By Earnest Long
Copyright 2017 Earnest Long
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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The girl had come to the door in her nightdress bedraggled and wet. She was a young blond haired girl with her hair still combed over in a parting near the centre as it had been since she had left her own home this morning in a state of despair. The lady of the house she stood in front of now answered the door. And she and the girl looked at each other surprised and shocked for a moment. The lady of the house was dressed in a purple dress despite it being winter because she had the heating on.
“Please, come in!”
The girl came in apprehensive. And a courteous male employee of the house showed her to a bedroom for her to undress and sleep. After the courteous male servant had left, the girl took off her shoes and socks and felt something crawl over her foot. Really, she felt reassured. This showed that she must have been in one of the family homes as they always had flesh-eating bugs in the carpet.
The teacher came over and brushed back her long brown-black locks. And she spoke to the writer of the story. They were in a writing club. The writing clubs were to learn a particular genre of writing with different classes for each one. Their stories could be more informal and imaginative than in an academic writing class. The clubs were for people wanting to be writers when they left. Because of building work, these writing clubs were in several rooms next door to each other in a corridor. This was in a normal educational establishment that had broken up for the summer. Each classroom had in it about half a dozen club members. This was when their teacher had promised they could become good at it if they practiced writing each type of work separately like this.
Possibly, some of the students had heard that it was all just an excuse to give people extra lessons as part of some sort of literacy drive. This is although the teacher denied this.
And some swots had indeed heard this as well and had then started attending. And this was as well despite them being adults now that they hadn’t had enough of it being swots yet. When they did attend, they made a big fuss of having new notebooks and pens and other paraphernalia of writing. But the teacher told them to leave. Really, as well, although the teacher suspected this blond girl, a bit plump with an odd parting in her hair she would have to ask her about if it wasn’t against the rules of the educational establishment to ask an adult, was really a swot as well, she had allowed her to stay for the time being.
“You said ‘dress’ twice in the same sentence.”
The teacher was standing over the girl a bit just out of a force of habit that would be taking the proverbial too much to break. Also, the teacher brushed back her hair femininely but still with a severe look at the girl.
“And it is not interesting that she has the gas heating on and is not wearing a jumper. Also, don’t call someone ‘an employee of the house’ and then call them ‘a servant of the house’ just a bit later.”
“Why can’t I? That is contradictory when you said I couldn’t say ‘dress’ twice. And I have to give some description, don’t I? So I may as well say the gas heating was on.”
“Look! This may be a club just like you’d been told and as well, you’re winding down a bit doing some writing with your friends in small groups. But you don’t question what I say when I’m the teacher.”
“What’s the point to it then?”
“You really need to start paying more attention to your lessons or I don’t know what will become of you when you leave here and you still want a job. These clubs are run just as I say as well and everything else you’ve heard about them is correct.”
“So what else have I heard that is wrong then?”
“Go and stand outside in the punishment square in the playground for saying that and being cheeky. Do you hear me, young lady?”
“I think I do. But that’s ridiculous! I’m over 20 years old.”
“And another thing before you will go anywhere or if you think you’re coming back to this class. This is for when you to do that I think you’re just about to do unless I’m not seriously mistaken that there is not some other reason you’re still sitting there. The writing in this class is not the same as for the horror group where they would expect you to write horror. Really, you should be in the other group if you wanted to do that. We might just make it separate tables from now on and not different classrooms. It is just that they are painting some of the windows in some of the classrooms and we can’t sit in the entire classroom in every class. Now go and not another question or a mutter from you.”
The teacher pushed the girl out of the class grabbing her ear. She went and stood obediently in the punishment square. But then realizing it was not 15 years ago and she had the big arms and legs of an adult and a broad brow that showed she was not unintelligent, she just left and walked out of the playground. Really, it was with thinking perhaps it had been a bit childish to go to this club after all. This was when the teachers were the same as for children. The teachers were working for the extra money in the holidays. And despite all they had heard in the local newspaper about there being a different theory for adults in these new classes and that they would treat adult learners with respect, it had not really happened.
It was a few weeks earlier. The girl was having breakfast at her grandparents’ house where she lived.
