Tag Archives: Writer

Weekend Showcase: Touchstone by Darren Goldsmith (Writer)

18 Apr

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

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Darren Goldsmith

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Touchstone

Every pebble is a lost soul, she used to say. A trillion pebbles. A trillion unremembered songs. She would pick a few up and kiss them. Hold them to her cheek. Place them carefully back. I would wrap both her hands in mine and look across the beach. Stone clack and surf hiss. Tumbled Atlantic caressing the cold gradient of backlit sky and low cloud.

I felt uneasy walking there. She looked through me. No, she looked beyond me. Seeing a finer reality I imagined. A strand of dark hair falling down from under her hat. A blink. Two blinks. Brushed away. Grey eyes and pale skin. Green sea and salt tears.

Every story starts somewhere. Ours was two years before, outside a bar in town. She stood framed by sleet, her boot heels reflected in the glimmering pavement. Broken neon playing the angles of her face in stutters, blue and green and back again. Shoulders hunched, hands drawn up inside jacket sleeves, two fingers scissoring a cigarette. The tip’s cherry glow. A momentary halo of smoke twisted away by the wind.

I walked over and mumbled something about it being too cold to be standing here. She offered me the cigarette. I declined. She blew some more halos while I pretended not to shiver and wondered how to get home. Then she finished, flicked it into the road. A tiny comet extinguished on contact with wet tarmac. She hooked my arm. Drew me inside. We spent an hour at a table, just sitting. Each time I opened my mouth to speak she smiled and shook her head. Smiled and took a drink.

Finally she said hello.

Her flat was Asian promise. And Celtic weave. And Bedouin chic. A dozen influences from around the globe. Boot sales and junk shop purchases. ‘I’ll visit one day,’ she said, tracing her finger around the rim of a small silver cup. ‘I want to walk the maps.’

‘I’ll go with you,’ I replied.

She lit candles. Undressed me in the soft flickering amber. Pulled me gently down to her bed.

 

She moved into my place. But kept her sanctuary. I didn’t mind. I understood it wasn’t about me. We slept there occasionally anyway, when we were in that part of town. When she wanted to share the cultures she intended some day to drink in.

We curled around each other, against the world. We traded privacy for intimacy. Beliefs and personal truths. Though I felt she held a part of herself back. Perhaps she feared more than I did. Perhaps she knew before I did. The end. An end to something good. Accepted it and locked that part away. There are those who are described as old heads on young shoulders. She was an old heart.

So we passed through this moment but forgot the seasons existed. All I knew was the honeyed grace of her limbs. The knowing delight in her face. As with all new loves every experience was fresh, like cut plant stems. Exposed nerves, wonderfully tart and acidic. Mulled wine for blood. Liquorice for bones.

My job tore me reluctantly away, overseas, to desert and dust. Actors, trailers and endless heat. The sharp scent of creosote bushes. I called each night and sent her panoramas of the shimmering sky. A river of stars. We talked while the coyote sang, until the moon dipped and the Joshua trees became edged in gold. I wished the days away.

When I returned I found a lump. A small thing. It didn’t hurt. There were tests and a doctor who said it had been caught early. I had surgery and radiotherapy. Rotten cells bathed in high-energy rays. Poisoned to make me well. Weeks of pain and nausea. Of overwhelming lethargy.

Some months later I was fit enough to work again. But I knew I had lost a part of myself. Confidence, ignorance. Something not cut out by a surgeon. My mortality now exposed to the ether. It was a difficult time. She became distant. Or I withdrew, I’m not certain which.

Filming took me east after that. To blossom and snows. Temples, koi carp and salary men. I ate food I couldn’t pronounce and laughed along with jokes I didn’t understand. I sent her pictures of frozen ponds. Starlight captured in dark ice. We talked but it wasn’t the same alternating current of words.

From there I headed north. And then west again. A steel bird chasing the sun. I brought back souvenirs from each location and she would thank me and kiss my cheek but never display them.

Our orbits gently decayed. We disconnected. We stopped being us. I tried to delay the inevitable. But you can’t fight entropy. You can never return. One night I turned up at her flat swaying from too many shots. A speech in my head, flowers behind my back and a small, velvet-lined box in my pocket. She didn’t answer the door.

