How to be stung

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Words have shapes. The word naked has a spike in the middle. This causes my three year old grandsons to freeze and lighthouse my face. They have heard the word and have become uncertain. I say naked. Naked? I plant the k firmly in the ground because it is important, and they rock about, filling their mouths with two year old laughter, powerful with innocence.
Cereal. Difficult because the r wants more attention that it needs. Ce-re-ral. Difficult because it is uttered so early in the morning, hungry, and hoping for exciting ce-re-ral, the stuff I buy because my mother never allowed me to have it.
I can’t write Australia without an error amongst the vowels.
I can’t type possibly because the y won’t appear.
I can’t say minimalist without losing a shoe and having to go back.
Bum. This is a satisfying word, like a stone thrown into a deep pond. Ripples. Causes hilarity for three year olds.

Mine. Powerful and causes consternation. Different powers according to where it is uttered. And who hears it.
The word freezing is nice to say. The grandsons linger amongst the long sounds and stretch the word, reining in sympathy and attention. Squirted is hilarious but tricky, the t softening into a d, and parents lurking in the car park, saying ‘Are you being rude?’
Bursted. Many things are bursted. A powerful and rich word that describes the world of the three year old more than what it is actually applied to. ‘What happened to the snail? It bursted.’
Sour is puzzling because it is a bit abstract. But is easily learned because of the accompanying flair of lips away from teeth. Three year olds are quick to utilize these performances. Anything can be sour, including vegetables, the sun or a library book.
Biscuit is buttery, baked, soft with kindness, and breaks up in the teeth amongst the actual sentence. Biscuit can stop a runner making for the back of the orchard with a toy truck they have taken from someone else.
Broken has authority. My three year old grandsons use it to blame, condemn, weep, console, manipulate and explain.
Spicy is abstract and unusual, but useful if you have accidentally tasted a chilli. It is immensely satisfying to linger twice amongst the tender skin of the ssss sounds, remembering the burn.

Yellow is simply too difficult. There is too much information thrown by the experience of yellow to waste time forcing the tongue. So, lello fills in, like a relief worker paid a lot but not really part of the plan. Lollies is always managed with skill, precision and desperation.
Buttons is exciting and authoritative and causes things to happen, such as the reprimand, ‘Did you press that?’
Max tried out Mr Archimedes, remembering the story, the bath, the wombat, the spilt hot water, the mop. He managed Mr Medes. It will do. He climbs over the words and continues with the story, ‘The water went all on the floor.’
I said monumental to someone in a thin fussy tone. Noah said, ‘Yeah,’ in hot agreement, the three year old taking part in family affairs, already reading politics with alarming accuracy.
Chippies is flinty and nice, salty and comforting, and rectangular, ‘We went to the shop and got some chippies with mummy.’ Devastation that at the time of the memory, there are no chippies anywhere.
Sting. This is rich and alarming. The s is loud and sharp, a warning. It is freighted with memories of stings. Toys are put down. Little boys gather to talk. ‘Did Noah get stinged? Where did the bee go? Once I got stinged on my thumb.’ The speaker holds up his foot as he says ‘thumb’. They stare at each other, concerned.

They keep on playing, talking, arguing, shouting –  squeezing and pushing at bits of language, every word a biscuit, a rich drench, a sting.

When Emma came over.

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Emma came to visit the other night and brought with her the Fairy Canaries. Their names are Jane and Sally and they are 7 and 5 years old. Tonight they walked all the way to our house which is next door. It is baby night and we have two babies here: Noah and Max and the Fairy Canaries came over to examine them both and see that everything is ok.

They are kind and particular and pay attention to details. They consider every question closely and answer with dignity. I asked Sally how she knew that Max would be a boy and that his name would be Max and she told me that it is because she is magic.

They communicate with joyful rare phrases. When it was my birthday, they did not say happy birthday. Sally said: many happy returns. And when Max was born they told me that they were so proud of the mother.

Once Jane saw me at the fence and invited me to come over and see their shed because their shed is pretty good.

In the summer, I often hear them outside,  shrilling to each other over games with the hose or some sticks or with nothing at all. The games are always complicated and important. Once, in winter when I was in the orchard I saw them through the fence and they called to me significantly that their dog, Tucker, is in love with our dog Maysie and that it was possible that they might get married.

This afternoon Sally picked some little tomatoes for us and handed them through the fence. She picked each cherry tomato slowly, looked a each one,  frowning through her glasses for defects and then dusted the tomato and twisted off the stalk. It took nearly an hour to find twelve cherry tomatoes, as valuable as gold or lollies.

On this evening,  the baby evening, late autumn and with the fire lit and cosy inside, I am giving a bottle to Noah. Jane is standing close by and examining his every feature. She tells me that he is like a beautiful cute little baby troll.

She adds that me must always keep checking him, and all babies, that they only ever have five toes. Because this is all they are allowed to have. The adults are all busy talking and talking so she returns to Sally and the ipad game to offer advice on Subway Surfers but Sally says no no no no no no no no no no no.

Then Jane returns to me and suggests that when I have finished milking Noah, she will have a hold.