The Magpie

Photograph by Richard Baxter
Photograph by Richard Baxter

Extract: Turning Point 2, Step 1, Sequence 3, Scene 3

The magpie had been teasing till now, flying at handle bar height and swooping back and forth in front of her. As they got to the busier part of the park, complete with a kid’s jungle gym, a barbeque and dogs catching frisbees and each other’s tails, the noise and commotion set the magpie to resume its normal tendency and fly high, away from the human and canine disturbances. Mildred kept her eyes glued to it as she peddled faster, putting her bike into gear on autopilot, knowing that there was a hill coming up, the path was that familiar to her, from the days of her pink tricycle with its flying ribbons on her handlebar. The magpie was only distinguishable now because of the red speck that was the little bag it held clasped in its beak. Its warble was no longer discernable from that of its black and white brethren and the general sound of people enjoying the sunshine in the park. With her eyes averted from the path and forgetting the elementary rule that what goes up must come down, the downhill of the path caught her by surprise, her feet madly peddling against no resistance, as her bike freewheeled, crashing into a folding card table on the edge of the path, positioned in the unfortunate spot of the first bit of flat after the descent. The table collapsed and toppled onto her, sandwiching Mildred between it and her bike which lay on it’s side, front wheel still spinning.

“Are you okay Mildred?’

Surprised to hear her name, she was helped up by Winnie. Tarot cards and biscuits were strewn along the path. Winnie smiled and refused Mildred’s profuse apologies.

“It’s alright love, I know how it is when you want to keep your eye on the prize’

What? How does she even know? Perplexed at the increasing surrealness of the day, she was pleased for the sting of the graze on her bare arms that let her know she wasn’t dreaming. Her knees felt stiff and unable to hold her weight as she forced herself to stand and get back on her bike.

“So, how’d you go with the job offer?

She’d have normally stood and patiently talked with Winnie, but now was just not the time, considering it was only going to get harder to find the little shit of a magpie. Winnie kept talking, but Mildred wasn’t hearing a word, with the chatter in her head getting louder and her anxiety making her grip the handle bars harder as if to will the bike to start flying and whisk her away. A little girl broke the spell, coming by with hand outstretched, holding a card out to Mildred.

“I think this is yours” and running before Mildred could respond.

Turning it around, Mildred was surprised but then not really, in the context of recent happenings, to see a bird in flight on the back of one of Winne’s cards.

“Sorry, I really have to go. You see, there’s a…”

The day’s events were catching up with her emotionally, and she couldn’t hold back the tears, not caring now how she appeared to Winnie and the others in the park.

“The magpie. My bag. I need it. It’s my only way out”. Her words were disjointed and she didn’t know how she could explain it all, but apparently there was no need. Winnie smiled serenely and pointed to a nest in the red gum beside her setup

“That may hold what you’re after. Now stop crying sweetheart, and let me help you up the tree”.

This is an exploratory scene. It is by no means the finished product and read in isolation may not make sense, but let me know your thoughts. It made for a welcome break from structuring and planning (as you can see with the subheading of this post, the planning gets very detailed!).

Specific areas of feedback I’d appreciate: What do you think is happening for my main character in this scene? Does it leave you wondering what will happen next? What are your thoughts on the dialogue/ character’s thoughts? Does there seem to be an easy step into the realm of ‘magical realism’ or does it seem forced?

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4 thoughts on “The Magpie

  1. Well I definitely get that the girl was concentrating on the magpie as if it was something attainable, and more than that, the key to something. After she falls the introduction to Winnie and whatever is in the bag becomes surreal and also fascinating. Very well written.

    Liked by 1 person

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