(Scarecrows was first published on the Thinkerbeat Magazine website April 2016)
Clara stopped to look through the hedge, attracted by the clatter of wooden rattles and loud shouts coming from the field on the other side.
‘What are those boys doing, Mama?’
‘They are scaring crows. Come along, Clara, and do take care not to get mud on your shoes.’
‘It sounds like a jolly game!’
‘They are not playing. They are working. The farmer pays them to keep the birds away. If the birds eat the seed before it has a chance to grow there will be no harvest.’
‘May I do that?’
‘Cavort about with dirty, rough boys? Certainly not!’
Clara walked on deep in thought. She was afraid of the village boys but intrigued by the prospect of being able to earn some money. Mama was poor now that Papa had died, even though he had been a gentleman.
The noise from the crow-scarers suddenly grew louder. Farmer Johnson was riding up the lane. He slowed his horse to a walk as he passed by and doffed his hat, wishing Mama a good morning. Mama only nodded in reply. Clara thought her pink cheeks looked very pretty.
That evening, Mama said she was going to a musical soirée being given by the parson and his wife, so Ethel would put Clara to bed. Ethel was their only servant now and, out of Mama’s hearing, she grumbled that she wasn’t paid to be a nursemaid and had more than enough to do without putting spoilt brats to bed. She pulled Clara’s hair as she brushed it, and told her that if she didn’t go to sleep quickly the goblins would come and take her away.
Clara didn’t believe in goblins. Papa had told her they were only in stories. Even so, she kept her eyes tight shut until she had heard Ethel clump all the way to the bottom of the stairs.
Bored and wide-awake, Clara slipped out of bed and crept to the window. She peeped out through the curtains and saw Mama leaving the house. She thought what a pity it was that Mama still had to dress all in black. It was such a sad colour. Would she ever wear her pretty clothes again?
Mama hurried out through the gate and into the lane, but then she did something very strange. Instead of following the lane down to the parsonage, she turned off along the cart track that led through the fields to the farm.
Clara pressed her face to the window. The light was fading, but surely it wasn’t yet dark enough for Mama to have lost her way. Where could she be going?
Mama walked faster and faster until she started to run. Soon she was running so fast across the field that she had to hold on to her hat, and her cloak flapped out behind her like the wings of a bird. She looked like a big, black crow.
Clara laughed out loud. Scaring crows was fun! She hoped Farmer Johnson would give Mama lots of money.