Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Just a snippet (comments welcome)

I thought I'd post the occasional excerpt from unpublished pieces.  It could be part of a work in progress or a snippet from one of the many 'ideas' I have for my next book.  Friends is the result of something my mother told me about the farm she grew up on in Shropshire in the 1930s.  It's also inspired by the feelings I have for friends I used to know and have lost contact with.  I've experimented with leaving out speech marks.  Hope you like it.


'Dear Charlie'.  No.  'Dear Charlotte'. No. 'Hi Charlie'.  Maybe.

Two o'clock.  The afternoon seemed hollow.  The washing machine noise irritated her.  If she switched it off, what else would she hear?

Hi Charlie,

It's been a long time.  I was wondering how you were.


Charlie, with red hair and eyes too big for her face.  Blue. She smelled of wood smoke and had dirt under her fingernails.  A fine seam of earth from potato picking, or stacking vegetables.

Dear Charlie,

I've been thinking of you.

The last time she'd seen Charlie was the day she'd left the farm.  There, in the corner of the open barn,the old trap stood, empty.  On the wall, the harness hung from a thick spike like an ornament, never to be attached to the pony and ridden down to the fields, carrying picnic baskets and flasks of cold orange squash.  Even at the last moment, she had hoped for a reprieve.  A miracle to give Charlie back her home.  But the van was filling up and Mrs. Churchyard was sweeping the kitchen, moving towards the door and finally propping the broom against the pale yellow stone wall.

Charlie ferried boxes and looked across the yard at her friend.

Dear Charlie,

I'm sending this to your aunt's address.

The fields on a summer's day were cut like butter into the land.  Like butter.  The corn fell and was collected by machine, with workers following behind and picking up the scattered heads that had gone astray.  At midday, Charlie said, come on! and laughed.  Charlie had known what to do.  There she stood, heaving the baskets and the boxes of fruit onto the cart, bringing the pony from the stables and slipping on it's harness.  I'm going down to the cows.  There's one not happy, said Mr. Churchyard, striding out in boots undone, tucking in his shirt. Bound to be the hornets, I should say.  Afternoon Jude, he called.  Having fun?  I nodded.

Dear Charlie,

We had some good times on the farm, didn't we?

He squeezes them. Said Charlie.  They burrow down into the cow's skin and can't be seen, but Dad finds them and pinches them.  They shoot out and drop down.  Mostly dead.  If not, he puts his boot on them.  Let's go.

She drove the cart.  I sat beside her.  Rocking, our heads full of horizons, we went down to the big field.  I never wanted to take the reins.  Scaredy-cat.  Charlie laughed, but in a kind way.

The day she left, she didn't laugh.  The van made dust rise like smoke and I saw her hanging out of the side window, her curls joggling.  We stared at each other for as long as we could see, and even after I stood and watched and waited for what would come next.

Dear Charlie,

When you went the farm was not the same.  I ran home and cried to think I'd never see you again.  I used all the tissues in my box of Kleenex.  Then I went down for tea with red eyes and my mother sat with me on the couch and we watched television.

I wanted to find out where you had gone.  But I didn't know how.

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