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!