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The Faun

Part-human and part-goat

The Faun

One day, Sarah attended an Open House event in a town near her home. All the local artists exhibited their wares in their front rooms, and it gave an ideal opportunity to purchase art and to spy on other people’s decor. 

Something small. She needed something small: she only had space and cash for that. As she trundled round people’s houses, she saw earrings in the shape of cats, coffee mugs too heavy to lift, paintings of sunsets over the sea.  All very nice in their way. And then she saw it: the very thing, hidden behind a macrame pot-hanger. It was a little pottery faun.

In fairy tales and mythology, fauns are part human and part-goat: they are jolly and witty, wild and untamed, creatures of nature rather than culture, morally ambiguous. But this one was not like that. He seemed malevolent somehow: a sulky expression, head turned aslant, a piercing gaze.  He was a bust, with no arms or legs, but was not classical in any way. He was judgmental, and looked like a meddler. She paid for him, wrapped him up and took him home.

There he stood on Sarah’s desk. His ears stood out like a goat’s, and were a little ragged, showing signs of battles lost and won. She got into the habit of consulting him about the stories she wrote. The advice he gave (in a high fluting voice) was always the same: “go for the dark side”. And so she did. Under his influence, her heroines always came to grief: they lost their lovers through tactlessness. They mislaid their plane tickets, their clothes shrank in an unbecoming way, their idols always turned out to have feet of clay. They got lost in the forest. Perhaps she imagined it, but the little faun seemed to smirk with each fresh disaster. Sarah’s stories were rapidly turning into a catalogue of disasters. Something must be done.

Perhaps she should take a more positive approach, replace her darkness with light, her sourness with honey. It was more difficult than it sounded. A sensible approach might be a gradual one: Eric, or Little by Little. But Sarah’s instincts were always for violence, for a swift cataclysmic change. So she picked up her faun. He was made of clay, and must be returned to his element. She found a large hammer, and smashed her faun to smithereens. She ground the fragments to powder in a pestle and mortar, and blew him away on the wind. She got some fresh clay, and fashioned a flat disc. One side she painted yellow like the sun: the reverse side was silver like the full moon. She mounted it on a piece of wood, and placed it on her desk so that it was easy to turn around. The silver and the gold, the darkness and the light, were now palpably the same. The new stories could now begin.

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