My day begins as usual, woken by click-clacking tracks as the 6.56 from Paraparaumu passes. I can hear birds in the garden bed below my bedroom window. They’re scratching at the mulch, uprooting the seedlings I planted yesterday.
I’d thought of protecting them, placing sticks and weaving cotton thread strung with milk bottle tops, as my mother used to do. But milk doesn’t come in bottles any more; there are no more tops to string on cotton. Sometimes I don’t think of my parents for months, then without warning I’m reliving a moment of childhood. I’d gone inside, left the plants unprotected.
Go chase the birds away or the plants will die.
Relax, you don’t have to get up for half an hour yet, you can rescue them then.
They’re probably eating slugs that would have attacked the seedlings anyway as I snuggle down again. But I can’t settle back to sleep.
Curses on slugs and the birds that eat them! I pull on clothes. Why is everything the same dull brown colour, like wet leaves in autumn? I splash water over my face and rub my eyes. When I first used mascara my father said my eyes looked like piss holes in the snow.
I glide quickly out the front door and down the path beside the house, steering around the hop-scotch drawn in chalk on the concrete. I used to be good at hop scotch, with my favourite marker, a Kiwi Nugget tin packed with damp sand. I could throw it to land anywhere, and it wouldn’t slide.
But now lines of chalk are deadly to me, lethal as lines of salt. Luckily this side of the house is in shadow; the sun seems as close and hot and manic as a corner sun in a child’s drawing. Very unkind to a body like mine.
I’m proud of my shape – muscular thorax holding the frilly, lacy details of my pseudopodia. Now what was I doing again? My short term memory is really getting bad; I’ve come outside to do something and I can’t recall what it is.
I glance around. Close by, a daisy leers at me suggestively, sounds a wolf whistle.
Cheeky sod. I’ll get him for that.
I glide over and nibble on one of his new leaves. The daisy’s high-pitched squeals grow louder as I grab bigger mouthfuls. Birds are attuned to the distress calls of plants when a slug starts eating them. I’m worried that now a blackbird or thrush will make me their breakfast before I can finish mine.
I wake with a corner of the quilt in my mouth, still chewing.
Mercedes Webb-Pullman: Victoria University Wellington MA in Creative Writing, 2011. Her poems and short stories have appeared online and in print, including Turbine, 4th Floor, Melancholy Hyperbole, and her books. She lives on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand.