I’ve mentioned here before that I’m writing a short story. I’ve been working at it for a number of weeks, chipping away in a storm of red pen, vanilla lattes, and anguished howls. It’s still not finished, but I’m slowly getting there and I figured I may as well put out a short preview of what I’ve done so far. If for no other reason than to force me to keep going with it.
So, without further ado, here’s the rough opening few paragraphs of my short children’s story, Audrey and the Trash Can, and a little illustration I’ve done to go with it.
1. A Very Sunny Day
The trash can wore a smile. It was crooked and misshapen, and formed when Mr Laurent from Number 36 forgot to put the handbrake on, causing his ghastly lime green Ford Fiesta to roll down his driveway and crash into Audrey’s front yard, where the trashcan resided. But it was there; a definite smile. And behind that smile, Audrey knew, there was more. A whole personality: John, a living, breathing being with hopes and dreams. Just like Audrey. Just like everybody else.
Audrey knew that people would find her conversations with John strange, but she didn’t mind. She knew that being kind to John simply made sense. If a trash can could smile, she reasoned with laser-precise accuracy, he could feel joy. And if he could feel joy, it was common sense that he could feel sadness, and fear, and despair. All the terrible things, in fact, that no decent person would ever want anybody else to feel – and which Audrey, whose father had passed away when she was six, knew all too well.
Who would stop John feeling those things? Who would help him when the dark clouds filled the sky and the rain began to fall? No one on Primrose Drive was likely to step forward. So she did it herself, stopping next to John one sunny Thursday morning on her way to school to exchange a greeting.
“Hello John,” she said, anxiously twiddling her bright pink sunglasses (which she wore as often as she could) and pulling at the threads of her already-tatty yellow dinosaur jumper (a similar fixture of her wardrobe). Of course she needn’t have been so nervous. Audrey was a Very Nice Person with Very Good Ideas and a Very Excellent Fashion Sense. John liked her immediately.
“Hello Audrey,” he replied, grateful for the new friend he’d unexpectedly made.
Sometimes that’s as far as the conversation would go, especially in the early days. A simple greeting, an acknowledgement from human to trashcan of each other’s mutual existence and right to respect. Sometimes, there’d be a fuller enquiry: a ‘how are you’ here, an ‘oh fine. Yourself?’ there. And on other occasions, the exchanges would become full conversations, so long and involved, so joyous in their content, that Audrey’s mum needed to bring out her tea (always a plate of chips, because Audrey, like all Very Smart Girls, knew that chips were a Very Good Idea) while she chatted with her new friend.
These were Audrey’s favourites. Here, when she and John had more time, she would ask about his day, relishing every detail: who had walked by, how many red cars had he seen, had that pesky dog from Number 43 tried to urinate on him again!? She also liked to ask about his interest in the arts. John was a very learned trash can, as many trash cans are, and she enjoyed hearing his literary recommendations, which blended the latest airport potboilers with the most respected of classics.
“Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment?” he said, barely suppressing a mischievous grin. “Well, it was quite the life sentence reading that one!”
He’d often repeat that joke, or jokes like it, laughing heartily as he did. Audrey liked it very much and didn’t mind at all that she’d heard it many times before. She laughed every time. For his part, John liked that she liked it, and they both liked that they could make each other smile as much as they did. The weather was warm and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky on those very sunny days.