Flash Frontier

July 2022: AWA

All Issues

Embrace by Noa Noa
Embrace by Noa Noa

Guest Editor Iona Winter, on selecting her top picks

Kia ora koutou, Flash Frontier, for the invitation to select highlighted stories for the latest issue AWA.


Aotearoa is a land imbued with an intrinsic connection to rivers, creeks and streams – most of us know at least one that we feel linked to. As with any body of water, the selected stories flowed onto and over the page, and via this ebb and flow touched on cycles of life, death, rebirth, and transition that linked, in clever ways, to awa. Those that tugged at me the most, like a taniwha circling below, lyrically explored natural flow versus the impact of humanity, often with deep reflection and aroha. Each story contrasted the others, building on interpersonal and observed relationships with te ao tūroa.


They illustrated patterns that, while not always beautiful, were interconnected. These stories breathed, alongside the waters they were birthed from.



Jac Jenkins



Misery is a river but really it is a fountain and the spray is a squall moving southeast across the northwest windows of your temples.

Misery is a fountain but really it is a ghost and the counterfeit wet-sheet air hides your constellations and clefts in its folds.

Misery is a ghost but really it is a pedlar and a dollar buys you baubles of paste that you glue
to your thoughts.

Misery is a pedlar but really it is a raven and you are only this – an image in corvine eyes.

Misery is a raven but really it is a scroll and you are three illegible words beginning with illuminated ells.

Misery is a scroll but really it is a river and the river remembers the rain itself, not what the rain resembles.

About Jac Jenkins



Deborah Jowitt


The door hangs still so long its hinges rust. No voices, just bird calls punctuating the vacant air: kaka’s morning whistle, kawau’s midnight cries.

The old valve radio flickers to life then dies, sits silent, brooding.

Dust settles, dishes pile up in the sink. No one to clean for, not one child to open
a jar for, not even some sad sack to comfort and cook for.

My hands seek the warm flesh of a lover, the close embrace of a friend, the familiar
feel of family, then fold inward on each other’s sorrow.

I stand on the back steps, stare down the wind. A dark band of cloud descends.
Restless birds land on open ground, bicker, break out in raucous squabbles; a hawk picks over a rabbit’s remains.

Night falls early. Meteors meld mid-flight. I hear the rustle of the earth turning,
feel the onward surge of water flowing to the coast.

From every seeping, trickling, dribbling, leaching, molecule of matter: water
dripping, channelled in rivulets, streams, gullies, rivers, out to the open sea.

I wake to the whisper of nine bright sisters in the predawn sky. A thin sliver of moon
hangs between two shining planets, tracking a line to the eastern horizon.

My heart stirs at the solstice, subtle shifts prick, change is afoot. Out of the wintry earth, new shoots, green koru, tight-sprung, ready to unfurl.

About Deborah Jowitt


More than silt and water

Heather McQuillan


Annie hoses shit from her gumboots. It flushes down the grating and flicks up behind her knees, planting speckle kisses like melanoma moles. Rain falls.

In the shower, water bubbles through her hair, streams across blue-veined breasts, cascades over a silver-threaded belly and down to the plastic-moulded floor, down the drain. Rain falls.

Annie tugs on her boots to move the stock. She witnesses the birth of creeks and streams. They sluice down hills, uproot scrub. Rivers rush towards the saline womb of the sea, taking with it the soil of Mother Earth. Annie slides down a bank slick with milky clay to release the dogs’ chains.

She squats to piss, wipes hair from her eyes, watches her waters join the tears of the sky, stir with the soil of the earth, recalls the breaking of waters before each daughter emerged loud from her womb; the gush of her daughters’ urgency.

The car windows trap the steam of dogs’ panting breath. Rain drowns the radio babble. Was it forecast to be this bad? Why didn’t the council…? How did we… – her daughters’ warnings had sailed by her until now – …allow it to happen?

