Some of you may remember that I posted a short story some months ago about a witch called Edith the Grey. I've decided to write some more short stories using this character. Below is the first chapter of one of them.
Again, all comments welcome (even if you hate it!)
Edith the Grey Chronicles.
Her Next Door
"I tell you, Norman. That woman'll be the finish of us." Maureen Fairweather examined the sausages in her frying pan, turned a couple over with a set of tongues. "What woman would that be, Maureen?" Norman asked. "Have you not been listening to a word I've been saying? I'm talking about her next door. That Edith woman." "My hearing suffers when I'm hungry, dearest." Norman was sat at the kitchen table, clutching the knife and fork on either side of his dinner plate. Reginald, his ten year grandson, was sat beside him, his friend Tom on his other side. The pair grinned at each other. "What's she supposed to have done this time?" Norman asked. Maureen stirred the mash potato, furiously. "There's been banging and crashing all day, there has. And flashes coming from her kitchen window. And dinner will take as long as it takes. Dearest."
"Oh, banging and crashing, eh?" Norman nudged his Son. "Better call the Police, Reggie. On account of banging and crashing in Rosewater Avenue. Heaven bloomin' forbid!"
"Norman Fairweather, I'll have you know that sarcasm will only result in smaller portions."
"Is it always like this?" Tom whispered into Reginald's ear. He nodded. "Brilliant! I'm coming again." Tom giggled.
"All I'm saying is, it's hardly the end of the world, is it? A bit of noise every now and then."
"And flashing. Don't forget the flashing." Maureen prodded at the sausages. "And it's not the first time. Some right strange goings on, there's been."
Norman reached across the table and grabbed Tom by the arm. "I hope you like your bangers on the well-done side, Son," he whispered.
"Strange things, Norman. Walls vibrating. Sounds that would wake the dead. And the flashing."
"Too busy with your nose up against the window, that's your problem. She's probably just got workmen in."
"Huh. That'll be the day, when I see a man walk in her house. I tell you, Norman, she's a right weird one."
"Well, I think she's quite pleasant."
"Huh!" Maureen stamped a foot on the floor.
"And what was that supposed to mean?"
"Norman Fairweather, I swear that if he'd have had boobs and wore a skirt, you'd have found Jack the Ripper quite pleasant."
"For pity sake, Maureen, she's ancient."
"She's little older than you are." Maureen turned from her cooker and waved her tongues at Norman. "And since when has that stopped you?"
"Oh, please. We're not dragging that up again. Not in front of Reggie's friend."
"You're telling me about it, later," Tom whispered. Reginald's shoulders slumped.
"And then there's that incident with the frying pan," Maureen said.
Tom looked up, quizzically. Norman addressed him. "My wife claims that when she was outside hanging out the washing a few weeks ago," he explained, "next door's frying pan appeared out of nowhere, flew over the fence and whacked her about the head." Tom burst into laughter, then quickly covered his mouth.
"Hard, Norman. It hit me hard about the head."
"Shame it didn't knock some sense into your bloomin' noggin." Norman shook his head.
"It's abnormal behaviour, is what it is. They write books about this sort of thing."
"She came over and apologized, didn't she?" Maureen nodded. "She must have offered some kind of explanation?"
"Some words came out of her mouth. That's all I know."
"How can you not remember what she said?"
"Well, if you don't mind, I was a bit occupied with being concussed at the time." Reginald and Tom giggled uncontrollably into their hands. "And, dearest husband, you don't seem remotely bothered that I was assaulted by a pensioner."
"Right now, I'm more concerned about if there's any chance of eating my bangers and mash sometime tonight."
"And what about what happened with my marrow?" Maureen asked, oblivious to Norman's chiding.
"The chippy's still open, Tom, if you wanna make a break for it," Norman said. "Make mine a cod fillet with small fries."
"Sarcasm, Norman. Five minutes, that's all." Norman sighed. "Could have won a prize with that one, I could. That Judith said the W.I. had never seen it's like. It was a shoe-in, she reckoned." She held her head high. "I already had my acceptance speech written. Then I heard that explosion one morning, rushed outside and saw my marrow blown to smithereens. Scattered to the four winds. Finding bits of it for weeks, I was... in the water butt, the hammock. Inside of your blessed Y-fronts, on the washing line."
"There has to be a reasonable explanation."
"I tell you, it's the work of that woman." Maureen pointed with her tongues.
"You're being ridiculous."
"I've got a theory about her, I have...."
Norman, Reginald and Tom exchanged glances, then turned their gazes to Maureen as she bashed away at the mashed potato with a fork.
"Well don't keep us in suspense now, Maureen," Norman said.
"You'll only laugh."
"I promise, only a bit."
Maureen stopped attacking the potato, fixed her stare through the kitchen window and over the garden fence. "I think that Edith woman is..."
"Yes?" Norman, Reginald and Tom all asked in unison.
"She's a...a witch!"
"Oh, boy," said Reginald.
"Have you finally lost it?" said Norman.
"Awesome!" said Tom.
Maureen opened a cupboard next to the sink, produced four large plates and set about dishing up the meal. "Well at least you didn't laugh," she said.
"I'm too occupied with being stunned witless, dearest. You do know there's no such thing as witches, don't you?"
