A story for the winter solstice

Dark and snowy night

When my brother comes back from the dingle, Carl is not with him. I am in the patch behind the apple trees. My brother says hello. His hair is full of burrs and he has a scab on his knee. When he goes inside, I follow.

We steal a biscuit each off the rack. Mum has been baking again.

He asks me to reach for the oat packet on the top shelf. ‘What do you want oats for?’ I ask.

‘Carl and I need to feed our caterpillar.’

‘Don’t caterpillars eat leaves?’

‘This one eats everything.’

Mother’s story always starts with, ‘On a dark and snowy night.’ There is a house on the edge of the woods and two children are being pulled on a sledge across the icy wastes. It is growing dark. In the distance the lights of the house look welcoming. But the wolves are fierce and hungry. They have sharp teeth, bad breath and evil eyes. The sledge runs faster and faster, its runners swishing. Faster, faster. The lights of the house grow closer. The children do not look behind them to where the dark firs grow. They strain their eyes to the lights of the house.

The wolves are closing in. The children feel the animals’ hot breath on their backs. Faster, faster. The sledge runs into the dip by the house. A cry goes up. ‘Hurry, hurry!’

Their father is at the gate. Whoosh! They are though. The wolves howl and vanish into the night.

‘Carl and I are keeping a caterpillar,’ my brother says sleepily.

‘Really,’ says mother. She steps to the window.

‘Is there a wolf out there?’ My brother sounds afraid.

‘No,’ mother says. ‘Someone stole a chicken from the farm. It’s eating oats.’

‘Bad,’ my brother says.

Frosty flowerlets

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