Caitie and Poppy should be sleeping. Instead, an after-dark discussion about ghosts scares them from their beds. From the top of the stairs, they listen to the unfolding drama of their parents’ dinner party. When their father’s words chase their mother from the house they retreat to bed and wake to a world where what is real, and what is fabricated, are turned upside down.
As four- and six-year-olds, we know what’s right and wrong, cruel and kind, and that words, while neither stick nor stone, do hurt. Even if we don’t know what the words mean, we understand, as little people, their power; we can smell word-hurt in those we love as though it lived in our own bellies.When our parents throw hard words we wish, in all our tiny impotence, we could disappear the wounds they make. When we can’t, we reinvent the world to make the bad, normal, because normal, is all right.
Bedtime Story is a child’s-eye view of grown-ups behaving badly. It’s an exploration of why, when adults all around stand by and watch and no-one says, “Shush,” hot words turn lives to ash. I’ve often thought that in a world where adults are supposed to know, it’s children who know everything. And the greatest gift parents can give their children is not to tell them “I love you,” but to tell each other, and make sure their words are overheard.
Where can I read it?
Bedtime Story appears in The Trouble With Flying and Other Stories, published by Margaret River Press (Australia), 2014. Find it here>