Title: The Angel Child
Author: Valerie Bird
Genre: Magical Realism
Set in the magically real worlds of a market garden, a fairground and an unnamed land in South America, passionate love, prejudice and cruelty claim their victims. The birdwoman has taken to living in her garden sheltered by umbrellas. She has rejected the life society expects her because she loves the mother of the angel child. When her mother dies, the angel child kills her father rather than another woman occupy his bed. Love with the balloon man ends in tragedy when he wakes to find her body blistered by his hot breath. A fortune teller, whose helpmate is a rainbow, a disillusioned priest searching for a father brings back a bragging liar, all come to live with the disparate members of the fair folk. How does the child, Miserere, find humour and healing amongst this motley crowd?
Once upon a time there was an old woman with a face of flour, the dust of wheat pressed into every pore. She ran across the fields with her white hair streaming out behind her like a wedding veil. Her coat was brown, her dress was ragged and torn with years and years of wear. Sprigged with jasmine, violets and daisies, it told of past summer’s warmth even when the ground was rigid and unyielding to the next year’s growth.
‘Joannie, Joannie’ the children called after her. With their arms spread out like wings they followed, whooping and calling like seagulls and larks, their feet stumbling and twisting in the ruts of the ploughed earth in winter, their legs scorched and scratched by the brittle, bustling corn when summer came.
Joannie, Joannie, come and play,
Tell us why you run away.
She did not see them. Her feet sped across the clumps and clods, her legs swished and spread wide the golden harvest. With a shopping trolley like a chariot before her, she heard none of the bird calls, ignored the bleat of their skipping rhyme. So it would seem, or so she chose.
Joannie, Joannie, come and say,
Are your white cheeks made of clay?
Where did she come from? Where did she go? Why did the woman live in a nest?
Joannie, Joannie, tell us why
On a bed of twigs you lie?
Everyone said that it was so. Some said they spoke with her but no one asked or could say if it was true. No one knew, for nobody visited. A few brazen brats followed her to see where she went. But the entrance was barred by a tangle of berberis and the thorns of a vicious rambling rose, and in spring a magnolia stood sentinel with flowers lit like a candelabrum.
They all said that they knew her story. How sad, not pretty, too clever, now mad. They tutted and smirked and nudged and winked. One day long, long ago there had been a neat grass square mown in alternate green stripes, a crazy paving path winding up to a house with polished windows that would reflect his face and a red front door through which he could pass. The Prince kissed the Princess, awakened her and then left, they said.
Joannie, Joannie can you say?
Did your lover go astray?
Nobody ever knew the truth of her tale, she never chose to tell.
Some sixty years before the know-alls made up their story, a child was born to a cardboard man and a cardboard woman. They had hollow heads full of nothing for anyone else. She was an excuse for him and he was an excuse for her. They festered with guilt. The man moaned that he was a failure because he should have been a soldier in the Great War. He could chop off the heads of chickens yet he could not bear the sight of his own blood.
A BA in Related Arts followed by an MA with Distinction in Creative Writing, for which The Eye of God was written, started her writing career.
Short stories and poetry have been published in books and magazines.
The novella, The Eye of God, is published through Kindle Direct Publishing along with four subsequent novels; The Angel Child, A Retrospective, Ladybird, Ladybird, and Incident on the Line. All can be obtained through amazon.com.
I have just finished my fifth novel, The Greenhouse Legacy, which I am about to publish.
I have been a youth worker, a secondary school teacher of English and examiner. I now devote my time to writing alongside voluntary work as a trustee of our local arts and heritage centre.
Social Media Links:
Twitter - @mail_bird