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
It is about nine years ago now that I started writing short fiction, having finally shaken the dust of a working lifetime in education off my boots and resolved to at last give my supposed creative writing urge a chance to sink or swim. When I looked around for help of various kinds, it occurred to me that many of the people and/or organisations offering it
The snow comes, the snow comes, and when Connor follows Jackie out of their little apartment and down the steps to the world outside, he is struck by how smooth and white and clean the earth looks. The carpenter’s rubbish pile, usually a mass of splintered timber or broken pieces of furniture beyond rescue, has been rounded by millions of tiny white flakes, and is no longer a jagged mash of weapons.
There has been much coverage on the TV and radio of World Book Day.
This is something I’m familiar with but don’t really know that much about, so I have been on the World Book Day website to find out a little more. The website quotes, “the main aim of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own.” That alone has to be applauded.
The first thing is the fact that this year’s World Book Day is the 18th year it has been in operation. I thought it was much younger than that.
Jackie comes home. Connor hears him before seeing him, the man’s heavy feet clumping off snow on the stoop of the carpenter’s workshop. Their rooms are above where the carpenter conducts his business; sometimes they hear the whirl of the sander or the crack of splintering timber. They don’t mind the smell of hot wood, pungent as leather, seeping into their home.
Jackie isn’t home and Connor is twisted up inside, though he can’t quite work out why. It’s a rippling, rendering feel in his stomach, and it makes him think of Shawnee, Oklahoma, when the dust came and so, too, the men with pitchforks. Years ago, it happened – he isn’t sure exactly when, just as he can’t remember when they first came north, but Connor remembers Shawnee all right. Jackie had seen the posse first, through a crack in the barn where they’d taken shelter.
Recently, a friend of mine self-published her first novel. The novel was a piece of fiction but also a piece of social history based on the life her family lead in a small village in an English county and the main character’s travels. The main character was drawn from her memories of her grandmother and told of her life from a young girl.
A figure passes the window and Hettie looks up. Night comes early to Stokeland, but the gloom is not so thick that she cannot make out a man’s shape, wrapped up against the cold. Short, stout, bowed legs poking beneath a heavy coat. She can see it is Connor, the fella who is never far from Jackie’s side. Hettie watches Connor make his lumbering way past. She sees how his legs barely hold him and how they buckle outwards, in a way that makes her wince. She wonders how he manages working down the zinc mines, and if Jackie does the lion’s share of the work. She knows they live in town, sharing a couple of rooms above the carpenter’s.
After many years of avoiding the issue and finding excuses I finally bit the bullet, took the plunge, climbed into the saddle, put my best foot forward, hit the road, got on the bus and joined the Figurative Language Society. Actually, that’s a lie, what I did without hesitation, prevarication or deviation is finally join a writers’ group.
To be honest I’ve always had reservations
Ernest sees her before Mrs Naylor and is up, up out of his chair and out of the door, thin arms around her waist. Hettie looks down at him, pleased, but feels an ache as she takes in her son’s white face, hunger hollowing out his cheeks. It is as though his skin is emptying, she thinks, shedding the fat and ripples that children have – should have – so that Ernest seems…oh, not real, somehow.