Tommy entered the kitchen; his head bent forward to watch his feet as he walked. His hair skimmed the underside of the kitchen counter as he cut the corner.
‘Grandpa, can you help me tie my shoelaces please?’
‘Sure. Up we go.’ He lifted his grandson onto a high kitchen chair.
‘Grandpa, why is it so hard to learn how to tie shoelaces?’
‘That’s a good question. Everything we learn in life can be hard.’
‘Because it’s part of learning.’
‘Well, if everything was easy to learn in life there wouldn’t be any strength to our character.’
Grandpa slowly looped a shoelace as Tommy watched. ‘Let me put it this way,’ Grandpa continued as he twisted one end of the lace around the loop. ‘Do you remember when your daddy and I took you fishing last summer?’
‘Yes.’ Tommy’s face screwed up. ‘It was so hard to get the worms to stay on the hook and get the fish to bite them.’
‘That’s right. Do you remember how many times you had to practise to get it right?’
‘Lots.’ The little boy nodded once and continued to study his grandfather’s hands.
‘By the end of the weekend you had it just right and you caught the biggest fish for supper.’
Tommy’s face beamed and revealed a toothy grin. He let his foot drop and held up the other one.
‘Your turn,’ Grandpa encouraged.
Tommy wriggled his foot onto his other leg and concentrated on the shoelace. It took a few minutes but eventually he made the final turn and pulled the loop through.
‘There will be other things in life you will need to learn and they won’t be easy either.’
Tommy sat looking at his shoes while he listened. ‘Like what?’
‘Oh, all sorts of things, like how to know the difference between right and wrong, when to make an important decision and how to choose which decision to make.’
‘Because that’s life and we need to learn lots of things like tying shoelaces and how to fish. Making a decision when choosing what kind of friends we should have can be a tough one.’
‘That sounds really hard. Will I have to learn how to talk to grandsons too?’
The old man laughed. ‘Yes, but not for a while yet; that’s a grown-up’s lesson. You can wait for that.’
‘Look, Grandpa. We tie shoelaces the same. Maybe you practised lots too.’
‘Yep, I practised lots too but some life lessons took longer to learn than others.’
‘Grandpa, can you teach me how to learn other life lessons?’
‘I certainly can but right now… why don’t we have some ice-cream?’
Tommy giggled and his eyes brightened. ‘I guess we don’t have to learn how to eat ice-cream.’
© Chrissy Siggee
‘Daddy! There’s a tiger in our garden!’
‘Really? I hope not. He might dig up the watermelon seeds.’
‘Should we feed the tiger so he won’t come and eat us up?’
‘OK. Why don’t you get Mum’s kitchen scrap-bucket while I’ll put on my garden shoes?’
‘I have my garden shoes on all ready. Look, Mummy tied the laces. Do you think tigers wear garden shoes too?’
‘Well, we’ll soon find out, my young tiger hunter.’
‘Up on my shoulders you go. You can be the lookout.’
‘Yippee! I can see the whole garden up here. Look! Paw prints. It looks like the tiger has been out all night. Daddy, do you think the tiger might be sleeping?’
‘Could be. We will have to keep very quiet so we don’t wake him.’
‘Look Daddy! It’s a crow. Let me down because he might get me. He could be the tiger’s friend. He might tell him we’re in the garden.’
‘Look over here. This is a lady bug?’
‘Why do they call em’ lady bugs?’
‘I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because they are so petite. Look at her tiny wings.’
‘Oh, look Daddy, the watermelon seeds are popping out.’
‘Yes, they are. Feel the little green shoot. Soon it will grow along the ground into a big vine and we will have lots of watermelons to eat.’
‘Yuck! Daddy, there’s a snail.’ He pointed.
‘We can’t have snails eating our seedlings, can we? We should put him on the compost heap. He can’t do any harm there.’
‘Come on Daddy, we have to feed the tiger.’
‘Be careful where you walk. The garden is a bit overgrown near the shed. We might clean it up next weekend. What do you think?’
‘Oh no, Daddy! Where will the tiger live?’
‘You have a point there. Here we are. Empty the scraps onto the compost pile.’
‘Daddy, can we empty the scraps for Mummy tomorrow? There might be a dinosaur in our garden.’
