Sometimes fish swim around in the dirt. We squat down in the heat of the earth and watch them whizz by, small and shiny as bottle tops. We scrape them all up with our sticks, and they flip and wriggle because the sun’s tickling them. They always make us giggle, fizzing with their springtime colours in the cups we make from hands, itching our palms like fortune tellers.
‘Witches!’ the neighbours’ kids shout, but they’re only tough from way over there on the road. They never come close enough to hear the lisp of our tongues, or see the stones we hold in our cheeks, ready to swallow or to spit.
‘We’ve got presents for you!’ we call, our voices curling as mermaids’, and that sends their fat legs running, all the way home.
Other kids are new – travellers piled high as the houses they’re longing for. We tempt them, the tips of our tongues lapping as water.
‘Here, take it,’ we say, running to the edge of the field, our cupped hands reaching over the swale, ‘for you. It’s magic.’
Then how the little hands shoot out from rucksacks and blankets, from wagons and baskets and pots, little hands from under aprons and armpits, little hands all hungry for presents.
We call it doing brewing, and it always makes us laugh.
The kids step closer, right to the edge of the swale. They can almost see what we’ve got for them, twitching in the palms of our outstretched hands. They consider it, for a second. Look down at the swale and the mud collected in its deepest U. Look quick towards their folks on the road ahead, quite far away now and moving further on. Their last sound is something like Hup! As strong as bulls we hook their soft wrists and crash them down, all down into the swale.
The swale looks shallow, but the swale is deep.
They tumble down, wondering at their pink hands, the little fish there flapping, and the sky is above them and below them and the swale is the sky and the children are listening to the fizzing in their hands and the fish are wanting to say something, all their bubble eyes a-dancing. The kids and the fish go sparkling and tumbling and oh we get excited, we start chanting:
Coca-Cola! Cherry Sprite!
Coca-Cola! Cherry Sprite!
Then my sister goes electric, shimmies her dress up over her head, kicks at the air and with a lion’s roar screams:
We watch the kids as they get swallowed down and the fish squeak ‘Swim! swim!’ and swim the children try, pitching themselves deeper into the earth’s treacly water.
‘Dig you up later!’ we call to the vanishing feet. ‘Yeah, see ya, fizzy pop!’