I never saw her again.

 

All my friends told me that I was better off. Said she was selfish, crazy. I felt differently. I remembered the belief. The connection. A touchstone. I remembered the long days, her hand in mine, as we gazed upon a hundred landscapes and breathed the dust of other towns. The journeys on back roads, laughing when we became lost. I remembered the nights when she held me, so very tight, while I shook with pain and fear. While I sweated the unfairness.

I remembered her face, perfectly captured by nature and geometry alike. Held in time, like a single movie frame.

I would be lying if I said I ever understood. Why us. Why me. The fates. A roll of bones. The hand we were dealt by an expanding, cooling universe. All I know is the wind bites hard and the sea folds over and over, endlessly. I look across the beach. A trillion pebbles. A trillion lost souls. And I try to work out which one is hers and which one is mine.

 

Biography:

 

Darren Goldsmith

I’m a writer – I had a Doctor Who audio story published with Big Finish narrated by the lovely Louise Jameson who played Leela in the TV show, opposite Tom Baker. I’m editing my first novel, I’m writing my second (a YA science-fiction/fantasy) and I always have one or two short stories on the go.

I’ve also scripted some TV ads; Blue Square Betting, Mecca Bingo and My Weekly.

I’m a musician – I play bass and sing. In the late 80s to mid 90s I was a session guy for various bands and studios. Even though I don’t do this full-time any more, I still like to work on select projects. I recently played some dates for Thomas Dolby. If you don’t know who he is, there’s the link… go look him up!

I’m a digital artist – In 1997, I started my own design business. Logos, websites, 3D modelling/animation and photo re-touching & manipulation/compositing, for the likes of BMW, Vogue, Citibank, British American Tobacco and Levis, to name but a few.
I don’t handle many clients these days – preferring to keep my list small and my stress levels low!

Past things. I’ve worked in several warehouses as a general dogsbody and broom pusher – I once accidentally destroyed a pallet of beans with a forklift truck. Yes, it’s as much fun as it sounds.

I was a member of a business accounts team at BT, for about 6 months, at least until they realised my refusing to wear a tie was merely the thin end of a very thick wedge.

I’ve been an ad designer for a local newspaper, a van driver, a steward. A geo-physics data clerk, a dish-washer, a photographer’s assistant. A pair of hands for an engineering firm who were contracted to repair sections of the London Underground – walking around (I mostly carried a ladder) the tunnels at 3am is damn scary – and a spy for MI6.

OK, not the last one.*

All enjoyable in their way. Definitely good experiences and material for my writing now.
*Or was I?**
**No.***
*** Or was… SHUT UP!

http://www.digital-quill.co.uk/

https://twitter.com/DarrenGoldsmith

 

On Monday you will find writer Mandy Gibson’s 3rd and final FreeSpace and an extra ArtiPeeps Easter Update post launching our Kickstarter Campaign for Transformations!  Exciting!!

 

If you’d like to have a Weekend Showcase or take part in a collaboration do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On page or by @ArtiPeeps. Thank you for your interest.

 

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Weekend Showcase: Rulers and Fools by Shirley Golden (Writer)

21 Mar

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

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Shirley Golden

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Rulers and Fools

Men say the gods are fickle creatures, yet Hannibal has held their favour since we survived the Alps. I named the elephant Barca. Some might call it an insult to Hannibal’s bloodline. Others would say it was the vanity of man; they’d say a beast of such fortitude deserves a divine title. So, I guard the name, like a secret desire.

The elephant is fed before the horses, before the warriors. Ba’al help me if I scavenged a single scrap; if caught, my hands would be removed. Hannibal claims no other was as skilled as I. The African elephants with their titan ears towered over Barca. They blazed white fury in the roll of their eyes, and created chaos in their stampede. All are dead now, along with their trainers. None possessed the heart of Barca.

By day, I manage the elephant. By night, I bed Anna: a camp follower whose master, I assume is dead. She told me her name was Anna, but perhaps offered me a word simple to speak. It’s a comfort to know I can summon her easily; I like to think that was her intention.

