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The Duck with no Quack.

This is my first book. I wrote, illustrated and self-published. The book appeals to young children (3-5 years). This is the the story of Oswald, a duckling, who seems to have lost his quack. As his Mama proudly shows off her ducklings to the other farmyard animals she listens closely to Oswald hoping to hear him quack. Whilst her ducklings sleep she searches the barn – no quack. However it is Oswald himself who finds his quack.

For sales contact me on: findpublishing@hotmail.com. The book retails at $12.95 with a discount for bulk purchases.

 

My children’s short stories.

Most of my children’s short stories are food related. I have a wonderful class of children and two brilliant teachers at Whitfield State School in Cairns to thank for the inspiration. I was asked to give a creative writing workshop on healthy eating. The children produced some highly imaginative stories and poems but it also inspired me to write a selection of funny foody stories. I’ll add more stories once I am able to give the publishing credits because some of my stories have been accepted by NSW Schools magazine. Watch out in August for Jaspers Problem.  This story is the feature story in the August edition of Orbitmagazine and I’m very excited about that.

Arthur was a carrot.

Arthur was a carrot. Arthur hadn’t always been a carrot: he’d been a normal little boy, with very bad eyesight. Arthur heard from his granny who’d heard it from her neighbour, who’d read it in a magazine at the doctors’ surgery,

“Carrots are good for your eyes.”

Arthur got excited. “If carrots are good for your eyes it means I could get rid of my jam-jar bottom glasses,” he said to himself.

Arthur’s mum was delighted he’d started to eat his carrots.

“I want carrots for school, carrots for dinner and I want carrot juice for breakfast.” Arthur wanted carrots with everything.

Arthur began to notice changes after he’d been on carrots for a week. He’d turned a delicate shade of yellow and one or two of the hairs right on the very top of his head had turned bright green.

Arthur’s mum was so pleased he’d started eating a vegetable she dismissed the changes as being due to … “Too much sun.” And, “Green paint.”

A few weeks later, now quite orange and with a gorgeous mop of green hair, Arthur was having difficulty walking. His legs had fused together from the top of his thighs down to his knees: his toes had disappeared and his arms felt shorter. Arthur’s mum’s delight at her son eating a vegetable had turned to despair. Her little boy was becoming a carrot.

“What shall I do?” she asked granny.

Granny asked her neighbour: the neighbour went to the doctor and the doctor came running.

He took one look at Arthur and said, “That’s not a boy, that’s a giant carrot!”

“No it’s not, that’s my Arthur- he just looks like a carrot. He really can’t be a carrot, can he?”

“Can you cure him?” asked granny.

“Let’s get him to hospital and I’ll call the Carrotologist.”

Arthur lay in his hospital bed, bright orange and carroty – a colourful contrast to the crisp white sheets.

Arthur was a carrot. A carrot with jam-jar bottom glasses.

Diane Finlay (C) 2007  

Jaspers problem.  

I’m looking at my problem. It’s a really big problem and it’s getting bigger all the time.

First I have to tell you how I got into this mess. It was the usual topsy-turvy Saturday morning – my little sister Maisie got up before anyone else to experiment with frozen peas…

“Twenty-three peas up one nose!” she’d yelled getting into the car.

Mum climbed in quickly, winding down her window. She shouted over the engine noise and crunching gravel as she backed out – nearly killing Pudding the cat. “Jasper, look after Grandad – there’s a love. We won’t be long. Dr. Millar is expecting us – he says he’s dealt with nose peas before and Dad’s in the office if you need him.”

I waved and wondered what sort of operation Dr. Millar would do. A  Pea-ectomy, perhaps. Would he put the peas in a little jar and let Maisie bring them home? I hoped not because then she’d take them into class for ‘Show and Tell’ which would only give her another opportunity to boast.

What is it with little sisters? Maisie is always doing stuff like this. She’s so embarrassing.

Two weeks ago she tried out a marble experiment on dad’s car exhaust. He rattled, crackled and shot marbles for days. Pudding copped the first one – poor thing. Mum said it had been very hard explaining the injury to the vet.

