So April plods on, and in the distance I can hear the faint screams of a script frenzy project dying, trampled under the feet of other-things-to-do. It’s a shame, mainly because although I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I was quite enjoying it, but it seems that one weekend of debauchery and bad science-fiction with friends can throw you off track quite a bit, and I suspect that I am now so far behind it is irretrievable. Still, a couple of things, namely The Dead Garden and Guttle Flog the ghoul, were so much fun to make that I’m certain I will return to The Sinister Bend one day, even if it’s in a different format.Bad Apple Bone continues in awkward little fits and starts. The final big confrontation, or the Endgame as I’ve been calling it in my head, is complicated to write and I’m taking my time with it. I know I’m anxious to finish because I’m itching to start research on the next project (working title, The Odd) but I don’t want to cock it up by rushing. In some other small writing related news, in an attempt to stop my brain from collapsing during an incredibly boring hour or so yesterday, I wrote a very short, very silly story. I thought since I am unlikely to sell it on anywhere else and I was using it as a sort of writing exercise/brain crutch anyway, I’d pop it up here on the blog, for the amusement of whoever happens to read it. So here we go:
On his Grandmother’s sideboard, on the mantelpiece and on the dresser, were quite possibly hundreds of photographs; some framed, some covered in dust, some in those flimsy cardboard frames they give you at school. All his cousins were represented there- Diane waved gaily from a fairground ride, Timothy in his cub scouts uniform, Helen dressed as one of the Three Kings in her school nativity play. Albie’s pudgy form did not make an appearance anywhere, not even in the big photo frame that hung on the wall, with lots of holes for different faces. Baby photos were just as virulent; a few old and yellowed, many fresh and pink, all featuring largely identical squashy faced babies in various states of undress and usually, a layer of drool. Albie, through shrewd detective work, had matched babies and clothes and locations and surmised that no, there wasn’t even a baby photo of him present.
He asked his Grandmother about it, but she just cooed at the boy and handed him a biscuit.
“Don’t be so daft, my little lamb.”
Albie loved his Grandmother very much, which was good because he lived with her. Many years ago, his parents had arrived on her doorstep with Albie in tow, his little hands clasped in theirs. Taking hold of him firmly they had passed him over, and with a few hurried goodbyes had disappeared back down the garden path. He had vague impressions of that day; the sunlight and the cheeriness of his parent’s voices. Mainly what he remembered was his Grandmother’s long cold hand taking his, and the lunch of cold meats she had already prepared for him. Pickles, mayonnaise, bread. Soft white meat in great slices, and a big glass of lemonade to wash it all down.
Many of Albie’s memories centered around food. It was, he thought, the best thing about living with Grandmother. She was a brilliant cook. She produced huge, steaming dinners from the perpetually busy kitchen, and followed them up with enormous, heaving puddings. Roast chicken with fragrant crispy skin, fat golden roast potatoes, lamb chops and pies with suet crusts, thick rashers of pink bacon and great wobbling piles of scrambled eggs. Treacle puddings, spotted dick, chocolate cakes with inch-thick icing, home made ice-cream, bread and rice pudding, and all with the option of custard.
Of course sometimes the family would come round and they would share the feast together, particularly Grandmother’s prized Christmas Dinner, the crowning achievement of her year. But mostly she cooked for Albie, plates upon plates upon plates, as much as he could stand to eat, and more besides. He never missed one of his three meals a day, and elevenses, supper and tea were also as strictly observed.
There were downsides to living with his Grandmother too, of course. The prodigious output of food meant that he out grew his clothes continually, and a man appeared at the house often to measure him for new outfits. Mr Wax was a tall man with a stern, grey face who peered at Albie with such interest that it made the boy quite uneasy. And his apron was always dirty. When, a few days later, the clothes would arrive neatly folded in a brown parcel, Albie would always hope that they would last somewhat longer this time.
Grandmother was also very strict about bathing. Every night after his supper, she would run him a good hot bath, and fill it with what she called her “herbal soaks”.
“It’ll look after your skin, Albie my poppet. And it makes you smell like a prince”
Albie hated bath time with a passion. For one thing, Grandmother always ran them very hot, so that it took him ages to settle into the blistering water, and his skin was a livid pink by the end. And the herbs and bath salts certainly smelt pleasant when she threw them in the water, but being shut in with the aromas in a steamy room meant that Albie was quite sick of their sweet aroma.
He was home schooled, which meant that each afternoon (shortly after lunch) Grandmother would heave down from the shelves her set of Encyclopedias and they would have a brief lesson about whichever chapter Grandmother chose that day. Mostly, Grandmother would become bored and distracted from these studies very quickly, and would suggest a snack instead.
“That’s enough of these dusty old books, Albie my lambkin. How about some raspberry fool?”
On his tenth birthday, Grandmother bought a special bottle of ten year old port. The taste of it filled Albie’s head and made his nose itch. He liked it very much. They drank large glasses of it and Albie ate slice after slice of his enormous birthday cake.
“It’s been aged for ten years Albie,” said his Grandmother. “Just like you!”
From that day on they often shared a glass of port in the evening. If it sometimes made him a little wobbly on his feet and somewhat tired, Albie did not really mind, and it certainly didn’t worry his Grandmother.
In early November Mr Wax made an unexpected visit, much to Albie’s displeasure. His clothes, although certainly snug, were not due to be replaced for some time. Regardless, Mr Wax brought out his tape measure and took particular care measuring Ablie’s wide stomach and thick ankles. The old man nodded to himself with apparent satisfaction and conferred for some time with Grandmother in the kitchen. Feeling self conscious and stupid in his large white underwear, Albie distracted himself by looking again at all the family photos; Stephen by the beach with a lilo under his arm, James and Gary down by the river bank, a bucket of maggots between them, and Sue in a wide brimmed summer hat and glasses . One of the larger photos showed almost all the family together around the long dinner table, party hats askew and the wreckage of crackers strewn between plates. In the middle of the table were the remains of dinner, bones picked clean.
When Mr Wax finally left, Grandmother took one look at Albie’s sulky face and squeezed his pudgy arm.
“Just measuring you up for some special festive clothes, my sweet. This year’s Christmas dinner is going to be the best ever!”
And certainly it was. Mr Wax hung Albie for ten whole days to ensure the tastiest cuts, and Grandmother had saved up her best goose fat, resulting in the sort of crackling that was both crunchy and chewy and full of juicy fluids. A triumph, the family said. A masterpiece.
By New Year’s Eve, when all the cold meat sandwiches were finally eaten, and all the bubble and squeak finished off, Grandmother added a new photo to her collection; the Christmas feast. Glimpsed upon the serving plates and grasped in the greasy fists of uncles and aunts and cousins, Albie finally found his place on the mantelpiece.