The bar door is thrown open – it seems an appropriate, dramatic gesture, now they are finally leaving. Connor feels as though it has taken forever to get to this point – he feels a pull behind his belly button towards the open door and pressure in his calves to move, his body throbbing forward. Snow swirls in unremittingly; the outside is inside and Connor is momentarily confused. He doesn’t know
Jackie realises he is hungry: he had not stopped to eat Connor’s stew before stepping out into the snow and stumbling towards Shay’s Bar.
The familiar, empty ache blooms in his stomach like it always does, threaded with a line of panic. Will he eat? Will there ever be food?
Somehow it has been decided that they will leave tonight, even with the snow still falling. When Frank says it will be so, Hettie simply nods and sees the others bow their heads in affirmation. She forgets about the ice splinters in her toes and forgets that her core – that hard centre of her that she always imagines is shaped like a pine cone – has frozen and stuck to her ribs.
No, somehow it has been decided they will set off tonight and those memories of stabbing, awful cold have been wiped away.
And now Hettie finds herself in Angie’s room, above the bar. She is standing at the end of Angie’s unmade bed while the barmaid rummages in a closet, throwing clothes over her shoulder.
Angie breaks the circle first, dropping Gerry the Gin’s hand and turning away. Connor watches and sees the woman appears to be crying. He wonders why and then sees Jackie’s face is wet, too. And Hettie’s, and Gerry’s. He lets go of Jackie’s hand and touches his own cheeks, fingers sliding over damp skin, and he holds them in front of them, astonished.
The atmosphere in the bar changes as the snow-wet bodies step inside. Jackie reveals his face first, wiping away flakes that quickly turn to water in the heat of the place.
His gloves feel sodden; he peels them off, gritting his teeth. They fall with a heavy slap on the floor.
A recent post on Facebook made me think about “wrong” words. The post was really a simple test of observation:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Repost when you find the mitsake
I shared this on Facebook and received comments from friends which invariably included a spelling mistake, e.g. “I found it straight away, we must have gone to a good skool” and “I found it in seccunds”.
Angie doesn’t answer Frank at first, but presses her hands, palm-first, down on the bar. Gerry can see her fight to reign her anger in; Frank is drinking whisky he hasn’t paid for, and that isn’t how it goes in Stokeland. Transactions are conducted; maybe not with money, but exchanges occur. A sack of coke for the fire is swapped for a crate of potatoes, a side of caribou for a set of good winter blankets.
So what does a typical writers’ group look like? I guess it comprises regular meetings and the chance for members to read their current scribblings and then to get a critique from other members.
Certainly that’s how the writers’ group I belong to started, but over time we built some formality into the groups’ workings by
Gerry wakes up with a start, jerking his head upright so forcefully that he feels the bones in his neck grind together. He groans and reaches round to rub the muscles holding his puny head up, feeling whispery skin. When did I become so old? he thinks, fingers catching on cords of hair, hair that has not been cut for longer than he can remember and winds down his back. I used to laugh at men with hair like this, he thinks, remembering a tramp that wandered the village on Skye before the war, frightening the mothers.
His mouth tastes like curdled milk; an empty stub of whisky sits at his elbow. His eyes feel bruised; a sour burp burns in his throat. Next to him is a woman.
It takes them much longer than they all expect, but the snow comes down relentlessly and plays cruel tricks on their feet; a step forward becomes a step sideways, a lurch ahead becomes a staggering fall. More than once, Hettie is helped to her feet by Jackie. Connor holds Ernest’s hand and tugs him on; the man’s gloves on the boy’s fingers and Connor’s now frozen fingers scream his hatred for Frank, a father who couldn’t make sure his