Rain falls. Annie is trapped between washed-out bridges. Nitrogen, phosphorus and faecal microbes wash around her gumboots. She phones her daughters one by one and promises — or is it too late now? —to lift their voices above the waves.

Far away, muddy rivers and ocean embrace in a silvery union more than silt and water.

About Heather McQuillan


Rivers, rivers, Awa

Martin Beauchamp


Masses of dark ringleted hair waving from the open window of the station wagon crawling away along Fairfield Road after school, trailing back to catch in the rusty roof racks, a final, slow farewell.
The same wagon where I found him, fast asleep stretched along the back seat, one Saturday morning when our school boy cricket was about to start. “Too many cousins in there.” Said it tossing his head toward the two-storey state house, tossing that hair. Took five wickets and hit a six.
He played hooker, me, lock, in high school rugby. Huge opponents would tear at me in every ruck, until voluptuous hair would cover me, shield me, blanket me, safe.
Hot summer, heat sat down in that town, refused to leave. He was at the river, the mighty Wai, jumping off the pier with the big boys. The strong flow caught the weed, reefed at it so that huge swathes of darkness rose and fell, rose and fell. His hair mimicking the swirl as he rose, gasping up into the sun.
The small boy jumped, and didn’t rise, and he followed, down, down, down so long. Told me so much later of the hands, pulling, pulling so his hair was gone in clumps, pulling so he could feel each last, lost word.
Years later, a late-night petrol stop, passing through. Same smile, languid smile, behind the counter. Shaven head shining. “He was there, in the hair. Now, just the Awa, Awa, safe.”

About Martin Beauchamp

Lesley Evans

West Coast River By Lesley Evans


Anna Livia is my awa

S J Mannion


I was born by the banks of the River Liffey, bred there too. That river ran through my childhood as the blood ran through my veins. The dark and dirty water with its shopping trolleys shimmering in the depths like old wrecks and the bin bags bulging and bobbing along with the current. We feared to fall in that filthy water, warned of the ones who had, and had not come back. We whispered of the babies and the bold boys, and girls, we were sure they frayed away in there, their fingers sodden as seaweed, forever reaching for the surface. Until the water then took their bones, along with everything else. That river was a graveyard and a dump. But I loved it too.

I loved the darkly shaded parts where the trees bent to the water and the bushes thickly clustered. The cool damp earth and water smell, even the occasional stink of shite as some loaded nappy sack floated by. The stench of humanity in city waterways is also a kind of comfort. One time, I saw daylight refracted on the water, it glimmered and glowed, as if the stars of the sky or crumbs of the sun laid themselves down on its rippled cloth. Another time, I saw a one-armed doll float by with half her hair torn off and two holes where her eyes should have been. Such a tormented looking thing. Staring and spinning. I dream of her still.

About S J Mannion



Carrie Beckwith


Down by the river the eager daisies ebb and flow in pools amongst the sharp green grass. Wild thyme clambers the bank crawling through dappled shade to find the sunny spots. The birches are white and slender as horses’ forelimbs here, wild garlic clumps resting at their feet. The perfume is heady. Along the hedgerow the yellow dancing heads of cowslips nod pleasantly, how are you, how are you. Beyond, shielded by the canopy of an ancient rambling willow, its wide girth cracked and riddled, the river is dark. The surface pocked by undulating eddies that play from time to time.
He sits in stillness. The rod and he in silent conspiracy. His body folded in on itself in comfortable repose, as I’d seen him so many times. His jacket and hat viridian like the water. Hard to see where he began, and the scene ended. I want to call his name, but it would break the spell. Above me a bird bursts from the canopy. My eyes flick up and back, and he’s gone.

What if he’d turned and smiled before he’d slipped sheath-like into dark water? Before it folded him within itself, tumbling and wrapping him in silky weeds, luring him down with the beckoning swirling fingers of sombre currents, tempting him with the secret caverns of idle fat trout. His feet lengthening to flippers, his face opening to gills, his sleeves fusing to fins. His treasured hat bobbing away jauntily, superfluous in his new subaquatic life.

