by Paul Humphreys

H e was not the kind of person to invent a word, or so he thought.

Not given to writing, he hadn't read much over the years.

For some reason or other (he didn't know which of those two reasons it could be) fandilay had come into his head, not for the first time.

Some mornings he'd woken with fandilay firmly in place as if it were the only word in his mind to have survived a dream.

After it had happened a couple of times, he went out of his way to write down the word fandilay on a sheet of graph paper taken from his office drawer. He folded the paper and slipped it into his jacket's top-pocket, then, back at home, he placed the paper onto his bedside table and topped it with his alarm clock. He'd check out the word if it cropped up again.

Next morning, nothing.

Nothing, for a week.

The hospital 'phoned early on Sunday morning. His mother had passed away in the night. Peacefully, they said.

In the attic, having cleared most of Mum's things from the house, he found a black metal box. In it, a birthday card from his parents when he was five years old. "To our darling wee boy and fandilay, from mummy and daddy."

It came back to him.

Fandilay was indeed a word he had invented. When he was four.

Somehow, he remembered his mother telling him they couldn't afford a present, so all they could do for now is give him a fantasy present, a gift for his imagination.

His mother said, "Look up to the trees and the sky and imagine. See, up there, it's your fantasy, your fantasy." She pointed to a cumulus cloud. He looked up at it, above the trees, and tried his best to repeat the word his mother had just spoken, but it came out fandilay.

That whole year was his fandilay year.

These last few weeks, a childhood vision had been striving to return. And when he unfolded the graph paper, the word he saw written there smiled back at him, as bright as day.

SEE ALSO by Paul Humphreys:
Effective Notetaking
Young Saint
Why Dexter Wrote Morse

Paul Humphreys is a resident of Kidlington village, Oxfordshire.

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