The Great Turbulance and Malcontnet of Brimley Tinderbuss
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The Great Turbulance and Malcontnet of Brimley Tinderbuss
04-01-2013, 08:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2010
The Great Turbulance and Malcontnet of Brimley Tinderbuss
I have an agent interested in the synopsis and first three chapters. Any critiquing and or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
The Great Turbulence and Malcontent of Brimley Tinderbuss
Brimley Tinderbuss is an out-of-luck writer in 1665 London. He writes subversive prose about King Charles II, which does not pay and could cost him his head. His novel, Orphans of the Night, about London's pests, is not selling. He writes prolifically in his rented attic on the south-side of London Bridge. When his pretty but characterless landlord, Grace, would like his rent paid when due, he writes poetry to soothe her financial expectations.
Brimley has a love of festivities and pretty women and often parties long into the night. One night, returning home from a night of frolicking, he stumbles upon an orphan lying in an alley. The plague is rampant this winter and he knows better than to approach her, but something about the moonlight on her cold blue feet and the pink ribbon tied around her ankle, stirs something deep within him that he has not felt before. He takes her to the barber, who wants to amputate her feet. Brimley refuses and takes the twelve-year-old orphan, Josie, to his attic, and for weeks nurses her and her feet back to life. She is a smart girl and her wit often clashes with him, but he loves her like the daughter he never had.
His old friend and mentor Professor Grimpter tries to steer him away from his traitorous prose, as one of his students—a friend of Brimley's—has lost his head to the top of a pike on London Bridge's Southwark Gate. Nonetheless, he is caught posting his writings one night in a snow storm. He fights valiantly and escapes only to find, they now know where he lives. He seeks shelter at the Professor's until that too becomes unsafe.
The Professor secures a tutoring position for Brimley, neither suspecting that it is a position to teach the King's twelve bastard children far away at Salisbury. While there, Brimley becomes involved with Martha, a lady of the court who, unbeknownst to him, is a mistress of King Charles. In the meantime, Brimley and the King have become friends, often sharing meals. And, with neither's knowledge, Martha.
During one of his trysts with Martha, Brimley writes a bit of seditious prose. Her loyalty shows its color when King Charles himself calls for Brimley to explain his complicated and sarcastic words, and sentences him to banishment. Martha, who did not expect such treatment for Brimley, helps him escape. Now all he has is his coat, quill, and legs to keep him from harm's way.
Brimley returns to London desperate and penniless. His only goal is to find Josie, say goodbye, then seek passage on a ship to get him out of England. Things go terribly awry as Grace’s new lover refuses to allow Brimley speak to Josie. Brimley is forced to flee but, unbeknownst to him, Josie has followed. By the time he realizes it, he becomes aware of Josie’s presence the two are in the beginnings of what will become The Great Fire of London. He and Josie heroically save lives all through the night, rigging blankets and enlisting the help of others to catch people jumping from windows.
Their last action is to rescue some children screaming on the third floor of a government house, and it's not until late morning that Brimley discovers he has rescued his former students; The Royal Bastards. They make their way through a half-ruined city to the Professor's flat on the undamaged part of London Bridge. Soon after the children are cleaned up and fed, the Royal Guards arrive and arrest Brimley.
For six days, he lies in the Tower awaiting his fate. The list of his offenses is too long for him to have any hope. Finally, he is called before King Charles, who is both happy and sad at seeing him again, and decides to reward his heroism and punish his earlier transgressions. A stipend fit for a prince and year of banishment is a sentence he can live with, especially since Josie has always wanted to see France and Italy.
The Great Turbulence and Malcontent of Brimley Tinderbuss
I, Brimley Tinderbuss, was not shocked by King Charles II's new order, nor surprised by the populace's quiet acceptance of it. I was convinced it would be just another shovel of dirt to throw upon the hardworking people of the city of London, questionably I, being one of them. Staunchly I believed all citizens of England should be concerned by the precedence set by the thieving of honest money through taxation of even the simplest of life’s necessities.
Sitting hunched over my desk, tucked tight in the corner of a small but warm attic, my quill scratched endlessly on not-too-cheap parchment. The feather was but a blur—my mind too fast for my fingers. My eyes were too weak to make perfect the words I conjured as my imagination sprinted ahead. I encouraged my fingers, tight on the quill to keep pace, until my script became unintelligible and my mind tripped and forgot the direction I sought.
In annoyance, I threw the quill that thwarted my endeavor, hampered my accentuation, and punctuated my frustration. Being light as a feather, it fell silently to the floor. I needed to vent my anger and vexations aloud, but my landlord lived below. Thus living on thin timbers and even thinner ice, I refrained from my preferred inclination for louder exclamations.
My tired eyes studied the unfinished yet boldly written political statement, then with aching fingers I rolled it tight and placed it deep in my coat pocket. It was treasonous, seditious, subversive and, perhaps worst of all, poorly written. Yet it mattered not that it ended like the last line of a somber poem, stopped on my uncompleted...thought, or that it even died mid.... For the masses I sought to educate unaccountably could not read.
