31 August 2018
The 2018 John Marsden & Hachette Australia Prize Fiction – Matilda Bolt
Matilda Bolt’s short story The Hawk has been awarded The 2018 John Marsden & Hachette Australia Prize for Young Writers in the category of fiction. Matilda was presented with the award at the 2018 Melbourne Writers Festival at a special event, and wins $500, an exclusive book pack from Hachette Australia and acknowledgement of her winning entry in Express Media’s flagship publication Voiceworks. Read Matilda’s winning story right here.
Subject: Being followed by a hawk
I think I’m being followed by a hawk.
It all started three days ago when a hawk was sitting on the fence outside my house. It was just sitting and staring at me, and it didn’t move at all when I got into my car. Later, when I was at work (which is a mile from my home) I saw the hawk circling over my car. It was the same hawk; it has this white bit on its chest.
Anyway, I saw it on my fence that afternoon and yesterday morning. Then, today at work the hawk was sitting on my car. Just sitting there.
What should I do? Should I feed it? Should I talk to it? Am I being summoned to some kind of life-changing cosmic adventure? Any help would be greatly appreciated, because I don’t know how to deal with being watched like a hawk (haha).
Subject: The Hawk Situation
It’s Sarah again, the girl with the hawk problem. You obviously didn’t get to my last email but I really need your help. Also, you call yourself Magic Margo, and I feel like this is a Magic Margo kind of situation.
The hawk has not gone away. It’s upgraded from the fence down the side of my house to my porch. I didn’t want to walk past it so I slept in my car last night. I woke up this morning and it’s still there, but I know it moved in the night because it has a dead mouse now.
I’m going to talk to it, and I’ll finish this email with what happens.
I talked to the hawk, and maybe I’m going crazy, but it totally knew what I was saying. I asked it what it wanted and it looked at me and I think I am the answer to that question, meaning I think the hawk wants me. This is definitely a Magic Margo situation.
I also asked it if it was hungry, but it shook its head. I realised it ate the mouse.
Anyway, I’m keeping tabs on your pod. Please get back to me soon.
Subject: Keeping you updated on The Hawk Situation
Just thought I’d let you know where we are with the hawk, because things are getting weirder.
The hawk was in my car. I locked my car when I went in to work … I think I locked my car when I went into work, and after I stayed late to finish some copying I unlocked my car and got in and the hawk was riding shotgun.
I don’t know how it got in. It didn’t break in, because all the windows and door handles are intact, and I’m pretty sure I had my keys all day. Maybe Luka from management let it in. He’s had issues with me ever since I told him his Movember moustache made him look like a pimp.
The hawk was fine on the ride home. I let it inside when we arrived, and it’s been pretty chill. I gave it some mince in a bowl, and we sat at the table and ate together. I didn’t have mince, I had leftover microwave lasagne. After dinner, it went outside again, and just sat on the porch. It looked a bit concerned, like it was waiting for something to happen.
Anyway, I really should turn in. The house is freezing, probably because I keep forgetting to turn the heater on and put the blinds down. My big brother used to do that, but he’s not around anymore.
Subject: I figured out What The Hawk Wants
I had a breakthrough today. I remembered, the Hawk understood me that first time I asked it what it wanted, and it said it wanted me. So, I asked the Hawk some questions about its intentions, and I was right, it does want me. It wants me to go somewhere with it. I’m not sure where, I think the Hawk will show me as we go. I called my boss and told him I’m taking a few weeks off as of today, which he was not happy about, and he told me to call my mother or something and then said I should talk to some counsellor he knows, who apparently helped him and his kids with his second divorce. But then I also realised that people who see counsellors have problems, and even though the Hawk is a situation, I don’t think he’s a problem, so I definitely don’t need to see a counsellor.
I swear I’m not crazy. The Hawk is real and he wants me to go somewhere and I’m taking a few weeks off work to go somewhere with him, and I’m not going to see a counsellor or call my mother or put the blinds down at home because that was my brother’s job.
I’ll let you know what happens.
Subject: I Heard Myself On The Podcast!
Thank you for replying! I loved listening to what you had to say, although I promise you I’m not crazy and The Hawk is real and right now, we’re crossing the border (I’m typing this while I’m driving, Margo, we’re surrounded by fields). I think you were right about seeing what The Hawk wanted, but I’ve already done that so you probably should’ve replied to my first email with that advice, and also you were right about The Hawk being special, because he is.
So this is what I know: One, The Hawk definitely has a plan for me, and that plan involves heading West. Two, The Hawk definitely speaks English, maybe even a few other languages (I tested my high school German on him and he followed along pretty well) and he wants to hear what I have to say and he wants to respond, which is more than I can say for everyone else in my life. Three, I’m definitely happier here surrounded by fields with The Hawk than I am in my empty freezing home or when I’m driving past Tommy’s grave every day to go to work with Luka The Pimp (I think he actually is a pimp even though he works for Management) or my Boss who doesn’t know how to do anything with women except give them children they don’t want, which I guess my family can relate to.
