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DREAMSCAPES YOUNG FICTION

Janice Slater
SWING
‘Why don’t you come down’. Maurice called out.

Phoebe lived in a pink house with a purple roof.
The other children in the lived in neat little white cottages with green slate roofs, rose bushes and picket fences.
Phoebe’s house was a two-story kind of house and the best room in the house, the room Phoebe liked most was HER room in the attic. It had criss cross windows.
Phoebe had a gorgeous yellow room. As yellow as the center of an egg or a daffodil.
From Phoebe’s window she could look out at the street below.
She watched the neighboring kids playing.
‘Look there she is!’ One of the boys called out.
Phoebe scowled and stepped back from the window.
‘Annie! Maurice.’ The boy called out again. ‘She’s definitely there’.
Phoebe stayed behind the curtain.
A dark haired boy and a little girl with sticky fingers holding a lollipop waved up at the now vacated window.
‘I can’t see her’ said the little girl Annie.
‘Me neither’. Said the boy Maurice.
‘I saw her. She was there’. Gerard said. ‘She’s definitely home’.
‘Why don’t you come down’. Maurice called out.
‘Yes!’ Said Annie. ‘Come down and play with us!’
‘Not today’ Phoebe shrugged but didn’t say.
Now the three friends put their heads together in conversation
Phoebe wished she’d said ‘Yes!’ with the confidence of the little girl Annie instead of just turning away.
Phoebe sat on her bed. She stared into space. Then her eyes rested on the jungle print on one of the walls. The print was full of colour and energy.
Phoebe stood up and walked over to the window and looked out. The street was empty.
‘Go on’. A gentle voice said to her. ‘Go outside and find them’.
She expected to see her mother standing at the door but her mother wasn’t there.
Phoebe ran out into the hallway.
‘Papa?’ She called out.
But her father couldn’t hear her. He was in the bathroom. She could hear water running in the shower.
Phoebe went back inside her room. She looked again at the picture on the wall. The tiger on its branch seemed to be stretching. It seemed to be stirring. Breathing. She was certain she saw it’s tail swishing back and forth.
‘You are alive!’ A voice said.
‘Swing on your swing!’ Another voice called out. ‘Hang upside down like me!’
Again she looked at the print on the wall. The monkey who ALWAYS hid behind the palm leaves was definitely swinging on the branch where the tiger usually was and the tiger had completely disappeared!
She ran back out the door into the hallway.
‘Papa is taking his bath’. She said. ‘No his shower!’
She could hear her mother whistling a tune downstairs in the kitchen.
‘Mama is making the breakfast. Croissants for three and coffee for Papa’. She said aloud. ‘Everything is normal. THAT IS THE PROBLEM! Everything is SO NORMAL around here!’

Phoebe backed out into the hallway.
Then she heard it. The tiger was prowling!
She PUSHED the door shut firmly and leant against it.
But the tiger wouldn’t stop prowling. And now the monkey was gibbering!
Phoebe listened. She listened to them.
Then she listened to her own thoughts.
‘A tiger is prowling in my bedroom. A monkey is gibbering. Life’s not so boring. But it is confusing!’
‘Phoebe!’ Her mother called out. ‘Whom are you talking to?’
‘No-one. She called out.
Then she heard glass shattering. The monkey was turning the furniture upside down.
‘Stop it!’ She called through the keyhole.
The monkey screeched back at her. ‘I am YOUR MONKEY MIND. Phoebe! Can you HEAR ME?’
Phoebe began thinking. She asked herself a question.
‘What do monkey’s like to do best?’
‘They love to play tricks on you.’ The monkey put his lips to the keyhole and blew a raspberry at her. ‘I’m making a MESS in here Phoebe. Do you want me to break a few more things? Just give me the ok.’
Phoebe wasn’t smiling.
‘But YOU’LL have to CLEAN IT UP!’ The monkey screeched and was off again!
‘No! Stop! Don’t do that’. Phoebe called through the keyhole.
Then everything went QUIET. Very quiet.
She took a deep breath. ‘The monkey’s tired’.
Then she heard it. She heard the tiger BREATHING. It purred SOFTLY through the keyhole. Then it purred LOUDLY!
‘I AM YOUR tiger POWER!’ It roared behind the door.
Phoebe’s jaw dropped.
‘My tiger power?’
‘If you don’t OWN ME I’ll do MORE DAMAGE THAN THE MONKEY!’
‘Own you?’ Phoebe said. ‘But I hardly KNOW you?’
‘ I like to run in the open and stretch my limbs. To use my STRENGTH’. The tiger purred.
‘I don’t act well when I’m locked inside. I can turn VERY nasty’.
‘What will you do EXACTLY? ’ Phoebe said.
The tiger ROARED!
‘I do OUT OF CONTROL TIGER things’.
Phoebe knew what the tiger meant but she wanted to hear MORE about HER own power. So she asked the tiger.
‘What’s owning my power?
The tiger purred. ‘Be flexible. Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Go outside and PLAY’.
‘Or go CRAZY!’ Screeched the Monkey.
Phoebe KNEW EXACTLY what the tiger and the monkey were on about.
‘You can choose anytime old time.’ The tiger added. ‘Between acting like a monkey or a tiger.
‘I can’t choose!’ Phoebe snapped. ‘This is really WEIRD! You CAN’T MAKE ME!’

