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Writing Magic 

1st Prize Winner

Jay McKenzie

Stargazing Under the Table


'Look Roo! We’re really there.’


A breath, almost a whisper, but buoyant as a helium balloon. Lindy is taller, cleverer and most importantly, more magical than me. When she first pulled me under the thick old curtain draped over the dining room table, I expected nothing more than furballs from Peashoot and lost mashed potato growing crusty under the table leaves.


'Oh Lindy! It’s fantastic!’


The underside is studded with stars: pinpricks of light and dust and a rainbow of swirling nebulas.


'How did you…?' I start, but she silences me with a salty finger pushed to my lips.


'We don’t question the magic, Roo. Otherwise it breaks.’


She lays back on one of the cushions from the sofa and I tuck myself in under her arm. We watch the stars and I listen to my sister’s heart fluttering in her chest. She is warm, like she always has been, a faint scent of biscuit and laundry powder trapped between the fibres of her jumper.


'I always wanted to go to space, Lindy.’


She rubs my arm with the tips of her fingers. 'I know.’


Above, the starscape shifts and we’re rotating like that time we went to the Planetarium.

'Do you remember when we went to…’


'…the Planetarium?' She finishes my sentence. 'Yes.' She pauses. 'I’m still sorry.’


We had to leave because I vomited gushing hot bile all over the floor. Lindy didn’t want to go and bawled until the tears dried on her face like patches of salt stuck to the table.


'It’s okay.’


She pulls me closer. 'Look,' she says. 'Can you see Orion?’


I squint and then, yes! There he is, kneeling, arrow drawn back, his belt a brazen glowing thing against the inky blackness of the sky. Before I threw up and cut short our trip to the Planetarium, I remember a beaky woman saying that his belt holds two of the biggest brightest stars in the galaxy.


'That’s us,' says Lindy, reading my mind.


'That’s us,' I say.


There’s not a sound beyond our own breath, and even that is muffled like being tucked beneath thick blankets. We watch the constellations and planets drift by, time slowed like in a dream. There’s Saturn, hula hooping his way through the universe. There’s Ursa Major, crawling and growling across the cosmos.


Beneath my ear, Lindy’s chest shudders.


'Don’t be scared of the Great Bear,' I tell her. 'I’m not, and I’m only little.’


She sits up suddenly, cupping my cheeks in her palms. 'You’re the bravest person I know, Little Roo.’


I kiss the tip of her nose. 'No,' I say. 'You are.’


Bravery won’t matter to me anymore. Not for much longer. Bravery is for the ones left behind when I’ll be stardust.


'I’ll shine bright enough for us both,' she says.


Ursa puts her big bear paw on mine. I nod.

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