Saturday, 5 November 2011
I received the results for my first TMA a few days ago. Very pleased with my result and the helpful comments/feedback from my tutor.
Pay the Ferryman
Time is short. I don’t know what prompted this thought while I was bent over the vicar’s pocket watch. He had been losing time for a week and I had offered to fix it.
It was as I removed the solid silver case from his hunter that the thought popped unbidden into my head; the surprise took my eyes to the window and it was then I saw the figure of Ebenezer Smith shambling in the moonlight.
Ebenezer was a friend of mine, pals since we both kicked our legs in the same bassinet; we chalked together at the village school, until his Mum could no longer pay the penny a week and he was set to work.
He was a shoemaker and could take the measure of a man with just a glance at his foot; a true craftsman when it came to plates of meat.
The appearance of Ebenezer should have been more shocking than it was and it had occurred that the problem of the errant timepiece coincided with Ebenezer’s last appointment with the vicar.
Ebenezer was a slender reed of a man who could bend to any wind, his singular obsession being time's movement. His hammer tapped out time as he nailed on soles and his customers measured it as they walked in his creations, one step at a time. Time is short was a phrase he frequently uttered.
I moved closer to the window so I could monitor his progress. Unsurprisingly he was dressed in his Sunday-best and was coming from the direction of the churchyard.
His co-ordination had become unpredictable, though his destination was fixed. His determination thrust him forward. Like a clockwork toy in need of oil, he jerked along. He was heading home to Mary Finch.
I could remember the day I’d stood in church when he took Mary Finch to wife. She was always Finch to me; Smith was an appellation of which I never considered her worthy.
She was more carrion crow than dainty songbird; her widow’s weeds a reminder that Ebenezer wasn’t the first to ruffle her feathers. Her beady eye followed him everywhere; she was his tormentor.
Something lurked in Mary Finch. The village couldn’t believe her luck when Ebenezer got down on one knee; the well-informed said she’d cast a spell or some tomfoolery.
She would turn her hand to any task and when the vicar’s cat was in the family way she had turned up with a sack of rocks right at the opportune moment.
Ebenezer had been dead a week, but I had often thought his life ended the day he married Mary Finch. I’d badgered him to sell her on; a fellow in the next county had got three shillings and a gallon of ale for his domestic curse. He’d swatted me like a blowfly; he’d said he’d made his deal.
Like he always said he would dodge the grim reaper; that when death came knocking at his door he would conveniently be out. I never believed him and when I’d stood at his graveside a week ago I’d smiled as I remembered. Time is short.
On the high street he was progressing well and I thrust aside my reluctance to pursue him. He appeared more substantial than I expected. His black frock coat held a liberal dusting of fresh-raked soil and the cold air had discouraged any smell of corruption. I shuddered as I imagined Ebenezer clawing his way up.
His mutton-chop whiskers had continued to grow; that remnant of his youthful colouring stood out stark against his waxy pallor. He was silent as I walked beside him. His eyes were glazed; no recognition there.
I reached for his arm; his lurching ceased and as I faced him his jaw turned slack and over his bloodless lip spilled sandy soil and a few small stones.
For a moment I too failed to breathe; where a coin should have been placed, his mouth had been filled with sand and soil instead. The welfare of my good friend’s soul had mattered not to Mary Finch.
‘Time is short, my friend,’ I whispered as I released him.
Perhaps I imagined his acknowledgement as his shuffling continued. My conscience shrugged off Mary Finch’s peace of mind. Ebenezer had joined the shades awaiting their salvation; destined to forever haunt those who hadn’t loved him enough to pay the ferryman.
Word count 750
Saturday, 8 October 2011
The china doll was an unexpected gift; brought home and thrust into my reluctant hands. Knitted clothes and real human hair; matted and glued on. The blue glass eyes rolled back and forth in her hard cold head; staring at me, her new owner. How many other little girls had received this gift and how many had been scrutinised by those empty, lifeless eyes?
The evening of her arrival she sat watching me, her eyes roamed over my modern world, distant and judging from the far away day of her Victorian creation.
A cloying smell of damp and moth balls hung about her. Despite my protests she accompanied me upstairs that first night. Sitting there at the foot of my bed I could feel her eyes searching for me in the darkness; I couldn’t sleep.
I was told she was worth money; nobody keeps old china dolls anymore. I knew why; I didn’t want her either.
Morning brought the relief of school and escape from her frozen gaze, but I thought about her all day; distracted.
Mum collected me; all she talked about was the china doll. The old lady had found some clothes for her which she had packed in the tiny leather suitcase Mum held in her hand. I could change her into something pretty when I got home.
Mum worked for a lot of old ladies; she went in a few days a week to do their housework. Before I started school I would go with her. Some ladies I liked, especially the one with the pet robin which would sit in the bush by her window and sing all day. Some of them were scary.
I had only met the china doll lady once. She was petite but round. Sparse white hair clung to her head like swansdown; her face dusty from the liberal coating of face powder which she regularly applied with a faded powder puff. But her eyes were the dolls eyes I was sure of it.
When we got home I ran to my bedroom with the scant hope that the doll had left of her own accord, but there she sat waiting. I knew what I had to do; the following day was Wednesday, the day the dustmen came.
I waited until Mum was busy and creeping into the garden I slowly lifted the dustbin lid. The small leather suitcase went in first; then, and not without some enjoyment, I swung the china doll by the leg and launched her in. Her head cracked against the side of the metal bin and a smile of satisfaction spread across my face as I sealed her fate by quietly replacing the dustbin lid. Tomorrow she would be gone.
Wednesday morning came and no one mentioned the china doll. In the safety of school I constantly checked my watch; the bins were emptied at lunchtime. By the afternoon I was confident she had gone and when Mum came to collect me I’d almost forgotten her.
Skipping into the garden I peeped in at my rabbit; his friendly pink eyes blinked back at me. I had some carrots for him in the shed. Swinging the door open I bent to reach for them, but there was something on the floor in front of me. In the gloom I couldn’t quite make out what is was so I pushed at it with my foot; I remembered the day my brother had brought a snake home in a sack. Hissing Sid had lived in the corner of the shed until Dad plucked up the courage to evict him.
I gently kicked at it, testing for any signs of life; listening for the tell-tale hiss of Sid’s return. Horror. Tiny china fingers clawed towards my prodding foot and a small blue eye rolled like a marble before it settled against the bag of carrots and seized me with its accusing glare. Screaming I ran.
Like many A215 students I've taken the plunge and started a writing blog. I recently completed A174 Start Writing Fiction ~ I enjoyed it and passed, but it was my first experience of sharing my writing with others; I still haven't got used to it!
This is my first attempt at freewriting, but I don't think it's random enough. I didn't edit it; this is the way things sort of 'come out'.
That smell reminds me of Nan’s kitchen – green fairy soap, the small green bar in a red plastic soap dish sitting on the window sill and cracked by the sun. The cold floor tiles, scratchy door mat and the ever present pad of cat’s paws. Her wooden chair perched by the fire and a navy pinafore she always seemed to wear. Her ruby red lipstick in a golden tube which she would put on sparingly with a match stick, always in the pocket of her apron and her sigh, always sighing but I never knew why.