‘Imaginary Friends’ by Laura Hird

Rebel Inc was so exciting: Warner! Legge! Welsh! Trocchi! Fante! And taking her place with these bad boys was Laura Hird. Laura Hird! ‘Imaginary Friends’ is an account of a young girl and her piano teacher, Mr Patterson. Mr Patterson is a magician of sorts, a low-rent Prospero with a dog called Caliban, and he talks of the magical kingdom of Blackpool while using tricks and disappearing potions to manipulate a child. The narrative from the girl’s point of view maintains her unquestioning wonder and delight – “Why couldn’t she run away with him and Caliban and be his magician’s assistant and have him stick swords through her and then say, ‘Only kidding!’” – but when Mr Patterson vanishes for real, the reader feels huge relief. Yet the girl still maintains her belief in his magic. Hird presents a robust innocence.

First appeared in Chapman, 1996. Collected in Nail and other stories, Rebel Inc, 1999