A Story for You

I came across a piece of short fiction I wrote in 2012, that I think is kind of fun. In 2012 we still talked about global warming. This is a term I use in the story. I could have changed ‘global warming’ to ‘climate crisis’, but it didn’t fit as well in the story. Here you are, the story in its entirety.

Pixies of Zarfyn

by Eve Barbeau

In Zarfyn, near Toss, the pixies wore no clothes. This was fine in the summertime when the sun lay over them like molten honey, but come the autumn the Pixies began to tremble, and by mid-winter, they’d all gone mad with frost. Something had to be done.

       You may know that pixies can vanish from sight in an instant and reappear somewhere else. What you may not know is that they can’t just pop off to Tahiti where it is warm all the time and the problem of clothes or no clothes would not come up. Some of you may know that a great painter, Gauguin, popped off to Tahiti and you may wonder if he wore clothes. The pixies are sure that he didn’t bother, but people mostly think he did, because what self-respecting European would walk about with no clothes. I mean what would you look at when you talked to them. No, it just couldn’t happen.

       There was no doubt that the Pixies in Zarfyn needed clothes. They weren’t born with clothes on their backs and it wasn’t given them to make their own. They had to earn them. In Toss, a very cultured town, the Pixies had no trouble earning their dress, though they had their own problems. Delicate silk tutus were hardly warmer than no clothes at all. In Zarfyn the trouble was not an effete culture. No, here were sturdy church-going stock who worked hard at industry. The trouble was that the folk could not imagine what they’d have for lunch let alone a pixie. And as you know, Pixies not imagined can’t be seen.

       No respectable human being will imagine a naked pixie if they imagine one at all. The moment you see a pixie you imagine them with at least a pair of trousers or a house dress. That is how pixies get their clothes. They had to get the attention of the humans and once imagined they would surely be dressed. It explained why the things in Toss wore delicate tutus, or artist’s smocks so heavy with daubs of paint that the poor wee pixies were lost in the folds. Painters always wear thick heavy clothes. They suffered in cold drafty garrets for their art and need something to keep them warm enough to move.

       But it is not the pixies in Toss that we are worried about. We know they have their own problems.

       In Zarfyn, which is where our pixies reside, the problem is that no one can imagine a pixie. You and I know that just because we can’t imagine something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. In Zarfyn there existed a large population of pixies and they were cold. Something had to be done.

       On a late afternoon on a Tuesday–it took that long for the poor pixies to thaw enough for them to move–Grandma Pansy called a town council. All the pixies in Zarfyn were to be there or be square. (It is truly frightening what imagination can do. Please, whatever you do, don’t imagine a square pixie). Everyone came though there were some late stragglers who had somehow found themselves in the shade, so their thawing process was slowed.

       “Pixies of Zarfyn,” said Grandma Pansy, “something has to be done.”

       All the pixies groaned. They had heard this speech many times before. Most of the time they were all frozen up before the speech ended and nothing at all got done.

       “Shush,” said Grandma Pansy, “I know you have had enough of, “something has to be done”, speeches. We hear far too many of them. Remember the Biguns have them too. You’ve heard the speeches coming from the boxes they watch all day long. Something must be done about greenhouse gases. Something must be done about global warming…” Grandma Pansy digressed.

       “I dearly hope the global warming comes soon,” muttered Purslane, whose fingers were still tingling from the retreating frost.

       Purslane’s usual luck held, and Grandma Pansy heard him. “Purslane come on up here. You have a brave mouth. Maybe we can match the rest of you up to the mouth of yours.”

       “Ah, Granny. I was just saying it would be a fine thing if the global warming came to Zarfyn.”

       Grandma Pansy nodded. “It would seem to be an answer to our prayers son, but the Biguns are awfully worried about the warming. It sounds like a fearsome thing.  No, Purslane, what we want to be doing is to get the attention of the Biguns, any one of them at all and get them to imagine a pixie in warm woolen underwear-red maybe, with long sleeves and a trap door…” Here Grandma Pansy got side-tracked in a Rhapsody too long underwear. She shook her head. Pixies had no trouble imagining, but imagination would not warm them. “So, I was thinking. You know the mill owner’s boy, the pale skinny one, not the other with a head as thick as an oak tree. I’ve seen that little Bigun sitting by himself with a dreaming look on his face. Could be that boy has the imagination we need.”

