Michael Farrell

The Children’s Story

The Tree reading in the street: ‘The Frome children, who all even
the boys bore the names of flowers, were making a trifle as
a surprise for their violin tutor and finding it more
difficult than they’d expected’ gets distracted by hail
beginning to fall. The Possum sings a few words of a marriage
song ‘Marigold, marry silver, marry marionette’.
Marigold tells his sock puppet to get some more custard from
the garden but he’s really speaking to his sister Dahlia
who says ‘I’ve got a hole in my toe, I don’t think I should go
I’ll fill up with snow’. The sock puppet laughs and asks ‘where the sherry’s
all gone, there’s only a trifle left’? ‘Human Services took
it, they were concerned about its misuse’ Dahlia replies
drily. ‘Oodnad-, Wangar-, Parramatta, carry me back-a’
she sang. The Tree said ‘what does this note say?’ ‘It says’ said the Possum
‘“We’ve taken the violin tutor away’ and it’s signed “the
Rats” but the word “Rats” is crossed out and replaced with “Elves”’. ‘Uhoh!’
says the Tree. ‘Uhoh!’ chorus the children watching (unnoticed
by the Frome children who don’t know about the note). ‘Shhh!’ the possum
says ‘maybe we can get the tutor back without worrying
Marigold, Dahlia, Daisy and Phlox’. Just then there was
a knock on the door. ‘Human Services! Open up!’ Daisy
and Phlox assume the pose of statues. Dahlia strips and jumps
in the shower while Marigold opens a window and puts
his pipe in the oven with the trifle. The Tree and the Possum
were too tired to change so drove home – with the top down – in costume.
‘What kind of tree are you Dad?’ asked Riley, colouring in a
purple bison. ‘I’m an oak with eucalyptus leaves.’ Kelly
was flossing in the bathroom when they entered. ‘Honey you don’t want
to keep all your teeth, do you sweetie? Gaps and gold add character’
said mother Faye. ‘Oh I’m only preserving them to donate
to the Dental Hospital for someone who grew up without teeth.’
Faye and Hugh had both been brought up under Dr (of literature)
Pussy’s Ironic Parenting Regime, and thought their children
were turning out equally well. ‘Where’s my tail gone?’ ‘It’s probably
still in the car.’ ‘What would Human Services say?’ ‘You’ve taken
this Ironic Parenting Regime far enough Mrs Jekyll’
mocked Kelly’s toothbrush. Every object had an opinion in
the Jekyll household. Tina and Blake had made dinner, cold steak
and warm coleslaw, with Pineapple Martian Surprise for dessert.
Faye and Hugh were so surprised they could barely cry. ‘More treacle
anyone?’ asked Tina in her bear voice. ‘Ask me in your lamb
voice’ said Riley. She did so and he accepted a spoon to
lick. ‘How were your theatrical offspring today?’ asked Blake. ‘I
think Marigold’s getting too old’ said Hugh. ‘He must be nearly
thirty.’ ‘Before the flowers faded friendship faded!’ yelled all
the children at once (Gertrude Stein was a favourite with them).
‘Permission to speak’ said the treacle spoon. ‘Permission granted’
said Riley. ‘Can we watch the SBS documentary
on moss now?’ ‘I wanted to watch Glee’ mumbled Faye. ‘Glee … and The
Nanny Uncut’ whined Hugh. ‘“Moss Through The Ages” it is!’ they shouted.
Riley had an app that fed him the voiceover so
he could do it himself and he muted, as Riley said
‘Winona Ryder’s not very interesting voice’. But he tripped
up on ‘inexorable’ which meant his narration ended
up an eon behind the action, and went on into the
start of series twenty of Working Class Tits: an animation
about a bunch of tits and other small birds that lived on a
housing estate and spent a lot of time drinking, fighting and
experimenting with interspecies breeding. In this
episode, it seemed Gina had passed out through a lack of breathing
or perhaps party smoke intoxication, while Tom and Chicka
stumbled onto some robins’ eggs while looking for a place to
do something private. It was hard to tell what with no volume.
Faye and Hugh had dozed off. ‘Have they had showers’? asked Tina. ‘Yes’
said Kelly. ‘Just throw a blanket over ’em.’ ‘Oodnad- Wangar-
Parramatta’ muttered Faye. ‘We want a story’ said Hugh, rousing.
Blake handed them both glasses of milk sprinkled with stovetop crumbs.
‘Once’ Tina began, flexing her pirate voice, ‘a Treacle Spoon
and a Tooth Brush woke up at the bottom of the garden. It
was a mess. They remonstrated with Marigold, the crew leader
on the state of things. Marigold wasn’t really suited to
the job. He was prone to tears and stuffing himself with cupcakes
and was easily scared by Rats and Elves. “Marigold quits” said
Marigold’s sock puppet.’ Blake continued ‘Teaspoon and Toothbrush
found that they had developed coats of moss while they were asleep.
A passing but calm botanist classified them as “Treacla
Bryophyta” and “Toothtatum Bryophyta”. “We need dampness
we need sunlight” they cried’. ‘An eccentric but rather attractive
young girl then collected them for her outdoor boudoir’ added
Kelly. ‘“I’ll show you dampness and sunshine” she said “I won’t let
the starving Finns turn you into bread”’. Hugh and Faye were agog
by this stage, though feeling a bit green and furry about the
gills. ‘There they lived for many months in the outdoor boudoir
receiving a free education through the girl’s high-level
conversation’. ‘In fact’ interrupted Riley ‘she only
ever stopped talking to floss’. ‘So they learnt a lot about dental
hygiene as well’ interjected Kelly. ‘But their learning was
of no avail when the invasion of the Teddy Bears occurred.
They were sipping espresso out of ridiculously small
cups when three raging Teddy Bears broke into the boudoir and
stripped their moss for eyebrows. One even managed a mo. The Spoon
and the Brush revelled in their nakedness and everyone began
to dance.’ ‘You’ve been watching Nudie Parent Mashup’ Blake said. ‘On
mute: I can’t stand the narration.’ The story was over. ‘Let’s
dance!’ ‘Let’s floss!’ ‘Let’s go to bed!’ they variously shouted.

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