched into the weathered handrail, forming names or initials or swearwords. There are trees next to her: one tree with small white flowers and small green leaves. Another tree with bigger purple flowers and no leaves. A third tree with no flowers and shiny, dark green leaves the size of her hand. The spiralled head of a fern is growing through a gap between the boards. There are fantails and sparrows flitting amongst the trees. Across the river is a paddock on a hill, with horses and grass and a faint smell of manure. There is a vague rumble of a jetboat which doesn't appear. The girl runs her foot between two nails, back and forth, switches the blanket to her other arm.

A flowing brown bird with swirls in its mouth swims through the air in the distance.


Word count: 543

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