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  • Gary Clarke

Where The Unicorns Live

The only thing Polly wanted for Christmas was a unicorn. She wouldn’t settle for anything less. Uncle Frank wouldn’t let her down. She knew that he would be back soon. He left a long time ago.

The day he left was odd. Everyone had come to her house. They all looked sad. Frank had packed to go away, and all his stuff was neatly stacked by the front door: a small pack topped with a strange metal hat, a bag full of green clothes and a big metal thing called a ‘ryfal’. She looked inside, he had only a few tins, pictures of the family and some letters. Polly thought that it was silly stuff to take on a holiday.

She’d wiggled into the bag. She was going to go with him– this would be her first holiday. She thought she had done a good job, but forgot that bags don’t have shoes poking out of them. When mum found her, Uncle Frank sat her down.

‘I have to go on my own,’ he said, stroking her hair.

‘ Why?’

‘I will be camping a lot. I know you won’t like it.’

‘I will,’ she wailed, stamping her feet on the floor in protest.

‘You won’t like the food either,’ he said as he rummaged through his bag, producing a small piece of dry-looking fruitcake.

‘Looks horrid,’ she said.

‘It is special food. To help me with my new job,’ he replied with a smile.

‘What job?’

He told her that he was starting a new job as a rare animal finder. He was looking for a thing called a unicorn. He told her that they used to live in the fens and highlands around the village. He told her how they made everyone happy and kinder.

‘When unicorns are around,’ he said ‘no one cries. They scare away all the bogeymen and nightmares. They make everyone get along.’

‘Why did they go?’

‘They don’t like it when people are upset, so they went to a place where lots of people are hurt. They want to help the people get better, and I am going to help them.

‘Will you bring one back for me?’

‘If I can find one, I will.’

That settled it. She was getting a unicorn for Christmas. He left later that evening with lots of other people dressed in the same queer green suits.

He was not back for Christmas. He sent her postcards sometimes. He said that lots of people had joined him on his trip from all over the world. He was having many adventures - he helped Santa make all the toys for Christmas; he had met the Easter bunny too.

She spent most of her time thinking about her unicorn: what she would name it, where it would live and what she would feed it. She wanted to keep it in her room, but mum said no. She would find a way through.

It was a sunny day when the telegram came. Thomas, the butcher’s boy, brought it on his little black bike. Polly rushed to the door but was stopped by her mother who met him at the bottom of the garden. She spoke to him for a few minutes and came in with a small cream telegram trimmed in black.

‘Polly. It is Fra-. Uncle Frank. He got lost on his trip.’

‘ Will he be back soon?’

‘I don’t think so.’

Her mum told her, after a lot of questions, that he had gotten lost in a place called France. Polly sat for a bit thinking about the strange place across the sea. He had got lost in a place where lots of people got lost.

‘Mumma, ’Polly asked. ‘Is that where the unicorns live?’

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Somme is where the unicorns live.’

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