The Cunning Folk

Overland, 2014
This story was inspired by the discovery of ritual markings and concealed object in old buildings around Queensland. I first read about these discoveries in Ian Evan’s PhD thesis, Touching Magic: Deliberately Concealed Objects in Old Australian Houses and Buildings (2010).

O Watercolour

n their third day without food, Billy shows his sons how to draw the symbol. He takes a handful of charred kindling, burnt out in the pot-bellied stove, and gives a piece to each of them. He uses the bottom of a mug to make the outer circle, shows them how to hold it steady against the plasterboard wall and trace around its rim. He should have a compass but he sold his, borrowed the boss’s when he had to.

The boys’ outlines are crooked. Dane can’t hold the cup up single-handedly. His wrist shakes and he draws wildly. He swears when he pulls the cup away to reveal a vague shape. Malcolm cuffs his older brother across the back of the head and Dane drops the cup, chipping the rim.

Billy almost gives up, not sure if he can bear seeing the symbol so mangled. He’s sure it will ruin the magic, but knows the kids have to start somewhere. He begins on the petals, measuring a cross in the centre, dividing the circle into four. He holds the undamaged side of the mug against the centre line, tracing an arch to the edges of the circle, then draws its mirror image above it.

Read ‘THE CUNNING FOLK’ at Overland Summer Fiction 2014.

Image: Daisy Wheel from ‘Applied Geometry’.

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