Last weeks experiment was the worst… Suddenly I remembered I was supposed to be looking after Grandad. He’s so forgetful now he could’ve been anywhere but I found him in the lounge room trying to flick channels on the T.V.

“Hi Grandad.”

“Ah there you are young…uhmm…uhmm…”

Grandad was always forgetting my name. “I’m Jasper, remember.”

“Yes, Jupiter, look I’ve been trying to get my gardening programme but the buttons aren’t working.”

“Here let me help,” I said taking Maisie’s toy mobile phone from him and swapping it for the remote control I found in his pocket.

“This is it, Grandad, just press the yellow one.”

Maisie had helped Grandad and painted the buttons with nail varnish. “So he’s colour coded,” she’d said in that snotty little sister voice of hers. It didn’t help because he forgets which colour to use anyway.

“Thanks Joshua,” he said. I sighed.

Anyway last weeks experiment involved Grandad and his motorized wheel chair. None of us realized you could make it go that fast or that it was even capable of wheelies.

“It wasn’t my fault,” whined Maisie, “I only meant to help him get around a bit quicker that’s all.”

Funny how it’s never her fault. And the wheel chair repairman is still confused. Grandad was okay about it though. He was a bit shaky when we finally stopped it and helped him off. He thought he’d been out on his motorbike.

“Just like when I was a lad…grand times they were…grand times.”

When Dad’s home Maisie is his little angel but when he’s out flying his plane or in the office working with his eyes closed we have to put up with things like pea experiments. Anyway, Grandad was happy, Maisie and Mum were at the hospital and I was bored. I sat on the back step and thought what Dad would say. He’d say I should consider my options. I didn’t have any – I had to stay home to look after Grandad.

Suddenly I had a brilliant idea.

“I know, I can look after Grandad and make pizza at the same time.” I jumped up – excited. “Mum needs my help – Maisie is such a handful.” I said as I walked into the kitchen. And this is where my problem begins.

I’d made pizza with Mum hundreds of times and I was sure I could remember what to do. The ingredients were easy: flour, salt, yeast, warm water and a slosh of olive oil. I could hear Mum’s voice inside my head,  Learn to cook without measuring, Jasper. Trust your best guess, then it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a set of scales. I got everything together and started.

“Okay,” I said, “put the flour and salt into the bowl – that’s easy – now for some warm water. What next? I know – I need to put the yeast into the water with some sugar and let it get frothy.”

This is where I think I got it wrong. I couldn’t remember if it was one sachet of yeast or one box. I opened a sachet.

“That’s pathetic, there’s not enough yeast in that to make pizza for our family – I’ll use all of them.”

I poured and poured all twelve sachets of yeast into the warm water and left it. I went to check on Grandad. He was sleeping – his gardening programme always does that to him. I lifted Pudding off the budgie’s cage then went back to the kitchen.

“Wow,” I squealed, “that’s awesome!” I hadn’t remembered yeast ever frothing all over the kitchen bench like a volcano, but I wanted to help Mum, so I poured on some oil.  I knew I had to mix it with the flour to make dough, cover it and leave it in a warm place until it doubled its size.

“Cinchy.” I said, thinking if Mum comes back now I’ll be her hero. “Time to play video games and check the dough later.”

…Well, it’s later now and I’m looking at my problem, looking at my pizza dough. It has definitely doubled in size in fact it’s probably a hundred times bigger. It’s taken over the kitchen and is oozing squidgely through the doorway into the lounge room like a huge, puffy, billowing doona. I panic. If I don’t do something Grandad will be….

“Grandad!” I shout as I run, “wake up: wake up please. I’ve got to get you out of here.” I’m really panicking now – running around the lounge room like a hamster in a wheel. The dough is already half way across the floor.  I have to rescue Grandad, get him out of the house or he’ll be swallowed up and we’ll lose him forever, and it will be my fault and I’ll never hear the last of it from Maisie.

