I found the publication - and the interest and care shown by Arts Editor Guy Somerset - hugely encouraging. Over the summer break, I headed back into my children's novel to finish it - it's almost there - and when that's done, I'll be able to attack Seagull with renewed vigour.
Here's a snippet of it...
This Seagull Heart of Mine [short extract]
By Mary McCallum © 2010
I first saw her in the scoop of a digger, naked. Or that’s what I tell her. There were half a dozen times before that she doesn’t need to know about which I keep to myself. For the purposes of our friendship, it was the digger that brought her to me, like Venus on the half shell.
It had been there for a week, working in a desultory fashion to widen her driveway. Now it was parked just inside the double gate, the massive scoop turned skywards and resting half-way up a freshly dug bank. It was a crèpe de chine day. The air hung in hot heavy folds, and out in the harbour the sea did the same. It wasn’t a day for walking, really, but I wasn’t intending to go far – just around the block to escape the gardening and stretch my legs. I could feel the secateurs in my skirt pocket, and when I moved, I wafted coriander and rosemary. I was my own bouquet garni.
The avenue of trees that made up her drive was unusual in a street that had once been nothing more than seaside baches, and on a day like this, it caught and held the cooler air in a tantalising fashion. There was a subtlety about the light, too, that contrasted favourably with the grass verges behind which the rest of us lived. From the day I’d moved to Matiu Street, I’d stopped to rest my eyes on that driveway, and had spent some time imagining the house at the end of it. I’d even volunteered to collect for the SPCA so I could go and see it for myself. I hadn’t met her that time, though, let alone known about her; it was the boy who answered the door. Smells Like Teen Spirit was playing then and it was playing now. The voice of that pained and angry man has become familiar to me, and therefore in some way interesting, but back then I dismissed it as teenage music, heavy on bass and angst.
Beyond the music, there was the whine of a speedboat in the bay and the small sounds of metal flexing itself on roofs and gutters against the heat of the sun. And something else. It had dropped heavily from one of the trees. My stomach tensed and I leaned back a little as if about to leave, but the light in the avenue quickly shifted, cohered and became muscular. A cat. It stretched and walked towards me, tail high and white fur sprigged with shadow. Then it was gone, gliding through the iron gate, past my legs and out onto the empty street. The combination of the impossible heat of the day, the dappled avenue, the machine-gun music and the white cat, gathered into a feeling I’d had all week: that I was on the cusp of something.