Excerpts · Writing

Excerpts: Carver and Moore

The writing has been slow recently. Here is a snippet from something I’ve been working on for my creative writing module, still very rough so please be gentle.

He does not wake up in the same way that other people do. Other people wake up slowly as they become aware of their fingers and their breathing, a gentle rhythm stirring the blanket over their chest. Maybe they leave their curtains open slightly before they go to bed, and if the day is fine a warming ray of light will coax them out from underneath the covers into their slippers or their dressing gown. They put on the coffee and mumble sleepily as children run around their feet or a lover plants a kiss on their neck. He wakes up suddenly, shocked into consciousness by the sensation of being strangled by the duvet. He thrashes in an empty bed then sits upright gawping at the surroundings before realising that it is his bedroom. But these days it is far more common for him not to sleep at all. On these nights, he lies in torpor staring at the ceiling, a patchwork of spiralling patterns carved into the plaster. His eyes try to follow the lines in a vain hope that they might all connect, that it is in fact one giant masterpiece with a meaning far greater than he could ever imagine. That its creator was not a mere labourer but an artist incognito, hiding his magnum opus in plain sight where tens, maybe hundreds, of people might pass it by none the wiser, a secret jewel that only the dedicated might uncover as a reward for their diligence. But every night he reaches the same conclusion. The lines do not connect.

This morning he rises with the hard light of the sun beating through the curtains. It is March, and southern England is struggling to shake off the fetters of a harsh winter. Rain turns to sleet without warning, and the reek of damp covers everything like a quilt. People mill about with tired eyes, waiting for the signs of spring that come later every year. The world will be grey until the first green shoots appear in the boughs. Ten years ago, it was February. In another ten years, we might be waiting until May for those leaves. Acquiescing to that view which ageing people become increasingly enamoured with, that life is not what it once was, he showers and dresses.

The coffee is not particularly invigorating. He has never had much of a taste for it, and drinks it out of habit rather than any sense of enjoyment. But it is (relatively) inexpensive, convenient, and, if suitably sweetened with demerara, palatable. Far more so than tea, which he detests. The smell unearths memories of his grandmother’s kitchen where a pot would stew on the stove for hours on end, reheated as needed to save water and precious tealeaf. She would insist that he and his four siblings share a mug. Good for the bones, she would squawk from the kitchen as they sat abreast on the sofa and pinched their noses to make it go down easier. Black pudding, fried offal, and boiled beef stews with a fatty skin on the surface were also common sights at the time. With their father out of the picture and their mother in and out of hospital on account of her maniacal tendencies, grandmother acted as overseer for their childhood. She dressed them, settled their disputes (usually with the thick end of a cane), and hurried them off to school. In the evenings, they would crowd around the hearth and listen to her stories: the first time she saw a motorcar, or fond recollections of foraging for mushrooms on her grandfather’s farm. And as their eyes began to grow heavy she would shoo them upstairs to bed. Once, he had snuck down to see what she did when she was alone, but it was not that exciting. She just sat in her chair, smoking a thin cigarette and gazing into the fire with wet eyes, clasping a wrinkled photograph between her fingers.

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