I’m finding that having to follow the strict guidelines Eden Baylee and I set out when we began the collaborative adventure of writing 4-part stories with 200 words in each part is proving interesting even when, as this month, the stories are not collaborations but, to vary the experiment, solo efforts. You’ll find Eden’s separate take on the same prompt here.
Prompt: “You could make a living doing that kind of thing.” I suppose I could, but I’d never thought about it, until then.
Old people always try to let you know they’re better than you, that they’ve ‘learned from experience’. They don’t always say it but they seem to hint that they’re always right about all sorts of things. And if they’re not doing that, they seem to be able to make their silences about stuff seem very loud, very sort of expressive. They don’t need to bother disapproving of what you’re doing; their little head-shakings and sighings say everything they need. It’s like you’ve come into the room all happy or excited or something and run straight into a blanket, one that’s not even warm. You try to get enthusiastic about something, share it with them, and they do those little smiles that aren’t smiles. Sort of ghosts trying to get into their faces.
In fact, very early on, I stopped telling them what I’d been doing and just asked how they were. They always had plenty to say then, not just about whatever aches and pains were in the news but also how much they’d suffered, especially ‘when they were my age’. And that was when they said weird things like ‘You lot, you don’t know you’re born’. What’s that mean?
I’m only 12. I’ve still got a lot to learn. I know that. They don’t need to tell me. And they certainly don’t need to try to make me feel such a dumbo that all I do is creep about like some cat or dog and lick their hands (or probably bums for some of them). So I keep quiet most of the time. They don’t really know about Jill, for instance. They think they do, but they don’t. She’s weird. Used to play football and other boy things, then, all of a sudden, she’s wearing lipstick and dresses, putting blue stuff on her eyelids and sticking bows and fancy things in her hair. She says her uncle Norman likes her like that. He buys them for her. He’s old, but I don’t even think he’s her uncle.
One day, she asked me to touch her chest. I know that’s supposed to be good but it was just weird. There was this round bit, not very big. More of a lump, really. She looked at me but I just felt embarrassed.
‘D’you like that?’ she said.
I didn’t really but I didn’t want to upset her so I said, ‘Yes’.
I don’t know why she did that. I really didn’t understand it. Maybe that’s why I changed. Yes, changed. I stopped going out as much. But that was probably because Dad bought me that wood carving set, too. I loved it. I’d always made things, even when I was little, but they were just with plasticine and stuff like that. Mum told Dad off. She said giving me sharp chisels was stupid but Dad knew I’d be able to use them properly. And I did. I loved sliding them into the little logs and seeing the pale, shiny wood when I stripped the bark off it. I spent hours in the garage making all sorts of things – owls, bears, even horses, although their legs were hard to do. Horses’ legs are so skinny. At first, Mum let me put them on shelves in the dining room but, in the end, there were too many so I had a sort of menagerie or zoo in my bedroom. It was great. Dad said it made him proud. He said, “You could make a living doing that kind of thing.” I suppose I could, but I’d never thought about it, until then.
But even Dad got it wrong. It wasn’t work. It was play. I enjoyed it. I didn’t want money for it. Like I said, I’m 12. I don’t need to ‘make a living’. I get money from him and Mum. They’re not old but they still say the sort of things that old people say. For instance, when Jill came last week asking why I wasn’t going out like I used to, Mum said to me, ‘That girl’s no better than she should be’. Now what does that mean? It makes no sense. It made me want to ask Jill about it, whether she knew what it meant. But I don’t think I can. Yesterday, at school, she said she wasn’t allowed to play with me any more. At first, when I asked why, she just shook her head and didn’t say anything. But that just made me more curious, so I sort of nagged at her till she told me. She said her uncle Norman’s said if he sees her with me again, he’s going to do some horrible things to me. I don’t know why, but she looked really scared when she said it and I believed her.
All comments welcome.