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Verge 2013: Becoming

THE SMALL POSTMAN

Samuel Robertson

The girl is easy to describe but difficult to define: her eyes are blue, her baby teeth stand in ordered rows like children in a school photograph, and when the sun strikes her golden hair it’s like cymbals clashing together; but she has no name, no age, no memory. The girl is perfectly present, and alone. One day, however, a stranger will appear.

The world in which she lives is forever novel: the rustle of leaves is the music of a foreign tongue—a playful language with infinite words and sounds. Even the familial markers change. The Sky Father has wise white hair, which can be blown off to reveal a bald blue dome. Mother Earth is fond of dandelions and they fill her available floor space. The dandelions are yellow and orange in the morning and early evening; but when the sun moors on the horizon they mature into delicate white balls, which, when blown, dance to the tune of the wind’s fiddle.

Each day after singing and dancing and playing, the girl plucks a dandelion from the grass, closes her eyes, makes a wish, and blows. What does she wish for? I cannot tell, for a child’s secret is most precious. All I am permitted to say is that the dandelion is a small postman who always brings good news.

From a bed of grass the girl stares into the eye of the sky—that concentrated pupil, wide with wonder. The stars are fixed in place, except for one, which shoots across the sky as if from a cannon. It is quickly caught and locked back into place. Never again will it attempt the feat.

The girl awakes the next morning and stretches her arms and legs. The rising sun is industrious, but the clouds are slow to stir. The girl props herself up on her elbows before clambering to her feet. She has moved two steps when she senses a presence to her left: it is a dark figure, longer and leaner than her, lying on the ground.

‘Hello,’ she says with a smile. ‘Who are you?’

The dark figure does not respond.

‘What are you doing today?’

The stranger remains aloof.

The girl supposes it is shy, so she asks, ‘Would you like to join me?’

A trail of moments pass like a line of ants.

‘Well then, good day,’ she says, and moves towards the sun. Much to her surprise the dark figure follows, pace for pace.

‘I’d like you to tell me, please—why are you following me?’ The girl places her hands on her hips, and the dark figure has the audacity to do the same.

The girl reaches her last resort. ‘Look yonder!’ she exclaims, pointing over the stranger’s left shoulder.

As the dark figure looks over its shoulder the girl hitches her dress up and takes off, not daring to look left or right lest the darkness should keep pace. But her lack of stamina makes the getaway short-lived. Her knees buckle and she falls onto the soft earth.

The girl needn’t search for the dark figure: she can feel it right beside her. She accepts that she cannot outrun—much less outwit—her follower, so she decides to carry on with her day, and if the stranger should wish to join then it will be quite welcome.

The girl has to think of what to do, which is peculiar, because usually her decisions come quite naturally. She tries opening and closing her mouth to produce music, but finds herself inhibited by endless worry: what will the dark figure like? What will it approve of? What will it think? Unable to answer these questions, and unwilling to ask, the girl abandons the activity.

She then tries turning on the spot like a ballerina inside a jewelry box, but the dark figure parodies her movement and she stops dancing. The girl stands still, thinking. She devises a simple game—hide-and-seek—and explains the rules to the dark figure; but they seem unnecessary, like picketing a boundary in an open field.

The girl nominates the dark figure to hide, covers her eyes, counts to one hundred and then opens her eyes. Much to her disappointment the stranger is still there, waiting expectantly.

‘Oh, you are a kill-joy,’ she huffs, falling again to the ground and becoming lost amongst the folds of her long blue dress. The poor girl is close to tears.

To buoy her mood she decides to wish upon a dandelion before the sun is snuffed from the sky. She finds one that is just right: thin-stalked, circular-perfect and winter-white. But as the girl lifts the dandelion to her lips and takes a deep breath, she is suddenly overcome by the fear that her secret wish will be revealed in the presence of the dark figure. She decides to wait until tomorrow. This marks a sad moment indeed, for one day will become another, and yet another, until a string of tomorrows become a lifetime of yesterdays.

The dandelion is known around the world by many names. There is pappous meaning “grandfather” because the white hairs resemble that of an older man; kleftis meaning “thief” because the hairs are difficult to catch once airborne; and qasedak meaning “small postman” because it always brings goods news. But the girl knows only one name—weed. And there is no known use for weeds, as everyone with a shadow well knows.

Verge 2013: Becoming

   by Peter Dawncy and Camille Eckhaus