About Carrie Beckwith


Some facts about why my life sux

Gretchen Carroll


1. Last month I got my first period. I’m 12, so Dad should’ve known it was coming. He just looked shocked, mumbled something and went out. Luckily my friend Awa came around with her mum, who’s awesome.
2. I’m not allowed a phone, and everyone has one, or at least all the cool group does. Dad said I’m too young and why would I need one? I said for emergencies and I could tell I almost had him, but he still said no.
3. We have to wear the shortest shorts in the world for P.E. I’m fat, so my huge thighs jiggle around, and there’s a group of boys who call me fatso. Awa’s mum says I’ve a strong body, but I’d rather be skinny like Awa. At least the boys can only be mean to my face and can’t send stuff to my phone, ha ha.
4. I only have one friend who, you might’ve guessed, is Awa. She’s awesome but I miss my old school and house. We moved here six months ago and Dad says we can’t go back.

5. My mum’s dead. Yup. You’re probably wondering why that wasn’t at the top of my list, well most of the time I don’t want to say, write or even think it. Awa’s mum said this week is Matariki, so we can do something special to remember Mum. Hopefully Dad will join in – I doubt it though – he’s so sad he doesn’t see me sometimes.

About Gretchen Carroll


Ngā wai

Moata McNamara


drawing out
each wave eroding the bank
drawing in

A deep breath. Standing in front of an audience is not my favourite place in the world. Hands clasped fast on lectern, back straight as the brother advised.I look over the words, large clear font, deliberately spaced to slow me.One hand moves to soft thick paper. Watercolour. My comfort.Silence draws long, gathering the room. Taking it and them in.

And then, looking out. It starts. Words, at first a trickle, begin to flow in a steady stream, moving sustenance in and out from this mouth.

Waima. White water. Spreading her ripples across the whenua in a long-worn path.

My father was a speaker. His deep waters fed out updates on fish and rivers, his tones translating local news across airways into eager homes and bars.

Another deep breath. Āe rā, my dad. Our waters flow well today.

About Moata McNamara

Moata McNamara, Breach

Breach by Moata McNamara



Making stuff up

Janean Cherkun


Aunty June had been a fan of amateur grafting, two semi-woody shrubs in the same dug hole. Sam stood on the landscape. He had a list: pavers, sand, monochrome pots.
They’d unearthed an implement in a downstairs cupboard: a two tined barrow arrangement of long parallel handles, loose front connecting wheel.
“Chopsticks, for a giant,” Serena said.
Exposed nails indicated where a box once perched between tapered arms painted lichen-red. The utensil smelled of weed and mushrooms and gave off a weird feeling when you touched it, of cartwheeling, flicking sandflies on Daisy Flat or falling off a picnic blanket into the river.
Serena called to Sam through the upstairs window, offering tea. She threw down a wide-brimmed hat found behind the washing machine. His face had gone ruddy with sun, then pale yesterday at the discovery of rat droppings in a pile of carpet tiles. He broke his favourite shovel dealing with one of his deceased aunt’s experiments; part of that graft smelled strongly of cannabis but resembled an azalea. It made them wonder about June, how she’d imbued her objects with psychedelia.
Sam and Serena, ironclad and progressing. Following a track snaking into mountains, migrating yearly to the swimming hole, avoiding avalanche debris along Bealey Valley.
Now they were like railway sleepers in humidity, shaking loose, stretching ground. Miles from friends.

From June’s decrepit wind chimes, they heard Waimakariri boulders rolling in a storm. Sam put his tools away and began to mark out an area for mosses.