© Chrissy Siggee
Clutching the wooden spoon tightly and shaking it at my younger sister, I began my investigation. ‘OK, who did it? Who licked the mixing spoon?’
‘Not me.’ Madison answered, not looking up from the table.
‘Did too. Who else would have done it?’
The back door closed with a thump. Mum came in with her arms loaded with towels.
‘All right you two, break it up.’
Madison crossed her arms tightly. ‘I… did… not… lick… Crystal’s… spoon.’
‘Girls, that’s enough!’
I tossed the spoon into the sink. ‘Mum, you promised that if I peeled the potatoes last night, I could lick the spoon when we baked the cookies this morning. It was my turn.’ I glared at my seven-year-old sister.
She poked her tongue out and I stomped out of the kitchen.
When I returned a few minutes later, notebook and pencil in hand, Mum and Madison were busy removing cookies from a baking tray.
‘OK… Mum, what happened when I left the kitchen to use the bathroom?’
With an audible sigh, Mum opened the oven door and placed another tray onto the top shelf. ‘Well, after we finished mixing the cookie dough, I went outside to bring the towels in from the clothesline. If Madison licked the spoon, I didn’t see her.’
Madison added a fairy-shaped cookie to a large plate and then turned toward me. ‘I… did… not… lick… your… spoon.’
I noted her statement. ‘Madison, what were you doing while Mum was outside?’
‘Colouring in my book.’
‘Before that, stupid.’
‘Please Crystal.’ Mum intervened. ‘You can play your detective games but please don’t be rude to your sister.’
Madison pushed a tiny candy bow into the icing on the top of a pink fairy before she continued with her defence.
‘I didn’t touch the spoon. Mum said it was your turn to lick it so I went and got my colouring pencils and book from my bedroom.’
Sandy, Madison’s kitty brushed against my legs. ‘Where was Sandy?’ I crouched down and checked the kitten’s paws and mouth.
‘She followed me outside,’ Mum replied, then handed Madison the container of sprinkles.
‘Well, it couldn’t be Sandy.’ Madison added not looking at anyone.
I added my notes about Sandy then poked the pencil behind my ear and placed the notebook onto the table. ‘Can I help decorate the cookies?’
‘Wash your hands and show Madison how to use the icing gun.’
Obediently but aggravated, I moved to the sink and washed my hands. I still think Madison did it. I kept my eyes on miss goody two-shoes while I turned on the tap. Little sister seems to always avoid punishment.
‘Did you come to any conclusions,’ Mum asked.
My attention remained focused on Madison. I took a small spoon from the drawer to use to fill the icing tube. ‘Well, if it wasn’t Madison or Sandy, who else could it be?’
‘It wasn’t me!’ Madison announced her innocence again. ‘You always blame me.’
Momentarily, I concentrated on filling the tube.
‘Well,’ Mum was saying. ‘If you did Madison, no one would be mad at you for it. It’s the lies that I don’t tolerate.’
Madison’s lips quivered. ‘I didn’t.’
A noise from the living room caused me to turn suddenly. ‘What’s that?’
Mum glanced up at the doorway as Dad entered.
Madison’s frown disappeared. ‘Daddy, you’re home early.’
I placed the icing gun on a clean plate. ‘How long have you been home, Dad?’
I grabbed my notepad and drew the pencil from behind my ear. I tapped my foot. ‘Well?’
‘Well…nice to see you too.’ Dad laughed.
I approached Dad and leaned forward. There on his loosened tie, was a tiny blob of chocolate. ‘Dad… you didn’t. How could you?’
Mum pointed her finger. ‘So, you’re the culprit.’
Dad bent down to kiss my forehead.
‘Da…ad, your lips are sticky.’
Dad just stood there and grinned. ‘Yeah, I came in to see my beautiful girls before I put my briefcase away. No one was here so I licked the spoon.’ He grabbed a paper serviette and wiped his mouth. ‘I guess you found me out.’
‘You licked the spoon? It was my turn!’
Mum came over and touched my shoulder. ‘I think you have an apology to make, Detective Crystal.’
© Chrissy Siggee
tap, tap, tap…
There is someone on my roof…
It sounds like they are dancing.
tap, tap, tap…
I wonder if this roof is dance-proof…
It wouldn’t be for elephants prancing.
tap, tap, tap…
Who is dancing on my roof?
