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Words and Comfrey by Mary Barnes

Mary Barnes tackles Lawrence Hill's third writing prompt with a story about testing out words while picking comfrey. 

You still have time to send us your story. In his third and final prompt, this year's Massey lecturer helps us take the leap from technical description to character psychology. What would you write about?

The leaves of the comfrey were hairy and prickled at my fingers as I cut; they tickled my arms as I carefully placed them in my bag. The two of us, cut and stashed, cut and stashed, the silence broken by the click of my scissors and the quiet snick of Mama’s knife. Heat gathered in the little meadow. Under the glare of the sun, shadows vanished. We were enclosed in a golden haze that shut out the world beyond us. I breathed in the acrid smell of rotting leaves, the fug of my unwashed hair and the mineral sweat of my fingers handling the metal of the scissors. My mother’s hands were quick and efficient, her face shut. Bolted, I thought. Barred.  Beads of sweat broke above my upper lip. I did this, testing words to see how they worked, to see how they fitted into my world, shaped it.You could say I was bookish. A bookworm. Some kids at school called me that, but I ignored them. I thought I was lettered. Sometimes scholarly would pop into my head. I suppose I was a disciple of words; I hugged that thought.

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