About Janean Cherkun


Down the river

Keith Nunes


After he had completed his 13th novel Death on the Danube, he died on the Volga River, a bullet hole or two.
The sky was cobalt blue and the water fucking freezing. The government had changed hands and protestors were being executed behind the Tesla car factory.
Death on the Danube was a raging success. His widow settled on the banks of the Rhone River with a minor poet sporting a corduroy fetish and bristling sideburns.
On a Rhine River cruise the pair were arrested for the murder of the novelist, who had recently been exposed as a plagiarist.
On the river-run to a lifetime in prison, the poet bribed a guard with sexual favours, and he and the widow leapt off the barge and swam toward another country, on the other bank.
Waving to his accomplice, the poet called out, “I’ll write about you”, as the Rhine began to flood.
The barge was washed backwards, the police rescued the drowning poet and widow on the unexpected odyssey to the North Sea, swept along by the towering river tsunami.
“Insanity!” shouted the widow.
“Inspiring!” said the poet.
Approaching Rotterdam, the barge righted itself, the river in a calming state. Poet and widow jumped again.
Shots were fired.
No one was hurt.
The poet wrote under a pseudonym; the widow continued to be under the spell of the poet.

The poetry collection Down the River was a huge hit in their new home, on Tristan da Cunha.

About Keith Nunes

Keith Nunes, Toward Jerusalem

Toward Jerusalem by Keith Nunes




Teoti Jardine


“Moko, come inside for a cuppa.”
Having a cuppa with my Taua was such a treat. Her whare was always cosy and she was full of stories to tell me.
“What story would you like to hear today?”
“Taua, tell me the one about our awa, Roimata.”
“Oh my Mokopuna, you’ve heard it a thousand times. You’ll tell it to me one day.” And away she went, pausing only for a sip of tea.
“Years and years ago, our Tūpuna would gather on Titiro ki Raki, our Mouka. They looked up at the heavens, and listened to the voices of the old ones. Their stories made our Tūpuna cry. Cry with joy, or sometimes with sadness for the days gone by. Their tears filled up our Mouka until they began to overflow as a puna, a spring.”
“That puna became an awa, and flowed all the way to the sea. That’s why our awa is called Roimata, tear drops.”
“You are the Kaitiaki for Roimata, aren’t you, Taua?”
“Yes I am, Moko. The rain has stopped. Let’s visit Roimata now. She loves to have a kōrero with us.”
We set off. Taua’s crinkly hand holding strongly on to mine. As we reached Roimata, I saw tears on Taua’s face. I heard Roimata tell me, ‘Taua is going soon, and you will become my Kaitiaki.’

Now Taua has gone, and every day when I visit Roimata, my tears flow, joining with all the tears that have gone before.

About Teoti Jardine


Rivers and fairy tales

Kyle Gibson


Superstitious nonsense. Rivers hold no spiritual value. There are no dragons hiding there, or anywhere. I love rivers, but I have no time for fairy tales.
My awa is the Ōpārara. It runs through thick forests and tall mountains. These forests stain its waters tan, like the tea we make from it. My awa spills into the ocean outside my childhood home.

It nourished, entertained and inspired me. I love my awa. Perhaps, in this love, I’ll find time for fairy tales.

About Kyle Gibson


The word on the riverbank

Evie Jay


Every Sunday, they walk along the riverbank. This afternoon, they’ve hardly left the car when Gran starts to puff and wheeze. Mum suggests they try to reach the first bench. When they do, Gran collapses onto it. Mum sighs and says she’ll fetch the wheelchair from the car.
Silence reigns: Gran’s still getting her breath back. Krystyl’s bored; she wants to do something, anything. She gathers stones, and arranges them in big, bold capitals to spell the word she’s just learnt at school, awa.
Then Gran says clearly, “A-w-a?”
Krystyl’s keen to show Gran something new. She explains how it’s Māori for river, and how everyone comes from a river. It’s part of their identity. “This is our river, Gran,” she says.
Gran is now sitting up, her eyes bright. “Not my river, dear,” she says. “And where I come from, we have a word that’s spelt the same as your one there but has a different meaning.”
Krystyl wants to ask what meaning, but Mum, now returned with the chair, is standing there frowning. Gran looks at Mum, and then turns back and says, “It means going away. Or gone.”

