THE CHILD STEALERSChapter 1.
– A TRIP BACKWARDS –
The bat winged secretly across the sky as darkness fell. The child, ancient, unyielding, watched. Something unnameable in the silence arriving from afar. She ran quickly back to the fold, dissolving into mother in the lamplight and the hungry little ones scattered around the house like sultry kittens, falling into weaknesses before bedtime. Brooding wars against each other fought out in the sunlight kingdoms, laid to rest a while, surrendering the small victories won that day - as if the daylight cared. Fast asleep in the government flats by the windy ocean’s edge - who could tell of what the children dreamed?
Bright as a button, quick as a fly, that was Sandy. With seven years, the seven years of trial began for her. Looking back you could say they reared their stormy heads the day the space man came. Yes, he did. As the gay kites flew and dived into the evening breezes. While the children played their wild games and the sea shimmered in its silver sounds. All the while in Sandy’s head a song had been singing. She burrowed her feet deep into the beach sand. It was her father’s night voice that sang, a great fat lullaby. He called the stars out of the sky and sure enough there they were just beginning to peep. A moon would sail in a while, a-shining down on all.
Del, was his name. He stood guard over the night, led the older children into the dreamland while nearby the tiniest ones fought for his wife’s milky body and curled there snugly suckling into the dark hours. It was he who was always there for the older children. Their very own Sandman. A doting father who you could twist around your little finger and sometimes tell your secrets to. Sandy knew that from the start. His was the softest of the night sounds, more soothing than a sea wave and his song took you drifting faraway with those wartime melodies from the films of his youth.
For a decade of his life the talk had been of another war in Europe. Then in 1942, the war had come and felled a generation. And gone. There were just the American songs on the radio left now. So he sang them: ‘Down in Pago Pago …far among the blue seas … ‘ now how did the rest go … ?
If he was in a jolly mood he sang:
‘I went to the animal fair –
and who do you think was there?
The great baboon by the light of the moon
Was combing his golden hair… tra-la.’
It continued like this:
‘The monkey, he got drunk,
And sat on the elephant's trunk!
The elephant sneezed and fell to his knees
And that was the end of the monk, ha-ha,
Oh, whatever became of the monk?’
Across father’s voice the sand blew, the wind whistled. One night he was so tired he fell asleep without singing - and that was why it happened. The breeze chanced to dip and suddenly he was there: The Space Man. Smiling. In a slow motorcade winding down the Galle Road, city of Colombo, Ceylon, also known as Serendib. Or Seran. Or Lanka. Or … Or …
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