Saturday, March 21, 2009
Replay first chapter
Here's the first chapter of my century-spanning love story, REPLAY. It's available as a PDF or a paperback from www.lulu.com, and I'd really LOVE someone to read it and give it an honest review.
SONG CYCLE ONE
VARIATIONS ON A THEME.
Scored in a locked room.
TRACK 1. AUSTRALIAN OVERTURE. (2007.)
This time round, I am a human girl and Harry is a dog. This is inconvenient, because my parents didn't really want a dog with a jutting eyebrow fringe and a shaggy, untrimmed beard. Nor did they want a dog that cost five hundred dollars.
A pedigreed Schnauzer! I said in despair when I recognised him that morning at the agricultural show. Why did you have to be a pedigreed Schnauzer, Harry? I mean - why did you have to be a dog?
Harry looked sheepish. His beady little eyes peered out from underneath that peculiar fringe. Sorry, Aelfthryth...
Ellie, I corrected. I'm called 'Ellie' now.
I was speaking to Harry mind-to-mind, of course. Australian English is the language I use in this Replay, but it isn't something a dog can ever learn.
Harry's little pink tongue polished his button nose. Sorry, Aelfthryth... I really couldn't help it.
Oh, never mind, I said. Of course you couldn't, any more than I could help the popinjay affair. (He was looking mournful. I never can stand it when Harry looks mournful.) It could have been worse. You might have been an elephant. Or a flea.
Or a bank manager, said Harry. I wish.
He was joking, of course. We both knew there was no way he could ever have made it as a bank manager.
I knelt down and gave him a hug, because I was so pleased to see him again. A computer nerd is about as high as you could have aimed in this time and place, I told him gently. A bank manager isn't one of the options, love. You can't be a postman, either. Not this time.
Harry sighed. Schnauzers never do look particularly happy, but poor Harry looked as if his last chunk of beef had turned out to be plastic.
I'm just so tired of being sixteen, he grumbled. It seems to get younger all the time. Except this time, when it's older.
You're not wrong, I said.
I thought back, carefully, more than ninety years. I was a kitchen maid that time, working for a man called Dr Large. He was a good enough doctor, I suppose, but his wife was very strange. Long red nose (I know she drank), stupid hobble skirts. And half the time she was off in a daze of laudanum. As for the housekeeper, Mrs Gurney! She was an evil old bat, unnaturally fond of Morals (with a Capital M) and caustic soda. Cruel stuff on the hands, that was, but not so cruel as her tongue.
She cuffed me round the ear once, and called me a slut, just for wearing my cap a bit off-centre. I was measuring the soda at the time and some of it splashed on my arm. The scar made a livid mark and Harry was furious.
There was nothing he could do about it, though. He was working as a postman, that time, with a bicycle and all and a peaked hat that made his ears look lonely. He passed his Post Office exam with the best marks anyone could remember.
"I'm going somewhere, Aelfthryth!" he told me, after he'd fussed about my soda-burn. (We'd met up down the alley, behind Doc Large's house.)
"Mary," I said. "I'm going by 'Mary' just now, remember? Mrs Gurney insists. She says 'Elvie' is no name for a kitchen maid."
"I'm going somewhere this time, Mary," said Harry. "I'll work my way up to Postmaster, just you wait and see!"
I hugged him as if I believed him, and he swaggered a bit as if he believed it too.
We both knew it was nonsense. He'd never make Postmaster, but he did have some independence. He was earning a wage and living in a boarding house. "You'll move in with me soon, won't you, Aelfthryth," he said.
"Aelfthryth." He grinned. "We'll be together, and the old bat won't be able to hurt you any more."
But of course we weren't together. We were old enough to be paid a wage, to be done with education... but they wouldn't let us board together. They said it was immoral. They said I'd be at risk. I don't know what they thought about the risk of caustic soda. And that wasn't even the worst of it-
I sighed, coming back to the present. This particular present, where Harry is a Schnauzer dog.
I'm tired of never getting past sixteen, he said again. It really sucks, big time.
"Don't you think I'm tired of finishing at fourteen?" I said aloud. I flicked his nose, which is what I always do the first time we meet in each new Replay. I wanted to kiss him. It would have seemed the natural thing to do, but I thought that people might stare. What they would see right now was a girl kneeling down beside a Schnauzer dog, which happened to be tied to the railing outside the ring at an agricultural show. Not too unusual, really. Lots of girls kneel down and talk to dogs. It's something girls tend to do in the here and now.
Kissing them is something else. Very unhygienic.
Then I bent and gave him a kiss anyway, because I really do love Harry with all my heart. And I'm sure you agree I should, since he's my husband.