she dreamt in tiny fists

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She dreamt in tiny fists. The fever pushed at her eyelids when she kept them shut, and leaked out and over when they were open. Each morning Nathanael came to her with tea and the newspaper and an orange but every afternoon she woke to find the tea cold and the orange so soft and pungent she had to pick up and throw it away, an effort that made her grunt—a wild sound against the curtains.

She didn’t know what day it was, or what time it could possibly be. She only knew that she threw the oranges in the afternoons because of the clock that ticked like loss on the blue wall. Sometimes she threw the orange at the clock, but it was invincible.

Each hour became a cold and wobbly upper arm that no one ever touched or thought about. Perhaps this was what depression was like, she thought, as she blew her wretched nose and spluttered into the sleeve of her dirty nightie, but it wasn’t: she could see that through the waves.

Once, after throwing the orange and wondering for a long time whether it had landed on the air vent where she imagined it heating up and bleeding out onto the floor, she sat up and turned and bent her legs and lifted, and then she stood.

Her head was still on the pillow as she rocked gently there on the carpet. Eventually it met her in its place and together they walked to the corner of the room where the orange lay, nowhere near the air vent, perched on top of a yellow dress she had forgotten all about.

She laughed then and coughed and a purple snake slid past her foot before she tipped herself back in and under the covers.

Nathanael came at night to pick up the oranges and dispose of the bits of newspaper she had used as tissues. One night he had six heads—one night, seven incredulous eyes. Then there was the night that he had one face, and it was beautiful, and she wished she would recover so she could love it better and kiss it more.

That was the night it was over. Suddenly her stomach ached for food; it writhed and echoed with hunger. Can I have some soup, she asked, lightly and without commotion. Nathanael smiled and opened the curtains to the moon.

word by Laura McPhee-Browne

colour by Young Wavey

From the writer: “When I first saw this piece of art, I was instantly reminded of a dream; a feverish dream of the sort you have when you are ill with the flu, and sleep is confused and brief and uncomfortable, with a sort of sick surrealism just around the next corner.

When I have had a serious case of the flu in the past, I remember thinking in quick bursts about things that later made no sense. I remember having no appetite except for relief from the heat and the pain, and I remember feeling like I was going to be sick forever and ever. This story is an attempt at encapsulating how it feels to have the flu, and the dream-like nature of being stuck inside an unrelenting fever.”

his wolf


Dad got anxious. Mama didn’t: she just swished around beautifully like colour in a paintbrush jar, singing Moon Shadow and tying scarves around her forehead so I never really knew how big it was. But Dad was anxious. His thin body shook inside his dressing gown, taking the tea Mama would bring him in his match-stick rouge hands, thanking her with his quiet voice, his normal voice; the voice I never heard raised.

Dad was so thin because he barely ate, and anything he did eat he told me he tapped away. He did tap it away—I watched him each night after school as he sat as close to the fire as he could in winter, and as close as he could to the fan in summer, his foot tapping at the floor and his hands tapping at his crooked, dancing leg.

Dad wouldn’t eat pigs—he said he was too fond of their pink hairy backs and the way they really had those curled tails you saw in picture books. He wouldn’t eat apples for obvious reasons; ‘they’re so happy up there on the tree and then we cruelly pick them down.’

When Mama would make me eat my carrots and corn, Dad would sit there smiling faintly, his plate free of anything but bread and thick shiny butter. He didn’t have to eat carrots and corn. I didn’t shake like him.

One morning I got up early to see whether Mama had left the butter on the kitchen table. I liked to spoon curves of it into my mouth before we had breakfast, so the grease would sit warm and safe in my mouth. I remember it was winter-time because I dragged my mittens onto my feet after searching to no avail for my slippers and they made it hard to get down the stairs without slipping. As I passed their room I heard Mama’s voice low and hurried and edged my head around the door. Dad was lying on the bed, flat and old, and Mama was standing above him. She was crying—I could see the tears dropping onto the doona and the air felt thick with worry and damp. She looked over at me.

‘Daddy’s sick darling. He’s very sick,’ she said, gulping, clutching at the doona’s soggy edge.

I asked her what was wrong with him, standing as tall as I was just there in my mittens.

‘His wolf has come again darling,’ she said. ‘His wolf has come to scare him.’

I ran to my bedroom, tripping on stairs in knotted wool mittens, grasping at the wooden edges to pull myself up and up.

I sat tight on my bed, wondering when my wolf would come.

word by Laura Mcphee-Browne

colour by Monsta