King Charles, after dissolving Parliament for the third and, so far, final time, began passing out edicts like promises and proclaimed a taxation on chickens and all that pertained to them. The poor downtrodden population, already tightening their belts to absurdity, did not or would not realize what this entailed. Plagued by the plague, perhaps they had other considerations on their minds. Regardless, I made it my mission to educate them or at least plant the seed that higher taxes would only feed the lusts of the new king.
Chickens coming into the city were taxed as were eggs, feathers, even their feed. The cocks should have been proud, as they drew an even higher tax (I do not know what a cock was good for but mating; thus I named it a “pleasure tax”). When King Charles re-popularized the monarchy, he replaced the church as the collector of taxes, likely to fund his penchant for lavish and decadent parties. For this I could not blame him–I too was bent in that direction. But to starve the city to fund his merriment was more than I could be silent about. Every new tax edicted, I protested quietly and anonymously, for death was a higher price to pay than taxes.
My words would be posted later that evening, come hell or devil, wind and snow, laziness or indifference. From the sounds outside my only window, all awaited me. With a mixture of deep and shallow words, bordering on bad grammar, I had voiced my mission. But it was most dangerous, for I risked my life. It was not the first time, and prayfully, not the last, I would voice my malcontent, but what could a man do whose passion was to speak the truth and educate the disadvantaged? A rebellion instigated by my words was my secret design. I did not dwell on my risks, though the pay was naught – the price, my head.
I stood and went to have a look in the mirror that hung above my basin, I was reminded I was quite fond of my head. It had been called handsome and sometimes I agreed. Strong brown eyes, a thoughtful chin, and a Roman nose were topped by a confusion of black hair—as adept as I was with a quill, I was like a monkey with a comb. I wore spectacles when I wrote, which was often. I had turned thirty-one on the week before the recently restored observance of Christmas. I was tall, and still straight when I reminded myself to be. Two inches shy of six feet, thankfully, for as a youth I was unhappily saddled with a fear of heights, so I assumed my upward development was thus hindered. My dress had once been the best, but repairs were now apparent. Sewing and mending, I had begged from my landlady, who lived below.
I finished my cup, of what could only be described as a remembrance of tea and breathed deeply, to calm my anger. I was unfond of the bitter brew; its only attribute was that it settled the rude characters of London’s waters and, as I have said about tea, “If you have to, you can drink it.”
I thought back to when I had money to buy my preferred beverage. A concoction of coffee to excite my courage to write, with a cocoa bean or two for adventure. It must be stirred with a cinnamon quill for inspiration, and a nip of brandy added to slow my expectations.
My desire to write was born of a necessity of which I was not consciously aware. My first wife, Nora, was a whisperer in more ways than one, as meek and quiet as a three-legged cat. So my conversational proclivity was extinguished for those two quiet, dull years. It was during this time that I found quill and paper my only means of discourse on those cold and silent nights. Fortunately, she took up with the pilgrims, and last I heard, had sailed to the Americas.
Unfortunately, somewhere was a piece of parchment that to this day proclaims us man and wife, but since no one seems to know its whereabouts, I have taken advantage of that.
My second wife, Maureen, was Scottish and a talker she was. Perhaps that was the main reason I was drawn to her, that and her incredible skills beneath the covers. She talked circles over, around, and through me. She talked from the moment we finished our passions and sometimes during. Gossip and misinformation were her specialties, and I soon realized it mattered not if I were there, if I replied, or if I agreed. It maddened me to the point of denying myself her talent. I often hid where I could write and release my woes. This continued for three years, until she left one morning to do some shopping and never returned. I managed a month of less than troubled concern for her disappearance, and finally received a letter from her in Scotland to bid me a belated farewell.
About my third recently deported wife, Monique; I did slip up sometimes and say departed without realizing I had inadvertently solicited condolences. She spoke only French, and I considered her an impartial sounding board for my writings, for agreeable to everything she was. She would come to me while I labored my quill, bringing tea, rubbing my shoulders, and speaking to me the few English phrases I had taught her. “You are marvelous,” and “You are ze best writer,” and, of course, “You are ze best lover.”
Predictably, the marriage gave me brief comfort. Monique was taken from me by two husbands in France who laid prior claim to her. I did not put up much of a fight, for she was expensive and thus the reason I dwelt in an attic in the less noble part of Southwark, assuming there was a noble part of Southwark that I have yet to see. I think I loved her, nonetheless. She said she would return to me, but like promises through prison bars, I did not hold her to it.
I supposed my wifely stories would have been better served over libations with friends who would at least feign sadness, unlike the tavern brutes who laughed at my misfortunes. Though I conceded my marriages were failures, most considered my success with women spectacular. For you see, those who know me knew my wives, and what I have omitted from my descriptions of them, focusing only on their conversational incapabilities, was how rare in beauty each was. Shallow as I was, I discovered after three knocks, looks only captivated me for so long. Not that they deteriorated in any way in my short time with them, but each lacked the ability to stimulate my mind.
Now alone, I have no one to titillate me in conversation. With the help of my small army of feathers, my thoughts, words, and stories are created in abundance. I don't know where they come from, but they pour from my head faster than my hand and quill can witness.
Money trickled in from selling a piece or two, now and then. More often then, than now. My novel, Orphans of the Night, waiting to be discovered, has had several bites that dissipated to nibbles, much like the tease from a fish that triggers hope by chewing on the bait, but avoids the hook.
