Saturday 18 June 2022

'Trick of the Eye' by Susan Carey

Peeling layers of paint on the shed wall must have seen many happy summers: toddlers splashing in paddling pools, dads in novelty aprons burning sausages on barbecues.

My sister sits on a leatherette armchair which leans to one side, sinking into the earth. Since we moved house, Toni wears her hair cropped and spiky.

‘The unicorn will look over the stable door like this.’ I trace a rough outline.

‘We can’t afford a stable and a nag with a horn.’

‘It won’t be real, silly. I’ll paint the stable door and the unicorn’s head. A trompe l’oeil. Trick of the eye.’

‘Where did you learn French?’

‘One of Mum’s art books. You can help me paint the scene! Let’s be creative.’ With a kitchen knife I pry open an old paint pot.

‘Sandwich. Short. Picnic.’ She admires her black-varnished fingernails.

‘Mum used to say, let the dreamers dream, doers do, but the best people are dreamers that do.’

A butterfly with spotty wings lands on a molehill at my sister’s feet. Toni has a weird thing about insects, even pretty ones. Raising her Doc Marten boot in the air she gets ready to flatten it.

‘No!’ I lunge at her. ‘Mum loved butterflies!’

‘Get off!’ She shoves me against the shed wall. The wood is so rotten it gives way and I fall flat on my back. Shards of wood splinter and starfish around me.

‘Oh Molls.’ Toni kneels down and strokes my forehead. ‘Are you alright?’

She helps me up and we hold each other as if we’re Velcroed together. The butterfly spirals around us.

‘Little twerp, course we’ll draw a unicorn. It’ll have to be a bit Goth though. What about a black one with a purple mane and green eyes that can pierce right into your soul?’


  1. I love this short story, it takes you right to the scene and you feel the relation between the sisters and the missing of their mum.

    1. Thank you dear! Appreciate hearing your thoughts. I was worried readers wouldn't get it about the absent mum


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