Toward the eaves they’re now advancing.
tap, tap, tap…
I sneaked a peek to find the proof…
To do this, it took some chancing.
tap, tap, tap…
There is someone dancing on my roof!
— It’s three galahs belly-dancing.
© Chrissy Siggee
Jenny sat on her window seat staring into the night sky. Stuffed animals snuggled in round her patiently waiting for a bed time hug. The night light by the bed gave the room a soft glow and the moon lit up the window.
‘I wonder if there is someone on the moon’, Jenny whispered into the ear of Jerry the monkey that had curled his long arms around her neck.
There was no answer of course but Jenny continued to speak softly. ‘One day I want to fly in a rocket ship and visit the moon. He looks so lonely way up there.’ Her voice faded and her eyelids drooped.
‘Will you take me with you?’
‘Who said that?’
Jenny turned to see all the animals smiling at her.
‘Which one of you can talk?’
‘All of us’, they said in unison.
‘But you’re not real!’
‘Yes, we are.’ Jerry loosened his hold and slid to her lap. ‘Why do you think the moon is lonely?’
Jenny blinked rapidly before answering. ‘Well, look at him. He just hangs there all night every night. I never see anyone out there with him.’
‘Just like us.’ He nodded to his friends who quickly nodded back.
Betsy the cow mooed loudly. ‘We sit and watch the moon all night every night.’
‘Why?’, Jenny wanted to know.
Jerry answered. ‘Because you only take one of us to bed.’
‘But there’s no room for all of you. I don’t want anyone to fall out while I’m sleeping.’
‘Oh, it’s OK really’, Marty the rhino replied. ‘We like watching the moon too. We’re his friends.’
They were all watching the moon when Jenny heard another voice.
‘It’s time you were in bed.’
‘Can I take my toys?’
Mum kissed Jenny’s forehead. ‘Not all of them. The moon needs his friends.’
Jenny smiled but didn’t open her eyes as her mum place her in her bed and left the room.
‘Good night Mum. Good night moon.’
And the animals on the window seat just watched the moon.
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
Abigail Hyatt was almost seven and her daddy let her choose where to have her birthday party. It had been a sad winter and a party was a good idea.
‘Can we have it at the park?’ Abigail asked.
‘Which park, Abigail?’
‘The big one, the one Mummy loved. You know… the one where we threw the rose petals after her funeral.’
‘If that’s where you want it, then that’s where we will have it.’ He kissed the tip of her nose.
Abigail smiled. ‘I’ll help with the invitations but we have to invite Grandpa and Grandma Lawson. Do you think they’ll come, Daddy?’
‘You can ask them. They would like that.’
Her smile faded. “I wish they didn’t live so far away. Do you think Grandpa and Grandma miss Mummy too?”
‘I’m sure they do. I would miss you, my darling daughter, if you had died. Now, let’s not be sad. Mummy would want us to enjoy your party.’
‘I want to wear the party dress Mummy bought me last year.’
‘Abigail, honey, I don’t think it will fit. You have grown so tall. Why don’t we go to the mall tomorrow after school and see what we can find?’
Finally, the party day arrived. It was a sunny day and the park had lots of spring flowers growing in the gardens. Abigail could see her grandparents at the end of the short path that led to the playground. They were tying balloons on swings and trees. There were two picnic tables. One had lots of party food on it and the other held a huge birthday cake with pink icing.
‘Grandma! Grandpa!’ Abigail called and ran to meet them.
‘Abigail! You look so grown up and your party dress is so pretty,’ Grandma said, smiling.
‘It’s Mummy’s favourite colour. Do you think she’d like it?’
‘I think it’s perfect,” Grandpa said.’
‘Abigail.’ Daddy spoke quietly. “Your friends have arrived.’
She looked up at her father to ask him to greet them for her, but he was wiping something out of his eye. Grandma hugged Abigail. Abigail knew Grandma was crying too so she hugged her as well. ‘Oh Grandma, I miss Mummy soooo much, but she would want us to enjoy the party.’
Grandpa hugged them both. ‘Yes, she would. Now go and meet your friends and enjoy the afternoon.’
Abigail greeted her friends and opened her presents. A clown skipped into the playground, making the children laugh. He twisted balloons to form the shape of little animals, stood on his hands and spun hoops on his feet. Abigail thought it was the best party ever.