My face rested in my palms, I rubbed my eyes, then sat back and stretched my hands over my head. I poured another cup of watery tea, expecting warmth and was surprised by the coldness. I stood frustrated and bent back to reshape my posture, a new pop in my back thwarted the direction my mind has wandered. I must get some exercise or I will become the apple shape I aspired not to ripen to.
I pulled up my leather suspenders over hunched shoulders and hitched my trousers. I took my Conogin, thistled red scarf and donned my Peaktorter double-breasted wool, ankle length coat. With a ginia pilgrim hat, pulled to my eyes, I tied the flaps below my chin. I found the toad-skin gloves deep in my coat pocket, put them on, and tied them to my wrists. I had been steeped in hibernation too long. More excuse than reason to avoid the plague that had ravaged the city this summer, mostly north across the bridge. My alibi of late was the harsh winter that had very much quelled the casualties from the sickness. I was brave now for a walk in the snowstorm that lashed at the city of London on the fifteenth of December, 1665.
It is with words that man can incite and with words he can make love, but to threaten with words those who rule is a treasonous affair.
Chapter 2Trapped Temptations
Seduction is most often a man's device, but when turned about on him, it can be a confusing affair.
I quietly descended the stairs from my attic to the second floor. The house was alive with the creaking and moaning of old boards that somehow held together against the unmerciful wind. I saw a faint glow coming from the cracked sitting room door and pictured Ms Grace Treepaller, sitting snugly before the fire. She was, as her habit, knitting another pair of cat hair socks, rocking back and forth in the same position, the same look, the blur of fingers working their tasks.
I thought to have a word with her, but thought the better of it. She would spend too much time and too many words trying to alter my course into the storm. The friendliest thing would be to present myself to her and accept her predicted invitation to pull up the other rocker and share tea, biscuits, and warmth and companionship by the fire. Unfortunately, the cost was high, for her mouth would soon be a torrent of useless—and as I called her—Miss Information. That would affect my writing inclination, because to wash away her intercourse, I often took a brandy or two and slumped into predictable laissez-faire.
I turned on the landing to go to the second set of stairs to the first floor, when the floorboard gave away my unsociable intentions. I knew better, but always forgot. It gave me away, an alarm like the whistle of the night watchman. I froze, hoping the sound was only apparent to me.
Apparently not...“Is that you Mr. Tinderbuss?” Her stiletto voice queried.
I thought first to answer no, but she was just an edge too smart for that. I could remain quiet and perhaps make the meow of a cat, but the shaven cats had long since given up that voice, as a clue to their location. The many previously long-haired felines in the house had been shaved, their hair the trophy to feed her quick-knitting needles. I decided to wait out the silence. My sleuthing failure soon became painfully apparent.
“Mr. Tinderbuss, please come in. I wish a word with you.”
A word? If that were only true. The word she wished to have with me could jeopardize my whole evening. I planned taking a brisk walk in the storm to clear my head and wipe the canvas clean. To start anew my literary attacks upon those that altered our lives, what could cost me my life—the posting of my parchment.
It was no small undertaking for one who could barely afford the rent of an attic. I imagined my life a lot easier if money became more easy to come by. I shrugged in thought. The only reason I would acknowledged her accusation of my presence, was because she had been kind enough not to increase my rent, which was currently in default by months.
I sensed my night was doomed when she, without a look of acknowledgment—her knitting of higher priority than me, nodded to the empty rocker beside her.
Without her usual pleasantries she spoke, “It appears you are out to kill yourself this evening.”
Appears? How could she make that assumption? I could have been going downstairs to play with the children.
“No. I need a walk to clear my head. The storm has slackened and I thought to...”
“Kill yourself.” She interrupted.
Most uncharacteristic in not only her words, but in her choice of them. I studied her face and demeanor, not sure how to approach this sudden change in my landlady. Perhaps she was bolstering herself up to demand rent or worse, evict me. Starting with antagonistic conversion, which, if I did not rein my natural inclination to defend myself, could easily lend her peace of mind to do, as in an argument it was easier to escalate the attacks until the victor was the one with the least to lose. I being the one with the most to lose. I decided I had better keep my sarcastic mouth shut until I fathomed her intentions.
“I assure you Ms Treepaller. I have no wish to tempt an early demise upon myself. Life is too wondrous a thing to leave unwritten. Much of my writing of late, is with you in mind. Inspiration I would call it.”
Ms Treepaller leaned over to her right and picked up a log and I readied myself for an attack at my blatant attempt to quell her hostility. She glanced at me for the first time, as if considering what I had said. She decided on the best course and threw the log onto the fire with such strength and accuracy, I reminded myself never get in a tussle with her. I did not see a bit of warmth emanate from her, though the full blaze of the fire caused me to scoot back.
Since she had not responded to my blatant begging, I thought it best to up the quibble. “I have just finished a poem about your virtues.”
Finally a small smile parted her stubborn lips. Too quick they were sucked back in. I saw she was resolute in her intentions and panicked, for I knew this would not be good. She offered not a word and I thought long on what to say next. I looked at her profile, a handsome woman on her last birthday of thirty-four. A pretty little nose and lips red without aid. Her cheeks usually flushed when around me, but I did or rathered not interpret the reason. Her hair was pulled so tight that it seemed to hinder her attempts to smile, but when the rare one broke, a beauty she could be. If she let her hair down, wore a dress that did not resemble funeral attire, and talked other than gossip. No...she would still not be the one for me.