And, because The Hawk asked me too, I called my mother and let her know I was going West with The Hawk. She sounded concerned but I think that’s because she’s damaged, and she’s my mother so she worries when I do anything she wouldn’t, and she wants me to have a nice quiet life but unfortunately we were the victims of a tragedy and now I’ll never have that. She said she’ll talk to my father and call me back but my father moved to British Columbia with his secretary and I don’t think he’ll have much to say about this.
Anyway, we’re nearly at the border and I’m itching to jump the line and enter a new space without everyone and everything. Did I mention that my mother moved in with her sister? She couldn’t stay where she made a family because the family was destroyed and if she keeps looking at the carcass, she’s going to destroy herself too, and she knows that no one will care.
Thanks for the reply 🙂
Subject: The Border
So, Margo, we’re across the border. I’d never been across the border so we took lots of detours north and south when we saw cool things on road signs and Margo, it was everything that I imagined and nothing more.
The Hawk has confided in me. He said he’s taking me to the place that he was born, which is in the country. I was born in the country too. My parents moved to the city with my brother and I after I was born so that we’d be raised in a clean safe place free of red dust and poisonous animals, but fat lot of good that did us.
Once we make it through the next few towns we’ll go west along the coast to this place called Penong, on the Nullarbor Plain. I’m nearly singing, I can’t wait to see the Plain and the ocean and the kinds of plants they have growing there. I can imagine myself standing on the Plain and feeling so small and forgotten, which I think will comfort me, because I’m used to feeling too big and too much for everything, like I’m a carnival animal and everyone is prodding me to see if I’ll do a trick or perhaps explode. The Hawk is excited too because by the sea there’ll be lots of birds, and he wants to meet them, to see if he could maybe stay with them away from our mess. I’d be happy to meet the birds too, except I’m not too fond of birds, minus The Hawk because he’s mine, and also if he likes these birds then he’ll stay so he can’t meet them at all.
Oh, I nearly forgot. When you replied to my last email, you said you were worried because I was emailing and driving at the same time. So I thought I’d let you know: The Hawk is driving today.
I heard on the Podcast after my last Email and on the Radio that there are some people in the Police Department who are worried about me. Margo, listen, my Mother knows I’m safe and my Father doesn’t care because he’s in British Columbia banging his Barbie Doll so really, I can go wherever I want and it’s fine. And anyway, I have the hawk with me, and have you seen a hawk? He loves me and he’ll protect me like he used to. Whoever is looking for me needs to Stop.
We stayed in a place called Stormy Bay last night and I gave Him (the hawk) some Fish. I bought it from a shop even though the clerk look really scared of me and I can’t remember if I paid or not. Anyway, He loved the fish. I didn’t because I don’t like Fish, but He told me to eat it so that I didn’t go hungry and so I was strong and see?? He’s taking care of me like He used to and I don’t want the People in the Police Department to ruin it.
We’re very close to Penong, we’re only half a finger South of it on the map and so it’ll be soon that we arrive. I was singing about it before but now I’m very quiet when He mentions it, because now I don’t want to be alone on the Plain, I want to be with Him and I want things to stay as they are now because I’m working again or maybe I want things to go back but of course, I’d be crazy if I thought I could go back in time.
Also He finally told me His name. I don’t remember if I mentioned it yet but I kept asking and He wouldn’t tell, like it was a huge Secret and I’d flip out if He told me, but I didn’t flip out because I’d been looking at his face and his white blonde hair for a week and I knew, his name is Tommy.
Subject: we have arrived
I didn’t remember that I remembered this town. It’s small compared to the city, like most things, but it’s quiet and everything is kind, even the wind, which I think could braid my hair with its fingers if it wanted to. When I walk down the street the sun is on my face and I can smell the ocean and hear birds singing out their songs. It’s beautiful. All the buildings are smaller, and I like it smaller, because I don’t feel huge and cumbersome, but I also don’t feel small and ignored, I feel that I am the perfect size in comparison to all the things around me. In the centre of town are the shops and everyone smiles when you come in and they sell food from the people who live outside Penong, and you can taste that the food is from outside Penong because it’s sweeter and cleaner, and, Margo, I think for the first time in a long time I can actually taste the things that I eat. I keep just stopping in the middle of the footpath and feeling this town seep into my skin, like a warm bath. Or like Tommy has put the heater on.
Tommy and I went to the edge of the town and just stood in the warm air on the earthy red ground and around us, the clouds meandered away and the birds sang and the trees confided in me with their whispers everything that Tommy had been keeping from me, or perhaps that I had been keeping from myself.
We spent several hours out there, and when I turned to go, I was alone. Also, I saw the little speck of a hawk in the sky, swirling with the other birds. I could see the white bit on his chest and he looked happy.