The Eve of Saint Nicholas. In a sprawling suburb of Vienna, snow is falling, as thick and as soft as goose feathers. A young girl skips along the pavement, oblivious of the grey ice lurking under the powdery layers. Liesl knows her father is waiting for her, sheltering under the…
After the deed was done, the rigs and polesaws taken down, they laid you to rest upon a bed of dark nettles. Your severed limbs pointed west, towards the loyal redcoat standing on the border of your terre verte, guarding the last letter waiting to be collected.
They scraped the grave ship to its ribs, and plucked the preserved fruits from the warrior-king’s side — fragments of a sun god’s helmet, eyes in eclipse, a drinking horn’s embellished lip, shoulder clasps of garnet interlaced with gold, a sword blade broken into shards, an enamelled purse tooled to perfection, the accoutrements of dust, tagged by scholars and placed…
I traded in my parure of cherry drops and purple grapes for fairy money, the fossilised faux pearls from grandma’s old nest, a teddy bear’s eye flat on one side, gobstopper orbs from a cocktail choker, all rattling around in an old biscuit tin.
My sister pointed to a corner of the playground. ‘Let the swapping begin,’ she said.
Later, my acquisitive nature developed a kink, collecting beads of a rarer kind, outside of the tin, so to speak.
Northerly starstones washed from the mouth of St Cuthbert, a polished gem the size of a gull’s egg dangling Byzantine style, the wooden quarter-kopek from a Russian abacus, Venetian filigrana, a nephrite comma of Magatama bitten off by a sun-goddess, a smattering of chondrite quartz fallen on a driveway after a meteor shower.
I poked a silken nerve through each core, stringing them along.