Right now her only attribute that offended me, was her power to decide whether I was to sleep in the snugness of her attic or in frozen snow.
I was perhaps a year younger than she, which made her my elder and I granted her some respect. I considered myself handsome of opinion. Not to indulge in the fact that I was always correct and brilliant. Truth be known, it was a facade that was sheathed in truth, but thin in stature. Well, more often than not.
Thankfully she broke the silent campaign.
“You have teased me before with such flattery and I have yet to read anything you have written. Though many accuse you of the notices nailed to the posting boards. So maybe I have and maybe I haven’t. Only you can make me aware of that.”
She caught me, but I could not confess. Yes, I attempted to divert her attention from things of monetary endeavors such as rent. And yes, I make it my life’s work to post—shall I say—challenging notices on the boards. I had but one recourse before she issued fatal words to my comfort.
“This one is finished. Yes, ready for your critique, in a day or two.”
She turned her head and no smile or entertainment of curiosity was displayed. “Please, Mr. Tinderbuss. Do not think me the fool any longer. I have been lenient for years, but the time has come, with the bad shape of money in London, for me to face some facts. I...”
I interrupted her before those words came forth, never to be tactfully retrieved.
“It is but breath from the heavens
I dared a glance to her and saw a tear glisten by the firelight and my heart soared at my victory with my impromptu and somewhat rhymed poem. I wondered if there was still money in poetry. Though not a fan, I was desperate for my writing to pay.
Unfortunately, she greedily responded, “And?”
I knew I was fighting not to join the multitude of orphans in the streets. I was too old and set in my ways to join their ranks, though I sought to make money and fame off their plight. So I conjured up more.
That mirror my delight
That when Lady Treepaller descended
The angels took flight.
For even in their generosity
The lady overshadowed them
She saved a poor soul
Protecting him from the night.
The storms that sweep the streets
I cringed at that, but saw her cheeks flush as though she had just been slapped, but in a good way I hoped, so I continued, burying myself deeper in untrue flattery.
And blow through the houses
Cannot shelter the treats
Hidden by her blouses”
She is a Woman of merit
I looked to her and she was tearing, blushing and beaming. Was that not enough? Could I depart now and repent in the storm? No, she eagerly nodded her head for more. I felt, but could not stop, from burying myself deeper with words I did not mean.
A Lady of manners
Whom this man endeavors
In her house to share ...it.
She blushes with innocence
She lept from her chair. I—for a moment thankful—that I did not have to continue to destroy the literary world with my awful poetry. But all to soon, she was on her knees, before me, kissing my hand. She rested her head on my arm and the words that I heard next, heavily laid the tombstone on my grave. I knew someone would be eating their words for some time to come. And this was the rare case that I would bet against myself.
“I knew you felt that way about me. I always knew, but since the death of my husband and your position here as a renter, it was too soon act as our hearts desired. This, such an appropriate amount of time and I have dreamed of your words.”
My Lord? What did I say to this poor simple woman? I thought quickly of the poem I had grasped from the air and tried to fit into some sort of rhyme. I remember something—that by the most—could be interpreted as bawdy—about her blouse. I wanted to share her house? I already did. Her smile so real... my appeal? Appeal for what? What did she read into my frantic poem that saved my arse from being permanently cold?
Before any more incomplete and unsatisfactory thoughts escaped my brain, her face was before mine. Her hands on each armrest of my rocker. She leaned over and came close to my face. I was trapped like a rat in a cage. Her breath was hot and moist and she did smell clean and...would have been inviting if I had any feelings towards this woman. How much of my integrity was I willing to surrender to this woman in return for warm shelter? I must admit that this was the first time that I had been on the cornered end of a seduction. I did not know how to get out of these close quarters, for I feared, if she went for the kiss, my fate would be sealed. They say don't make a nest where you work or kiss the master's daughter, but this was like both.
Then it struck me. With poetry I have gotten into this mess, with poetry I would escape. Right as she closed her eyes, waiting for me to meet her upturned lips I said louder than necessary.
Her smile so real
I wonder at night
If she hears my appeal..
And therein lies the question
I thought she heard not my words for she stared at me as if paying no attention, just waiting for my kiss. Then the meanings of my words awoke her.
“Affliction?” She backed away as if I had announced the plague.
“Yes. Recently I acquired a tricky malady that has played havoc with my self-esteem. Doctors have seen so few cases, they cannot recommend relief, so they have left me on my own to conquer it.”
“Conquer it? You look quite healthy to me. Is it contagious?”
The trick now was to come up with something that would keep her at arm's length, but not a street away, which was where I would likely to be sleeping if I did not handle this delicately.
“It is something I would not like to discuss in mixed company and surely not with a lady such as yourself, trust me, it is supposed to be—not too contagious.”
From nowhere a white handkerchief appeared and she held it to her nose. I assume she thinks she will get my mysterious disease from breathing it. This would not do, for then she would have more reason to evict me.
“When I say contagious, I do not mean that in the ordinary sense. I can shake someone's hand and there is no threat. I can...”