She stoops under her shawl and shuffles like a turtle across sand. If the Celts see her replenishing her urn, they push her away from the water hole until they’ve taken their fill. She shrugs and says she’s fortunate to receive only the ends of their boots. They believe she is an old woman because of how she moves; perhaps they believe she is a seer, to have survived the mountain pass. Anyway, they do not bother her.

She says I’m not like the other men. She doesn’t mind about the scar, where I was burnt as a boy. It makes one side of my face appear like an old man, and certainly twenty-seven summers is ripened for the battle ground. Soon I will fit my skin. I wonder why she comes to me without demanding coin. She says I have gentle hands and she knows why the elephant trusts me.

In early summer we moved south from Picenum, seized a large army supply at Cannae, and claimed a great victory. Word of our success spread like malaria. Rome’s allies turned to slush, as if melting from the peaks of the Alps when the sun triumphs. Things have never been so good, spirits never so high. Food and water are plenty. The land is warm and the cypress trees tall, but they bow to a breeze chased from the Adriatic.

Some say Hannibal is a god. But when he comes to inspect the elephant, he swears and spits and stinks just like any other man.

And yet, He has done the impossible. He has brought us to the gates of Rome, and we’ll prize open those gates before winter can freeze the lake. We long to bathe in the rose water baths and spend our days gambling on gladiatorial contests. We fantasise over backing favoured teams in chariot races. There is talk of riches beyond measure and comfort beyond belief. Once we enter.

Rumour travels in half-told stories: Scipio has not recovered from the last encounter. Hannibal will not allow anyone to suggest the general lingers. He says remarks like that will be our path to disaster. He doesn’t like to tempt the fates. The last man who dared speak it aloud has welts across his back as deep as the Styx. Hannibal keeps his eye fixed on Rome. But I wonder, is his vision half as strong?

“So, we will finally see the city that has tried, and failed to rule the world,” I say to Anna, whispering as if it might be a fitting tribute to our lovemaking. I’ve spoken similar words each night for the past moon. For once, Anna does not roll towards me and rub my shoulders as if in tacit agreement. She leans on her elbows and props her head into her hands. Her hair unfolds like a robe and partially conceals her face.

“You think he will open the gates of the city, Esdras?”

Her eyes dance a tease; her question is an insult to my master.

I shift from her and sit upright. “You think he will not?”

She smiles and looks as if my question is a threadbare fable told too many times by old men who watch everything and do nothing. Perhaps the Celts are right, perhaps she is a seer?

I look off with a frown. “Have you been listening to those who would doubt him? If you’ve heard of something that will thwart us, speak it.”

She runs her fingers down my face; her skin feels smooth and wintry. How does she stay cool in this place where the earth is dried to dust?

“I was forced here by a master, now dead. I keep my face cloaked and share my bed with a man who serves an elephant and a god. I speak to no one but you, my love. No one speaks to me, except for the camp whores, and who listens to them?”

“Why then, do you question him? You think he will not give us the city after we have endured so much, followed him so far?”

She pauses and shakes her head as if ordering her thoughts. “It is not about endurance or loyalty, Esdras, it’s about what we do when dreams are sated. Have you ever wanted something so much it haunts you day and night, drives your every thought, and becomes a part of every action?”

I think about my devotion to the elephants and my quest to keep them alive. I think about waiting for Anna each night. When I was fifteen, the first woman I bedded was a whore with whom I thought I was in love. One night she stole my belongings and never returned. Soon after, I was captured in battle, and ever since I’ve served the needs of others. “No,” I say.

“Hannibal has dreamt of this moment for his entire life. He has planned and sacrificed, suffered and fought, and now he is so close to his dream, he can taste it.” She licks her lips.

“I do not see…”

“Shh,” she presses a slender finger to my mouth. “I am Numidian, taken into service at twelve by a Carthage nobleman, and bought by a warrior eight years later who wanted a woman to warm his war bed. I am mother to three dead babies. I have thought of nothing but escape since the day of my capture. Now my master is dead, what keeps me bound to Hannibal’s army day after day? What ties me to this life?”

She has never revealed her history, never given any clue as to her past. I want the reason for her delay to be me so badly I am unable to utter a word.

“Hannibal will not enter the city,” she says. “For what is left once this act is achieved?”

