Charli Mills, this week, gets a little ethereal as she steps beyond with the challenge
December 22, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that steps beyond. It can be a door, a tunnel, a worm hole in space. You can create an explicit for what “beyond” is or you can simply use the word. Follow the prompt where it takes you, beyond what you think you know is there.
We moved to Hampshire in 1969, to a ‘cottage’ on the edge of the New Forest. It felt cold and damp (it was winter) and just different. For a start, coming from suburbia there were few houses and less people. School was a cycle, train and walk away. But there were infinite possibilities if you took the positives…
I was 12, for pity’s sake. On the cusp of spots, random sproutings of hair and the dawning realisation that parents were both stupid and cruel. ‘Take the positives?’ Had that expression existed in 1969 I would have upchucked at the notion. My parents had uprooted me from all I knew, without so much as a by-your-leave and dumped me in a wooded, lichen encrusted wilderness. No friends, no means of getting outside beyond a bike that did worthy service in the Crimean War and a brother who actually seemed to enjoy the new environment. And they talk about brotherly love. Ha!
Trapped as I was, I didn’t ‘look beyond’. We had our new house and garden and had to make do. Ah yes, the garden. It was mostly grass, a few trees that once bore fruit but now cultivated disease and an ancient hedgerow teeming with wildlife. Mum could look beyond and imagine the glory it would become. I saw mud, a possible cricket pitch come summer if I could find someone to play with and a guarantee that these exploitative parents would want me to help dig the wretched plot.
We started work near the house. Outside the back door was a narrow path, about four foot wide before a couple of steps up to the beginnings of the lawn. Mum wanted to dig this area down to the level of the path and pave it so it created a terrace. So began our relationship with the New Forest’s soil.
If you’ve ever wondered why there is an area of 100 square miles in this part of southern England given over to heath and wood and grassland and not farmed, it’s because the soil is, in the technical terminology of agrarian experts, shit. The clay you use to make pots has less self adhesive qualities than this crapulous hoggin. You stick in your spade, you lift and you spend twenty minutes trying to remove the glutinous turd from the blade.
It took forever. Well, okay, maybe a week or two. And late one Saturday afternoon as the gloom descended, one of us stuck in their spade and hit something hard. There were a few flints hereabouts but it didn’t take long realise this was more than a small rock.
With some growing excitement we poked around to find an edge. We dug down and unearthed a large slab of concrete about four foot square. Dad brought out his biggest fork, worked the prongs under the edge and heaved. We all joined in with our tools. Fraction of an inch at a time the slab lifted. It covered something, but what? A cave? A grave? The entrance to a mythical kingdom?
It took a long time but finally the slab came up revealing a dark circular hole. A well. A proper well, brick lined and full of the sort of water you see coming out of a washing machine after you do the kids’ sports kit.
Now this was a result. Who knew we could have something so interesting right outside our back door? It turned out that, until the mid 50s there was no mains water hereabouts so all water supplies to the house were pumped from this well. Yet, 15 years after it was made redundant, there was no sign of this stimulator to the imagination.
Now I know better. Now I can look beyond and what if such things. That grey February day of moaning about slave labour ended with my mind creating stories, debating possibilities with dad and the Archaeologist. Maybe, just maybe that was part of making me move beyond my resentment at the move and embracing the new future.
Do something scary everyday, the worthy modern philosophers say. Really, that is a heap of dingbats doodahs as a concept because you’ll end up with chronic indigestion but once in a while, yes, you should lift a slab of concrete buried in the garden just to see what might be underneath.
And Mary and Paul and Penny? What about them?
Man in the Moon
Penny closed the book. Her sister, Charlotte slept. Penny went and found her mum, Mary. ‘When did I stop believing in the Man in the Moon, mum?’
‘Course. Don’t be silly.’
Mary smiled. ‘You’re sure, are you?’
Penny frowned. ‘There’s no air.’
‘I know but can you be sure? That there’s no life there?’
Penny sighed. ‘It’s like Santa, and the tooth fairy. You want me to believe because it’s cute. But I’m 14.’
‘So you know, for sure?’
‘Stop it, mum.’ Penny turned away. ‘You’re being ridiculous.’
‘It’s worth holding onto a little doubt, sometimes, love.’
If you want more of the north family, click here.