I saw she was very confused and I needed to bring her back to the point I had earlier reached and then lost control. The only recourse came upon me... I stood and shook her hand.
“You are safe with me, matter of fact it is so uncontagious that...”
I leaned forward as she leaned back to escape my lips. I placed my hand to the small of her back to stop her backward retreat and planted a firm and unemotional kiss on her lips. She arched back as if in a faint, when my lips met hers. I saw that her eyes were closed and she was smiling and...her hair was on fire! I swatted her head, she swatted back at me and then for added measure she kicked me. There was no time for personal defense or descriptive words. Her hair sizzled and sparkled, but she was more intent on lashing out at the man who had kissed, then slapped her. For that I could not blame her. I removed and spread my coat, wrapped it over her head, and pushed her to the floor to make sure I had quelled the fire. She got the last shot with her pointy shoe. It found its mark and I sank to the floor, holding my breath and balls in pain.
She granted me a second of pity, almost saddened in her demeanor that she may have damaged the items she desired. But recent history re-inflamed her, she stood to take advantage of my lowly position and readied her other foot to strike.
I held up a free hand reserving the other for consolation and protection and shouted. “You're hair was afire! I put it out. Smell?”
She took a sniff, then felt her hair, still warm and singed. Grace looked like she had either been through the most entertaining five minutes of her life, or the worst. My reading of her emotions had been so wrong that I ventured not to guess either way.
She finally spoke.“I apologize for...all my actions. It was most unfitting of me.”
“No. I suppose it was to be expected, considering the...circumstances,” I replied.
I stood and faced her, she with the fire to her back. An awkward minute seemed like ten, as I waited for her to respond. We stood there like two strangers bumping in the street.
I should have steered the conversation away from the previous events. Like: “Ms Treepaller... I would love for you read my latest treatise of Political...Malfunction. I so value your opinion. As you know nothing about anything.” But wisely I remained mum, as it would cost me dearly. Then, as if the sensation of my kiss (cold as it was intended) still lay on her lips, to which she raised a finger and seemed to either savor the memory of the touch, or more likely and hopefully, was thinking to cleanse the area I had infected with my horrible disease. Again, I was probably worn on both guesses. I needed to get out more and mix up my flirting with real human interaction, for I apparently had lost all ability to read even such a simple creature.
She leaned forward. I knew there would be no escape, she placed her hands on my hips, and held me desperately tight. Normally, I would have retreated. But it piqued me the way she kneaded my skin. Perhaps needed
For the lady does not know
Which way to go
The man has an affliction.
was more correct. Her fingerings were as sensual as anything I had ever felt. In seconds she had rubbed a fire within me and I met her lips more than half way.
We pushed back the rockers and she lay on the floor and I atop her. Mind you, I still had on my scarf, hat, not to mention the toad-skin gloves still tied to my wrists. My reluctance to have previously removed this apparel should have implied that I wished to leave. But the passion furthered the heat within me and I dressed like a bundle of hay, felt my blood simmering. I was in the middle of my landlord, a place I naught should be. Much kissing groping and panting ensued. All the while my thoughts tugging at me. A moment of clarity tempered my lust, for my brain again found footing when I opened an eye and remembered upon who I was lying.
Ms Treepaller was lustfully undulating beneath me, and if not for my thick textiles, I might have felt her passion and succumbed, but I found strength and rolled off her and stood. I knew the next words would determine where I would be sleeping: in my cozy warm attic, or fighting the orphans for space under the porches of the shopkeepers. I reached for her hands and was surprised, as I had nothing to do with the appearance of incredibly large, white, and perfect breasts. How had she done that?
The nagging heat in my bruised nethers tried to unbalance my decision, but I held firm—not to her breasts—and pulled her to her feet. “Please Ms Treepaller. We must stop.” With gentlemanly manners I looked away while she buttoned her blouse.
“Ms Treepaller, I again am so sorry for my forwardness. I must explain.”
“Please Brimley, in light of our recent acquaintances, you may call me Grace.” Then she finished straightening herself and looked at me sternly. I knew this had better be good.
I said, “Sit...Grace.”and then I noticed a most embarrassing relic lying across the arm of her rocker. Her pantaloons. How had she done that? She took them and folded them up as if it were a normal object to suddenly appear.
“Putting you in that compromising position was most unfair.” I really meant, was unfair for me.
I sat and faced her. I was sweating, so I dared to remove one item, thinking I probably looked as foolish as I felt. I removed the pilgrim hat and lay it upon my lap, hopeful she would not take it that I was covering up anything she may have been responsible for, though a few moments ago she would have been correct.
“I must tell you more about my affliction. As I was saying, it is not communicable through physical contact such as our earlier handshake and...casual kiss.”
Ms Grace Treepaller frowned, and I, walking lightly, did not know if she was affronted by calling our kiss casualor, that I was going into details about my dreaded disease.
“I didn't mean our kiss was casual.” I was drowning.
I was rewarded for my sensitivity with her smile, which grew big and starry-eyed, if not silly looking expression. It eased my discomfort. I needed to choose every word carefully. Why had I not become a barrister? I should have listened to my father.
“My affliction is that I have an eager...well perhaps better said...oversoon.” Seeing no clue awaken her. “ Untimely.”