Suddenly Mum is crying, large, silent tears. Gran reaches up to wipe them away. “Do you know, Beth,” Gran says to Mum, “I think that when it happens, it’ll be like a journey on a river. Taking me back to the river I came from, perhaps. And that’s not so bad, is it?”

About Evie Jay


Tangiwai (weeping waters)

Jeff Taylor


My teenage grandchildren are accompanying me on the Northerner rail journey to Auckland. My first ever trip.
I’ve bribed them. “We’ll go up the Sky Tower.”
Jack’s grumpy. “Wi-Fi’d better be good, Grandpa.”
Ella’s chewing gum, twirling her ponytail.
My wife worries as she kisses me goodbye. “Are you sure you can do this, Steven?”
“It’s high time I faced it.”
The trip is uneventful, but as we reach the Central Plateau, and glimpses of the snow-covered mountain, I feel my gut clench.
“Okay, phones off now.” The kids sigh, but oblige.
My voice is thin and shaking. “Imagine it. The steam train, Christmas Eve night, 1953. Queen Elizabeth was visiting, you know. She’d just been crowned. I was four years old. The crater lake burst, sending a lahar down the river.”
“What’s that again?” Ella asks. I’ve explained this before, but at least she seems interested.
“Water, rock, ice. It took out the bridge and our carriage went over.” I think of my wife’s warning. Are you sure, Steven?
We crowd the window as we cross the bridge, but there’s nothing to see. Just a tranquil river. Then all at once, deeply buried memories explode into my mind. Roiling, churning, freezing water, scattered luggage. A man in a uniform is clutching me; I’m screaming for my mother and father.
I weep quietly for my lost parents, for Ella and Jack’s lost great-grandparents.
The children are back on their phones. Their lives are unchanged.

The river flows beneath us.

About Jeff Taylor



Paul Radcliffe



I was pleased to see Dad that night, especially since he’d been dead seven years. I had emigrated. Dad never visited. Health intervened. A tunnel stretches under the runway at Wellington Airport leading to eastern suburbs. At one end there is a grassed rise and a bench looking out over the runway. It was late. I approached the tunnel. I recognised a familiar figure. A distant glow became an airliner. I sat by Dad. He turned his head. He looked as he had done when I had last seen him. In life there was no interest in the supernatural. This seemed a good time to mention the afterlife. Dad spoke first, asking about my son. I mentioned he had taken three for 11 for his school. Dad wished he had seen it. A helicopter descended. Dad watched. He spoke as if we were round the kitchen table. How’s the boy, girlfriend ok, still got the cat … normal things. Discussing cricket stats with your dad’s ghost doesn’t make an everyday evening. I asked how he got here. He said it was arranged. Better leave it. He went on.

“Thing is, I’m waiting for your mum. She’ll ask about you.” He stood. I shouldn’t follow. I watched him turn into the tunnel. I waited. Another airliner roared down the runway. Impatience overtook me. I ran down. I saw a tubby figure far off. It would be a long way home.

For both of us.

About Paul Radcliffe

Reihana Robinson. But we kept on dancing anyway

But we kept on dancing anyway by Reihana Robinson



A scaredy-cat

Vera Hua Dong



Two kids fly through the quiet streets on a large bike. They are dripping wet, the girl sitting sideways at the back, covering one knee with a tatty white vest stained with mud and blood, the boy, topless, accelerating standing up; if he sat down on the saddle, he could not reach the pedals.The boy makes a swift, stable stop at the gate of a hospital. The girl struggles down with one leg. “Little sis, let me carry you,” the boy bends his back. The girl hesitates, climbs on.

“Are you afraid of pain?” the ER doctor asks. She shakes her head, her ponytail shares the same opinion. The doctor cleans the cut on her knee. It’s small but deep. “How did you get the cut?”

