“The sky is a lovely colour,” said the scarecrow.
Angela adjusted her baseball cap against the May sunshine. She was leaning back-to-back against the scarecrow’s checked shirt. Bits of straw poked her.
“You’re lucky,” she said. “It often rains this time of year. It might’ve been pouring down for your one day alive.
Angela and her Dad had made the scarecrow for the village competition, to be judged at the May Day Fête tomorrow. They’d stuffed a pair of jeans and a shirt with straw and made a face out of papier-mâché. She’d painted it bright pink.
She’d been surprised when he started talking. Scarecrows, he’d explained, get one day of life once they’re made. Angela was sure most people didn’t know this.
“What’s rain?” asked the scarecrow.
“Water that falls out of the sky.”
“How does it get up there?”
“Um,” said Angela, trying to remember what her teacher, Mrs Pilady, had told her. “Something to do with bicycles, I think.”
The scarecrow looked, as much as someone with painted-on eyes can look, at Angela’s bicycle, leaning against the side of the shed. “Does someone put it in the basket and ride it up there?”
“Something like that,” said Angela. It probably didn’t matter. Mrs Pilady wasn’t likely to spring an impromptu test on them in the next few hours.
The scarecrow nodded. “Tell me again what happens tomorrow,” he said after a moment.
“Why do you want to hear it again? You won’t see it.”
“I know, but it sounds so nice.”
Angela smiled. “We’ll put you in Dad’s trailer and drive you to the fête. There’s a big display of all the scarecrows. The best one gets a red rosette. There’s a maypole that the preschool kids dance around. I did it a few years ago, but I’m too big now. There’s ice-cream and a barbeque and a coconut shy. And a bouncy castle!”
The scarecrow sighed happily.
The smell of smoke and crack of burning wood crept treacherously across Angela’s mind. There would be a bonfire in the evening. But why mention that? The scarecrow would never know.
“It’s beautiful here,” said the scarecrow. “I’m glad I’ve seen it. Even if it was just for one day. I’m glad I met you, too, Angela. If you hadn’t come outside, I would’ve spent all my time alone.”
Angela touched the scarecrow’s hand. The old ski glove was warm from the sunshine. “I think,” she said slowly, “that we should always try to enjoy days. They might run out for any of us.”
“Yes,” said the scarecrow.
They sat in silence, then. A bee buzzed by. Angela took off her baseball cap and rubbed at her nearly-bald scalp.
A few minutes later the back door opened. “There you are, sweetie,” said Angela’s dad. “It’s time for your medicine.”
“Hi, Dad. I was just talking to the scarecrow.”
“Were you now? Did he say anything interesting?”
Angela looked at the now-motionless straw man.
“Yes,” she said. “He did.”
This story makes me cry every time I read it, which you might think is strange, because I wrote it. But as Robert Frost famously said: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” I’m proud to say that this story won the first ever BeaconLit Beaconflash competition in July 2018, and you can also read it on the BeaconLit website. Thanks to the lovely Steve Thompson for the image above (and the rest of the beautiful drawings which aren’t here to see… yet).