Then she nodded. “Is it...?”
I cut her off. “It is just too hard to talk about.” I bowed my head, hoping for pity. I saw that her emotions were quick to turn. Gone were the stars, now replaced by impatience, but I could be wrong, as with everything that occurred this evening. I felt I was a distant observer to events in which I was in fact, a key character.
“Grace, please forgive me. I have...I have...spilled my seed twice since our first kiss.”
I closed my eyes. For two reasons. I was deeply embarrassed for the lie I had told and the other was—I expected a log to come my way. Either way, there was still the possibility that later this evening I may have to pack and go into the streets and fight the orphans for a burrow.
Demeaning as it was to make up this blasphemous, self-deprecating slander—belittling my fecundity, my mettle, not to mention my virility and manhood—she further crushed my ego by laughing.
I was ready to expose my lie and regain my dignity when she spoke. “I am well acquainted with your affliction and I laugh in relief, for you had me wondering if you had the plague, or worse yet, the soldier's disease. So to hear you have an affliction that I well know is an easily remedied personal disorder, causes me to laugh in relief. I can and will help you with your malady, but you must be patient and expect no quick cure. Pardon my use of words, but I can improve your timing.”
Shakespeare, save me. I apologize for the twisting of words that tempt to bury me. What have I gotten myself into? How could things have gone anymore wrong. I needed to clear my head, figure who got what—the most—of who—in the confrontation.
“Ms Treepaller, I mean Grace. I am most unconformable and embarrassed by this, and I take my leave to clear my head. May we speak at a later date?”
She smiled almost smugly as if she had one up on me for my alleged sexual inadequacies.
Talk? Date? I saw the predator the cats shirked from.
I knew I was pressing my luck and should have left right then, but I had to know if all this acting, lying and humiliation was worth it.
“Grace. About my late rent...” I paused, waiting for her to interrupt me with...“Oh that is fine. Matter of fact I think we can dispense with that little rule all together.” That was what I was hoping to hear. Instead, she noted my obvious grovel, stretched a pause and announced.
“That is the first thing you need to learn—to be on time. Not too soon—not too late.” She punctuated her speech with a smug smile.
The metaphor was not lost on me. I was surprised she had such wit in her. Such was the instinct within women; the coy, innocent little lambs, while we, the big bad wolves, the predators looking for encounters. But when a woman of any experience senses that was what a man was about, she would surely use it to her advantage. For as ours was a more primal need, theirs was a sociological dysfunction of the barter system.
Grace approached, and I gave her what I considered to be a fatherly kiss, and I presumed to her—was a passionate embrace of things to come. I left feeling less comfortable than when I had entered, closed the door so she could not see I still intended more than ever to cleanse my now truly deserving soul in the storm.
The board creaked loudly and I wanted to slam my foot upon it, rip it from its roots, burn it, and then whittle it to a toothpick. It was the cause of my predicament, and of that, I am not sure what it was. My mind more confused than when I previously stood at this spot. I had to escape and go into the storm, cleanse my brain, and now my lips.
I went down the second flight of stairs and was met by Jason and Kimberly Bootluck, the children of renters on the first floor. The common area, which may have been an entrance hall when the house was built, was now a play area for the children on bad weather days.
“Hello Mr. Tinderbuss. You really going out in the storm?” inquired the little gentleman, Jason.
“Yes, off for a short walk.”
Kimberly giggled. “Be careful. My mum says there are rules for this weather.”
I stopped and bent to eye level with the cute, mischievous girl. She would grow up to be a smart, manipulating, if not fascinating woman, for she always talked in ways that would have you asking more. She had learned early that a child was most often ignored of their questions, so she had learned to say things that invited or teased you into wanting to know more.
“And, pray-tell, what are these rules?”
She giggled and leaned forward, her hand cupped my ear to prevent her frowning brother's from hearing.
She whispered, “Don't lick anything and don't pee.”
I laughed, rose, and headed to the front door, but not before she threw a few more witticisms.
“And don't spit in the wind. Don't close your eyes for too long. Follow other footprints if you get lost, but don't bump into them because it's rude and...”
Chapter 3Walk in the Snow
The realization of one's self is the beginning of your true direction.
My laughter ended when I shut the door and the wind immediately attacked me, finding holes in my heavy clothes. The mad wind found entrance to my neck and stung like hot water. My toes already felt the effects, and I wiggled them to keep the blood flowing. I tied the sleeves of my coat tighter, pulled the collar up, and soon. only my nose and eyes were left to fend for themselves.
A horrible invention man was. Take the nose for instance: an unsturdy appendage in the forefront of the head—to face cold, rain, wind, fists and horse's hoofs. It was soft and easily anguished by any of the aforementioned occurrences and scores of others. The eyes only have but a few lashes to fend off the many obstacles the vanguard of a person's head could be exposed to. I thought God surely had more aesthetic inspirations in mind for his creations than the brute reality of the world we would have to function in.
I reminded myself of the two reasons I was enduring this. I had to clear my head so I could write afresh, and to fix I what had gotten myself into with my landlady; now too familiarly known as Grace.
The snow came midway to my knees and as it was well after dinner time, the fresh falling snow was not tainted by the coal smoke from cooking fires. Ms Grace Treepaller's house sat on the corner of Tooley Street and Boroughs, a stone's throw from London Bridge, conveniently across from two eatery's where I have financed away my welcomes.