I dash around the room. I spot the gardening programme. Suddenly I have an idea – I know what I have to do. “Jasper to the rescue,” I say bravely as I shoot out of the house to the shed to get what I need and race back. “Grandad, wake up, I have to move you,” I say: throwing Pudding and lots of cushions into the wheel barrow.

Grandad’s woozy but finally I get him comfortable. Just in time – the dough changes into a pizza monster and starts to eat the back of his chair. “Phew.” I don’t know how I get Grandad, Pudding and the wheel barrow out of the house, but I do – I save them.

Grandad wakes up when I park him under the big tree in the front yard and says, “The colours are really good today. It almost feels like I’m actually there. This must be what they mean by reality T.V.” Then he’s off to sleep again – but I still have my problem. I have to get the pizza monster out of the house.

“Think, think Jasper, think – there has to be a way,” I mutter as I whizz around the yard. I spy the hose. “That’s it – I’ll blast it out with water.” I quickly fix the hose to the tap at the front of the house and begin to turn. “If I turn it on full blast I should be able to force the monster back through the house and into the yard – that way Mum won’t see it when she gets home.”

I run into the lounge room with the hose and begin the fight. I feel like a Superhero. The monster begins to shrivel and shrink under the power of the water jet. “Yahoo – its working!” I am a conquering hero – the fight goes on. I try different moves, new angles. I stab and jab with the jet – I cut and thrust: then like a Jedi Knight I twist and jump. The pizza monster is shrinking, retreating from the power of the force. I raise my arm ready to strike the final savage blow….

I hear a shout – it’s Maisie.  “You’re in trouble – big trouble.”

I’m confused: she’s not supposed to be here. I do a double take. I realise where I am and what I’m doing. My breathing is hard and fast and loud in my head. I gulp to calm down. I really hate it when she sneaks up like that and spoils things for me – right when I was about to make the kill!. I still feel pretty pleased with myself because I’ve cornered the monster in the veggie patch. Suddenly the water changes from a jet to a dribble. I drop the hose and run to the tap: I run smack into Mum.

“Jasper – I think you’ve got some explaining to do, I’ve rung the plumber and he told me to turn the water off at the mains – there’s water all over the lounge room and kitchen, Grandad and Pudding are asleep in the wheel barrow under the Poinciana. What is going on?”

I take a really big breath. “Promise me you won’t be mad – I was only trying to help – because Maisie is such a handful and I thought I could make pizza for lunch and you’d be really proud of me and I remembered all of your instructions.” I say without stopping for breath.  “Well, except for the yeast – I might have got that wrong. Then it kept getting bigger and bigger and it nearly suffocated Grandad but I rescued him just in time. Then I thought the best way to get it out of the house was to use the jet spray on the hose and I managed to make it go out of the back door and I’ve cornered it in the yard and it’s going to be alright now.”

“Jasper what are you talking about? Hose – what hose? You mean we haven’t got a burst pipe?”

“No, I had to use the hose to get the pizza monster out of the house!” I take hold of Mum’s hand and pull her ‘round the house to show her what I mean.

I can’t believe what I see.  The pizza monster is huge, blowing up in the warm sun like a hot air balloon and it’s swallowing the shed.

Mum squeals, “What on earth is that?”

“I’ve been trying to tell you Mum: it’s a pizza monster – well… pizza dough really.”

“Pizza dough!” She looks like she’s going to explode. If she explodes and the pizza dough keeps growing how will I explain it all to Dad when he comes out of the office? I’m panicking…again.

Mum’s face is really red now. “Pizza dough – that’s pizza dough! What have you done, Jasper? What are we going to do?”

I could hear Dad’s voice inside my head, consider your options. “We need to consider our options, Mum,” I say, feeling brave. “That’s what Dad always says.” This doesn’t help and Mum gets even closer to detonation.

“So you ran the hose and water through the house to get the pizza dough into the yard!”

“Yes.”

“Okay,” she says, “now I understand,” and she sort of crumples.

Suddenly I hear Dad: he’s running and shouting. “Jasper, you’re not considering your options mate.”

“What options?”

“The giant pizza party option – that’s what!”

