Gaye Sutton

As well as short stories, Gaye Sutton’s writing includes a novel; But For The Grace (2015) was published by Fraser Books, Masterton. She is an oral storyteller with wide experience overseas and in New Zealand.

I am excited to have Swinging Up A Storm included in takahē. It is a story that arose from a ‘wind experience’ in a different context. Rural life is full of such adventures.

Swinging up a storm

She skipped outside into the sun, the bucket of chook food over her arm. Feeling light, girlish even – not that she was a girl – not after twenty seven years of marriage with two birds flown the coop, but there was something youthful about her English rose complexion and gold-blonde hair, smooth except for an upward flick at the ends which might betray an inner wildness. Feeding the chickens always lightened her mood. 

She tripped down the path – bucket swinging – through the trees, past the neglected ever-faithful swing, across the grass, towards the clucking, pacing, voracious mob. Waiting. 

The day was waiting, hot and still, pregnant with the forecast storm. High winds and rain – they could do with a bit of rain. Humph, forecasters; they were hardly ever accurate. She flung the food towards the waiting mob and watched the cackling chaos of feathers, fight and flight, then turned and walked slowly towards the house, waiting under thunderclouds.

“Poor old swing, no one sits on you anymore.” Something led her to sit and sway gently before setting her legs and body to the task of swinging high. Once started, euphoria took her, higher and higher to meet the oncoming storm.

The first gust caught her, flung her upwards, before it dropped her down, down, into silent calm.   Then, caught again, she was tossed up, up into the air higher than ever before. 

They were allies, she and the wind. Swinging up the storm. “Come on. Come on,” her voice lost in the noise, blown to the heavens as she rode high among whirling leaves, small branches and other debris that had been lying around waiting for life.  

Lightning crackled across the sky, thunder crashed as the wind changed the landscape, sweeping away the familiar. Ripping branches from this tree, uprooting others, tearing the roof from the chook house and flinging it into the sky; a corrugated iron magic carpet on a journey.

And she herself – caught in uncontrollable chaos, hair hanging in ragged wet strings, euphoria turned to fear.  

Eyes shut; she flung herself outwards into space, dodged the flailing swing and ran, arms outspread like wings.