       Purslane groaned.

       “That boy is half daft,” said Parsley who was standing beside Purslane. “If he’s dreaming anything at all, it is about how to get rid of his knot-head brother.”

       “Shh,” whispered Purslane, “not so loud. Granny’s, sure enough, gonna make us stand guard outside if we keep testing her.”

       “Parsley,” said Grandma Pansy, “have you got something to get off your chest?”

       “No, ma’am.” Parsley stepped behind Purslane.

       “Why don’t you and Purslane come-on up beside me here. I have a plan and you can help me.”

       Purslane grimaced and marched forward to stand beside Grandma Pansy. Granny might have a plan, but if it included that milk faced Bigun boy it was doomed to failure. He’d seen that boy staring off into space many times. He doubted that boy was contemplating anything much, whether in the world or behind his eyes. Purslane was wrong.

       Parsley shuffled up to stand beside him. Damn Parsley, his retiring nature was a pain. Always the last to offer, always so little to offer. Still, he knew Parsley had big dreams. Parsley longed to step up and be a hero. Trouble was, he was too shy to make it happen. Purslane didn’t give a damn about being a hero. In his mind, he already was one.

       Grandma Pansy looked the boys over. Funny, wasn’t it, that whatever you believed you were was indeed what you were. ‘Course, sometimes, just sometimes, things happen in such a way that what you thought you were changed. Parsley could do with some new thinking about himself. A little change wouldn’t go amiss for Purslane either.

       Grandma Pansy looked at her people, blue with cold, huddled together, teeth chattering. The babes were wailing. It was a terrible sight and she could not let it go on any longer. She pressed her lips tight together and thought of all the other times she’d sent an envoy of pixies to some Bigun or other hoping to dredge up just a little imagination, just enough that one of them could glimpse a pixie. Biguns always wore clothes—well maybe not when they washed or played hanky-panky, but the Biguns even played hanky-panky with most of their clothes on. They were not the kind to lie around and enjoy their nakedness. Which for her purposes was a good thing. If Purslane and Parsley could get that boy to believe in pixies, they would have a good chance of having warm clothes.

       “What I want you boys to do is find that skinny Bigun boy and I want you to get him seeing pixies. And, for goodness sake, make sure he thinks you are wearing warm clothes. Go now, while the sun is still up. You know it will be impossible when evening comes. The old ones and the babes cannot handle the cold much longer.”

       “Aye, Granny,” said Purslane, “but what would you have us do? We’ve been sending out parties of pixies for years and not once have we found one Bigun who could imagine a pixie. These people aren’t dreamers Granny. These Biguns are all doers.”

       “Would you rather go to Toss, Purslane, where there are no doers and most of the dreaming is about pink tutus? We got to keep trying and I think we have a good chance with this white-faced boy.”

       That white-faced boy was the second son of Boswell the plumber. Boswell had two sons, one was as big and dull as Boswell himself, and the other was Richard. Richard spent long hours hiding away from his big brother Harry, reading books and dreaming about naked women. You see Richard was fourteen and when you are a fourteen-year-old boy, naked is awfully interesting.

       So, when Purslane and Parsley found him behind the short wall in the garden, picking his nose and staring into space, they caught him at the exact moment that his mind was weak with dreaming.

       “Hey, Bigun! Hey, look at us!” Purslane yelled, jumping up and down and waving his arms. He elbowed Parsley. “Come on, we’re supposed to get his attention.”

       Parsley looked doubtful, but if Purslane said to jump, Parsley jumped. He bounced up and down, waving his arms in the air, shouting at the top of his lungs.

       Richard took no notice of them at all. He just kept staring off into the distance while spiders spun webs between his feet and flies buzzed around his head.

       Hoarse from shouting, Purslane waved his arms harder, so hard that he fell off the fence, just as a particularly large fly lit on Richard’s nose.