Abigail was too excited to go to bed that night. After her bath, she dressed in her new summer night gown, and sat on Grandpa’s knee while he read her favourite story. She knew it almost by heart because her mummy had always read it before she went to sleep—sometimes twice.
Daddy entered the room carrying a glass of milk. “Grandma and Grandpa Lawson want to talk to you.’
Abigail felt suddenly afraid. Daddy had said something like that when Mummy got sick. She remembered that Mummy was crying and Daddy told her they would be okay. Abigail climbed off her grandpa’s knee and went to her daddy.
‘It’s all right.” Grandma smiled at her. “Everything is OK.’
‘You see,” Daddy said, lifting Abigail onto his knee. “We all miss Mummy very much and…’
‘What your daddy is trying to say, is that we miss your mummy, too.” Grandma added. “But we also miss you and your daddy.’
Grandpa sat on the floor in front of Daddy and Abigail reached down to hug his neck.
Grandpa took a deep breath. ‘Grandma and I want to move in with you and Daddy, at least until we get a house close by. Your daddy and I talked about it a lot and we think your mummy would like it. What do you think?’
‘This is the best birthday gift ever! Can they live with us, Daddy… please?’
‘Abigail, this is your birthday gift. It’s up to you.’ Daddy was laughing now. He hadn’t laughed for a long time.
She jumped off her father’s knee and hugged her grandpa and her grandma. ‘Please come and stay— I’ll even let you call me Abby. Mummy always called me Abby.’
Everyone except Thomas Creighton-Smiths’ granddaughter, Ada, knew Rosie was more than just a pig. Ada’s ideal retirement for Rosie was to explore the ancient land of dragons by day and visit the kitchen for under-the-table dinner scraps in the evenings before dreaming by the fireplace.
At breakfast one dank April Friday, Grandma had suggested they have roast pig for Sunday lunch complete with the traditional three vegetables and brown gravy made from the juices of the roasting meat. It was while Grandma chatted on about where she would insert the large rotisserie rod that Ada ran from the kitchen with Rosie close at her heels. ‘It will help tenderise the old sow’, Grandma was saying without acknowledging she had heard the back-door slam.
Thomas put down his morning paper. ‘I just wanted to take the pig to the abattoir to recoup some of our losses. After all, this is a working farm’. He muttered as he left the house in search of Ada.
His eyes scanned the landscape for a sign of the two gallant explorers. In spite of himself, old Thomas didn’t envy the little girl. He had grown up in Beatrix Potter country and the fantasies she created. The stunning Lake District would have been more practical for Ada’s school holiday imagination. He shook his head. Maybe we should have stayed in Ambleside and taken up trout farming.
It was two days before St George’s national holiday and Thomas needed to take that fat old pig for a road trip but Grandma was fixed on having tough pork and bacon. He stood at the garden gate and looked around. Where are they? He squinted into the fog that settled over the bogs as he recalled his mother’s favourite story that dated back to the 6th century. What was it again? Oh yes. St George rescued a young maiden by slaying a terrifying fire-breathing dragon. He slipped his hands into his warm pockets and headed for the main road.
So she wouldn’t fall over, Ada held up her long flowing medieval princess costume as she marched down Old Kent Road. Rosie trudged slightly behind with cardboard toilet cylinders on her pointy ears and three black ribbons tied onto her limp tail.
They stopped near a red telephone box just beyond the intersection where the road-signs crisscrossed on a wooden post. ‘Oh Rosie, how could Grandma say such horrid things? I won’t let them eat you.’ Ada stomped her foot splashing slops of mud over both of them.
She lifted the old play dress above her waist to search the pockets of her faded jeans beneath. With a silver coin in her hand she stepped into the telephone box. Finding the correct number from the list beside the chunky black phone, Ada dialled and waited. Rosie grunted, shuffled and squeezed in until she jammed herself tight between Ada’s knees.
‘Hello!’ Ada shouted into the mouthpiece. ‘Please help me. They’re going to kill Rosie!’
Approaching the end of the lane where it met the road, Grandpa looked left then right. Their farm was located two miles due east of the abattoir between Dover and Holyhead. He sniffed the thick foul air. This neighbourhood is likened to the lowest-priced property on the English Monopoly board. A few moments later he decided Ada would have headed away from town so off he trudged.