“My fault,” the boy says, “I promised to teach her swimming in the Hao River…”

“No,” the girl speaks loudly, “I was too scared to float, so I knelt in the mud at the bottom of the river. I am… I am… such a scaredy-cat.”

“No time for anaesthesia, I am afraid. Just two quick stitches,” the doctor says.

The girl looks away.

“I am sorry, sis.” The boy hugs his sister, blocking her view to her knee and the doctor.

“Well done.” The doctor puts a muslin pad on the cut. “You are the bravest ‘scaredy-cat’ I have ever come across.”

The girl smiles, wiping sweat from her forehead. She turns to her brother. “Would you teach me swimming again?”

About Vera Hua Dong


Uncharted waters (circa 1814)

Alex Reece Abbott



Undergrowth tangled with vines and thick roots force him to take the long way round.He has learned the hard way that this mission life is not his comfortable Oxfordshire village. London warned him: entanglement is a tidal river here, turning at any moment, catching him at his peril. But he loves these people, their ways, their wild, eery land too. Weather changes at the drop of a hat. Dense bush. Tracks often churned to mud. Raging rivers.

In his heart, he suspects Aotearoa will remain beyond full understanding as… well, human nature. Still, he aims for something more complete.

A gushing creek sweeps away the last of the winter rains. Without centuries of knowledge that the Māori have acquired, almost every visitor carries news of the New Zealand Death. Men, women and children too, travelling the uncharted coasts and washed away by the oceans, swallowed by the lakes, claimed by the rivers. Last trip, he misjudged the river’s speed and depth and was carried into a deep waterhole. Near drowned.

The kauri grow a hundred feet tall and thirty foot round, radiating strength and purpose. He pauses in the shade, wraps his arms around a giant, hoping to absorb those qualities. God’s will… or some other force… something native, perhaps… He draws himself upright, sustained a little longer, sure some vital force is rising, flowing into him from the earth, from the rivers. Real to him as the soft, greasy rein in his hand, like kiekie it binds him to this place.

About Alex Reece Abbott



Trish Gribben



“Watch out for the marshmuggers!”“Don’t worry. They’re maneaters,” Gary said as Jan sat trembling on the edge of the rubber dinghy, lifejacket firmly belted, eyes anxiously scanning the banks of the murky green-greyish Trisuli River. “Sure to be gender specific.”

Marshmuggers! Those alligator-like camouflaged creatures she had seen sunbathing under scruffy sal trees the day before. No one in their right mind would risk a bite from one of those.

She longed for home. She longed to get her right mind back. Ever since the joints under the giant daphne trees with their naked pink branches dancing a dervish dance around her, Jan felt something had slipped in her mind. She felt on edge with her trekking mates. She felt they had changed before her eyes. A kind of craziness seemed to grip them. They never talked of home or husbands as they trekked; not even their children.

Goodness knows how Gary could joke about gender-specific marshmuggers. Goodness didn’t know, didn’t know a thing. Whoever came up with that stupid idea? Who was Goodness anyway? Here, where gods galore cavorted with anything that moved from milk maids to elephants. Jan felt closer to a devil who knew, a devil who darkened hearts and drank blood spilt from goat sacrifices.

Jan clung to the dinghy “drifting down to India” in the sluggish flow, thinking of the shining eyes awaiting her. The stories she would tell.

About Trish Gribben


Biblical floods

Nicholas Fairclough


“Head for higher ground,” Dad calls.
The awa is swollen and bruised brown and purple like the time I twisted my ankle playing netball. The paddock’s becoming the awa, too. Our farmhouse is an island. We leave it behind and go up the hillside. Fortunately, Rufus, our border collie, is with us this time. He’s a mat of black seaweed huffing away wide-eyed with excitement.
The rain drops. Relentless, unforgiving, unapologetic, annoying. All those words and more. All these projectiles from the sky shower down on us. It makes me think of the war on TV. Here we’re victims, powerless against nature’s brutal onslaught. I think God must be pissed off with us because it keeps happening.
We reach the lookout. Rufus shakes his torso and sprays us with wet. Doesn’t matter, we’re already soaked to the bone. We get a view of the reddish-brown discharge entering the grey moana. It looks similar when I rub mud from my knees in the bath: dirty.
Mum asks dad if their insurance will cover the damage. I ask them both if the carpet is going to stink again.
“This is the worst I’ve seen,” Mum solemnly states.

