Spared Darlings

They tell writers to "murder your darlings", meaning that you must be willing to sacrifice even the most gorgeous scene for the good of the story.

One learns to be ruthless, but still.
These snippets are the darlings I have spared because they're just too much fun to waste.
We'll share a new one every now and then, and try to be spoiler-free! (Prominent warnings if not.)
But out-takes are always more interesting if you're familiar with the original. Enjoy!


 

 A Different Sparrow

Iveston on the Moor, Dartmoor
Devon, England    

“Well?” snapped the wee, small man. “Are you going to move your great lumbering human foot, or what?"

Sparrow, who was 7, rather thin and not especially lumbering for his size, squatted down to face the tiny being at the edge of the school yard. It seemed to be an old man, of sorts, but no higher than Sparrow’s knee. He was dressed in what might be rags or maybe leaves and burdock root in brown and green, with a hat that was partly leather and partly marsh grass, and a red heron’s feather. His nose was so long and so curved down that it came almost to his chin, which was so long and so curved up that it came almost to his nose. One bright black eye seemed to be trying to look behind him but swung round to match the other, which was glaring up into the boy’s fair English face.

"Sorry,” said Sparrow. “Is my foot in your way?

“Not any more,” said the little man. “Now turn about.”

"Why?”

“None of your business why, human child, but you must turn about. Or close your eyes.”

“Is it a game?” Sparrow asked, because he thought he saw other little figures hiding, popping up, poking, winking at him from behind tufts of grass, a bush, a smallish boulder. If it was a game, he was ready to play.

Though the breeze off the moor sang across his ears, Sparrow was fairly sure that other little voices were sighing and cheering in agreement.

“A game, yes. Close your eyes and count to three.”

   Five!
   Nine!
   Twenty-six!


“All right,” said Sparrow, and closed pale, almost invisible lashes over amber eyes just like his mother’s.

“Closed!”

There came a sound like a door chime.

“One...”

Or maybe like a hand bell shaken just once.

“Two...”

Or maybe like something else completely.

“Three!” Sparrow’s eyes flew open.

The little man was gone, and so was any sign of flowery heads and laughter, except for the children playing behind him in the school yard. Another bell sounded, and it was time to return to class.

They’d be back. He never knew when, but they always came back, either in his dreams or dancing in the corner of his eye. It was the first time he had talked to one directly, and had it talked back!

“Sparrow!” the teacher called. Only his mother and the school doctor called him Dominic. “Did you hear the bell? What were you doing out there, dear?” she added as he trotted toward her, pulling an inhaler from his uniform pocket.

"Playing."

“Did you find something?”

She had spent a whole school year with Dominic Powell-Harper in her class and by now was used to his dreaming off away from the other children. As long as he stayed out of the village lane and the “pixies” didn’t tempt him towards the open moor, there was no harm. He turned to her, beaming.

“It was a pixie, Miss! A real — pixie. I don’t know — which kind.”

The asthma that had put him behind a year in school kicked up when he got excited.

“Now, Sparrow, what did we say about this last time? Wasn’t it a rabbit? Or a mouse?”

“But it was, Miss. Didn’t you — see him? There were — others, but they were — hiding, but this one—he was just like —a wee man and...”

There was no stopping him, even while he had to puff on the inhaler. Well, the term was ending, and he was only seven. By next year it would be dinosaurs or crawly bugs, or something else. Right now she would settle him down till his breathing calmed, settle the other children from their playtime exuberance, and then the next lesson could begin. In no time. everything would ease back to normal.

The raven that had been coasting in lazy spirals over the schoolyard suddenly gave a raucous cry and tumbled out of the air to swoop over Sparrow’s head and then land with blue-black grace on the gate. Awed, the boy turned to stare as the bird cocked a black eye at him and cawed again, in a friendly way. It preened a bit, then as Sparrow disappeared into the building, it flew up to perch on the roof peak as if on guard, eyes bright.