Their kitchen had a large wooden table or relatively large when the houses here were quite poor and the rooms were not perhaps as large as a rich person’s was. But their home had been built at a time that even poor peoples’ houses had quite large rooms. The rooms might even be deceptively large. There was a long work surface on two sides of the kitchen. The surfaces were modern synthetic veneers with bright shiny handles.
Her grandparents’ soft touch and care not to damage things unnecessarily that cost money to replace had preserved them for many years. This was without bits falling off like many modern fitted kitchens it seems you get today. Unfortunately, the fitted kitchen now looked an out of date style. Really, it would do to almost any visitor. Still, nobody had told her grandparents this. They didn’t tell her grandparents this because they knew that they really didn’t want to have to spend money. Yet, though, this was when they might be, as many people are, sensitive to what other people said about them being out of date. This was for what their kitchen looked like despite it still being perfectly functional.
Indeed, such a suggestion of getting a new kitchen was almost bound to seem to anyone to be only malicious. When there was nothing wrong with their kitchen, it might seem only malicious such as if they had mentioned who had said it to them people could tell that they had argued with them recently. They had visitors come round quite often and nobody had said it so far for at least two or three years that the kitchen had been out of date. And everybody had as well heard about their money worries. Also, the couple had money to spend on their grandchild who was short of money. And they could only spend money on their grandchild from making such savings. Perhaps other people without another dependent or part dependent might have spent these savings on something else. So, to say it then, it seemed unnecessary just yet to get a new kitchen. This is except as a bit of slander, gossip, and malicious mischief making. And their grandchild had dutifully not slammed any of the doors of the kitchen cabinets for some years.
Really, some people said it was quite remarkable for a youngster just a year or two out of being a teenager not to still lose her temper a bit.
One thing that did seem to remain from an even older kitchen was the kitchen sink. It looked out of the window and was on the other side from the work surfaces. There was a large draining board next to it. Her grandma hadn’t wanted to give it up. She hadn’t when the large draining board was convenient and there seemed no other one like it in the shops. Also, she didn’t want to work on the kitchen surfaces where people passing by in their trains could look in.
There were net curtains on the windows. But both the net curtains and the windows had to be washed regularly. This was because of their proximity near where they lived to factories and other industrial premises. Sometimes, then, there were no net curtains on the windows because of the inconvenience of having to take them down. Her grandfather could clean the windows so much better without them when this was completely necessary for any normal home and the cleanliness of the kitchen.
Occasionally, a train would stop at the points outside their house. And if it were on a particular track and a particular set of points that was very directly opposite their home, her grandfather would close the curtains to the kitchen and then leave them there closed and the room in darkness for some time. He dreaded that happening. And when it did, he would become fidgety. But then, he would take a minute or two to get up and he would not always do it immediately. And if it happened at mealtimes, then they had to leave their plates behind them and just go to the next room. The meal would be missed, considered over and nobody would talk about it or ask for anything else to eat.
On this occasion, the girl was finishing her breakfast without undue incident when her grandparents asked her why she had written about their kitchen in one of her essays in the class.
This was in between trains coming that they asked. And the trains going along the track that you could hear quite loudly meant you could only talk for a few minutes each time. But this was although there were some longer gaps for 5 or 10 minutes that you could have more of a decent conversation in. It was at all times of day trains would go along the track. And the trains did not necessarily leave longer gaps at any particular time of day. Perhaps, it was a bit longer later in the evening but not until then.
Her grandfather had a train timetable and so he knew when he could speak and when there would be gaps in the trains. Still, his niece had not yet been able to understand the train timetables. She complained that he had not explained them to her very well and not for even a few minutes more than he had done that might be necessary but that he had demurred from doing. Yet her grandfather did not see that the train timetables needed any special or long explanation. Possibly, he was right or she was. It was hard to tell. Really, it just caused an argument. And nobody and not her grandmother either when she was with them both although she might have said some in private was able to intervene between them. This was when her grandfather thought that she was old enough for several years to understand train timetables and as well, she had been top in her maths class before she left regular school that offered no explanation either. Maybe, something was seriously wrong. Somebody had no matter suggested that she might just be a bit short sighted that explained it. Yet the girl refused to wear glasses. As well, mysteriously she had said that nobody had poked fun at her ever and nor in her last few months when at regular school. This was for being short sighted or anything else.
“I didn’t say anything,” she exclaims.