With faltering speech I confess my own longings, “Sometimes I imagine owning a farm and a woman, and of raising sons, of living a calm life: life without war.” But escape is a foreign word to me.

She moves her hands along my shoulders, kneading her fingers into my neck. “Men and their ownership. It is easy to yearn for peace during times of conflict,” she says.

I slosh the water and thrust the bucket into the air, spray arcs onto Barca’s back. His ears flap and his head nods in approval. The sun sinks, but the day isn’t done with its heat. The grass is a patchwork crisp of brown and white, impossible to move over without sound.

“Sir?” I kneel.

Hannibal usually comes with an entourage. His robe is creased and split open to the waist. A loose binding retains his dagger behind a leather belt. He hasn’t bothered with a sword. I catch the dry fruit of wine on his breath, and his cheeks are shadowed.

“Get up,” he says.

He smiles at the elephant, and brings a hand to Barca’s leg, slapping it in affection. “I’m going to name him Shahar – he has earned it.”

Barca was the one elephant in the herd never named. Believed inferior to the African giants, he was overlooked from the outset, except by me.

“God of dawn,” I say. “It’s a fine name, Sir.” But he’ll remain Barca to me.

“Shahar is healthy and strong.” Now he looks at me rather than the elephant.

I blink and bow my head. “Once in the city, he can be treated like a god as well as named as one,” I say.

“Yes, yes.” He waves a hand and stares off in the direction of Rome.

“Should I begin preparations to leave, Sir?”

He keeps staring off, trancelike. “Very soon,” he murmurs. He shakes his head as if waking. He touches my shoulder and for once, I don’t flinch. “Everyone is eager to see beyond the walls.” He pauses and stares off again.

Then he turns his back to the city and marches off in the direction from which he came.

Dusk descends and mosquitos invade the air. I continue to attend to Barca until the heat subsides.

Very soon. His words. His promise.

What keeps me bound to Hannibal’s army day after day?

I imagine a farm and a family. I dare to dream it.

And I see a wedge of land the size of…of the price of an elephant.

“Esdras, this is not what I meant.” Anna snatches her arm from my grip.

“Come,” I say. “There is no reason to stay. Come with me.”

“Desert? Steal his elephant? They will cut you to pieces when they catch you.”

“They won’t catch us. Come.”

She shakes her head at my outstretched hand and withdraws into the tent until all I can see are the whites of her eyes.

“Are you frightened? We can’t lose each other, not now…”

She doesn’t speak for a long time. I can hear her breath funnelling in shallow traces. Her voice when it comes is thick, and soft, and firm. “It is not my fear, Esdras. You cannot lose what you never had. Ba’al be with you, if you are brave or fool enough to go.”

She turns away, or shuts her eyes because the whites disappear into the darkness.

Her refusal weighs like a stone in my gut.

Barca is easy to persuade. I guide him from the camp before dawn reveals guards, sloppy at their posts, and before my betrayal is exposed. I swear I’ll never look back.

Later, I catch rumour of how Hannibal’s allies scattered, sensing his loss of focus. Then Scipio turned his attention to Carthage. So I slipped from my master’s notice as easily as conquest from his sight.

I exchange Barca for a patch of land near the edge of the Danubius. I marry a sturdy woman of Celtic descent, who promises to bear me many strong sons. She ran an eye over the rich soil as she spoke. She says dreams are for rulers and fools. I father two daughters and long for a son. My joints grate in the day and ache at night. I tell my daughters stories of the past as if my soldier’s life is another man’s existence.

But at night when the stars could be the eyes of the gods, when I’m alone, and my family sleeps. I dream of snow and hunger on the mountain pass; of dark, sweet nights with Anna. And I dream of rocky trails, which never led to rose water baths.

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Biography:

Shirley Golden

I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember.  Many wing their way back to the recesses of my laptop and await further coffee-fuelled sessions of juggling words.  Some of my short stories have found homes in the pages of magazines and anthologies, or in various corners of the internet, and a few have won prizes.  I enjoy reading and creating flash fiction and tweet-length stories.  But much of my time is spent as door-person and arbitrator to two wannabe tigers.  www.shirleygolden.net @shirl1001

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On Monday you will find some more Found Poetry posted up from the foundlings: Kate Garrett, Lydia Allison, James Giddings and Joanna Lee.  And if you’d like to have a Weekend Showcase or take part in a collaboration do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On page or by @ArtiPeeps. Thank you for your interest.