Dad isn’t angry like Mum – he’s laughing. “Let’s get the neighbours round for a pizza party. Make mine pepperoni,” he says, “and definitely no peas.

First published by NSW Department of Education and Training in ORBIT magazine – August 2011.

Here’s another story also published by those wonderful people at NSW Department of Education and Training.

The Lima Bean Queen.

I’m in my veggie patch talking to my tomatoes. It makes them happy and they grow better – that’s what Uncle Bob says anyway and he should know: his tomatoes are brilliant. He’s coming over today.

“G’day Eddy – got any of those delicious duck eggs?”

“Hey, Uncle Bob, yeah, Dorothy laid yesterday. I’ll let you have them.”

“Good then we’ve got a deal, because I’ve got something for you.”

Me and Uncle Bob have an agreement. We did the whole thing properly: he spat on his hand, told me to do the same then we shook hands. He said that made us partners and we could trade and do proper deals. I like that because Dad and Uncle Bob trade all the time – horse poo for a bag of grain, or three chooks for a piglet but Uncle Bob and me trade duck eggs for seeds.

“There yer go Eddy – don’t think you’ve ever had these.”

I read the packet.

“Lima beans!  I’ve never seen these before – what are they like?”

“I love ‘em, Eddy. Sometimes Pat puts them in stews, sometimes she cooks them up and serves them steaming hot with a sprinkle of salt and a big knob of yellow butter melting over the … mmmm. Anyway, you grow them and when they’re ready you can come over and get Pat to show you how it’s done.”

“Thanks. I’ll get Dorothy’s eggs.”

Dorothy tries to nip my hand as I lift out four eggs and put them into Uncle Bob’s hands.

“Thanks Eddy they’re beauties. Start planting the beans out now, then they’ll be right for the show and you might win a prize.”

“Really – my beans in the show – wow!”

I head off to look for dad; he’ll be in the shed with the tractor.

“See yer Uncle Bob.”

I stand in the doorway peering into the cool, dusty, darkness waiting for my eyes to work in the dim light. I see his shape under the tractor, the light in his hand making weird shadows on the walls and floor.

I wait: wait until dad knows I’m here. He has a rule – no shouting, or running, or being silly when he’s working on the farm machinery. He always sighs and says,

“We don’t want anyone getting hurt – machinery can be replaced but people can’t.”

I think he means Mum when he says people can’t be replaced. Mum died last year – so it’s just me and Dad. He’s sees me and slides out from under the tractor.

“Hey, Eddy, what have you got there?”

“Uncle Bob came over. We did a deal – duck eggs for seeds. Well they’re beans this time – lima beans. He says I should plant them out then they’ll be ready for the show. Can I do it now?”

“Yup, I’ll be busy for a while yet. Plant your beans then make us a picnic lunch to take down to the river. We might be lucky and catch a big one for tea. What d’yer reckon?”

I like Sunday’s – Dad always makes sure we spend the afternoon together. Sometimes we stay on the property and sometimes we go over to see Uncle Bob and Aunty Pat but we never go into town anymore – not since Mum died.

I take a deep breath. “Dad … can we go into town please?”

“No, Eddy, it’s a waste of time – hanging around waiting to get served and all those people asking questions and being nosy. I just can’t see the attraction.”

It wasn’t like that when Mum was here … We used to go into town nearly every weekend. There was always something happening.  Mum let me spend my pocket money on whatever I wanted. Now I’ve got all this money saved and no where to spend it. Another thing it gave me the chance to get out of jeans, t-shirt and gumboots. Mum would always do my hair and I’d wear one of my pretty dresses – none of them fit now – I’ve grown.

“But Dad, everyone at school is going to the circus. Please can we go to this afternoon’s show?”

“You know I don’t like having to keep stopping and chatting. I just want to be left to get on with things … talking about it isn’t going to bring your Mum back.”

I miss my Mum so much and I think Dad’s forgotten I’m a girl. He calls me Eddy but my proper name is Edwina. Mum used to say, “It’s a beautiful name, be proud of it.”

