River Story: an excerpt from Magical Women publication Vol 1

Watching the kids play in the thin river.

Some rocks, an attempt at shoring up or making a path.

Stacked and carried, the older girl scowling as she straight-bodied points to where the others should be stacking.  Serious work then kicked apart in a new game.

Smallest wants in but screams when the cold water splashes the skin of her thighs.

My work partner is scratching down a surface and I can hear his movements, stone on stone, shaving it close.  But out of sight, beneath me.

The air is warm in the light but not enough to carry that warmth with it.  Reluctant breezes enter the rocky space and disappear again.  Like people coming in to cool down a little and leaving again.

When the smooth stone is good and smooth we’ll dump these bits down and grind them in.  Two parts from a trade group walked in two days ago and we haven’t had the right mind to mix them.  I’m mixing on my colour rock, which is smoothed to a nest, not deep as a cooking pot.  Like a lump of mud someone’s stepped in, a heel print of use worn in by my grinding and pasting.

It’s too early to get good light, the shadows will lift as the sun comes to the front.

They are being good to the little one.  Whole group of them standing on the grass while she splashes carefully about undisturbed.  A woman, taking her away when she inevitably starts screaming and dumping her back when she screams to play again, now relaxing with her partners upstream where something is getting cleaned.

My partners smoothing movements sound like an animal rubbing an itch.

I’m no longer eager to scrape out what’s left of the pouch and use it.  We snorted what powder tipped out easy and that and the sounds are mixing in the pestle-bowl of my own skull.  Nice rhythms and the glitter of the always living light in the never-stopping water.  Where the kids rocks have landed the water swirls round to a shallow pool.  Something like a red egg has been caught in it and sunk to the gritty floor.  It glows under the water, catching the light as it spreads and moves over and against and under the sparkly surface.  Lazy silent flies are drifting ash-specks in the clean sunlight.

Water splashing stopped.  I leant back onto the baked clay stone-tough floor and lifted my head round to where light was warming in a pool of yellow.  Happy to squint close my eye and peer up into the sunshine.  Slowly I could tell the children were discussing climbing the earthy rock face to where I was – to watch the painter.  I sometimes let them take the paint-pebbles I start on to show each other, or the adults.  Mostly they bring them back – even though I tell them when I’ve used one and don’t need it any more.  The little babas put the stones carefully down or into my hands, as if the pictures might fall off if they dropped them.

Beneath me and suddenly close, my partner makes a noise of irritation.  I hear the tone more than the words.  I hadn’t noticed but the women in the water had noticed his brown back naked in the sun and he was suddenly embarrassed.  Earlier, I’d heard what was probably him, having a loud and un-self-aware piss in the smaller stream.  He works, doing things because they feel nice, getting in to the rhythm of the day.  The women had broken that, and he’s grumpy-faced.  I can’t see him but in my head I can picture his hunched shoulder, wide-armed kid-face.  The laughing from the women is friendly, laughing more at his little-boy attitude.

Dragging myself up on my elbows, tilting my head back.  It was nice to stretch out.  Sitting crossed-leg digs the side of my foot into the floor in a way that hurts worse now than it used to. If I climb down now I can get some of the hot drink someone will have made, now the kids are resting and the air is quiet.  Pick up something sharp from the pile my partner will be discarding – his broken pins and scrapers.  Try to spend the biggest part of the day making something with every hair visible.  Something alive, with the sun in its eyes.  Something moving.

This is available in the first volume of Magical Women – a publication showcasing work from neurodivergent women across all artforms.

I am very honoured to have been part of the first wave of artists featured by this organisation – not just this story but some paintings as well.

If you’d like to find out more or get involved go to MagicalWomen.co.uk or say hi on Facebook.

Pick up a copy here.

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