The beggining of the Booker Nominated children’s novel, ‘Johnny and The predatory Rainbow’, by Jeff Rainstick.

Johnny sat at his window, picking the old and peeling paint from the window ledge and looking across the lower field towards North Totter’s Wood. The rooks were returning to their roosts; dropping into the tangle of oaks, with their less than graceful wings outspread. The light was low and the birds were indistinguishable from the tree canopies, except for hundreds of glinting, dark eyes, which fixed on Johnny, anticipating his arrival for the evening’s discussion.

At the same moment – less than a mile to the west – Giant Henry walked towards the cold, northerly face of the granite tor that he called home. Stooping low, under the broken bough of the old beech that protected the entrance, he paused for a moment to consider whether he should put up some more porcelain figurines around the opening, possible garden fairies. Two hours later he continued inside, inwardly cursing his long-dead mother, for planting the seeds of the now fully grown predilection for kitsch, ceramic, figurative ornamentation. On entering the one and only room of his home, and when his eyes adjusted to the dull light of his bottled fireflies, he was somewhat taken aback to see two, unquestionably drunk foxes, sitting at his breakfast table. They seemed to be considering a large plateful of baby rook’s heads. “Hello Giant Henry!”, said the smaller of the two foxes.

When Johnny sneaked out of his bedroom window – avoiding the numerous broken slates, which now only partially filtered the rain that soaked the interior of the cottage – the rooks continued to trace his movements, their eyes piercing the fading light. Johnny always felt that this nightly doubting of his walk to the woods was somewhat unwarranted and that they were unnecessarily observant of his muddy mission; he assumed that it was just a matter of staving off the inevitable boredom that comes from living in a tree. To his left the last of the autumn sun was melting on the horizon and he made a point of walking along the shadow line cast by the scrubby hedgerow, which now stretched halfway across the field. The wind was a gentle south-westerly and it brought the smell of the neighbouring barns, with the soothing mixture of fresh hay and cow shit.

Looking down on Johnny, the rooks twitched and cawed their welcomes. Johnny twitched and cawed in return and as always, the rooks seemed satisfied with this and relaxed into the gentle babble of noise that always preceded the main discussion.

“We saw the colours again today.” The rooks spoke as they always did; as one single body, with a flat tone that reminiscent of a snooker commentary.

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