I sniff loudly.

“What’s up, Eddy?”

“Nothing, just the dust; I’m going to plant my beans.”

“Okay then – see you at the ute ‘round two, that’ll give me time to finish up here and get the fishing gear sorted. You’ll be ready by then won’t you?”

“Yup,” I say wiping snot and tears with my sleeve. I have a big corner of the home paddock to myself. I love growing things – I’m good at it. At school I ask Mrs. Robinson, the librarian, to help me find books – she even bought a book ‘specially for me. It’s a reference book.  I can use it to take notes, then try things out at home. She got me a book on small animals as well.

“Hello Jemima, have you laid any eggs today?”

Jemima is my brown speckled hen. I have Liquorice, Toffee, Jelly Bean and Honey – my guinea pigs and Dorothy my duck. I have a joey. Dad found Ralphy by the road – his Mum was dead – she’d been hit by a car. I knew how Ralphy felt and dad said I could keep him but I have a hard time stopping him getting into the veggie patch.

I plant and water my beans, pack the picnic and meet up with dad.

“Hop in. We can catch a couple of fish before milking time.”

There’s always stuff to do on the farm. While Dad milks the cows I cook dinner and sort out my stuff for school. I like school. I like the chatter and the giggling on the bus. I like my teacher Miss Angela; Uncle Bob is her dad and she gives me bottles of nail varnish and perfume and shampoo and things like that from her sister’s beauty salon in town. Dad doesn’t know I have any of this stuff. I keep it hidden in my secret place. Dad threw out all of Mum’s things. I wanted to keep her gold locket so I could look at it and remember how she looked when she wore it.

**************************

Dad pulls up at our favourite spot on the river. On the far side is a steep muddy bank, with deep fast flowing water where the boys jump in. This side of the river is part of our property and there are lots of big old gum trees right down to the waters edge: their branches stretch out over the rocks making cool, dark pools where the fish like to hide. We have our picnic sitting on the soft river sand then swim and play for a while.

“Okay Eddy lets fish,” says Dad.

I run to the ute and grab the gear. I like this time of day; the sun’s low in the sky and the water sparkles. Dad says the soft light makes the fish come to the surface. I watch the ripples and see a flash of silver.

“Dad quick, I’ve seen one.”

“I’m going as fast as I can.” He smiles, “You can take this one when it’s ready.”

I like watching Dad, his hands are so big and rough but he ties the flies to the hooks and makes it look so easy. When I try my hands just get into knots. We sit till the light fades.

“At least we’ve got enough for a feed,” says dad. “Go and get some nice dry twigs an’ sticks while I gut an’ fillet the fish. We’ll get a fire going – I brought the pan – thought it’d be good to cook ‘em up out here tonight. We can spend a bit longer together.”

“But what about the cows, Dad?”

“I think Bessie, Bluebell, Daisy, Esme and the rest will forgive us just this once if we’re a little bit late.”

Dad cooks up the fish till they’re brown and crisp, he lets me have some of his beer mixed with lemonade and we wipe up the fish juices with the bread crusts. I know in his own way he’s making up for not taking me into town. I close my eyes and smell the warm muddy earth, the gum trees, the cooked fish and the charred firewood. The birds are squabbling in the trees – Mum always used to say it was because they were arguing over which bedtime story they wanted.

“Come on sleepy head time to go, put the fire out and I’ll pack the ute.”

I stretch, grab the bucket, go to the river’s edge and get some water. The embers spit, sizzle and hiss: there’s a short burst of steam and the fire’s out.

**************************

“Hey, Eddy, how are the beans doing?”

“Hi, Uncle Bob, they’re great. Come with me – you can see for yourself. Are we doing a deal today?”

“No, Miss. Edwina Thompson.”

Uncle Bob only ever calls me Edwina when he’s got something important to say.

“I’ve come to have a look at your vegetables, the lima beans in particular ‘cos Pat’s just got back from town with the forms for the Junior Growers section of the show. We’ve got form fillin’ to do.”