The awa is too big for it to be called an awa anymore. It’s not a meandering snake, it blankets the whenua and it’s fattening before our very eyes. Now it’s huge, as immense as The Bible and other large books that have too many words in them for people like me.

About Nicholas Fairclough


Last time on the run

Annette Edwards-Hill



I took Dave out for a last ride in his car. His mother wasn’t that happy about me taking him out of the house but I told her we’d only go to the river and bring him straight back home.I propped Dave up in the passenger seat, popped a ciggie in his mouth and opened a can of beer. Dave held the can of beer on his knee.

Dave’s car made a deep grumbling noise as I started it. We drove past the tannery, the tavern and the police station. I wanted to hang Dave’s hand out the window, middle finger raised, but there were cops out the front.

I called out “last time on the run,” and the cops waved.

Dave stared ahead, not showing any emotion.

We turned off onto the dirt road down to the river. It hadn’t rained all summer and the river was a dry trickle. We stopped and did up Dave’s seatbelt. He wouldn’t be seen dead with it on and I’d left it off out of respect. On the gravel I put my foot down and turned the steering wheel hard.

Even buckled in, Dave jolted from side to side and ended up slouched, beer splashed on his jeans.

Dust was still rising from the carpark as I drove back onto the main road.

I took him home. Lifted him from the car and returned him to the open coffin inside.

He hadn’t opened his eyes the whole time we were out.

About Annette Edwards-Hill

Waima by Piet Nieuwland

Waima by Piet Nieuwland



Awa – My Rivers

Susan Barker


A wrybill lands with a splish. Estuary waters drift around stilt and godwit legs. Long ripple-threads ribbon behind wading birds as I crouch on swampweed, tallying species on my survey sheet.This is the awa of my koroheketang – my old age. But not the awa of my rangatahi – my youth. Far away flows Turrumburra – the Lane Cove River. All summer we swam in a tidal pool, surfacing with silty moustaches to searing, cloudless skies. After a big storm me and my brother found twenty-three odd jandals and a dead dog. On the king tide the water went way above the wire fence and the teenagers would yell: – we seen a shark swim in – you’ll all get munched! To get a swim we had to first visit Granny, the owner of the pool. She’d squint at us, repeat our names, say how much we’d grown and offer the boiled lolly jar. I preferred soft sweets, but no one refused Granny. Once she joined us to swim in a neck-to-knee costume, plastic sandals for the periwinkles. The Wilby kids swum there too: Nigel, Briony, Simon, Sorrel and Dorcas. Poms with plummy accents but they did the best bombs. Someone threw Briony’s towel in the water once. She stood in her dripping bubble-togs, tears streaming. Her swimmers had a pocket. She reached in, retrieved her soaking wet handkerchief, carefully unfolding it to blow her nose. That summer we got so burnt we peeled each other’s shoulders in stamp-sized pieces.

About Susan Barker


In the desert, it sometimes rains

Marjory Woodfield


On the way to school the rain starts, and Caitlin, who’s just seven, jumps up and down in her seat, squealing and pointing because rain is not something that happens often in this country, so I put my teaching notes to one side and look outside too. “There’s a story,” I say, remembering Margaret Mahy, “about a town called Trickle. A place where it always rains, a place that has amazing thunder and lightning storms, magnificent rainbows, a place where the townspeople turn the wet weather into a tourist attraction… can you imagine…?” but she’s already turned away, the water pooling on street corners, splashing onto windows and us driving through endless puddles.
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