I saw the night watch, old Henery Bigstork. He was standing in a corner between Manyhimmer's Stage House and Two Pigs Tavern. His lantern was a soft yellow. I wondered who he was protecting from on this merciless night; no prey for gangs to manipulate, no gents to be robbed. He was paid a fair wage for his efforts and usually a meal and grog at one of the two buildings he nested between.
I nodded as he swung his lantern. “You're a brave man, Mr. Tinderbuss.”
“A fine line between that and foolhardy.” I yelled back above the wind.
“Just being polite.” He responded.
I wondered if he meant me a fool for braving the weather, or, he being the watchful eyes of the night, knew of my treasonous activities. I smiled, he was a good man, and some of my prose and witticism was inspired—very well—stolen from him.
I bent my head into the wind. The icy snow hammered on spots of exposed flesh like small pebbles. To my left I heard the tavern door open, revealing a warm glow and the outline of a tall man. I could not see his face for he and the light were not in my favor. He appeared to think better of his departure, turned and retreated back to the warmth, drink, and company. That was all a man could desire, and yet here I was, forcing solitude and misery upon myself. I eased my torture by reminding myself the tavern would be there on the way back, but I did not know if I was welcome, as my credit had of late been revoked. Perhaps they would not take offense if I sat quietly and stared at a steak.
I walked west down Tooley Street, a wide road that paralleled the River Thames. In the storm, I could not see over the buildings and warehouses where the masts of tall ships wavered with the rush of the current. Never having been to sea, I wondered if that was a safer place for me and my inclinations.
It was a hurried walk past historic St. Olaf's Church. I wished I could be as quick to forgive as London's history did. King Olaf had tried to burn London Bridge and failed, but with ropes and the tide, his ships succeeded in pulling her down. Three things bothered me about this attack on the city that I loved to hate, they wrote a children's nursery rhyme over this assault, they sainted the bastard, and then built a church for him on the south side of the bridge. It was as if all the logic, sanity and reasoning I now fought for with my quill, was useless because of the forgiving history of the city. The city may forgive, but I would not.
The air was so cold—I felt as if my lungs would cease to operate. My nose was running like a cow and I felt my ear flaps had deserted me, for a stinging pain threatened to bring tears to my eyes and I remembered the silly little words Kimberly Bootluck had shared. I quickly wiped them away.
I cut through a small alley where the snow was even deeper. I was terribly exhausted from the struggle, the snow was above my knees. I cut south to Duke Street and then west to Borough where a posting board—my destination, was nailed to the side of Chellsey's Stables. I touched my coat, wherein lay the voice of my discontent. I needed to be cautious, even under cover of the storm, for the parchment was evidence enough for my demise. I could not see a soul or fresh tracks, this would be one of my easier posts, and I wished I had made more copies to place on other boards.
I approached the stables and recognized the King's chicken tax decree flapping in the wind. I withdrew a small knife from my pocket and pried its two tacks off. It flew away, as I wish they all would. I used the blunt end of the knife to hammer my proclamation. Four square on mine and it looked secure for all those that can not read, for those that matter the most. But it appeased my need to shout out the unrighteousness.
As I turned, I was roughly pushed. The back of my head slammed into the posting board. Two men held me, arm in arm. They were wrapped against the storm as much as me, only their angry eyes showing and looking at me above their frosted scarfs.
My hands to my elbows were still free and I gripped my knife. One man placed his arm around my neck and he came close to my face. In the dark of the storm, I supposed he wished to recognize me. I could not give him that, so I pushed with all my weight against the board and slashed him across the leg. He cried out and went down in the snow, holding his thigh. The other man had let go when he saw his partner fall. I was upon my knees, struggling to get up before they came at me again. I heard the scraping of metal—sword or knife? An awful pressure pushed against my ribs knocking me down on my face, the man had stabbed my coat. I would had expected more pain if a blade had pierced me, but I was too short on time to look. I rolled to my side, then to my knees, found my footing, and lifted my boots making tracks through the snow.
I could not go home and lead them there, so I ran south a block to Cheltter's Corner and entered an alley. I was breathing so loud I felt certain they would hear me, so I sat deep in the snow letting it hide me and placed my hands to my face, muffling my loud exertions. Then I saw two dark shapes struggling through the snow coming my way. They stopped ten paces from me. I was trapped. The alley was a dead end.
“How's your leg?” One asked the other.
“Just a shallow slice. Not enough to stop me from hunting the bastard. We were so close to catching another treasonous writer. Should have stabbed him first, then asked questions later.”
“Next time, Albert. Let's find this rat and be done with him.”
“Be hard going now. The wind has covered his tracks. Wait!”
I saw them bending over, looking where my footprints led them to me. Both their heads turned towards me. A lucky howl of wind raced down the street, blowing snow and vision away.
I sank deep and with my hands, I pulled the snow about me and covered my head. I was blind to whether they still came toward me. I readied my knife to jump, slash and run again. Seconds stretched to minutes, and my nerves were stretched. I pushed some snow away to make my breathing easier, but I still could not see or hear anything. I was trusting my fate to luck.
