The understudy


My monkeys have been teaching me
a rock dance
(says Ruby).

I am going to make the costume
a bit big
in case I am sick.

If I was sick
you could paint your face
and pretend to be me.

You could change your voice
into a beautiful voice
like mine.

I will teach you the moves.
Just bend your knees a bit.
You have to bend your knees anyway!

You can take my replacement.
The costume might be a bit small
but I promise it will fit you comfortably.


Rachel McAlpine

Advice and coaching from Ruby, aged 5

Healthy Things


I should never be sick
’cause we have Healthy Things
(says Ruby).

They’re little tiny small things
and they’re a lion. Here, I’ll draw one for you.
There are arrows pointing to their tummy,
with skin dots, pale, very hard to see.

You should always have one a day
so you don’t get sick.
Well, I’ve got the hiccups inside my tummy
so I should have had more.

They taste like — how can I describe it?
Say you were cooking a Healthy Thing
and you just needed two ingredients:
an orange and some salt.

You squeeze out the juice and mix it up,
pour it into a salt bowl
and it turns into a a Healthy Thing.
Hm, how can I describe it?

It tastes like lemon with sour salt.
They’re called Healthy Things
because they’re Healthy
and because they’re Things.


Rachel McAlpine

Advice from Ruby, aged 4 or 5

The game of one cat, one kitten


We’re going to play
the game of one cat one kitten
(says Ruby).

You’ll need to be
a lot of characters,
because Gloria won’t understand.

You’ll have to be my Mum.
I’ll say, can I learn how to cook?
And you’ll teach me.

And I’ll run away
because the Mum’s food is yukky
— we won’t say gross.

You pretend to lie on the road
and be a kitten.
I find you and make you my pet.

The more time you spend writing this down,
the less time we have
to play the game.


Rachel McAlpine
Game invented by Ruby, aged 4 or 5

Problem solving


Why do you not like her?
(says Ruby).
She used to not like you
but now you don’t like her.

She used to problem solve.
Her powers helped her problem solve.
But she gave her powers
to her friends.

Whenever they want to play
with barbies, “Pooh!
We don’t want to play with you,
bogey girl!”

Kyoko and our babies
used to problem solve.
They say, “Bake me. Bake me.
Eat me if you can.”


Rachel McAlpine

From a story told by Ruby, aged 4 or 5 or 6

You want to breathe


You sometimes feel like breathing
but it’s best not to
(says Ruby).

Once you start breathing,
you have to keep going
and your throat just gets sore.

If that happens, there are two things
you can do. The first thing is,
you can have a drink of water
and it goes away and it’s perfect again.

The second thing you can do to fix it
is, you can go “Aahaa, aahaa”.
I’m the only person
who goes “Aahaa, aahaa”.

I hardly even breathe, ever.
Just now and then, like this.


Rachel McAlpine

From a conversation with Ruby, aged 4 or 5

You’re tired


You’re tired
(says Ruby)
so it’s good we’re playing

something entiring
and something
not entiring.

I tell you what to do:
make some dolls’ clothes.
That’s entiring.

And then I go home
and you have a wee rest
when I’m not here.


Rachel McAlpine

From a conversation with Ruby, aged 4

Survival kit


Being alive involves
a certain quantity of losing,
maybe six per cent.

Ships planes and
hospital beds, letters
from head office and
blunders all contribute.

The soul travelling
looks for a cloud
and even in the sea
dehydration is
the greatest danger.

The wise provide
for such emergencies.

Knowing a friend may leave
at any time they hoard food
and water, especially water,
and bandage up the heart in advance.

This way they can afford to cry.
Which is right and proper
and the heart does not leak
and they say Yes, yes
I am saved, I have not shrivelled.

Good, good we all understand—
except for how and why at times
a person cries
from the opposite of losing,
from a kind of overflow.


Rachel McAlpine