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(A short story of 1168 words)



by Jane Rogers

A grandmother ponders the way her grand-daughter is learning to assess the world. This story owes a debt to Tove Jansson.

Once Lucy was walking, the pair of them went often to the park, moving at the child’s speed. The park was ten minutes distant, for an adult, but at Lucy’s pace these journeys were so slow and wayward that necessities like drinks, snacks, and toilet stops had to be organised along the way. Rituals must be observed: every concrete bollard surrounding a parking area must be patted with both hands, by both of them; the low-hanging beech must be hidden under; doorsteps on the street must be stepped up onto and down from; leaves must be plucked from specific hedges and saved in a pocket to take home. The budgies in the park bird-house must be ritually greeted through each of the six wire panels that enclosed them. The little girl’s eyes were instantly attracted to anything bright or out of the ordinary. Her grandmother observed with some sadness how quickly the child learned what must and must not be picked up. Shiny silver foil, drinks cans, ring pulls, cigarette butts – almost immediately, it seemed, Lucy knew that these were all dirty rubbish not to be touched. Whereas a flower or brightly coloured leaf was to be admired and exulted over together. ‘I don’t want her picking up old cans or sweet wrappers,’ the grandmother said to herself, ‘so why does it bother me that she has learned not to?’...

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