At her party the boy runs best with the hard-boiled egg. During
the obstacle course she meets him at the bird feeder on top of
which raisins are scattered. ‘I’m a bird,’ she nibbles and the boy
really does bob and nod. Later he says, ‘we’re twins, and I can
telepathically read the thoughts in your head,’ at which point she
makes a dent in his leg. It’s spring. Sometimes she hears an animal
cry as it comes out of its tent, or what’s it called? The uterus. It’s
taken from its mother and put on the teat. After the birthday cake
the kids run around, they bleat, skitter and find their feet. They
start to count the exposed growth rings on a tree stump, loops as
fine as hairs. One father keeps calling these the inseparable years.
Rachel O'Neill lives in Paekakariki on the Kapiti Coast, where she writes poetry and fiction and makes art. Her story ‘The Orienteer’ was highly commended in The Long and the Short of It competition, run by Unity Books and Sport in 2011. Her writing appears in several issues of Hue & Cry and Turbine, and her story ‘Calf Club 1989’ was transformed into an audio story by Melbourne-based Paper Radio.
O’Neill comments: ‘If my memory is correct, children's birthday parties in 1980s rural New Zealand were the kind of epic affairs that disturbed the myth that the country is not very populated. It seemed like every man, woman and child came to some of my parties. My mother put eggs on spoons and we ran as fast as we could without dropping them. There was also an unusual game that involved completing an obstacle course involving giant outdoor furniture.
‘In the poem there is an entanglement of child and adult point of view. It mirrors the way we humans can easily be confused by certain transitions, say from a sense of new life to experiencing more complex feelings around what new life might mean.’