Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dead Wood Greening

“They say you can see America.” The voice was old and cheerful, and down near Louise’s hip. Someone had parked the wheelchair so there was an excellent view of a rusty old iron shed. Automatically, Louise kicked off the brake and pushed the old lady slightly to the right.

“That’s better.” A nod of thanks and an appraising glance. “As I was saying: America. I reckon you’d need to lean sideways so Ireland didn’t block your view.”

Louise laughed, surprising herself, and peered, tilting her head to the left. “Nope,” she said. “Not today, anyhow.”

“What can you see, though?” The question was suddenly urgent. “There, where the sun’s breaking through? Don’t stop to think; tell me what you see?”

Oh dear. Louise shrugged and looked up and saw: Heavy charcoal clouds hemmed in flames with spires of opal, gold and rose, shooting heavenwards. “A celestial city!” The words burst out of her and she heard the sound of old, gnarly hands clapping drily together.

“Yes, you’re the one,” she nodded, gnomically. “Standing there like a lost soul; I knew you’d been sent.” She met Louise’s blank stare with a suddenly impish grin. “Don’t worry, dear, just let it happen. Still… better ask, I suppose. Needing a job, I take it?”

How did she know? Louise nodded. I could be a tourist.

“Used to looking after people, aren’t you?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “Plenty of work round here, then. Living museum, Greyling Bay is, only most of us don’t realise we’re already dead.” She followed her witchy cackle with a nod towards the rock that overhung the bay, dominating the little town. “See up there? Black dots, high up? That’s George and Malcolm. Brothers sorely in need of a miracle, those two.” She held out a gloved hand. “You’ll take the job? Give my granddaughter a break? We’ll discuss it tomorrow.”

Louise walked thoughtfully back along the quay, drawn to the cheerful warmth of the café. Warmth, company—even if it was only the skinny, anxious girl behind the counter—and a cup of tea: that’s what I need now, she decided. That, and some time to consider the old lady’s offer. Smiling at the girl, Chelsee, Louise took her tea to the window where she had sat that first day.

Something different now, dead wood greening, cold bones warming, life doing what life does, in spite of you. ‘Cheerfulness breaking in’; a quote from something? Trying to ignore the old lady, Gwen Parry, and her parting thrust. “This whole town needs a miracle, dear.” Again that shrewd, appraising glance. “And you’d be the girl to know about miracles, wouldn’t you?”

Nicola Slade


Anonymous said...

Nicola that is just fantastic. I had also been concerned that most of our contributions were quite depressing, but in one beautifully written piece with such sympathetic characters you have brought hope, warmth, and an intriguing hint of mysticism.
Thanks also for bringing George and Malcolm into this. Although Malcolm is referred to by his first name I had intended them to be Father and Son, but am more than happy that they are brothers- this opens up so many new avenues. It's also made me revisit their ages, to tie in with the Alwyn thread- but this is one of the exciting elements of collaborative fiction.
Thanks for making the sun shine.

Nicola Slade said...

Thanks, Allan, I'm glad you don't mind George and Malcom changing generations! And I can't help having cheerfulnes break in; even my Victorian mystery has comedy in it!
I think that what is shaping up on this blog has the potential to turn into a book, but I'm not sure that's the ultimate aim. Interesting to be part of this project, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

NS at her best.


Nicola Slade said...

Somewhere in the instructions Jane said this: 'If you're working on developing a particular character or theme, then it would be a good idea if you'd say so in the comments section beneath that character's original piece: that way, we can avoid duplicating work or sending one character off in two different directions at once.'

I think I'd better mention that I'm developing Louise's character and that I know her back story, which has a bearing on her future actions.

Peter Drobinski said...

Nicola, I enjoyed this piece very much. As Allan has said, it has brought some warmth and sunshine to a town hitherto beset by wind and rain! And funnily enough, Allan, I had assumed George and Malcolm to be brothers; somehow, that's how they appeared to me.

Anonymous said...

Nicola - it stands out a mile that you know where Louise has been - and maybe where she is going too. That's what makes her so real. Thanks for the rays of sunshine.