Shortcuts: Ten with diamonds

Shortcuts: Ten with diamonds

Everything is scary. Like when they talk about global warming. Everybody argues and says different things. At school Miss Scott says if we don’t do something now to stop it, lots of people will die, even cute little babies. She says we’re all responsible, even boys and girls like me, and I keep thinking, But I’m only nine … She says it’ll soon be our problem, whether we like it or not.

Adapted with thanks from an original story by Ingrid Whitehorn

I’M SCARED. EVERYTHING IS sad inside my head. Tomorrow I’m turning 10, and I don’t care. 

People run around. They laugh and play music and talk and do things. And at news time they eat and watch bombs blow everything up on TV. And there are robbers who run into shops with masks on, and they’ve got guns and yell at you to lie down on the floor – “or else!” And there are children who go missing because of ... I don’t know what. 

Sometimes there are happy stories on TV. But maybe not a lot of people know. I tell the kids at school, but some of them say that’s only for babies and old people. Why? I think Damien understands. He’s got sticky-out ears and sea-blue eyes. He saved a baby possum near the tap behind the toilets. It must’ve fallen out of its mother’s pouch. Damien says his mum says he can keep it, but it might die. I hope, I hope, I HOPE it doesn’t. 

Everything is scary. Like when they talk about global warming. Everybody argues and says different things. At school Miss Scott says if we don’t do something now to stop it, lots of people will die, even cute little babies. She says we’re all responsible, even boys and girls like me, and I keep thinking, But I’m only nine … She says it’ll soon be our problem, whether we like it or not.

Dad doesn’t agree with Miss Scott and he tells me a few things. But he uses big words, and I don’t understand exactly. It’s like when he explains maths. He’s a teacher – of grown-ups, not kids, especially kids who’re dumb at horrible maths like me. I’m not sure what Gran thinks about global warming. She gets more upset about drugs and the government and boys with earrings. And she gets really angry when horrible people hurt little kids or animals. Mum doesn’t say much. She just looks sad and tells me not to worry. I try, but I can’t help it.

Yesterday Damien wrote me a letter. He gave it to me and his face was as red as anything and he ran off quick. The letter says, ‘‘Deare Lisa. When we go on the school trip to the plannyterium can I hold your hand. Say yes or no.” I don’t know what to do. 

This is my last night of nine years old. My bed is safe. There’s the light coming in from the passage so I can see if anyone tries to climb in through my window, even though we’ve got Neighbourhood Support. Sean calls me a whimp for feeling scared. I don’t care. Just because he’s got an early morning paper-run he thinks he’s so big. Just because he’s older than me. 

I think I’m going to cry again tonight. My pillow gets all soggy and I have to turn it over. There’s Justin Bieber on the wall, and Princess Meghan from when she wore her wedding dress. I bet they also cried when they were my age. 

Sometimes my head aches so hard. It’s because I’m never going to grow up. Everyone says there’ll be this disaster. When I was small I thought God was real, but I think maybe God is a fairytale like Father Christmas. If he was real, there wouldn’t be so much scary stuff around. At this church camp last year I learned about baby Jesus and poor crucified Christ and to be kind to everybody. 

Why does everybody make up such lies? And what’s going to happen to the world and Mum and Dad and Gran? And Sean? Timmy Johnson’s big brother tried to kill himself. Timmy said it was because he didn’t have a friend and he’s dumb at school. But I bet I know. I bet he tried to kill himself because he also found out about God. 

What’s it like to die? Are your eyes shut or open? Is it all icy cold? I can hear my heart. Me. Lisa. It’s my own special music. I wish …   

Today I’m 10. Everyone is nice to me, and my face is sore from smiling all the time. Melinda came over and gave me a glass ballerina – but she dropped it before she gave it to me, and it broke. She cried when I opened the paper and the pieces fell out. I told her my dad can fix it. Dad can fix anything. 

Then I told her about Damien, and her eyes popped. She promised she wouldn’t tell. This morning Damien kept staring at me. He’s waiting for the yes or no. I’ll tell him tomorrow because I’m still thinking ...
Mum is reading. And Sean is bluffing that he’s doing his homework. And Gran is having a sleep on the veranda. Her mouth is a little round O, and she’s snoring tiny snores like dry leaves blowing. Sean and me, we nearly bust ourselves laughing. But when I’m by myself, it’s not funny. It’s just Gran. I love her. She smells like Mrs Mossop’s garden, and she believes in God. 

Out here is my favourite place under the willow-tree. It’s like a lady leaning over me with long green hair. And there are all the little bits of grass I’m squashing with my tummy. And if I turn on my back and look up I can see blue sky in between the green, and soft little clouds. I sit up and pick a dandelion. If you blow it all in one go your wish comes true. You take a deep breath and ... WISH! 

There’s a magpie on the grass. The sun glistens his feathers. The sun is on everything. I look down. I’m staring into a little flower’s eyes. It’s so pretty I want to cry and dance and laugh all at the same time. Suddenly I’m thinking this thought over and over: Hey! Maybe that story about God is true! 

I jump up. My heart is beating so fast. Everywhere I look I see things all bright and shiny and sort of
singing. I’m so huge inside with this new feeling. It’s warm and sparkly and gentle and strong and bigger than the stars! 

I run up the veranda steps. “Gran?” She jumps and her eyes are squinty in the bright. “I’m sorry, Gran, but I’ve got to know why. Why do you believe in God?” 

She takes my hands in her hands. They have these patterns – blue twisty rivers and little brown spots. They’re bony and gentle. “Because of you,” she says. “I believe because of you and all those I love …”
“But what about all the horrible stuff?’’ Gran stretches out her hand. She moves her finger with the ring on. Slowly. Up and down. “See how the diamond catches the sunlight, Lisa? Now, a piece of charcoal wouldn’t. That’s a lot like people. The sun shines on the charcoal and the diamond, but the diamond is beautiful because it reflects the light.” She smiles. “Always look for diamond people, my angel, and you’ll know for sure there’s a God.” 

“I know,” I say. I’m so sparkly inside I manage to do a pirouette without wobbling. Then I run into the house because I’m just about bursting. I bump into Mum and hug her like mad. “Thank you for my awesome birthday!” I yell. “I’m having the best time!” 

Tomorrow I’ll tell Damien yes. Tomorrow I’ll be 10 years and one day. Pretty soon I’ll be a teenager. “And then God help us!” is what Dad says.

INGRID WHITEHORN WRITES FROM VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA. HER ORIGINAL STORY FIRST APPEARED IN ‘SIGNS’ MAGAZINE. ADAPTED HERE FOR GRAPEVINE WITH THANKS.