The Scarecrow Child by Sarah Wallis

It starts with birdsong, as it should on a brightsprung day and here come the newlyweds now, John and Dolly, dragging Scarecrow onto the field.

‘Hold him, will you?’ says John.

‘I’m sick of holding him,’ says Dolly, picking daisies for a chain. ‘And what’s he to be called?’

‘Well, Hatcher, I suppose. It’s Hatcher’s Field, so it’s called, this place.’

‘I think I’d call him Harry then.’

‘If only you were for practicing on baby names,’ he says, and the birdsong stops, like they know a misstep has occurred and it shivers through time.

A sparrow hawk passes overhead, his shadow the word of death.

Dolly dances away with Scarecrow, tells him in a whisperway, ‘John’s been spiky with adrenaline and I struggles with the distance between us. Two feral wayward hearts, wondering what’s awaiting, how we call on sun and moon and stars to shine on our futures out loud…but what if they don’t bless us, what if they curse us, instead?’ She spits over Scarecrow’s shoulder, as if she’d invoked something primal, something she shouldn’t. John, ever the birder, makes a note in his scuffed spotter’s book, the date and the legend, sparrow hawk.

‘Oh John,’ she mutters to the Scarecrow, ‘I’ll be a good wife, as I promised, but I have a powerful fear of the birthing rights, will the child break me and break me, until I am no longer… me?’

While he, not looking, can only think, instead of dancing in a barren field, they’d be man and wife and child, three for luck, as should be and moonslicked with pleasure…

‘Oh the things I’ve been promised…’ he mutters over her, grabbing Scarecrow back and stepping a two time as he would, back in time, to woo her, scarcely able to stand the bright calling of his dreams and the lure of the dancing maid.

Dolly knows she has promised more than she can give. But if he could see what she has seen, moonsick with prophesy, scrying out the end of the world in a small white jug from the buttery, dropped once and left to suffer the sound, drown a violent sploosh, waterfalling now and as she pleads her case with him, ‘All my salt, all your salt… sometimes you want to watch the world you’ve made with your choices, just burn… or disappear…’ The sad truth is she speaks in riddles he cannot follow.

‘I wish I knew how to make you happy,’ says John.

Dolly, once dancing out of the crowd, might say ‘But I am all undone… trapped by him that loves me, and I don’t think that it’s because I am afraid to truly be alive but I have no more bravery to give, no offering to make, simply the swoon of the self, knowing all must dissolve under the world’s blurry gaze…’

‘But that you would give me a child!’ The words burst from him like thunder. ‘We could be happy!’ he says, ploughing on like rain soughing down over the field, dam burst now, may as well go on as to try to take it back, though he knows this is not the way to win her. ‘This corner of the world, meant to be ours, a cloud 9 sky, ridden a heart ahead today, not just today but all the days, all the days of our lives spread out before us…’ he says, ‘and all that happened could still be; where you are sky and I am…parachute?’

‘See a cloud of daisywise,’ she says, catching up a tiny pearl of the flower, ‘twist of petal, he loves me, he loves me not…you see the little sun at the centre? It was a dream of the future, like once upon a time used to be…’ she smiles then and throws up her clutch of daisies, so they fall over the two of them like sometime confetti, and straight she holds out her hand, childlike again, to be taken. Sparrow hawk flown on and Scarecrow forgotten, a smile scrawled in red, a child’s drawing scattered to the ground, a halo spilling out around his head and all the birds singing again in relief at the live long day let be… let be… let be…


Sarah Wallis is a surrealist, poet-playwright, a Londoner living in Leeds, then Edinburgh from the autumn. She has degrees in creative subjects from Leeds, UEA and Birmingham U’s, life was more structured in academia. On the outside it’s more surreal. But what is real? Aren’t we all constructions? Enjoy the journey.