Kim wiped the rain from his eyes. He ran a hand through his hair. Nothing made any sense though by now. Normality had been blown away. Yet there he was. Engaged in a conversation with a donkey.
“I’m coming in Leon!” Kim opened the gate to enter the paddock. “I’m coming in.”
Although he couldn’t admit it, Kim was enthralled. He began to stride across what was now a bog. Water seeped in from the tops.
Leon turned to look once, but he was otherwise disinterested. The boots and mud were not his problem. Kim called out to him. He tried to sound cool and controlled.
“What do you mean by, umm, visit, exactly? Leon? Is it something taken from your memories? Or do you, somehow… well… visit places? Somehow go… somewhere?”
“I visit indeed, as the word implies. Geographically, to leave this field and head away to the great elsewhere. Often overseas. Why do you ask?”
Kim drew nearer. He looked around him, but no one was watching. That would have been awkward. He didn’t wish to appear odd.
“But how? How on earth? It’s not possible! You just zoom off somewhere?”
“Night flights. There’s only a few of us that can manage it these days. Night flying. At night, we can’t be seen. And we’re not missed by our owners. You’ve heard those tales about witches and broomsticks? And UFOs these days?”
Kim nodded, too amazed to speak.
“All nonsense of course. Invented by humankind as they never could credit an animal. The old bigotry, especially against my kind. ‘Stupid donkey’, ‘silly asses’ and the like! Explanations involving flying broomsticks and hags! I ask you – who’s the stupid one?”
Kim nodded with a laugh, but Leon continued.
“Little green men all intent on world conquest! Who on earth or in space would want to conquer this place? Live in the murk of our pollution? Risk death by war and disease?”
Kim nodded. He had to agree. He would have been be an ass not to.
“Of all the unfeathered animals only some donkeys can fly. Well, apart from the bats. ‘Aviated asses’, I say. It’s not grannies sweeping the sky boy! It’s us. Our ears mistaken for tall witches’ hats, and the long tails…”
“For broomsticks!” Kim interjected. “Your tails taken for old broomsticks. Narrow at the handle and spreading out with bundled long twigs at the other end!”
Kim laughed. Leon looked and smiled at him.
“Yes! You’ve got it! Pretty obvious when you know. But if you don’t… well, simple folk prefer to dwell on magic. Wizards and evil witches, spirits and the ghastly, long- dead walking about, conveniently at night mind you, when humans can’t see as well. It makes me laugh on occasion, you know; makes me really laugh”.
Kim was standing next to Leon now. He reached over to pat him. He tried to wipe away a few leaves from Leon’s mane. The heavily matted mane made the task harder. It was thick. Like bristles packed close together and standing upright. It hadn’t been trimmed for years, Kim reckoned. It had grown long enough to reach Leon’s ears. His mane, nevertheless, gave Leon an air of wise authority. It also made him look eccentric. But that suited this entire morning of discovery. Eccentric in the extreme!
Leon nodded and let the boy stroke him. Goodness was not so much about what people did for you, but in being generous enough to let them do it, even if you’d prefer they didn’t. Leon wasn’t big on being patted or stroked – he found it condescending, part of the ‘silly-old-nice donkey’ routine. He permitted it out of generosity. He spoke again:
“I could take you with me. If you wished it. Would you like that, boy?” He turned his neck to look. Kim couldn’t answer for a moment. “Well, would you? Speak!”
“Y-yes. Very much. You mean, to fly up into the sky and travel to another place? Riding on your back like…er…”
Kim was going to say something about donkey rides, but thought the better of it. Leon wouldn’t like any such comparison.
“As if I were a magic carpet, Kim. As if I were the wind itself that carried you. Yes.”
Kim nodded quickly. That sounded a lot more exotic than donkey rides at Skegness.
“I’ll see you this evening then. Go to bed first. Not to worry the parents, you see. Come back when you can walk out unseen.”
Kim nodded again. He crossed the paddock, slowly, avoiding the worst patches. He made his way back to the farmhouse. He looked back at the donkey who stood grey in the grey.
Back inside Kim took a hot shower. He dressed himself in his pyjamas and a sweater. He made his favourite sandwich, (Marmite with butter and peanut butter), and poured out a glass of milk. He then climbed up the stairs to his bedroom.
The house was an old, thatched farmhouse. It was painted in the East Anglian traditional pale pink. It had stood for some four hundred years. Its rooms and staircases had low ceilings. The house was cosy and interesting, though not too warm on a day like this.
There were window bays that peered out from under the thatch. Kim’s bedroom had one of these. The window provided a clear view of the paddock and fields. Kim chewed on his sandwich. He imagined what would shortly come to pass – to fly up over all of this, and to see the lights of Suffolk towns and then, perhaps, the sea. Kim shook off his slippers. He lay back on his bed smiling to himself. This night might be the most important night of his entire life.
About the author
Barnaby Allen was born in Suva Fiji, as his father was working there for the British Crown. he was introduced to literature by his mother, who liked to recite poetry and had a gift of telling engaging stories. As an adult, Barnaby Allen worked in education in several countries, mostly teaching English. He loved travel, classical music, discussions, current affairs, Pacific affairs, family, good food and board games. Barnaby’s children also had the benefit of Barnaby telling stories to them and making the characters come alive with acting out different roles.
Thanks, as always to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for including me on the blog tour for this very special book! You can catch the rest of the blog tour above!