(10 minute read)
by Emma Overton
Grandma burst into the kitchen through the side door. The twins looked up from their crayons and pastel cardboard.
“Where is he? Where is the precious new baby?”
The twins exchanged a look. 3-minutes older, Nell took the lead.
“It’s in there,” she said, pointing to the door that led to the living room. Grandma bustled through and out, her navy-blue cardigan glittering with sequin stars. Grandpa sidled into the room, his twig hands twirling his hat.
“Morning, girls,” he murmured. “Norma and the wee laddie through there?” as he sidled through and out.
In the silence left in their wake, Elinor sighed and there was a small cracking sound as Nell broke the cyan crayon she was holding.
“Harvey said this would happen,” said Elinor. “They’re going to forget all about us. Soon we’ll be living in the shed and the baby will be in our room.”
As if on cue, there came a wailing.
Mummy came into the kitchen. She made up a bottle and tested the contents on her wrist.
“Mummy, where do babies come from?” asked Elinor.
Mummy jumped. The twins exchanged a look. Already she was forgetting them.
“Oh, the supermarket, darling,” said Mummy.
“Why aren’t they on the shelves then?”
“You have to order them specially, like the turkey at Christmas. Otherwise they’d spoil.” Mummy decided the bottle was good enough and left the room.
“I think it’s spoilt enough already,” said Nell.
Elinor looked at Nell and Nell looked at Elinor. In both little blonde head’s, a memory stirred.
It’s spoilt and I only bought it yesterday. The best before is next week!
Not to worry, madam, we can exchange it, at no charge to you. Which new chicken would you like?
“Perhaps we should take it back.”
Elinor nodded then said, “Maybe we could get a trike for it.”
Nell thought this a little optimistic but a new baby… One that was quiet and didn’t hog all the attention? That seemed quite possible.
Their chance came sooner than they thought.
Nell, Elinor and Harvey were playing in the garden. It was asleep in its flat-bottomed pram. Grandad also slept, his twig hands folded across his bird chest, which rose and fell with sparrow rapidity.
Harvey sang his nonsense song as he bounced down the hopscotch path.
“You’ve got to catch them when they’re young”
He bounced back the opposite way,
“Before their souls have a chance to latch on”
Nell was burying her doll in the sand pit and Elinor braiding daisy chains. It was a few seconds before Nell and Elinor realised Harvey had stopped singing. They turned around and watched him as he watched it.
“I think it’s time, don’t you?” he said.
Nell left her doll in the sand and Elinor placed her daisy chain braid around her neck. They grasped a handle each and wheeled it down the garden path.
Harvey hopscotched behind.
“You’ve got to catch them when they’re young,
Before they’re soul has a chance to latch on,
You wriggle and worm your way into their brain,
And kick the new soul down into the drain.”
Nell let go of the buggy, stretching high on her tiptoes to unlatch the gate. Harvey bounced in place and hissed ‘quickly’.
The gate swung open and Nell held it open as Elinor pushed the pram through. She couldn’t see over the hooded top and when the pram bounced off the wall of the ginnel, she fell.
It began to wail. Harvey leaned over the side and sang his nonsense song. The wailing subsided, into disgruntled hiccups.
“Come on!” said Harvey with a grin, bounding down the ginnel. Nell helped Elinor up and together they manoeuvred it out of the alley and onto the street. Peering round the pram, Nell watched Harvey tumble down the street, a long, black stick in his hand. He poked into the piles of leaves that lay in mounds in the gutters. A car drove past, fast and flashy. The sound of the rumbling engine nearly drowned out Harvey’s whoop of glee.
“Come on!” he shrieked. “Look what I found!”
Nell and Elinor emerged from behind the pram and began towards him.
“Bring it with you!” demanded Harvey, his pale eyes glittering. “The supermarket’s down this way.” He wheedled, when Nell and Elinor exchanged a look.
They trundled the pram over to where Harvey stood.
