The ritual

By the side of the well they met by moonlight. In went the frogs, the yellow daisies and cinnamon sticks; round they processed, against sense but in line with expectation, ears pricked for the hollow drop of horseshoe on cracked soil.

He did not come. They waited until the stars were spots on their retinas, until the pink brush of dawn had washed the midnight from flimsy clouds, until the flurries of bats ceded the sky to flutters of birds, until the wisteria shone with silver dew. He did not come.

But he watched them from the only unlit corner.

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The ritual

We shake the tree to make the flowers fall. Its trunk is wide as a ten-man boat; we beat it with sticks to the rhythm of the drum.

The flowers are small and dusty grey. They sink like snow on a cold dry day: slowly and with softness.

The nets are spun from the leaves of the tree: slender grey fronds, strong enough to weave. The flowers cling to them almost exactly like water does not cling to the back of a duck.

We grind the flowers to make the tea by which we see the way through the shadows.