Gone Lawn
a journal of word-things
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Gone Lawn 54
worm moon, 2024

Featured artwork, Capitol Reef Wash, by Kathleen Frank

new works

Paul Thompson

The Sleeping Ones

We prepare for hibernation. The adults are busy with their final chores. Everything checked and secured, before double-checking again.
Belt and braces, they say.
We help where we can, by tidying our rooms and plumping our beds. The youngest children do the most important job — arranging feathers on the floor, around our beds in protective circles. They do so in silence, understanding both ritual and responsibility.
Dusk is our deadline, when everyone gathers in the dunes, around the poorwill statue. It watches the ocean, peeling and windswept, sunken eyes and blunted beak. A cloak of feathers flapping around its neck, clapping with the storm.
We sing the songs of old, the songs of the town. Everyone holding hands, with thick gloves and swollen fingers. Prayers then said for a peaceful sleep. Final goodbyes and the promise of reunions in the spring.
The elders, the traditionalists, hibernate beneath the stars. Across the scrub they hunker down in human sized nests. We tuck them in, kiss their foreheads, layer them in moss and feathers, leave them to the lullabies of the tide.
Our parents take us home, across the grasslands, plumes of insects in our wake. We put the animals to sleep, with ragged blankets and strokes of their spine. Our metabolism is slowing, our bodies shutting down. Everything takes effort — locking the door, closing the shutters, maintaining our chatter.
It is torpor, our parents say, like the nightjar, the sleeping one.
We pull ourselves upstairs, grating our stomachs on the wooden steps, leaving slugs' trails of skin. The younger children cry, scared by the tales of those who wait in the dark. The Mañana man. The Clipped Crow. The Wide-Awake-Shadow. Our parents, mindful of the feathers, tiptoe across the room in large strides.
We are all over-tired, they say, stroking our foreheads, even us adults, this is why we need our rest.
They leave us to sleep. Blow out the candles with precious remaining breath. Wrap us up tight, as the dark snuggles close.


We wake from hibernation.
Our winter weight is heavy and still with us. Darkness is close by. A stiffness of limbs and aching mouths. Sticky eyes. Something is wrong. We have woken too early, in the unwelcome winter. It feels like sickness, a blur in our heads. A noise from downstairs — muffles, murmurs, music — remnants of our dreams alive in our world.
A loud noise from outside. The younger children cry out; terrified Mañana man is here, to take them into tomorrow, away from their family.
These are just stories, we say, to keep us afraid through the winter, to keep us in our beds.
We fall to the floor, illuminated in colour, movements slow in the flicker. Through the bedroom window — an electric sky. Fireworks on the beach. Oily clouds. Vehicles racing. Fires burning. Grown-ups everywhere, wide awake. Some dancing on the lawn. Naked couples running through the gardens.
We seek comfort, arms outstretched, holding hands as we edge downstairs. The air is smoke and noise, with music we recognise. A song that goes, lawns grow plush in the hinterlands, a favourite of our parents. Giant birds dancing in the front room. Cloaks and plastic beaks. Clumsy wings and stumbling steps.
A scream when our mother sees us. She wears a cape of brown and white feathers, dirty looking, fraying at the base. In one hand a drink, the other hand a pipe. She hugs us all under clipped wings, far too tight, smelling of perfume and weekend drinks.
You're still asleep, she says. This is a dream. You are dreaming.
She sweeps us back upstairs, sharp fingers like claws, helped by the flock of guests. They squawk adult words; faces speckled with makeup, mouths hidden by a surplus of fat.
Outstretched wings, ushering us back.
Shush, they caw, Shush.
They lift us in pairs, placing us down like wreaths, into our beds where they stroke our foreheads and call for our mother. She comes to us in turn, coughing up brightly coloured sweets, dropping them into our mouths from her own, helping her chicks survive the nightmare of winter.

Paul is from Sheffield, UK. His stories have appeared in Milk Candy Review, Okay Donkey, Ellipsis Zine and Janus Literary. Website: hombrehompson.com