“Do you want to see the beans first?”
“Yup, I reckon that’d be a good place to start.”

We walk around the house to my veggie patch.

“Oh my goodness, Eddy, I’ve never seen lima beans like them.”

“Is there something wrong with them, Uncle Bob?  I followed all of the instructions.”

“No, nothing wrong at all: they are the best lima beans I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ll have to call Pat and get her to come over. Has your dad seen them?”

“What’s up Bob? I heard the noise and thought I’d better check it out.”

“Your girl has definitely got green fingers. Look at these lima beans. They’ll be real show stoppers. I’ve brought the forms over so Eddy can enter them in the show.”

Dad rubs his chin and pulls at his nose.

“I dunno about going in the show. It’ll mean going into town and I haven’t done that since Sandra …” Dad sniffs, “I’ll have to think about it.”

Tears fill my eyes; I’m running and shouting, “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.”

Dad and Uncle Bob start arguing – I run to my secret place.

***************************

The light is bright in my face.

“I thought I’d find you here, love.”

“Aunty Pat – how did you know? This is my secret place.”

“When my girls were your age they had their secret place in our chook house, so I thought I’d try here first. Your Dad and Uncle Bob are in the house talking. Don’t worry – we’ll get you and your beans in the show.”

I’m crying and hugging Aunty Pat. “I don’t really hate Dad you know – I just want to go to town and I miss Mum so much.”

“I know – leave this to me and Uncle Bob – we’ll sort it out. Your dad needs a bit of help that’s all. Come back to the house. I’ve got dinner ready, we can fill out the forms and I’ll drop them in town first thing tomorrow.”

Dad meets me at the door. His face is wet.

“I’m sorry Eddy, I didn’t realize how much all this meant to you, and I’ve been too wrapped up in everything to even remember you’re a girl. Pat tells me I have to let you go into town with her next Saturday to buy a dress for the show. Winners have to be dressed in their best for the prize giving she says.”

He hugs me tighter than he ever hugged me before then we’re both laughing and crying and it feels so good.

The next week at school is the best, I tell everyone on the bus and everyone in my class I’m going in the show and Miss Angela says she’s booked an appointment for me to have my hair done too.  I feel so good being part of the excitement again. Lots of kids at school are in the show, some with their veggies, some with flowers and some in the pet show. I think maybe next year I’ll enter the guinea pigs in the pet show – turns out Jelly Bean is a boy and that’s why Honey, Liquorice and Toffee are all so fat, they’re going to have babies. I’m going to have sooo many guinea pigs: I can’t wait.

It’s Saturday and my tummy’s all knotted up. I didn’t sleep and I’m worried dad might change his mind and say I can’t go to town and my hands are sweaty but then I see Pat in her ute bouncing along the dirt track throwing up clouds of red dust. I wave.

“Hop in love,” she says as she throws open the door, “we’ve got a big morning ahead of us … dresses, shoes and the beauty parlour and that’s just for starters!”

**************************

Aunty Pat squeezes my hand.

“We’ll tackle this like a military operation,” she says. There are three shops on one side of the high street and four shops on the other. So I reckon we do one side and have a break at the coffee shop and then do the other side. How does that sound?”

“Fine by me, so long as I get to spend some of my pocket money on the way round.”

“No problem, we can fit that in as well. Have you got anything in mind?”

“I want an MP3 – everyone at school has them.”

“Have you got enough for that?”

“I’ve got heaps of money saved, remember.”

Aunty Pat was right about it being a military operation. We’ve done one side of the high street – I got a beautiful dress and now we’re in the coffee shop.

“Choose whatever you want love – a girl needs energy to shop – we’ve still got shoes to buy.”

“I’d like a piece of apple pie with ice-cream and a chocolate milk shake, please.”

“Coming right up,” says Carla from behind the counter, “usual for you, Pat?”

“Yes thanks love; come on Edwina, sit in the window seat so we can watch the world go by.”

Some of my friends see me and tumble into the shop giggling.

“Hey Eddy! You comin’ to the show next week?”

