Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman

"...Nobody came to my seventh birthday party.
There was a table laid with jellies and trifles, with a party hat beside each place and a birthday cake with seven candles on it in the centre of the table. The cake had a book drawn on it, in icing. My mother, who had organised the party, told me that the lady at the bakery said that they had never put a book on a birthday cake before, and that mostly for boys it was footballs and spaceships. I was their first book..."

"...I sat on my bed and stared out of the window. My bed was pushed up hard against the wall just below the window. I loved to sleep with the window open. Rainy nights where the best of all: I would open the window and put my head on my pillow and close my eyes and feel the wind on my face and listen to the trees sway and creak. There would be raindrops blown on to my face, too, if I was lucky, and I would imagine that I was in my boat on the ocean and that it was swaying with the swell of the sea. I did not imagine that I was a pirate, or that I was going anywhere. I was just on my boat..."

"...She shook her head, and together we walked up the winding flinty lane that led to my house and to the thing who called herself Ursula Monkton. I carried the brown paper bag with my nightwear in it, and Lettie carried her too-big-for-her raffia shopping bag, filled with broken toys which she had obtained in exchange for a mandrake that screamed, and shadows dissolved in vinegar..."

"...The currents of the ocean pulled at my hair and my clothes like summer breezes. I was no longer cold and I knew everything and I was not hungry and the whole big, complicated world was simple and graspable and easy to unlock. I would stay here for the rest of time in the ocean which was the universe which was the soul which was all that mattered. I would stay here forever..."

"...At night she would wait beneath the bed until the lights were turned out, then she would accommodate herself on the pillow beside me, grooming my hair and purring, so quietly as never to disturb my sister.
I would fall asleep with my face pressed into her fur, while her deep electrical purr vibrated softly against my cheek.
She had such unusual eyes. They made me think of the seaside, and so I called her Ocean, and could not have told you why..."

"...There's a Terry Pratchett poem that he wrote in an anthology that I co-edited a long time ago which begins 'They don't teach you the facts of death, your Mum and Dad. They give you pets.' And, actually, it's true. For many of us, pets are the way we initially discover death and the heartbreak of death. And we have to discover it. We encounter it, learn how to live with it, learn how to survive it. And that, in some horrible way, is what pets are for.

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