Minutes later he heard an ear-piercing squeal followed by a shout from young Ada. He quickened his stride. The telephone box, a little way past the next farm on the opposite side of the road, seemed to be alive as it shook and groaned. Grandpa stopped in mid-step; his neck craned forward. There was someone, or something, in the telephone box. There were too many legs to count. He saw what looked like horns and a tail with blades. There was a lot of banging and bumping going on behind the grime and moss streaked glass.
‘Oh my, it looks like a dragon!’
Ada screamed again jolting Grandpa from his trance. Manoeuvring the door open to avoid swishing his granddaughter, he grabbed Rosie by the tail and dragged her squealing from the booth.
Later, after the local Bobbies had their explanation and had a good laugh, Grandpa and Ada sat down to rest at the nearby bus-stop.
‘Did you know Ada, only forty-five to fifty percent of animals at the abattoir can be turned into edible meat products, fifteen percent is waste, and the remaining forty to forty five percent is turned into by-products like bath soap, candles and glue?’ He paused. ‘You know, glue suits her.’
‘It’s OK. I’d rather like rescuing my little princess from dragons. Come on, let’s go home and break the news to Grandma.’ He winked at his granddaughter. ‘There will be no more talk of bacon and roast pork.’
© Chrissy Siggee
The sun was warm on the sombre faces of ten-year-old twins, Holly and Steve. Their legs swung carelessly over the edge of the old rustic fence. Aunt Mary shuffled past with her black veil held tightly against her chin, barely noticing the children.
Steve’s voice was solemn and quiet. ‘Holly, do you remember last summer when Grandpa fell into the river trying to reel in that big trout?’
Holly laughed unexpectedly. ‘Yes, my sides hurt from laughing while he was explaining to Mother how he got so wet.’
Uncle Peter hurried past with his weeping wife and two protesting young children tagging along behind. He glared at Holly and shook his head in disgust before hurrying up the drive. Steve and Holly tried to stifle their giggles as they watched the small family group approach the house.
Holly laughed again as she remembered. ‘We never did get to eat fish for tea that night.’
‘Hello Holly. Hello Steve.’
The twins smiled and waved back to their cousin Gerald. His father grumbled and prodded Gerald in the direction of the house.
Quite a few relatives lived nearby and sometimes they walked the short distances between the farms and their community church but visits weren’t common. They were all busy with their own lives, their own farms.
Holly frowned. ‘Do you think Grandpa ever found out I was the one who hid his tobacco?’
Steve grinned at his sister. ‘Probably, he always said he had eyes in the back of his head.’ He threw his head back and snorted, almost losing his balance in the process and sending them both into fits of uncontrollable laughter.
Mr Snyder, the owner of the farm that adjoined theirs, drove his rattling pickup truck in the direction of the open gate and stopped almost directly in front of Steve. ‘You children should have more respect for the dead. For pity sake, I can hear you from my front door.’ With that, he accelerated toward the grass area where other vehicles were parked haphazardly under trees.
The twins were silent for a few moments before Steve spoke again. ‘I don’t think Grandpa ever liked Mr Snyder.’
Holly smiled, trying to smother another giggle. ‘Remember when Mr Snyder let our cows out of the back field and Grandpa chased him with his shot gun?’
‘Yes, that was funny, especially since Grandpa had forgotten to buckle his trouser belt before leaving the outhouse.’
The twins were continuing their banter when they noticed their father strolling up from the barn toward them. Work still needed to be done, even if Grandpa’s funeral had been held earlier that morning.
‘Hey you two. What’s the joke?’
‘Holly and I were talking about Grandpa. Sorry Dad.’
‘Dad, why is everyone mad at us?’ Holly asked sadly.
‘Because, my sweet child, no one knew Grandpa like you both did…and like I did, for that matter. Even your mother could tell you a story or two.’ He leaned up against the fence between the twins and nodded in the direction of the house. ‘Not one of these guests will miss Grandpa after today.’
‘They didn’t really know him.’ Steve said this more as a statement than a question.
‘No Son, they didn’t.’
‘That’s sad’, Holly concluded.
Their father looked up and scanned the fields.
The children turned their heads to follow his gaze.