 

Weekend Showcase: Jennie Bailey (Writer)

8 Nov

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 artist/poet/writer, letting 1 piece of their work speak for itself.

Featuring

Jennie Bailey 

Collages for Conifers

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1. Ingredients for photosynthesis and afternoon tea

 

One teabag per person. A mug.

Boil water, pour over bag

of tea leaves. Allow to brew. Remove.

 

One sun per planet Earth.

Chlorophyll, green to capture sunlight,

converts carbon dioxide and water

to sugar and oxygen.

 

Sugar. One heaped teaspoon.

Stir in granules until they melt.

Cool with milk and exhalation.

 

For biological systems,

sunlight plays a role in sustenance.

Green chlorophyll, transpiration.

 

White plate, pile of oat biscuits.

Dip into the mug, absorb tea,

disintegrate. Eat. Grit of wheat

against teeth. A sweet hit.

 

Light soaked up by pigments;

chlorophylls absorb blue, red.

Rays transmit through the leaves,

yellow and green reflected.

 

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Biography: 

Hello!  I’m Jen.  I’m a writer, educator, environmentalist and social justice activist.  I love writing and learning so I am pretty much interested in everything – both a blessing and a curse! 

I am fascinated by eco-poetics and in fusing science with art.  ‘Ingredients for photosynthesis and afternoon tea’ is partly a found poem from instructions on a packet of tea and words taken from a science textbook.  This piece is from ‘Collages for conifers’: a sequence of short poems that dance around seasonal change, photosynthesis, decay and Aboriginal dream time.  

 If you want to find out more, my education and nature Twitter is here: @wildwrites and website is here: www.wildwrites.org.uk

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Do get in touch via the Comment box or @ArtiPeep if you would like to be showcased. You’d be more than welcome!

 

Weekend Showcase: Laura Wake (Writer)

14 Jun

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 artist/painter/poet/writer, letting their work speak for itself.

>>>>

Laura Wake

Laura WakeLaura Wake has recently completed her debut novel A Monster By Violet. She writes short stories, novels and scripts. The following is an extract from A Monster By Violet. 

Extracts from the novel, and more of her work can be viewed at https://laurawake.jux.com and  http://laurawake.blogspot.co.uk

>>>

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 ‘Art Class’, An Extract from A Monster By Violet

>>>>

The good thing about being in Class 4 is Art. Instead of doing Art in the junior rooms which are just normal classrooms with sinks at the back, we get to go in the art studio. There are huge wooden benches with marks on them like Dad’s workbench in his garage. Some of the benches have little drawings on them, and scratches where people have been using knives. All along one side of the room are proper artists’ easels. Not everyone in the class knows that they are called easels, but I do because Grandad has one. There are drawers with all different kinds of pencils and paints in; powder paints, poster paints, tubes of oil paints, some pastels, and lots of different kinds that I don’t even know the name of. There are big cupboards at the back of the room with different sizes and sorts of paper like tracing paper, and bright coloured card. As well as that kind of art stuff, there is a long table down one side of the room where you can do pottery, and even a potter’s wheel, and a huge, extra hot oven for clay called a kiln.

Our art teacher is short with spiky silver hair that stands up like a punk’s. She looks older than Mum and Dad, but has really bright eyes like a pixie. She wears long skirts that touch the ground, and I imagine that she isn’t walking, and doesn’t have feet, but is hovering like a fairy. Her name is Miss Farr, and Ruth says she’s only temporary because our normal art teacher is having a baby. Some people in the class call her Miss Fart, and say that we are going to Fart Class. It would be funny if instead of paints, all the bottles and jars of different things were actually collections of farts made by rare and extinct creatures.

