All Stories, General Fiction

Halcyon Days by Mandy Swann


It was put through the front door. Put through that brass trimmed rectangle small enough to keep out the worlds. The letterbox is far outside. I do not go to it. In the space under the door and online necessary links are maintained. But this package is different. It is not an invoice to pay or a manuscript to edit. George has pushed it into a corner with her nose.

There is a name on it. My name. From when I had a meaningful name outside the door. I saw the label in the morning shadows.

Outside the door, other shadows are moving. I watch the tree from my balcony. The balcony is as far as I go – 1.3 meters. A hush of tiny wings hovers about the tree’s pink buds and a luminous body lands on sticky feet. Is there a way to hold time’s brightest motions?

I have had to move the package to the bookshelf because of George. She is too curious. My hands were not mine as they touched it, they were distended and tingling. I fold and refold them in my lap.


The beetle eggs arrive in geometric patterns along the twigs. I am lying on the wooden floor of the balcony and loosening nails protrude into my back. I stay because I can see the eggs glistening.

The drawings are back. I must take out the paper and pens and go back to sleep. But I can’t remember.

As the light fades and the rooftops darken I stand uneasy. The twigs shake in the wind and I worry about the eggs. I worry about them a lot.


At first light I hear her running. The leaves under our feet crackle yellow and black, pale and hectic red. Poem colours. Shelley knew. If I look I will see hair, white blonde in the wind, and eyes, heavily-lidded and perfectly oval. We swim in laughter. We are six and not far from our parents: yet in the sound of our running we are alone together.

I stop the memory and press the button on the radio. When I sit down to work Chopin is playing and my heart rises and falls with the tripping notes. Today I am editing a children’s story about a magic pelican kite. The kite is alive and has adventures all over the world.

On the balcony for lunch, I pick up a ring of eggs which have fallen onto the grey boards. I reach as far as I can from the balcony railing but even the nearest branch is too far. I look down and think about the journey from the door to the tree and its lower branches; eventually, I slide the ring of eggs over the jasmine curling up the railing. Will they hatch?


We are ten, walking through the bush behind the eucalyptus tree where the goanna lives. It is after school when the sunlight is brilliant and everything glows before it fades.

There is a roofless stone cottage up the hill. Sisters lived there once, she said. I do homework in the ruined front room. From there we see nesting birds, wombat holes, centipedes and huge moths. We call it the amphitheater. Clouds gather and disperse in flocking hues of blue and grey and purple.

That last afternoon there was a black snake among the stones. Did it rear its head? I thought so. I ran home, leaving her standing there and didn’t go again. It only became a metaphor later.


I will open the package today though I already know what is inside. Her mother sent it because I didn’t visit when she invited me. And I didn’t say anything when she called. Did I see anything at school? Did something happen?

I will pull back the tape, reach inside and take out a photo. In the photo we will be smiling and sitting on a fallen log. Her eyes look directly into the camera. I am squinting in the sun. My dark hair is lost in her light.

I saw her years ago when I still walked George and went to the city office. She was in the park near my house where people read under a pepper tree and George finds scraps of pizza. I wanted to race to her, take her hand laughing, and invite her something – anything. We looked at each other for five or six seconds, then she turned away towards a picnic group. There was no tragedy in this. No death. We had been friends and now we were not. That is all. And what happened after is only the stuff of living. Some of us don’t end up where we would have liked; sometimes there are no signs of a sadness deep enough to smother.


I pick up the most recent drawing – it is childishly done and shows a heap of stones and two girls with triangle skirts and U-turn smiles. I love you. Friends forever. Love heart, love heart, love heart.

I’ve been checking on the eggs. Yesterday they were safely coiled along the vine. Today they are gone. In their place are ten tiny red beetles huddled together. They are perfect ovals.

At first as the beetles grow they stay close to the formation they had as eggs. Soon they begin to wander along the vine onto the railing itself – yet for a long time they return to their huddle at night.

I’ve finished editing the kite story now, it ended with the pelican kite joining his beloved and large group of pelicans. Sunlight fills the front room; I’ve put the photo on the mantle here and my most recent drawing sits under it. There we are, she and I on our log. There we are friends forever. That moment still counts, you know?

I move to the door and stretch my legs out in the corridor. George is next to me. I put my hand on the doorknob. When the door swings back George bounces up but there is another door. She joins me again. The sunlight is staggering, warm and full. Outside a carpet of pink flowers leads down to the street where the wind has blown them.

Mandy Swann

Image by Marc Pascual from Pixabay



4 thoughts on “Halcyon Days by Mandy Swann”

  1. Reading this was like reading Mallarme or listening to Debussy. Beautiful turns of phrase, especially: ‘The leaves under our feet crackle yellow and black, pale and hectic red. Poem colours.’


  2. Hi Mandy,
    I have to agree with both Leila and Stefan.
    You have the heart of a poet and the phrasing you use is lyrical and immediate and relevant to the story.


  3. For me, very poetic and there’s a deep nostalgia and longing. The focus for me was on what this person noticed, what she found important. “There is another door,” the story says, there’s a mysterious package… there’s the eggs on the branch, there’s the drawings from inside the mind, where this person seems to live much of the time… the last line can be perceived many ways.


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