This was to a grandfather’s own exclamation about whether she had been writing of their family’s private kitchen meals in her class.
“Really, I have to write something about my life for the teacher. Also, it is for a club. And if I knew more things such as if I had done a good job that was exciting in some way and not the one I do have, then I could say more than just writing about my domestic situation. But one of the classroom teachers said that it was good to write about domesticity and many famous writers wrote like that.”
She leaves saying she’s has to go to her writers’ club early because she’s meeting somebody before the class.
Then she says, “And I don’t expect an argument about it when I get back in either.”
A week later, scribbling furiously on her paper notebook before she gets out her laptop, the girl looks out the window to focus and think. The girl is using material that she has from visiting her uncle’s farm the previous weekend.
A Tomboy from the town stays in the farm and out of total boredom, she runs up and down the stairs. It is like a game she is playing. Her aunt is a very small woman although her uncle is tall and thin. She is a burly girl and her uncle now tells her that the cottage will have to be pulled down. And they say that the previous inhabitants were only short people like her aunt. Her aunt is now in her 60s as far as anyone can tell. This is although she is not telling herself. She had married her husband, the girl’s uncle in a ceremony still celebrated in the village. Her aunt was one of the last of her race and now even the cottage will have been pulled down. The cottage had stood unaided since before the 12th century. At least, that was before brawny girls had come from the town that did exercises and went to gyms.
Another time, she is on the farm and she’s told there is an ancient thrashing machine that they’ve only just discovered in a barn that they are renovating to sell to a museum. The machine goes on early one morning just after dawn. And when the girl gets up at about 8 AM, her aunt tells her that two farm hands had been killed in it. Feeling it might be a bit odd but still wanting to ask and feeling safe to do so to her dear uncle and aunt that would never hurt anyone least of all girls, she wonders aloud as to how it could actually work so soon. This was when she had heard previously contradicting this that there was some months work to do on it. She is told to be quiet. And she’s told this as well when it could be 20 years until she was a countrywoman if she stayed here. Eventually, her uncle says as the afternoon cloud rolls in that no farmhands are missing and so the thing must have been an illusion of ghosts from a previous time. This was not explained to her for some time by anyone that there were no human people involved. She wonders why and feels a bit aggrieved. And she imagines that she is only in the story as some kind of a nursemaid who doesn’t catch everything from where she is sitting. It is unfortunate that she is worried by stories thinking that ghosts are real and can affect people’s everyday lives. As well, that is what they’re talking about but not involving her.
Having written up the notes for this, she then writes another story. There is the train crash where the train comes off its rails and down an embankment. She escapes with her father driving them. No matter, despite the inspiration of the embankment outside her window that you might imagine a train could crash down, she puts her laptop away for now. This is feeling the creative juices have run out at least temporarily.
A few weeks since she walked out of the creative writing club, she feels an urge to tell her grandparents about it. She first describes herself as being expelled from the club for not paying attention to her teachers and somehow or other not writing what they really wanted.
Then, animatedly, she described how she went back and met the head teacher. The headmaster, a severe man with grey lacquered hair in an old-fashioned headmaster’s office asks her if she has anything to say. When she doesn’t say anything, he says that she can ask him or the teachers anything before she leaves the school. Really, she can do if there’s anything she has to say or would like to ask him or any of the other teachers about anything. But she can’t keep writing horror stories when she’s not in that class and so she has to leave.
She says, “What’s a horror story?”
“It’s too late for that now,” says the headmaster. “You’re due to be executed tomorrow.”
When she doesn’t laugh, he says, “You can be expelled for at least not laughing at my jokes. And we could consider executing you later.”
She is a bit nonplussed and tearful and he then says, “I’m going to have to let you go anyway because we can’t have grown women here who still cry like girls.”
When he said ‘I’m going to have let you go anyway’, the teachers laughed. But when he said the last, they didn’t at all.
“That is actually true!”
So the girl leaves out the school gates. This is just as if she had never learnt anything from when she was last there as a teenager. Or she went to a similar school. She will not see the course out and she has not been out at all during this summer. Really, she hasn’t been when she’s been inside writing on her laptop and on her paper pads. She goes out the school gates past the scorched summer earth that is brown dry mud in places. Now, it does seem a bit childish. And she goes out once again from the school and into the big bad world that there is outside.