There are a few people sitting at each of the wooden benches. In my group there is me, Ruth, and two girls called Mary and Harriet who look almost the same even though they’re not sisters. They are nice, but hardly ever talk to anyone except each other. They both have brown hair, wear pigtails, and have glasses. Mary is a bit fatter than Harriet, and Harriet has two moles on her cheek. Gemma is sat on the bench behind us with John the boy with freckles from the climbing frame, a big boy with curly hair called George who is always sneaking food into his mouth from his pockets, and the twins, Alex and Aidan who I like because they are always making jokes. I think they invented the name Miss Fart, and they call fat Mrs Cobb ‘Egg on Legs’ which is funny because she even walks like an egg would if it had legs, with her legs moving out in a circle before going forward.

Miss Farr says, “Okay everybody, today you have some freedom!”

Everyone goes quiet.

“In a minute I’ll give you all an A1 piece of cartridge paper, and then you can choose your tools… pencil, felt-tip pens, oil pastels, or poster paint. You can use any of those, but you can’t mix them… Stick to one style.”

Gemma puts her hand up, “Miss, can I use coloured pencil?”

“No,” Miss Farr says, “I don’t like coloured pencil, and if you’re using pencil I’d be far more excited to see you do some shading, like we learnt last week.”

Gemma shrugs, and makes a bored face, “Guess I’ll use felt tips.”

Miss Farr is handing out the paper. I lay mine out in front of me.

“What are you going to use, Violet?” Ruth asks.

“Fat felt-tip pens, like Rolf Harris on Cartoon Time.”

“I think I’m going to paint,” she says.

Miss Farr stops handing out paper and says, “I forgot to say…you can use a pencil to plan your work out. So everyone get yourselves a pencil if you like as well as the other stuff. If you prefer to just work straight on the paper, you can do that too… whatever you like.”

The room gets noisy with everyone getting their pencils and paints.

“Another thing!” Miss Farr shouts, “This is a big project… we’ll be working on it for the next four or five weeks, so take your time and make it something really special… a masterpiece!”

“Miss!” Gemma shouts, “What are we supposed to be drawing?”

“I don’t know,” Miss Farr says, “It’s up to you…the only thing I want you to do is use the space you have…You have a big piece of paper, and I’d like you to fill it with anything you feel like. You could draw something to do with your family, or nature, or school, or something totally imaginary.”

Miss Farr sits down at her desk and closes her eyes for a while, then opens them and stares out of one of the big windows.

“Are we allowed to talk?” Gemma asks.

Miss Farr keeps staring out the window. She smiles and says, “Yes…of course you can talk.”

Ruth touches my hand, “What are you going to draw, Violet?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I say, “Maybe a cartoon of the playground with everyone playing, but there are monsters hiding in the school and bushes. What are you going to do?”

Ruth is very quiet and sometimes it’s hard to hear her speak. She is biting her nails, and I see that her nails are really short and the ends of her fingers are all pink.

“I think, an angel,” she says.

Miss Farr sits at her desk drinking from a mug, and sometimes drawing something. She only walks around the room twice to see what we are doing. When she talks to people she is really quiet, almost whispering.

She gets to Ruth before me, and I hear her say, “The lines are lovely…” and “…Don’t be afraid to make her bigger… she’s beautiful.”

I have sketched the octagon and Matthew falling in mid-air. Adam is on the top beating his hands on his chest like a gorilla. Underneath the two hunchbacked ladies from the care centre are holding out a trampoline to catch him. I have left spaces for the forest and the mansion. I don’t know whether to put wolves in the mansion or monsters.

Miss Farr puts her hand on the bench next to my picture. She has short nails which are painted green, and a ring with an orange jewel in it on her little finger. She says very close to my ear, “Wow! You’ve got a lot going on there…. good details though, I can tell who everyone is…. What are you going to colour it with…paint?”

“Fat felt-tip pens,” I say.

“Mmm,” she says, “Be careful not to do the pencil lines too dark, or they’ll show through the pen.”

She smells like lemons… much nicer than Mrs Martin and her sickly coffee smell. Then she says to me and Ruth, “You’re a talented pair…If you like, you can come to my extra class on Thursdays after school…Ask your parents.”

At the end of school I go and wait for Mum in the car park. I sit on a tree trunk kicking my shoes in the gravel. Someone’s hands cover my eyes. I scream and kick because I think it’s the hunchback. I jump up and trip on the tree trunk and my school bag falls in the mud. Someone starts laughing.