When enough time seemed to pass, I rose slowly from the mound. If I had been facing the wrong way, I would be dead. A sword sliced through the air and clanged on the brick wall behind me. I sprung up and slashed with my knife, finding nothing. I fell forward and felt someone jump on my back. I lost my knife, I had never felt so helpless. I wrestled, thrashed, and punched at the man, trying to escape his blade. A kick to my head dazed me and I was pulled over on to my back. Something sharp dug at me through my thick scarf.
I had no choice—it was death or capture. I grabbed his sword with my thick gloves and pushed it to the side and with my other hand, reached up and grabbed the arm of my executioner. He came down, almost landing on top of me. I rolled away and found purchase in the slippery snow, stood, placed a kick to his head and ran for my life, in which direction, I knew not.
I did not stop running until I was completely spent. I was at the cross-streets of Borough and Tooley. I could see further now, and not a soul was visible. I could not chance going home, even though the wind had completely filled my tracks.
I headed to the bridge where I saw that I was not the only fool to dance with the storm. A young boy, bravely bare-faced in the cold, sat on barrel on the southeast corner of the bridge. I tried to regain some composure and not look like a treasonist who had twice just escaped death. I found my breath as the boy waited patiently. Layers of ragged clothes kept him warm I was sure, but if he let the snow pile any thicker upon him, he could be in cold trouble by time morning's sun came to thaw him. He was a Duke Street boy, the local gang who, out of the kindness of their cruel little hearts, only charged their neighbors one farthing to travel north over the bridge. Strangers coming from the north had to pay double.
I dug for a farthing and thought,
I was only going to the middle of the six-hundred-year old wonder of the world, so why not pay him half? I had almost been killed tonight. What could this boy do to me? It was just him, but then remembered it was his forty friends that I feared. They knew where I lived.
I opened my mouth to haggle over my toll, my teeth shocked me with a cold pain that went to my brain. I gave up the idea and payed the troll. I went to place the coin in his hand, but changed my mind and let the farthing fall to the snow.
The Dukie looked with disdain at the coin at his feet. Even though it was now his, he offered no thanks or civil courtesies for his theft. The wind renewed its attack and I was grateful for its cover, as it blew up waves of fresh snow. I looked south and could see less than a dozen paces.
When I looked back to the Dukie, he smiled and nodded to the ground, expecting me to retrieve his hard earned farthing. I was too cold and still scared for pleasantry. Times were tough when a gang boy braved this weather to take your money. Nonetheless, I accentuated my dislike for his robbery and stepped on the coin, burying it as deep as my weight could take it.
It may had seemed cowardly to treat a young boy so, but he was a Dukie. A meaner and tougher gang you could not find amongst men. As brave as it seemed for those in the know, he probably could not recognize me and I feared no retributions. Besides I needed a little pleasure on this hard night.
If the wind was howling on Boroughs Street, it was screaming as I approached the bridge. I reached the hollow under Southwark Gatehouse and leaned against the wall to take refuge. After a moment, I braved the next open causeway, an open span about ten paces long, almost ten wide. The wind swept down the Thames unabated and tore into me with renewed ferocity. I headed toward the first inhabited building. Though most buildings on the bridge were a good four stories high, the gaps between them offered little protection, as the gusts reached their meanest speeds by the time they met the old bridge.
Leaning into the wind, I suddenly paused in the open, something inside me pulled me to the bridge railing, and I looked down at the river. The Thames, through no fault of its own, was a polluted entity. Man can plead innocence to this, for history whines that it was always a river of muck. The water looked cold, powerful, and brought something up within me—an unfamiliar feeling—loneliness.
My mind thought back to the warmth of the situation I had just left. A roaring fire. (The one in the fireplace, not atop her head, nor the one in my breeches.) Hot undiluted tea, served with the most beautiful breasts I had ever seen. I had been atop a wanton woman. Why had I taken leave of her? Then I told her I had the sexual patience of a schoolboy. I knew that was going to haunt me. We were now on a first name basis? She was no more my intellectual equal than my past wives, and if I was uncomfortable with her presence now, how much more so if I had consumed her? I, as her renter and lover, would be at her beck and call, her slave for dispassionate needs.
Conversations before and after the act would make regrets all too precipitated and anticipated to make it worth the time. To service her for what purpose? Rent?
Her breasts were a gift, though, and their vision replaced the cold water below. Even now in the freeze of the night, the heat within my breeches tempted me to return and have her. Small price to pay for some, but I still had some pride, though it may not be much today, I had confidence in its future.
In the meantime, when time allowed, I would shop for a new attic.
I realized how alone I was. I had always enjoyed my solitude and often raptured in it, but now I felt like I was the only man in the whole world. I saw not another soul, heard only mother nature beating her chest and mine, no one would care if I sat here, turned to a lump of ice, dead by morning's awakening. I knew two men who would be pleased if they found me in such a state.
I stood holding onto the rail of the bridge as the wind shook me, sapping my strength, and twisting my mind. A little thought crept through my brain. A spark of divine inspiration? No, an awakening...I brilliantly knew what my body and mind needed.
04-01-2013, 12:17 PM
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: A Rock and a Pillow
Okay, chop this down. I'm not going to sit down and critique three whole chapters and I don't think I'm alone in that opinion.
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