I smile, “Yes I’m in the veggie section.” It feels so good to say it.

“See yer later then – eh?”

********************

I’m so nervous now. I didn’t think I’d feel like this. I know my lima beans are the best but Josh’s pumpkin is awesome and Stevie’s cabbage is huge and very green and I think colour counts for a lot in the judging. I feel a tap on my shoulder.

“Eddy, I want you to have this. I was saving it to give you when you were older, but you look so beautiful in that dress with your hair like that I think you need to wear it now.” Dad has tears in his eyes and his big fingers shake as he tries to fasten Mum’s gold locket around my neck.

“I can’t do this, Pat will you fasten it for her?”

“Come here love … there … you look just like your Mum.”

I hug Dad. My face is red and hot and I wish the judges would hurry up. There’s so much noise and so many hot sweaty bodies. Suddenly I’m being pushed from behind – it’s Aunty Pat.

“Come on Eddy, you’re up. You’ve won! Your lima beans are best in their section and you’ve won the Junior Growers Section.”

I trip onto the stage. The tent is hot and stuffy. I don’t know what to do. Then I see Dad next to Uncle Bob in the front row and they’re clapping and cheering – they look so silly. The judge helps me on to the podium, puts a crown on my head and I feel so proud. I hope Mum can see this.

“Congratulations to Miss Edwina Thompson – the Lima Bean Queen.”

 

And here comes another one – I’m so happy the editors like my work.

I Hate Picnics

I think there’s something wrong with me. Everyone I know, everyone at school loves picnics especially beach picnics. People think I’m strange. I’m not strange. I’m just scared, but I can’t talk to anyone about this.

I suppose it isn’t really the picnic. It’s all the stuff that goes with it – you know the ants, the wasps and the flies. Beach picnics are the worst because of the sand. I hate having sand in my sandwiches, but it always happens no matter how careful I am… Maybe that’s why they call them sandwiches. Everyone else laughs at their crunchy sandwiches – I just want to be sick!

My whole entire family like picnics and camping and going bushwalking, but it scares me: all those ants, and wasps and flies and snakes. They think I’m silly for being scared. Dad always says,

“The animals are more frightened of you, look how big you are compared to an ant.”

It doesn’t help. I know ants can get into your food. They can nip, they can even eat people. I watched this program on television once about giant ants that ate people. Mum said they were African ants, but that doesn’t help. What if they learn to travel and they come to Australia and they start eating Australians and I’m the only person left here.  I’d be lonely and scared. I hope the ants stay in Africa.

Then I saw this program about African killer bees. That got me really worried. I wondered if the bees made travel arrangements with the ants. I don’t ever want to go to Africa they have such scary creatures.

My family is going camping: everyone is running around collecting camping gear and stuffing it into the back of the four wheel drive. My Dad says he’s taking us on a long trip to the top of Australia. I’m worried – what happens when we get to the top? We might fall off, but no one else seems to have thought of this. Then I remember this program I watched about crocodiles. There are a lot of crocodiles at the top of Australia. I didn’t know crocodiles could climb…. I think my family should be really worried about this, but Dad just says,

“As long as you stay out of the sea and the rivers you’ll be fine. There are lots of fresh water pools we can dip in safely.”

Hasn’t he heard about Stonefish?

But you see if we fall off the top of Australia we’ll land in the sea with the crocodiles. I don’t think my Dad has thought this through properly.

Anyway back to the freshwater my Dad says is safe. I’ve been reading about Stonefish: they live in freshwater and if you accidentally stand on one they inject this poison into your foot and you have to get to a doctor really, really quickly. I wonder if there are doctors at the top of Australia or have they all fallen off and been eaten by the crocodiles?

I need to tell someone about all of this but they’ll laugh at me. Dad says,

“You’re being silly and letting your imagination run away.”

I have never let my imagination run away. Never, ever – I keep a really close watch on my imagination. If it ran away I might lose it. Then it might run all the way to the top of Australia and fall into the sea and be eaten by the crocodiles.

I wonder what an imagination tastes like. Maybe it’s got sand in it and it’s crunchy and the crocodiles won’t like it ….

