Short Stories

Alan has twice been highly commended and published in the Momaya Annual Review, most recently with The Bird Organ (2013).


Pond Life


Robin is urgent with news this morning.

“Dad! There’s not one, not two, but three damselflies hatching! A blue one, a red one and a brown one!”

We’ve been seeing the odd one over the last week or two, each time with a surge of delight: the pond is only two years old but is generating life with reckless abandon. A seething mass of frogs in March, leaving great cumulonimbi of spawn; the burgeoning tangle of water forget-me-not, sedge and duckweed in April; mayflies, jinking on the wind with reassuring punctuality, in May; and today seems to be a big day for damselflies.

We go out for a look, and by the end of the count we’ve seen eleven - no, twelve – no, fourteen damselflies. We often spot the cast off larval cases first, clinging to plant stems enigmatic as brass Buddhas and speaking just as surely of a higher plane of existence. Often the shell is all that’s left, but today, several of the hatchlings are still there. They grasp the upper stem and flex, and grow - their wings need to stretch and stiffen, their translucent bodies to darken into metallic, glinting finery. If we lean in for a closer look, they twist round the stem to hide, watching us suspiciously through those omniscient, multifaceted eyes. It is strange to be regarded thus.

We are also observed, from the bright green duckweed, by three golden-eyed frogs, who are pretending not to be there. We know they’re after the damselflies. They know we know. But it’s not really any of our business, and we don’t want to interfere. We do hope that some of the dazzling little insects can make their escape, but a frog has a right to make a living too, I suppose.

And then, if we wait long enough, the damsels take the air. Some unknown signal passes between them and those glittering wings spread, whir into motion, and they lift on the wind like dandelion seeds. The air is perilous - swifts are shrieking by in the blue above, and it’s only a week since Fergus released a dundering doodlebug from the greenhouse only to have it buzz clumsily into the eager beak of a waiting sparrow. But the damselflies seem blessed with luck today - those we can see make it into the air unaccosted, hang uncertainly over the water for a moment, then drift silently off on their own mysterious paths.

And so an hour can easily pass, absorbed, enthralled, and uncomplicatedly happy.

Contact:  Alan can be contacted for bookings or commissions, at:  48 Catherine Street, Gatehouse of Fleet DG7 2JB   Tel: 07496181254


Copyright © Alan McClure 2015. All Rights Reserved.