       Richard’s eyes crossed and lost their glazed look. He swiped at the fly nearly knocking himself silly.

       “Hey, you ugly, Bigun. See us!” Purslane said as he landed at Richard’s feet. “By God, Parsley, look at him. I don’t think he has a brain in his head. Grandma Pansy is daft from the cold. Whatever made her think this one had a speck of imag—” Purslane broke off to bite Richard’s toe, hard.


       Richard swiped again and this time he caught Purslane in his pale clammy hand.”

       “Huh?” said Richard, a big question swelled in his head, but before he could think another thought he began to scream.

       “Put me down, you knucklehead,” yelled Purslane.

       “He sees us! He sees us!” shouted Parsley.

       “Whaa, Whaa!” cried Richard.

       Together they made a terrible din.

       At last, Parsley could stand it no more. Purslane wasn’t listening to him, nobody was listening to him, so he scrambled up on Richard’s arm, holding tight on his sleeve even though Richard tried to shake him off. When he reached the bigun’s shoulder he marched across it, lifted the lank strands of hair away from the ear and shouted. “Do you see us, Bigun?”

       The sound roared in Richard’s ear like a train in an empty tunnel. He dropped Purslane and clapped his hands over his ears, inadvertently knocking Parsley into his lap. He shut his eyes tight. When he opened them again Parsley was standing on, a rather delicate part of his anatomy up shouting at him while he bounced.

       “Who are youse guys?”

       “Are you daft boy? Can’t you see we’re Pixies?” shouted Purslane bouncing up and down.

       “Oww, oww, oww! Don’t you be doing that,” Richard caught the pixies by the backs of their long red woolen underwear and set them on his knees.

       Seems Grandma Pansy was right, and Richard could, indeed, imagine. It took a while, to be sure, but before the winter truly settled in each and every Pixie in Zarfyn had warm clothes.

And that is how the pixies of Zarfyn finally got their clothes. In time, the global warming did come, and they found that the long red woolen underwear was very itchy in the humid heat. They began to envy the Pixies in Toss, but that is the problem for another story.

Memory and Thought

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I’ve been spending some time working on my altered book, as well as writing and painting. Gardening has temporarily been put on hold because the weather has turned cool. There is a promise of snow every now and than, but so far we’ve missed it. It’s  dry, dry, dry. We could use some rain. I’d even take the snow if it meant a bit of moisture.

Above are some of the Altered Book pages I’ve been working on. I made a digitial drawing of the ravens a while ago, and then I read Book Two, Child of Dragon’s in the Leather Tales series by Regine Haensel. In this book, Regine features two ravens name Thought, Memory. I love that, and though my ravens don’t have names, it’s nice to think about thought and memory and where they intersect and change each other.

The leafed garland is a scan of an engraving by Maria Sibylla Merian, a 17th Century naturalist, entomologist and artist. She did some amazing work.

You can find Regine’s books here, and read about Maria Sibylla Merian here and here.


After Holiday Energy

sm Altered Book a-bsm Altered Book c-d

I had a lovely holiday. Central California was cooler than normal but a whole lot warmer than the -30 C we’ve had in Saskatchewan for weeks and weeks. There are mutterings that this has been the coldest winter, here, in 80 years. Maybe it is, but it always feels that way in February.

After getting over some initial travel exhaustion I was excited to get back to my work. I started with a few more altered book pages. And today, I got back to revising my time travel novel, The Chronos Project.

While I was away, we visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I was delighted to see some brilliant work. It made me want to paint large again. Will I? We’ll see. For the next week, I suspect I’ll continue with my sketchbook work.

Large paintings make a big impact, especially on huge white gallery walls, but there’s a lot to like about small paintings. They create a feeling of intimacy I like. I suspect that small works are considered ‘Women’s’ work, and that’s okay. It’s well past time to look at women’s work more carefully.

Making Poetry When You Havent a Clue


I’m sorry to leave you with so little today, but I’m about to leave the frozen north and I have very little time to write.

I want to you know that I haven’t a clue how to write poetry, but I do know that a certain ambiguity and wonderful words are part of it. This week I created another altered book page, and I “Austin Kleon’d” it. Austin Kleon is a young writer who, among other things, writes poetry by redacting newspaper or magazine articles. Look him up. He’s a very wise young man.

