Closer and closer

She is a parachutist and for her own reasons approaches her family 
reunion from above. Falling, she spies a young girl who looks cool, 
dressed in fluorescent pink bike shorts, hair tied up with a scrunchie, 
which is a sort of mini deflated parachute for the head. It’s a sign, 
the parachutist thinks, that I’m landing in the middle of the right reunion. 
Also she can see a group near a smoky BBQ, waving. The parachutist 
can’t yet confirm that she’s landing in the midst of the right people but 
she likes the look of them, the way they’re starting to part a little so that 
she can land safely amongst them. Please, let them be my family, 
she thinks, because whoever they are, they’re getting closer and closer. 

Listen to Rachel O’Neill read ‘Closer and closer

Early growth

At her party the boy runs best with the hard-boiled egg. During 
the obstacle course she meets him at the bird feeder on top of 
which raisins are scattered. ‘I’m a bird,’ she nibbles and the boy 
really does bob and nod. Later he says, ‘we’re twins, and I can 
telepathically read the thoughts in your head,’ at which point she 
makes a dent in his leg. It’s spring. Sometimes she hears an animal 
cry as it comes out of its tent, or what’s it called? The uterus. It’s 
taken from its mother and put on the teat. After the birthday cake 
the kids run around, they bleat, skitter and find their feet. They 
start to count the exposed growth rings on a tree stump, loops as 
fine as hairs. One father keeps calling these the inseparable years. 

The centre line

She turns at the noise. Riders in dog masks whoosh left and right – 
they show off, skid, and right themselves, looping wide but never 
ceasing to creep back upon her tyres. 
One rider she knows because of the bike – behind the mask there’s 
a girl smiling, the same girl who’d hit on her at a party last summer – 
it’d been humid and they’d clung, tongue-tips budding meat-pink 
between their teeth. 
She turns, but the cyclists are skulking down a side road. In the 
hideout of night she rides with her shadow, trailing one hand in its 
oil and its slips of silence. With her other she grips the handlebar 
and her bike fumbles along the centre line. 


Rachel O’Neill is an artist, writer and occasional editor living in Paekākāriki on the Kāpiti Coast, Aotearoa. Her story ‘The Orienteer’ was Highly Commended in inaugural The Long and the Short of It competition, run by Unity Books/Sport in 2011. Her recent writing appears in Takahe 72JAAM 28Hue and Cry 4Paper Radio, and Turbine 2010. She completed an MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters in 2008.