‘I remember when I was about your age,’ he began. ‘Your Grandpa worked the farm completely on his own. One day, Mr Snyder let his cows into our corn field. Your grandfather decided from that day on, he would get revenge. It was never anything serious. They both got over it soon enough. Grandpa’s funny antics were really something to witness.’ He finished with a short, choked laugh and wiped his hand across his eyes.
Holly and Steve jumped down from the fence and walked hand-in-hand with their father back through the gate. The trio didn’t enter the house full of mourners. Instead, they headed for the corn field which was now ready for harvest, and then on to the fields beyond. Their laughter echoed across the farm.
© Chrissy Siggee
‘Bartholomew? Is that you?’
‘Bartholomew, it’s hard enough to get six babies to have a nap after Sunday School without you coming home late. This floor shook all the way through the singing. The entire ruckus has given me a headache.’
‘When I catch my breath…pant…I’ll explain.’
‘Were you chased by the janitor?’
‘Mildred, he’s on to us again.’
‘Well it’s no wonder. Your snooping around those Sunday School classes is going to get us into trouble one of these days.’
He ignored his wife and continued. ‘I got right up close to the piano. It was awesome. They were singing Jesus loves me; my favourite. I managed to sneak in behind the young ones going into class. Mildred, their new Sunday School teacher, Miss Cooper, is delightful.’
‘I thought you were going to find us some Sunday lunch, not check out the girls.’
‘I did. Anyway, I was captivated by the way she presented the Noah’s Ark story—pictures of the ark, birds, animals, even Noah. Young Tommy asked if there were any rats on board and everyone laughed. Miss Cooper assured Tommy that if there are rats around now; they would’ve been on the ark. She spoke with enthusiasm about our Maker and His promises. Oh Mildred, you’d have loved it. It was a perfect morning.’
‘So why were you panting?’
‘I was coming to that. You see, Billy was about to leave the room with his Bible still on his chair.’
‘Again? His parents must have replaced his Bible a dozen times.’
‘I know, and I thought if I could get someone’s attention before they left, they’d see it and return it to him.’
‘So, what did you do, scare poor Miss Cooper half to death on her first morning?’
‘No, I simply marched over to the Bible and stood on it… only I didn’t see the janitor passing the door with his broom. He saw me about the same time as Billy did. Billy stood between the janitor and me so I could get away.’ He chuckled. ‘You should’ve seen me run. I slipped out the door as quick as a flash with that broom coming mighty close.’
‘OK, so where’s lunch? Maybe we can enjoy some of His gifts before the babies wake up.’
Bartholomew removed the pack from his shoulder and began to unload his findings. ‘I found a couple of potato crisps in the foyer. A gummy bear with his head removed in the cry room and a half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the Sunday School Hall. All while they were busy singing themselves silly.’ He chuckled again.
‘Oh, this is great, Bartholomew. We won’t go to bed hungry tonight.’
‘I’LL FIND YOU, RAT!’ A voice bellowed through the walls.
Mildred began to shiver. ‘Bartholomew…’
‘Mildred, take the babies through the side door to the end of the stage. Take the underground route to Uncle Moses… and don’t stop until you get there.’
‘Bartholomew, don’t leave us. Where are you going?’
‘It’s all right. I’ll distract him and meet you at Uncle Moses’s later. I’ll be fine. GO!’
‘WHERE ARE YOU, RAT?’
Bartholomew scurried back through the hole and across the stage. His feet skidded beneath him on the varnished boards, causing him to slide sideways and crashing into a pile of electrical cables. He scanned the stage and the hall just as one of the cables hit the floor below.
‘I HAVE YOU NOW.’
As fast as his little legs could carry him, Bartholomew scampered into Miss Cooper’s classroom, raced past Noah and the ark and up the drapes on the other side of the room.
There he waited.
It was dark when Bartholomew reached Uncle Moses’ place, tired and hungry. He listened, but there was no sound. He tapped lightly before entering.
‘Bartholomew, where have you been? I’ve been worried sick. The babies wore out poor Uncle Moses. They’re all curled up with him on his bed.’
‘I’m fine. I told you I’d be fine. I know that place blindfolded. We can return in a few weeks once the exterminators have gone and the air is clear again.’
‘In the meantime, Bartholomew, you can help me with the babies. When we return home, I want you to take them to Sunday School, but no more adventures.’
‘All right, Mildred, no more adventures for me.’