“Got you,” Adam says.

I smile but feel strange inside like I’m full of cold water. “I thought you were the hunchback,” I say.

“I crept up on you for ages… all the way from the gym.”

I’m a bit angry that I didn’t notice him. “Oh… well done.”

He is smiling a lot because he frightened me. “What’s class 4 like?” he asks.

“Okay… At least there’s no Esther stinking out the classroom.”

“You’re lucky,” he says, and stops smiling, “I brought my gameboy in today, and Esther told Mrs Martin…and she took it. My Dad’s gonna be really angry… I wasn’t supposed to take it to school.”

Adam’s mum is really nice, and lets Adam do what he wants, but Adam’s dad is a policeman and quite scary. He tells Adam and his brother off a lot.

“Say you lent it to me because I was sad about my brother,” I say.

Adam holds out his hand, “Brainwave!” he says, “Gimme five.”

“Adam!” someone calls, and we see Adam’s mum calling from her car.

“Gotta go,” Adam says. He runs to the car.

“Violet, come here!” his mum shouts, so I go up to the car. “Do you want to come swimming with us on Saturday? Ask your mum… tell her to call me.”

“Okay, I will,” I say.

When Mum arrives we walk home together holding hands. She isn’t speaking much, and only says ‘yes’ or ‘mm hmm’ when I tell her stuff. I keep talking anyway. Her hand feels cold and dry.

When we get home, she gives me lentil soup. We eat it together. I am eating much faster than her.

“Can we watch telly together tonight Mum?”

She breaks off a piece of bread crust and says, “No… we have to go to the hospital tonight… Dad and I have got our special class, and you’ve got yours too.”

Because my brother died, we have to go to a meeting with other people who have had cot deaths.

“Do I have to go?” I say.

I hate the care group. Everyone just eats jam sandwiches and draws pictures, and the other children are babyish. There is a horrible fat girl who cries all the time. She had a little sister who died a whole year ago. I think she is just one of those people who can make themselves cry so everyone feels sorry for them.

Mum doesn’t say anything. I tear my bread into pieces and throw them in the soup. I push them under with my spoon.

“Can’t I come in your and Dad’s class?”

The doorbell rings and Mum sighs, and goes to answer it. The pieces of bread have absorbed the soup, and now there are just lots of pieces of heavy bread in the bowl. I put one in my mouth. It’s all squashy like baby food.

I hear my mum start talking loudly, so I go to see who is there.

There is a man at the door holding an encyclopaedia. He has a big shopping bag with lots of encyclopaedias in it. Mum is holding one and she is crying. The man is reaching out to take the encyclopaedia from her and looks like he wants to leave.

“Okay, Madam… thanks for listening,” he says.

Mum is holding the encyclopaedia really tight and shaking it like she wants to break it. “They’re just fucking words!” she shouts.

“Please, if you’ll just hand me the book,” the man says. He sees me and sort of smiles.

I stay by the key cupboard; I don’t think Mum has seen me yet. She sounds horrible when she swears, it’s like it isn’t actually my mum.

“Fucking books! Fucking KNOWLEDGE!” she screams, “It doesn’t mean ANYTHING!” When she says ‘anything’, she kind of growls. She holds the book up over her head, and I think she might hit the man if he doesn’t move. I go and hold Mum’s sleeve. She moves her chin a little bit towards me, but doesn’t look. She is shivering, and I can feel her arm shaking through her sleeve.

The man lifts his bag up and moves backwards. He trips as he steps off the doormat. He says, “I’ll just come back later for the book.” He looks frightened of Mum.

Mum doesn’t care that she’s scared him. She throws the encyclopaedia at him and he puts his arms over his head. The encyclopaedia hits the ground and skids on its cover. “Leave us alone!” she shouts, and slams the door so hard I think the glass almost breaks. Mum kneels down on the floor with her arms covering her face.

Everything is quiet in the house. It is as if the slam of the door has blasted away all the other noises. I look up the stairs and see Cupid looking at us through one of the banisters.

Then Mum makes a horrible groaning breathing noise, and starts rocking and crying. I put my arms around her and cuddle her, but I don’t think she even knows I am there.

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