Volcano Child - A YA Novel in Progress by Candy Gourlay


Chapter One
The Other Side of the World

Two weeks ago, Mouse decided to dig his way to London.

It was all my fault I suppose, because I showed him on his basketball how Santa Rosa was almost exactly opposite London on the globe.

“If you dig straight down in our back yard, you'll come out in London ,” I said, demonstrating with a stick.

Mouse hooked his little finger in his mouth and sucked it, the way he did whenever some bright idea occurred to him – like building a den made of mosquito nets or stealing the last ripe papaya of the season from somebody's tree.

He was going to dig, he decided. He was going to dig all the way to the other side of the world and fetch Mother.

Mouse didn't waste any time. He picked a spot and grabbed the spade with the broken handle.

“You be careful,” I joked. “When you break through, all the snow might pour into Santa Rosa !”

Mouse shrugged. “I like snow.”

“You've never seen snow.”

“Mother has seen snow.”

What did Mouse remember of Mother? He was not even three when she took the job in London . But he loved her letters about the other side of the world. The yellow brick houses, stuck together in long rows. The trains that sped through narrow tunnels under the pavements. The two-storey buses that whirled miraculously round tight corners. And the machines! Machines that washed clothes; machines that washed dishes; machines that sucked up the dust on the floor.

In Santa Rosa , none of the concrete and bamboo houses rose higher than the mouldy old parish church, except the bell tower which was so badly cracked by earthquakes it had to be condemned. There weren't any trains. And buses only came through on Saturday, market day, and anyway wheels didn't dare turn quickly on the main road which was cracked by heat and corduroyed with mud. As for fantastical machines – my hands were used to detergent, thank you.

But London was never far from Mouse's mind.

“Are there water buffaloes in London , Isabel?” he asked, one day when he was drawing.

“Maybe,” I replied though Mother never mentioned water buffaloes.

“Is there a volcano?”

“Oh I don't know, Mouse, we should write Mother and ask.”

But Mouse drew the volcano anyway.

Sometimes I wanted to climb into Mouse's pit and dig and dig and dig – dig for as long as it took to tunnel through the earth all the way to London.

I was 13 when Mother left. Old enough to remember the smell of soap on her clothes, the downy pillow of her cheek against mine, and the light tinkle of her laughter. Old enough to remember what it was like to have a mother.

But three years on, I was beginning to forget.


Next chapter: Rumblings

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