OTWAG: Bedtime Story

“Once there was a girl-”

“What did she look like, Mummy?”

“Well, if you let me carry on reading, maybe you’ll find out.”

“Once there was a girl with big, blue eyes-”

“I don’t have blue eyes. Can she have brown eyes, like me?”

“If you like, but we don’t know yet if her having blue eyes is part of the story or not.”

“You mean like maybe the story is about how she stopped having blue eyes and got brown eyes instead because they’re better?”

“Why are they better?”

“Because I have brown eyes and you have brown eyes and Daddy has brown eyes.”

“Why are we better?”

“Because… we have a cat.”

“Okay. Well, anyway. I can make her have brown eyes if you want. I’m just warning you that it might change the story. Which is fine – there’s always room to make up your own stories if you want.”

“No, I want to read that story. With brown eyes.”

“Alright. So. Once there was a girl with big brown eyes. Her eyes could see the future-”

“What does that mean?”

“It means she could see what was about to happen.”

“What, like, on a TV?”

“No, in her head. Like if you read a book and you can picture what’s happening in your imagination. Only her imagination is what’s going to happen. At least, I think that’s what they’re trying to say. We might need to read a bit more to understand it properly. It’s good to have questions, but sometimes if you wait, you’ll get your answer.”


“Anyway… She couldn’t see just any future. She couldn’t see what would happen to the baker, or the doctor, or her parents’ friends, who gathered like crows around the dinner table to peck at food and ask her questions she didn’t want to answer. She could only see the future of her own hands. She could see, in her mind – see? – what her hands would be doing, at some point in the future.”

“That sounds a bit silly.”

“Gifts are often a bit silly, until you work out what you can do with them.”

“What’s a gift?”

“Like a present. Some people think from God. It’s something you can just do, without really knowing how.”

“Like how I can read better than Olivia?”

“Well, not exactly, because you practised and learned to be able to do that. But maybe if you’d been able to read the very first time you’d opened a book-”

“But I could! I could do that!”

“Er… well, no. But anyway. Can we carry on?”


“Sometimes she could tell the hands were a long way in the future, because they were grown-up hands, with marks and veins, or wearing rings she knew she didn’t have. But she recognised them as hers because of the strange bend in her right little finger, where she broke it once and didn’t realise so it set funny and was never completely straight. And the skin around the nails was all bitten down and scarred and that was a bad, bad, worst ever habit of hers, as her parents’ friends so often liked to point out to her.”

“I don’t think the blue eyes really matter, Mummy.”

“You might be right. Sometimes she could see that the hands weren’t that far in the future, because she they were young and soft, and had a fresh scratch from the cat that she’d only got that day and which hadn’t faded yet.”

“I got a scratch from Penny’s dog.”

“What? Did you? When was that?”

“Well, her Mummy came to school with Penny’s dog which is called Milo and Milo jumped up on me to say hello and Penny’s mum said he doesn’t hurt people but he did, he scratched my hand as he was jumping down again.”

“Hmmm. Was it an accident? How big is Milo?”

“Bigger than Fluffy, but smaller than me. Now can we read more of the story?”

“Oh, yes. Hmm. Anyway. The hands would always be doing something different. The first time it happened, she saw her young hands tending a saucepan on the stove, and later that day she was sent to make soup for dinner. At the moment that her hands moved in the patterns she had seen in her mind’s eye, her heart raced for a second and her face flushed and there was ringing in her ears that made her father speak sharply to her as the soup almost boiled over. And then everything went back to normal and she realised that she had seen the future.”

“I like soup.”

“Me too.”

“I like soup with chicken and peas and noodles.”

“Mhm. After that first vision, the girl saw her hands more often. At first it was always the near future; the same day, or the next morning. Later it became here there and everywhere. Sometimes she had so many flashes of what was to happen that she’d forget she’d seen something until the sudden ringing in her ears happened while she was sewing, or writing, or holding a book, or opening a window, or brushing her hair. The ones from the near future were never that interesting, but some of the far future ones were intriguing-”

“What’s in-tree-ting?”

“In-trigu-ing. With a ‘g’. It means… it means when something makes you really interested in what’s going to happen. Like when you’re watching a really good film or reading a really good book and you don’t know what’s going to happen next but you really want to.”

“Is this story in-treek-ing?”

“It’s a ‘g’, not a ‘k’. I guess this story could be intriguing. Do you want to know what happens next?”


“Do you really, really want to know?”


“Then I guess, to you, this story is intriguing.”

“What does happen next?”

“Let’s find out. Where was I… Right. She had seen herself holding hands with other people, older, younger, the same age, male, female. She had seen herself petting an animal she didn’t know. She had seen herself holding a walking stick, but her hands did not look old. She had seen a tight grip on a wooden rail and felt sweat between her fingers. She had seen herself buttoning shirts, stirring pots, scratching her knee, shaking a fist.”

“Can you scratch my knee? I think there’s a cut on it.”

“There’s no cut. Where on earth did you get that bruise from?”

“I was playing with Olivia and Archie and we crashed into each other and I fell over. But it was really funny, and then Peter laughed and Mrs. Jane said that was mean but I was laughing too.”

“Right. It was an accident, then?”


“Well, I guess that’s okay then. And now, it’s time to put in the bookmark…”

Ohhhhh. But I want to know what happens next!”

“And so you will. Tomorrow. Because your great big brain and your bruised knee need some rest. And so does my voice.”



“I have a joke for you.”

“Go on.”

“Why did the cow get in the spaceship?”

“Why did the cow get in the spaceship?”

“Because it wanted to see the baaaa-oink-quack-moooooooon.”

“I see. Thank you. Good night, Squishy.”

“Night night.”

This is the seventh attempt in a writing challenge I have set myself.

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