Monday, September 22

The Magic Hour

by Oonah V Joslin

‘and then the clock struck midnight and the pumpkin coach became just a pumpkin and the mice, just mice and all her lovely clothes turned to rags as she fled the castle,’

‘except for one glass slipper…’ intoned Peggy sleepily.

‘I’ll read you the rest tomorrow night. Now be a good girl and go to sleep.’

Peggy turned over and imagined midnight magic.

At New Year when she was eight, her mother put her to bed a bit later than usual but staying up so late had made her cross and she argued to stay up later still – ‘til midnight. Her mother said it was only one day to the next so why bother? She might not stay up herself. Midnight would come and go. One minute to…the hour…one minute past, same difference. There was no magic in it. And she ushered her up stairs.

Peggy longed to stay awake until midnight and she tried. She tried. To see that single moment when darkness must surely be darker still, and ghosts could come out of hiding. But she was always so sleepy and watching the clock, now she could tell the time, only soothed her with its tick-tock lullaby and her eyes would shut of their own accord and that magical moment would be lost.

On her tenth birthday, Peggy forced herself to sit awake on her bed. She watched the clock for a few minutes to midnight. Then she slipped out into the summer garden wearing only her nightgown and slippers to see what kind of creature midnight was; and whether things would change.

From the darkness of the hedge, shiny eyes peered out. Peggy stood very still, arms held close about her shivering body. The eyes darted away followed by a stiff tail. Moments later, something else moved across the stones – a toad, perhaps. What if there was a rat? A sudden breeze ruffled the hedge and made a shushing noise like a giant’s hand sweeping across its leaves. Next door’s cats yowled and scrammed and screeched and made her jump. The sound of grunting over by the flower pots drew her gaze. A hedgehog was snuffling for worms. A caravan of snails climbed up brickwork, leaving a moonlight trail. Stars glinted, clouds scudded and the moon shone blue and wide-eyed. Jupiter sparkled brighter than any other point in the sky. Peggy knew about Jupiter. Teacher said Jupiter had a day that lasted only ten hours so Peggy wondered whether it was midnight there too but she couldn’t figure it out. None of them, the animals, plants, stars, seemed to take much notice of the hour. It might have been just any time.

Perhaps mother was right and midnight’s only midnight only by our clocks, - like the big one on the church steeple. But grown-ups like to measure things and then they pretend the things they measure are real, when it’s the Sun and Moon and animals that are real.

And now today was tomorrow and nothing had really happened at midnight. In fact Peggy just wanted to get back to her warm bed and go to sleep.

“Peggy, get in the house at once, you’ll catch your death! Don’t you know it’s after midnight? What are you doing out there anyway? One of these days, the bogey-man’ll get you!”

Bogey man! Adults could be so… silly.

Oonah V Joslin is a newly established writer living in Northumberland. For more information and links to her work, see

No comments: