• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 12
Image by


Mrs P is ancient and smells of cats. Because Mrs P has no teeth, Mum bakes a sponge cake for her every Thursday. I hate going with her to deliver it. I always have to sit on the pouffe so that Mrs P can see me. Unfortunately, that means there is no chance of avoiding the picture next to her chair. To my eight-year-old brain, it is terrifying.

Someone or something has a tiny, blue head, grotesque arms and legs, and sits under its own personal raincloud, brandishing comb and scissors. It’s wearing a dress just like the one I got last Christmas. It make no sense at all. And all the time it stares at me.

I thought Mrs P sat me where she does on purpose to scare me, so I am quite surprised when she calls me over to stand by her. She unhooks the picture from the wall beside her and lays it in her lap.

“Tain’t nuttin’ to be skeered of,” she says, running her hands over the glass. “Tell me what you see.”

I don’t answer. All I want to say is that I need the bathroom. I don’t like the way the thing in the picture looks at me.

Mrs P persists. “What do you see? Tell me.”

My tongue sticks to my palate. “Well … his arms are silly … like blue rivers full of fish and … and weedy things are growing on the bank ... and … and he’s got a blue-and-yellow striped dress like mine. Why is a man wearing a dress?”

“Why do you say it’s a man?”




“What else do you see?”

“His trousers look like the pictures in last month’s National Geographic. The fields in America’s corn belt, all yellow and orange swirly bits ... Or like the stepped terraces of fields in the mountains of China ... Or angel cake if it was all bent up. I like angel cake.” I fidget with the hem of my cardigan. “Did I get it right, Mrs P.”

“Close, poppet, you came close.“