“What is it?” asked Nell.
“It’s for the baby,” said Harvey.
“What is?” asked Elinor. Harvey pointed with his black stick into the road. In the middle of it lay a pheasant, twitching and bleeding. The twins approached it.
“Why would it want that?” asked Nell.
Harvey stood over the pheasant, which stared up at him with one good eye.
“It’s a going away present.” Said Harvey, poking the pheasant in the eye with his stick.
Nell and Elinor exchanged a look.
“Do you want it to go away or not?” said Harvey
“We do…” said Nell.
“But how…?” asked Elinor.
“They won’t think it’s off if it’s not smelly and horrible looking,” said Harvey reasonably.
“Okay,” said Elinor.
Nell picked up the pheasant and pushed it into the pram. There was a wailing.
“I don’t think it likes it’s present.” Said Elinor, looking around for Harvey. He wasn’t there. Nell shrugged. Harvey came and went when he wanted to, but he always came back.
“Girls?” a shriek came from the jitty entrance. “Girls!”
Nell and Elinor turned back and saw Mummy running towards them.
“They’re here, Jack!” She called over her shoulder as she sped down the street. “They’re all here.”
Daddy ran down the road, a heartbeat behind Mummy.
Mummy reached the pram and screamed. Daddy caught hold of her.
“What’s the matter, Sarah?”
Mummy pointed at the pram. Daddy looked in and recoiled.
He reached in and pulled the pheasant out.
“What the hell do you two think you’re playing at?” shouted Daddy, as he threw the pheasant to the ground.
Nell and Elinor exchanged a look and burst into tears. Mummy bounced and shushed it. It got blood on her blouse.
“Well, girls? I want to know why you did this!”
“We were taking it back to the supermarket,” sobbed Nell.
“Before it got too big to return,” added Elinor.
Daddy stood with his hands on his hips.
“Because you’ll forget all about us and we’ll have to live in the shed and it will have our room and all our toys and you won’t love us anymore,” cried the twins.
“Who put this nonsense into your heads?” asked Daddy.
“Harvey,” said the twins.
“That bloody-!” started Daddy. Mummy put a hand on his arm. “If he weren’t imaginary I’d-!”
Mummy raised her eyebrows and Daddy stopped.
“Girls, we could never forget you,” said Mummy.
“You’re our girls and we love you,” added Daddy.
“So, it won’t get our room?” asked Nell.
“We’re going to turn the guest room into a nursery. The new baby will have that room.”
Nell and Elinor stopped crying.
“Are you happier about the new arrival now?” asked Daddy.
“I suppose so,” said the Twins.
“What was the pheasant about?” asked Daddy as they all made to return home.
“Harvey said it needed to be smelly or the shop wouldn’t take it back.” Said Elinor.
“Him,” said Mummy. “He’s a boy baby, not an it.”
“Okay, him,” said Nell.
“What’s his name anyway?”
“What with his surprise appearance we hadn’t really thought yet. But we quite like Henry.”
“Come on, girls.” Said Daddy. “Time to go home and get cleaned up.”
It was a few days later that Elinor mentioned to Nell that Harvey had been gone a long time. They went to find Mummy and ask her if she’d seen him.
She was rocking Henry back and forth, in her and Daddy’s room. The twins watched from the doorway as the baby babbled.
Nell’s mouth opened to ask Mummy about Harvey but Elinor’s hand reached out to stop her.
They listened to the baby’s babbling.
It almost sounded like the tune to Harvey’s nonsense song.
Nell and Elinor exchanged a look.
Copyright © 2021 – Emma Overton. All rights reserved.
About the Author
It is with reluctance Emma Overton accepts she lives in the ‘real world’ (the lack of mermaids and werewolves found in nature has long been a sore point). She has settled on writing fantasy worlds to make up for this disappointing dearth. She has so far published Failing Baili on Amazon and hopes to add other adventures in the future.
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