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Too Many Magpies

by Elizabeth Baines

A moving story of love – but also of a marriage in breakdown and the effect of the resulting fallout on the eldest child. I felt quite fraught by the end of it, for the mother is continually on edge - seeing things, hearing things, things just out of reach or caught from the corner of her eye, hinted at, suggested …. A haunting, uncomfortable read of magic and temptation.

Extract

On the baby’s first birthday the Smarties on the cake went frilly round the edges. The first sign of odd things happening. No one took it seriously. He said it was magic. (He; he doesn’t have a name, not here, not in my head.). ‘I told you,’ he said afterwards, ‘things would start happening now you and I have met.’ ‘Magic,’ said Danny too, four years old and excited, waiting in an agony of impatience for the start of the birthday tea in the garden, though never in any doubt that things would go as planned, or that birthday teas would go on happening, and Daddy always come to join them in time. And, this time, he did. He came round the side of the house, Daddy, my husband, ducking under the honeysuckle and coming to kiss us all, smelling faintly of the lab, that sharp high chemical smell. He was a scientist, my husband. He had a rational explanation. He looked at the Smarties and grinned. Lovely teeth, he had, not a single filling, and naturally curly hair. The kinks of it glistened in the sun. It came back to me then, all the reasons I loved my husband. ‘See,’ said Danny, pointing the funny way he did with his left middle finger, ‘they’re like little mince pies.' And they were, each sweet surrounded by a perfect row of frills. My husband looked at them and laughed. ‘Osmosis,’ I think he said, I wasn’t in a state to remember the actual word. Something about things running, their contents seeping through their skins, leaving themselves behind. At any rate, he said I must have put them on when the icing was too wet. Of course. Because of what had happened, I hadn’t been in a state to judge the drying time of icing.
But it was odd. Why, for instance, if things had melted, had the colours not run?

Parallels

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
 

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