© Chrissy Siggee
Multi-coloured seashells lined the shelf in Sophie’s spare room. They had always fascinated her nine-year-old granddaughter, Emma. Each shell had its own special story. Today, Emma had asked to hear about the big shiny spotted one, which twisted and curled to a little holey point.
Emma carefully lifted the shell from the shelf and sat on the bed as Sophie entered from the kitchen, wiping her wet hands on her apron. She smiled down at her granddaughter holding the shell gently in her lap. ‘I suppose you want to know about this very special seashell.’
‘Where did you find it, Nanna? It’s so pretty.’
‘It is pretty—as pretty as the beach I found it on. But this shell has a sad story to tell. The memory will live forever in here.’ Sophie placed her hand over her heart before continuing.
‘Poppa and I were visiting a place far from here on the west coast for a holiday back in 1992. It was our holiday of a lifetime—just after your mother finished college. It was a summer. We were staying at a resort village and Poppa and I spent the evenings walking along the cooling sand. On the third evening there was a full moon and we were about to head back up the beach to our bungalow when we heard a pitiful moaning. It seemed like it was coming from the ocean. The sound lingered like a haunting wail that echoed. I have to admit, I was afraid. I’m not one to believe in ghosts, but that night I would have believed anything.’
‘Oh, Nanna, that must have been soooo scary. What did you and Poppa do? What was it?’
Sophie traced the contour of the twisted shell to the point, holding her finger in mid-air for a moment before continuing. ‘Well at first we just stood there trying to work out what it was. Some of the resort staff came running down onto the beach yelling, ‘Save them! Save them!’ It was then that we realized there were black mounds rolling in the surf. They looked like huge boulders. Some were closer to us on the wet sand; water lapping around them from the incoming tide. Some of the people started running into the waves. Poppa grabbed my hand. The boulders were actually whales. Some had already beached themselves—others splashed about a little offshore where waves crashed around them.’
Tears ran down her cheeks as she recalled the events. ‘People were trying to persuade them back by yelling at them. Others just stood, staring, as one by one they beached themselves. It was an awful sight.’
‘Did they go back into the water?’ Emma asked, her eyes reflecting her anguish.
‘Unfortunately, most of them didn’t. I guess its part of nature. We never did find out why those whales beached themselves. We tried to help by keeping the whales wet. We even tried to encourage them back into the water.’ Sophie shook her head. ‘Four days later the beach was covered in dead and dying whales—fifteen in all. I remember I sat in the shallow water beside a mother and her calf and wept for them. Poppa and I took turns taking short naps and taking time out for meals provided by the resort’s kitchen. We continued our vigil for four days—the remainder of our holiday. We’ve always considered it a small sacrifice. We managed to get three whales back out into deeper water—only three, but we were relieved we were able to help in a small way.’
‘Oh, Nanna, this is the saddest story of all. But, where did you find the shell?’
Sophie picked up the shell and blew into the small hole at the point. It made a howling sound, like the wind. She handed it back to Emma so she could have a blow, and continued her story.
‘About mid-morning on the last day, men with hoists came and loaded the dead whales onto the back of trucks to take them away—for burial. I suppose we were too exhausted to ask where. When they lifted the calf beside me, I noticed something lodged in the wet sand. Poppa used his hands to dig it out and held it up to look at it more closely. One of the helpers from the night before took it from Poppa’s hands and washed it in the seawater. He lifted it to his lips and blew it, long and loud. It sounded almost like the mournful cry we had heard the evening before. The man handed it to me and walked away, back up the beach to the resort where he worked. I’ll never forget those whales—or the beach.’
Emma blew into the shell. The haunting wail lingered like the memories on the shelf. Sophie sat beside her in silence for a few minutes. Emma traced her finger around the shell before placing it into Sophie’s hand. She too, traced her finger to the point then placed it back in its place on the shelf.
© Chrissy Siggee
Granddaughter Amelia’s letter to her Great Grandad for his 93rd Birthday visit. June 2019
Photo by Chrissy Siggee
Christmas tree decorated by Chrissy’s granddaughter.
Time to introduce another grandchild’s talent.
Dylan is 11 years old and has always liked drawing dragons.
Very impressive for a 5 year old.
The bear watered his flowers and went to bed.
She’s five and a half – A writer in the making.