Lord Johnnie, the adventure novel I’m altering was published in 1949. The language is florid in comparison to our current tastes, and somehow I ended up with this rather dark bit of writing. Since the images I’ve made have taken on a dark tone, I decided to go with it.

A Monday Sort of Girl

Raven Girl2
Raven Girl, 2019 ink, digital print on altered book.

It’s c-c-c-old! It’s ‘extreme temperature’ warnings cold. When I start the car this morning, every warning light cames on: check engine, brakes warning (!), others… My away mission is necessarily cancelled. I should mind. I don’t. Did I mention it’s cold?

In truth, I’m being a baby. It is cold, but I’ve lived in the middle of Canada my whole life and it’s been colder. This is an area of temperature extremes. It can be +40 Celsius in summer and -40 Celsius in the winter. Today, it’s only -28 C. Could be worse.

Above are another two pages from my altered book. I drew the picture of the little girl and the ravens from a photo reference. Do you know the covers of Ransom Rigg’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? They’re amazing, and just a little bit creepy. I wanted that kind of feel.

This is a digital drawing. (I use an opensource software called Krita (which is amazing) and a Huion display drawing tablet.(also amazing)), I then printed the drawing on mat photo paper.

To prepare the book page I used a mixture of Higgens sepia ink and Liquitex permanent black ink to cover the print part of the book. Then with glue, more ink, and a terrific Jelly Roll gel pen, in gold, I put it all together. Some things came out as expected. Some didn’t, but the accidents were happy ones. When I put glue on the back of my digital print, it dampened the front of the image enough to turn the sepia tone green. It works. I’ll take it.

The raven girl is pretty stoic looking in her strangeness. Me too, pretty stoic. It doesn’t stop me thinking of plants and gardens though. So I finished the weekend off with this:

Garden, 2019, ink on paper. Sketchbook art



The Effort

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Last week I talked about looking, seeing and inspiration. I offered you a video on the art of Anne Bachelier. If you watched the video, you’ll hear her talk about her interest in illuminated manuscripts and she shows us a book that she has ‘illuminated’.

I find all her art fascinating. Her facility with oil paint is astonishing, but the part that inspired me most were the grittier works in the book she made.

I don’t know what sort of book Anne used. But my instinct was take an old book from my book shelves. My husband’s Grandfather used to buy boxes  of stuff at farm auctions that held all the things the auctioneer expected no one wanted. Often these boxes held books and the books were passed on to us. We both have a hard time throwing out books.

Lord Johnnie by Leslie T. White was published in 1949. The paper is pulp and fairly thin. I have no idea what the story is about. The cover has an embossed sword on it. Here’s a bit from its pages:

“I fear, sir, there is some mistake,” she said fridgidly. “I recall no cousin who–“

Abruptly her yes widened. She opened her mouth to scream, then stifled the outburst with her fan.

“Control yourself, madame! warned Johnnie. “A scene will be fatal!”

I’ve since found that painting in already published books is not my own invention. It’s a thing. If you Google Altered Books you’ll find images and how tos.

I learned some excellent things in creating art in someone else’s book.

  1. Because the paper isn’t pristine, it’s easier to make your first marks and be less precious about the drawing.
  2. Because text covers much of the page, you end up using the whole page for your composition.
  3. Though I haven’t read any more of the story in than what you see above, I found my images seemed to imply a narrative.

I suppose, if I had planned better, I could have chosen a theme and made the narrative clearer. I’m glad I didn’t, because as you can see from the work on this blog I liked to change things up.

The mediums I used were Golden Heavy Body Gel (as my glue), Golden Acrylic Gesso, various inks, pencil crayon, tissue paper and other collage elements, and gel pens. The figure with the wings was drawn digitally, printed and painted with coloured pencil and watercolour.

I needed a poem about ravens, and couldn’t find one that felt right, so I wrote my own.



hunched in our tattered funeral array, we watch.


the itch in her wings will lift her up.


scuttles her prey.