Day 48 of #100daysofwriting and unlike writing a novel, a short story affords you the chance to hold it complete in your hand. You can go back to the start, unpick the threads and allow them to weave back together. I know many writers who knit, as a child I used to knit, there is something calming, dangerous and explosive about having to unpick something you have knitted wrong. Short stories remind me of knitting. Whereas novels feel more like building a house that never ends, and after awhile the work you have done has to be bricked up because the flooring has rotted and the walls are damp, and you have to block it all up so that the house has corridors that run for miles before you get to where you are going, and then the house is glorious but you have to go through a lot of botched up DIY to get to it.
Day 49 of #100daysofwriting and I am being forced to watch the Deathly Hallows by my son. He tells me off for scribbling in my notebook.
Day 50 of #100daysofwriting and to celebrate getting to the halfway mark I am taking a walk in the woods. My notebook is not far from my hand.
Day 51 of #100daysofwriting and between blogging, writing and note taking I watch the Luc Besson film The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, and through it discover Jacques Tardi. One for the Christmas stocking but where to start?
Day 52 of #100daysofwriting and I think I have found the key to what Mausu is doing in this one scene. For those of you reading it, yes there will be typos and some grammatical mistakes, because this is a draft. There will also be exposition to kill on the next draft:
Her mother approached the festival of light with care like the collecting of stone eggs. There had been gossip in the settlement. Her mother cradling the eggs in the hem of her skirt tried to avoid the other women; there were the usual spiteful reminders and by the time she got back to the top of the hill she had one egg left clutched in her hand and the rest were stains across her clothes. The women had voiced their concerns. It was only a matter of time before the Onikuma with his tired little wisps of hair clinging to the cliff of his ears visited their home. They saw the light weave from the village that evening, moving through the ploughed fields below, dancing over the river and up the stone steps that lead to their home.
‘Only one light,’ said mother and Mausu nodded, cradled her mother’s hand in her own. Her mother cupped her hands and brought them up to Mausu’s chin, forcing her to look up and stay looking up. The two women smiled as they saw the light climb closer.
They looked at the tea on the table, the sweet treats in the willow bowl, a reminder of the festival to come.
Onikuma squatted in their vestibule as slipped off his shoes and made small talk about the weather, and the joys of the coming season. Mausu watched as his fat little toes sank into their rush mats and his feet sighed to be free of the boots he’d been wearing. Mausu thought his toes looked like the lung worms they dug out of the dead cattle. As he spoke in hush tone to his mother, a mix of reverence, of faith and signs, Mausu was torn between the dance of his fingers and the erratic wriggling of his toes. Mausu noted that the hands lied but the toes told the truth, they flexed with anger, and it was all to do with her mother.
‘There has been talk about you,’ he said.
‘So what,’ said her mother, ‘Bored people make something from nothing’.
Onikuma drank from his tea, he didn’t wait to be offered but that was Onikuma, it was his settlement, his claim that had brought the settlers here. His fingers stopped in mid-sign, an ideogram of home and anger, like cranes fighting in flight. His fingers, tired, found the sweet treats and his mouth took them whole. Onikuma was not one to bite.
You sit here up on the hill, too close to the forest and your child does not come to the other mothers, as she should’.
Her mother snorted.
‘I am the settlement watcher, as was my husband’.
Onikuma winced at the word, his fingers made the sign of old fashioned, an ideogram of a collapsing house on poor foundations.
Mother was the kind of woman who prayed behind her own back in mixed company and Mausu watched as her hands moved to the base of her back and her hands clasped. She would not speak with her hands as Onikuma did, he noted this and moved on in clipped tones.
‘What is it to you how I raise my daughter?’
‘It is not I who asks’.
Onikuma popped another sweet treat into his mouth, tucking it into his cheek before continuing. As he spoke, he sprayed crumbs of food over Mausu.
‘I do not care what you do, Kitsune. You are a law unto yourself. I have turned an eye to the ground for I respect what you have done. You have been our watcher but maybe this is a job that you have done for too long’.
Onikuma looked to the ceiling and the hatches that were firmly closed.
‘The festival comes and with it the priests, and I cannot protect you’.
Mother laughed, it was short, sharp like the claws of a forest cat.
‘You know they will not tolerate this,’ he said making a sweep of the room, taking in Mausu and her mother, ‘They will want to know the truth’.
Mausu leant back, allowing herself to sink into her elbows. She watched her mother’s hands wrap around each other and clasp behind her. She turned to Mausu.
‘Go to bed’.
Mausu opened her mouth to say something but the look from her mother told her that silence was best, best to watch, to observe, to learn from what was going unsaid. Mausu bowed to Onikuma who smiled through the sweet treats in his mouth and left the room. She shut the door just enough to make it look like she’d closed it hastily, leaving a crack, a breath of air and words that could slip through to her. Mausu flattened herself against the wall, let the world beyond creep into the corner of her eye. There was her mother’s back, her hands still praying but her back reaching to heaven and in front her, like the shell of sea mollusc was the outline of Onikuma. It looked like her mother lived within him, slipping him on and off at will. Her mother’s hands unclasped and Mausu watched as ideogram hush tone filled the space between her and Onikuma.
‘You come to my house. You threaten me as if to split pigs on my mats’.
Mausu could see Onikuma as he shuffled back on his hindquarters appalled by the talk of killing pigs in a home. He shook his head, so that he jowls flustered and barked against his chins.
‘I only say what others think’.
‘Then they are foolish and you are a coward’.
Onikuma choked on the sweet treat blowing it out of his mouth as if he was a whale coming to the surface.
‘I only speak the truth’.
Mausu watched her mother’s shoulders shake, her hands slip away from her back as she started to laugh.
‘I speak only the truth’.
The laughter grew louder and Mausu watched as Onikuma got to his feet, his face was red and his lips drew back in a grimace.
‘They will want answers’.
‘Yet, they will not seek the truth,’ said her mother.
Onikuma made the sign across his chest, the tapering circle that crossed itself. In reply Mausu’s mother roared uncontrollably with laughter.
They watched the light bob down the hillside, more frantic, they saw Onikuma lose his footing on the river crossing in his haste to escape them. They kept looking until the light vanished between the buildings of the settlement.
Mausu’s mother open the hatches above their heads to reveal the night sky and the single beacon of light that was getting closer to them.