Little Potato Heart

By Kate Sachdev

Once upon a time, in a wide brown land, a little girl was born. Her mother sang sweet half-songs of lost babes until the child feel asleep. The mother stepped out of the house through an old screen door, into the twilight. In the hard earth, under the deepening sky, the mother planted a golden seed. 

The little girl grew and soon her brown plaits hung to her waist. She spent her days chasing her yellow dog, catching yabbies and imagining animals in the clouds as straw caught in her hair.

One day, the little girl followed her yellow dog into the long yellow grass. The dog was so yellow and the grass so long, that she soon lost sight of the dog.  She wandered a dry creek bed calling for him. At a bend in the creek, the little girl spotted the hind legs of her dog. The dog was kicking clay mud out of the bank, his snout and head inside an old yabby hole. The little girl knelt down next to her dog.

The little girl saw something glinting in the mud between the frantic paws. Leaning into her hushing him, she reached in and pulled out her heart. It was golden and small like a new potato. She brushed off the dirt to look at it. Her own reflection and the greenish clouds shone back at her.

After several minutes, the little girl put her heart back into the river bank and filled the hole up with mud, before catching her dog by the collar and walking home.

The little girl grew and grew until her brown plaits reached her knees.

One night, the girl slipped down to the river bank and dug up her heart. It was warm in her hand. Deep orange flecks had appeared in the golden surface. She put the heart inside her jacket, zipped the pocket shut and pulled her lapels tight. She left.

She travelled to many strange and faraway places, her heart zipped in her pocket.

In a hot land that smelt of cardamom and ginger, the girl met a boy. He was brown and shiny and sweet-smelling. He laughed with the girl as they rested against a broken marble wall and drank coconut water. She unzipped her pocket to brush her fingers against her heart.  She followed the boy to a wide blue ocean and onto a boat. As she boarded the boat, gold dust blew from the heart in her pocket into the scented air.

The sea made the girl ill. The boy smoothed back her hair and blew across her hot forehead.

When the boat came to shore, the girl and the boy held hands as they stepped out into the mist. Together, they followed stone streets and climbed mountains. Where first they saw only grey, they began to see purples and yellows and greens, more beautiful than the over-exposed colours of their memories. 

They found a small house on a little plot of cobble and green. The girl felt it was her own.  The house had old windows of retreating glass. The girl watched the rain through the windows. She watched feet scurrying under distorted umbrellas. Sometimes, she took her own umbrella to walk the hills.

One night, she crept outside and pulled her heart from her pocket. It had grown heavy during her travels. She took a flint and chipped off a large piece of the heart. New gold shone in the crack. She buried the chip in the moist dark earth and pulled deep green turf over the top.

Soon, she had her own little girl.

On the night that her baby was born, the girl again crept outside.  Through the window she could see her baby’s pale cheek pressed against her husband’s chest.  As they slept, the girl opened her pocket and pulled out her heart. It was battered and pocked. A small grain of gold fell from one of the potato-heart’s seed eyes. She planted the seed into a crack of earth between two cobbles.

Every night, the girl went outside to water the crack that held her daughter’s heart.

One morning, the girl woke and found that that her husband was preparing to leave, packing their few belongings. As they left, the girl stopped at the ground she had watered each evening. Her husband carried their daughter ahead as the girl knelt to dig. But she found that she couldn’t dig up the heart-seed or the piece of her little potato heart. Her nails scratched and bled on the cobbles. They stuck in the turf.

The new land was concrete and dust. There was no yellow grass and no green turf. The girl stayed indoors. She sang half-songs of her heart and the golden seed. Her daughter grew.

Then, one day, the girl packed her own bags. She packed her daughter’s clothes. The girl and her daughter travelled to many lands, before returning to the one that was wide and brown.

The daughter grew strong in the wide brown land. Soon her hair reached her waist. One day, the girl, who was quite old by this time, followed her daughter through yellow grass. Her daughter’s curls disappeared as she ran into the shadow of an old tree growing out of the creek.

The girl sat down by her daughter, who splashed her feet in the trickle of water. She opened her jacket and unzipped her pocket. Her heart was now tarnished and lined, with strange sprouts at odd angles. She reached the heart down to the creek and washed it in the cool water. It shone brilliant under the rippling surface. She lifted it from the water and turned to dig a small hole in the bank. She placed her heart back into the wide brown earth under the yellow grass and patted the soil down after it.

She turned to her daughter, took her by the hand, and walked back to the house to pack their bags once more.