 

Still on the vegetable theme and this one was accepted for publication too – I just don’t know when it will happen.

Emily the emotional onion.

Emily cried. She cried all the time and no matter how hard her friends tried they could never find out why.

“Tell us please, Emily. Tell us why you cry. If we knew what made you cry maybe we could do something to help,” said Veronica the pumpkin.

“I can’t tell you, it’s just the way I am.”

“But when you cry,” said Angela the carrot, “it makes us think we’ve done something to upset you.”

“Oh! You don’t upset me – I just feel like crying a lot of the time, well most of the time. Okay – all of the time. I can’t seem to stop.”

“I’ve met other onions,” squeaked Ursula the pea, “and none of them cry like you. They did cry, but not all of the time. It makes it very hard to have any fun with you because you’re always crying and then that makes us want to run away. Then we think that makes us look mean so we come back, but you’re still crying.”

“Yes that’s the problem,” agreed Pia the tomato, “we’re getting sick of being with you!”

Emily howled.

“Oh Pia!” chorused the other vegetables.

“Well it’s true. It’s something we’ve all been thinking but never said.”

“She’s right,” sobbed Emily. “I go around making everyone miserable. I don’t know why you lot have bothered to stay my friends for so long. I mean look at me. I’m round, fat in the middle and all I have to wear is this tatty brown dress. I’m a mess. When I look at you, Pia, in your gorgeous red dress with that green tiara and Angela in your beautiful orange, floor length gown I feel so ugly. I’m the wrong shape too!’

“Excuse me,” huffed Veronica, “I’m the same shape as you, so are Ursula and Pia. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being round.”

“But Veronica …”

“I love my shape.”

“And if I was any other shape,” said Pia, “I wouldn’t be a tomato, Ursula wouldn’t be a pea and Veronica wouldn’t be a pumpkin. You need to be round – you’re an onion. If you were the same shape as Angela you wouldn’t be an onion anymore.”

“Maybe I don’t want to be an onion!”

“What do you mean,” gasped Veronica. “How can you say that?”

“I just think if I was something else I wouldn’t be so sad and emotional all of the time. Maybe if my dress was dark green and shiny like yours Veronica I might feel better; or if I was small like Ursula.”

“Emily I know I’m small, but I’m round too – just like you.”

“Yes but you have such a beautiful bright green dress.”

“Oh, Emily, you are a funny onion. You’re crying all the time because you want a new dress,” said Ursula.

“Yes, I want a new dress. I’d feel much better if I didn’t have to wear this tatty thing.”

“You don’t have to keep wearing that old brown dress – why do you think it’s peeling off?

“I don’t know Ursula. All I know is, it’s getting worse each day and I don’t know what to do.”

“Emily you funny old thing, you’re an onion, you get a new dress every few weeks.”

“Where from?”

“You’re wearing it – silly – underneath the old one. That’s what is so special about onions. Once one dress gets old and tatty it peels off and underneath there is a beautiful new dress,” explained Veronica gently.

“Really!” sniffed Emily, drying her tears. “Show me.”

“Okay girls – help me peel,” said Angela. The vegetables went to work on Emily.

“There now, Emily – you’ve got your new dress.”

Emily looked down at her round shape in its beautiful new, pale yellow, silky dress and burst into tears.

… and last but by no means least: a lovely fruity poem …

Cumquats and Wotnots.

 Did you ever

tango with a mango

or mince with a quince

peel a lychee by the sea

or kiss a ‘blue’ berry?

Can you really

make rhymes with limes

 or mix melons with lemons

blow GIANT raspberries

or get stuck in a strawberry jam?

Did you ever

scare a pear

or grapple with an apple

watch peaches on beaches

or discover plums have bums?

 Can you really

tie cumquats with wotnots

 feed grapes to apes

put a pawpaw on a seesaw

or be mean to a nectarine?

Did you ever

can-can with a rambutan

see grapefruits in suits

take kiwi’s to Fiji

or wonder why this rhyme began?

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