Monday, 16 April 2007

I Started but Suicide Beckons...

I listed all those lines then sorted them alphabetically and just started writing, incorporating them into one linear story:


A train ride back along the longest pier in the world, that's all Bill had asked for. At the end of their separate days at the coast, one train ride, no hanky-panky. He just wanted to sit next to her and tell her something. Was it a deal? He said. Ethel said she didn't know, but name the time. If she was there, then the answer was a yes.

All day Ethel had tried to make her mind up, but she was still confused. She had a very active mind – like photos going off. All day, all the time these photos had been coming into her head – Bill and her, her and Bill, her and Bill and Toby, (even her and Toby.) But as the day went on Bill had seemed more distant, barely real. She found it hard to believe that Bill would ever dump his best mate for her. Bill and Toby weren't just friends; they were inseparable. She must have seen them half a dozen times that day already, dodging the rain in their kiss-me-quick hats, once with fish and chips.

Ethel was with Geoff. Geoff meant well and she did enjoy his company, but last week she had told him, she couldn't see their friendship ever being more. Geoff had laughed, relieved. "Don't worry," he said. He told her that a few days ago he had finally realised he was destined for the single life. He just wasn't the marrying kind, and no woman would ever put up with his ways.

Yesterday, Bill must have followed Ethel home from the bank. She was only half-way to the bus-stop when he "accidentally" bumped into her. She had given him a hard time, of course. She knew how important it was to play hard to get, but he'd persisted. When he asked her if she was going on the village trip to the seaside she said yes but then added quickly, "With Geoff Smith from Accounts Received." Bill didn't bat an eyelid. "Good for you," he said. "I'm stuck with Toby." Then he made his little proposition. She left him hanging, but her eyes were still shining with delight all the way home.

Ethel was sitting down for her hake and chips and mushy peas lunch now, with Geoff, no newspaper wrappers for him, but in her head she was elsewhere. She was hearing her interview again, how nervous she'd got, how crazy she must have sounded: "I always keep my jewellery in the bread oven. I become restless just staying in one place for so long. I need a challenge. If things stay the same I get frustrated and then angry. I can feel the temper swell up inside of me. When I came here I didn't want to be spotted by any of my friends. Life is like a recipe. You have to think what ingredients you've got and make the most of them. I have finally found a recipe I can understand which is why I want this job. Loud? Yes I am. I frighten myself sometimes, I'm so loud. But that's what passion is, isn't it? Please give me the job."

She had had no idea what he really wanted but it was something and she'd have to pay her own way to London, rip up her roots. It would be at least a year and no chance of going home. Was there perhaps a boyfriend? he asked.

She wanted to shout out, "I had no roots until you came and rescued me. Really, I can't wait to see the world. Please?"

In the end Ethel still couldn't believe how horribly easy it had been. For once in her life she had thrown all caution to the wind, and just "gone for it". She had spoken from the heart and now look, a dream job. London, New York, Paris.

Sir Henry had asked her if she would just go out of the room for a minute, to let him think. Then he had called her back in, told her she was as mad-as-a-hatter but he was past caring. He smiled wearily and waved his hand in surrender. To Ethel that hand was like a magic wand. "I'm getting on now," Sir Henry said, "but there's life in the old dog yet. Thank God for your freshness and your honesty. I'm giving you the job because you wanted it so much."

Then Sir Henry told her he was giving a talk in town tonight. He could giver her a lift if she wanted one. "Great!" she said. He laughed and chattered most of the way. "I'm not sure the young mums know what to make of me. I think, because of the long white hair and the beard they expect something serious and learned but I'm still twenty in here." He had pointed to his chest, still laughing, then glanced up at his rear-view mirror.

Ethel had seen the Austin tailing them but Sir Henry didn't seem unduly worried. She had read somewhere that in the evenings he became a different person. He had surprised her already with his laughter, and now these confessions…

"A penny for them!" a voice said. Oh heck, Geoff! "Oh dear," she said. "I'm sorry Geoff. I didn't mean to be rude. But you know me. I have this quiet face but the inside of my head is full of words, pictures, ideas and dreams. I'm quite mad, really."

She looked down at her plate, the food half eaten, gone cold. Poor old Geoff, she thought. Why was it that "nice" never seemed to be enough? He was a mummy's boy, sweet, but ruined by too much care. Oh, she knew what Marjorie Smith would say if she confronted her. It was "her duty as a mother to protect her son", etc. Perhaps, but love is also about letting go, letting your loved ones grow wings.

Geoff was smiling. Somehow his hand crept had crept across the table and into hers and now warmed her hand, there between the salt-and-vinegar and next to the Heinz ketchup. "I'll be OK," he said, really. He raised a glass of Vimto. "To the old days!" he said. Ethel raised her glass and they clinked together, but she knew the old days had gone for ever.


That was about two-thirds of the way but it's breaking my heart. The 'thickness/density/texture of the above, is of course, far too much for a womag story, but what you should realise is that in the above passage (all the same voice, yes?) comes from EXTRACTS FROM 31 DIFFERENT STORIES

How can the style, the voice, the rhythms from THIRTY-ONE stories be so effortlessly interchangeable?


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