One of the guys in my writers’ group is the warden at a nature reserve. This weekend the reserve is holding a fair, and so we decided we’d each write a piece and put together a leaflet of stories and poems to give away.
The warden happened to mention that last year there was an art student running a face painting stall, who was so skilful she could paint any animal requested. This gave me a great idea for my piece. I really enjoyed writing it, as it reminded me just how much fun it is to tell someone a story, and I enjoyed the warden’s reaction even more. He loved it! Since sadly you probably won’t be in Yorkshire this weekend to visit the fair, here’s my story here. Hope you enjoy it, too!
Daisy Paints the Fair
Daisy took a step back, checked her handiwork and gave a sigh of satisfaction. She always attempted to paint each child to match his personality, and she’d captured this customer perfectly. She held up a mirror.
‘Like it?’ she asked.
The little boy leapt up. ‘Buzz, buzz buzz,’ he cried. ‘Look, Mum, I’m a bee.’
He ran off, whirling round and round, arms outstretched. His mum flashed Daisy a grateful smile and rushed off in his wake.
It was a warm summer’s day, and the fair had drawn in quite a crowd to the nature reserve. Throughout the morning a steady queue of customers passed through Daisy’s face painting stall, and by mid-afternoon the reserve was filled with painted foxes and badgers, moles and voles, dragonflies and butterflies. A shy girl became a delicate bluebell; an agile six year old became an otter; a toddler was transformed into a ladybird. Soon it no longer mattered that the natural wildlife in the reserve had fled into hiding for the day, because the crowds were filled with miniature flora and fauna, all darting and fluttering around their parents’ feet.
At three o’clock there was a lull in the procession of customers. Daisy put down her palette of colours and mopped her brow. The sun beat down from a sky devoid of cloud, and her parasol was poor protection against the heat. She wiped her hands on her apron and made her way to the stall opposite, where a young man was dispensing tea and ice-lollies. His round, hazel eyes widened as Daisy approached.
Daisy dug in her skirt pocket for some change. ‘Can I have an orange ice-lolly?’
‘Sure.’ The stall-holder rummaged in his ice-box. ‘And it’s on the house.’
Daisy laughed. ‘Why’s that? Don’t you want to make any money today?’
He gave a small smile, his lips pursing comically. ‘I’ve been watching you. Loved the creatures you painted. Worth an ice-lolly, any day.’
Daisy cocked her head, examining him. ‘Why don’t you come over? Get your own face painted? On the house.’
She gave him a grin, and his face lit up at her offer. ‘Cool. But I have to run a display in half an hour. Can you finish it by then?’
‘No problem. I’ve a great idea. It won’t take long.’
Two minutes later, the ice-cream seller was sitting in the chair in the shade of Daisy’s parasol, having a selection of colours applied to his face.
‘So what’s it going to be?’ he asked. ‘Tiger? Lion? Panther?’
Daisy shook her head. ‘Wait and see,’ was all she would say.
She applied the colours in deft strokes to his face and chin, swirling them under his eyes. In no time at all, she was holding up a mirror.
‘What do you think?’
The ice-cream seller swivelled his head and began to laugh, making a low too-wut-too sound. Looking back at him was a
pair of round hazel eyes, a long painted beak, and some pale feathers in a soft heart shape around his face. His own freckles were speckled amongst the white.
‘Too whit, too whoo.’ He laughed.
‘Do you like it?’
‘It’s perfect,’ he said. ‘Come and watch my display.’ He turned to indicate the next field. ‘It’s on in ten minutes.’
‘OK. I’ll just tidy up. What’s your name?’
‘Howard.’ He laughed again. ‘You won’t miss me.’
Ten minutes later, Daisy was standing on the edge of the field, examining a board painted in cheerful red. ‘Howard’s Live Owl Displays and Educational Talks.’ She giggled. Out in the field, Howard heard her, and swivelled his head. In his gloved hand he was holding a tawny owl. He and the owl winked as one.
* * *
Howard is a real person, who runs owl displays :) Recently I’ve been so caught up in submitting to publishers, chasing submissions, checking agents’ requirements, writing for competitions – I’d totally forgotten that writing stories for real people is fun! Hope you enjoyed my summer read!
10 thoughts on “Daisy Paints the Fair”
What a great idea and I LOVED your story, Helena – very clever and entertaining! We’re about to go away for a couple of days but sadly not to Yorkshire.
Thanks so much, Ros! The weather here is just like the weather in my story – great weather for a fair! Thanks so much for your great comment. Hope you have a lovely weekend!
Oh my god Helena. I loved that. What a gorgeous wee story. :-). I loved the painter and what she did. And I love the connection between her painting him as an owl and then he’s the owl man. :-). What a wonderful synchro. Perfect.
Lovely piece Iof writing too. Nice flow and great imagery. Nice feel to it. I love the name daisy. I’ve just finished a story with a Daisy too. :-). And I LOVE owls. For me, they are always way showers. Direction indicators. In Hawai’i we call them Pueo.
Loved this!! One wee typo – first line. Checkd instead of checked.
But otherwise gorgeous and uplifting. :-).
Aloha and thanks Meg. :-)
Oh I’m so glad you like it, Meg! I love owls, too, although I haven’t seen many in the wild. I’ve heard them at night, mainly, but one day on the moors a short-eared owl rose up in front of me and flew off. His wings really did make a beating sound, and he was absolutely magnificent. Pueo is a great name. Love the alliteration! Thanks for pointing out the typo. I’ve changed it now! Typing too fast :)
Thanks so much for your wonderful comment!
Helena, what a great story! I loved it, and frankly, I wish you would make this into at least a novela…what happens to Daisy and Howard now that they’ve met? Is the owl an omen for their future? Oh wow, you could take this a long, long ways and it would be delightful! I also love owls and have since childhood. We always had barn owls on our ranch, and the babies are so delightful. I now have a lovely owl clock watching out for me as he hangs on the bay window in front of my desk, and an owl cup for my coffee…Christmas gifts this year from daughter-in-law and grandson.
Seriously…think about this story…come on, write some more and expand it into a novel! It would be wonderful!
Hi Mikki, what a really lovely comment! I have been thinking of Daisy and Howard myself, and wondering what will happen to them after the fair. Isn’t it strange how characters start to live a life of their own! How lovely to see barn owls on your ranch. I’ve never managed to see them close up, although I used to live opposite an old Victorian church and the owls could be heard hooting there at night – and bats flying. It was very gothic!
I love the sound of your owl clock and cup. I have a great picture in my head of your workspace. Thanks so much for your wonderful comment – and I’ll try and expand on Daisy’s story!
Delightful story, Helena! I’ll share.
Thanks very much, Marsha!
Great story from a real life experience. Funny how just one news story or meeting one person triggers and idea for a fictional story. Delightfully told..”swiveled his head, the mum rushed off in his wake, and pursed his lips comically” were phrases that really described the word picture. Wonderful! Definitely would like a light-hearted romance involving Howard and Daisy. I wonder if Howard is a wise professor spending his summers away from the university where he worls in order to teach kids about owls and the environment….Go for it!! What a wonderful idea for your crit group to make up a book of short stories. Hope the fair was a huge success!
Thanks, JQ! Having Howard as a wise character is a great idea. I must think of how to move this story forward, and keep the light-hearted style. It’s a shame, but I couldn’t make it to the fair myself as I was visiting family in the south of England. The weather really was hot, though, apparently, so that part of my story came true! Thanks very much for your comment, and your brilliant ideas!