Then she ran down the stairs so FAST that she nearly tripped. She ran SO fast through the kitchen that she slid across the floor tiles
‘Phoebe! What are you doing?’ Her mother scolded.
‘I need some air!’ Phoebe said grabbing the door handle.
‘Phoebe!’ Her mother said ‘Your breakfast!’

Phoebe was out the door and she was running. But the tiger wasn’t chasing her!
The tiger roared INSIDE HER.
‘I am your tiger power. Use it wisely and have FUN doing it!’
The branches of the trees shuddered and shook as she ran underneath them. She knew it was the monkey jumping from branch to branch through the garden.
‘I’m always available!’ The monkey screeched. ‘ I AM YOUR MONKEY MIND’
And together they called ‘You can choose between us any old time.’
Down through the garden Phoebe ran. Faster and faster. Down to the big old tree to where the swing was.
Phoebe sat down on its wooden seat. She hit her heels into the hard earth again and again.
‘I don’t want to choose.’ She dug these words into the earth.
Then she sidestepped her feet in crab-like movements in diminishing circles. The ropes of the swing twisted tighter and tighter.
‘I won’t choose.’ She thought to herself.
Phoebe leant backwards. The ropes unwound and sent her spinning.
Suddenly the swing jerked to a stop.
She leant forward and hung her head down.
‘Do I need to choose? ‘My monkey mind or owning my tiger power?’
Then Phoebe looked up into the blue sky. Blue sky with monkey clouds racing. Blue sky with tiger clouds prowling.
She stood up and braced herself against the seat of the swing. She held onto the ropes and pushed hard against the seat beneath her. She bent her knees under the swing. She kicked her feet forwards.
Phoebe chased the monkey clouds through an empty blue sky. She followed the tiger clouds prowling.
Her heels hit the ground on the rebound but she wanted to go higher and higher.
She bent her legs back under the swing. Then kicked them outwards.
She stretched her body backwards. Blue of the sky. Phoebe rushed with her monkey clouds through the empty blue sky. She prowled with her tiger clouds.
The monkey clouds disappeared and the tiger clouds billowed above her.
Phoebe sat upright. She bent her legs back under the swing. Then kicked them hard.
She leant her body backwards. She stretched as far as she could into the empty blue sky.
On the rebound her heels hit the ground but she kept on going higher and higher.
Phoebe began singing.
‘I am stretching. I am stretching my monkey mind. This is tiger power’.

Then Phoebe heard laughter.
Then she saw Annie, Gerard and Maurice leaning over the fence giggling.
Gerard called out. ‘Phoebe’s a Tiger!’
Annie smiled. ‘You ARE a Tiger’.
‘ARGGH!’ The floppy headed Gerard growled and held up his shield with the imitation tiger skin.
‘TIGERS! TIGERS!’
Phoebe smiled.
‘We are the TIGERS! We are the TIGERS!’


© Janice Slater 2003 (Revised version Jan 27th)

Not The Affirmative
Janice Slater


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