"Just because you've never picked one up in your cab doesn't mean they don't exist." Maureen put plates on the table mats. Norman's landed with a thud. "Dearest", she added.
Norman reached for the brown sauce and poured a generous heap beside his mashed potato. "At bloomin' last," he said, attacking a sausage with his knife and fork.
"I'm going to prove it, you know," Maureen said as she sat down beside her husband. "Photo's. Video. Whatever it takes. Could be dangerous, you know. Crossing a witch."
"Whatever'll keep you happy." Norman shovelled potato into his mouth.
"This is the best stay over ever," Tom whispered to Reginald.
"You don't seem very concerned about my safety, Norman. I said it could be dangerous."
"I'm sure you'll come through un-scarred, Maureen. Unless, of course, you happen to stray into the path of another levitating frying pan."
Reginald and Tom giggled. "Mock me all you want," Maureen said as she arranged her potato into a neat heap "but I'd love to see the look on your face if I come back from there dead one day."
"Well, how will you see the look on my face if you're..." Norman shook his head. "Never mind," he added. "Good sausages, Maureen. Expertly over-cooked."
"Just eat your dinner, Norman. Before you end up wearing it."
They ate in a silence as they finished their meals, punctuated only by the bleep that indicated someone had received a text message. Reginald checked his phone beneath the table. Tom had sent him a message:
WE GOTTA CHECK OUT THAT EDITH HOUSE, it read. MIDNIGHT?
Reginald looked at Tom, who was grinning manically.
Tom's phone bleeped. He opened up the message: OKAY. BUT WE GOTTA BE Q U I E T !!!!
WICKED. THIS WILL BE TOTALLY FRIGGIN AWESOME!!!!!
"What have I told you about phones at the dinner table, Reginald?" Maureen said.
Tom grinned at Reginald. Reginald grinned at Tom.
I swear that some form of sorcery was visited upon me when I posted this chapter, because the tabs on the first few paragraphs are all over the place and I certainly didn't write them that way. Damn computers have it in for me, I think.
I'd be grateful if you could bare this in mind when leaving comments.
This is a fantastic piece of prose. To be honest, I'm not sure what I could add except that the trend "was sat" was a bit distracting. I know the audience is British English, but it took me a bit out of the story.
Other than that, if this is the first chapter or introduction I would've like a bit of a character description and/or scene setting. Just something to make it a bit more intimate for my imagination. On the other hand, not having an image of Edith was great because it created suspense.
If it's not, then this is a great piece of dialogue that pulled me in right away, making me want more. The formatting was a bit of a problem, yes, until I pulled it into Word and Presto! it was readable.
Looking forward to the next chapter and congratulations on a great piece!
After reading your comments, I'm now feeling a bit better about myself: I took this chapter to my writing group last night and all my fellow writers took great delight in telling me that I typed 'tongues' instead on 'tongs'. What a prize idiot I felt! It's an elementary error that I shouldn't have made, so I'll make sure I check more thoroughly before submitting in future.
I have since made a few subtle changes in any case, so I may re-visit this following your thoughts and tweak it a little bit, before re-submitting.
Yes, perhaps I do need to describe the characters a little better. Norman, for example, is a taxi driver, so long hours at the wheel and the many temptations when passing all those fast food joints have probably left him with a large belly. Maybe that's the kind of detail I need to include? This is not the first chapter, but certainly the first one that introduces these characters, so I take your point.
I will hopefully get around to describing Edith in a bit more detail in the next chapter.
Thanks again, Theo.
I so enjoyed this. You captured an interest in what the heck is afoot with this Edith person; and the title already intrigues one.
Your writing is fluid and draws one deeper into the mystery and the slight underlying wit is well done and just enough to give the reader the suspicion of an awaiting surprise.
Just one small issue about the re-use of the word 'his' when introducing Reginald as 'his' grandson and then again Tom as 'his' friend. It took me some rereading to find out whose friend Tom was.
I also liked the early (in the first few sentences) establishment of the character's issues with each other. And I liked your subtle use of 'mood words' to show and not tell.
Already wondering about the outcome of The Greys true personality ;~)
Thank you so much for your feedback.
I was certainly aiming for subtle humour so it's encouraging that you think I have achieved this. The next chapter (the third) will feature Edith casting a spell for the first time.
I take your point about the repetition of the word 'the'. As you may have read in an earlier reply, I have noticed a number of annoying typo's, spelling errors and other mistakes since first posting this chapter, so I intend to re-post it in due course. I'll see if I can address the repetition issue when I do this.
Thanks again and have fun with your writing.
Sorry, engemi, I should have typed repetition of the word 'his' in my last reply to you. Here I go again...
Alec, I think one of the main strengths of this piece is its pace, and I think that's because you intersperse lots of action (waving and pointing of tongues notwithstanding, hehe--don't worry, it could happen to any of us!). Seriously, though, very well done on that!
For my taste, the spouses are a bit too heavy on the sarcasm with each other, especially with their son's friend present. But what do I know? Maybe there are people who treat each other that way. But you might want to consider toning it down a bit--not eliminating it, but toning it down.
May I suggest changing the last sentence to either 'Reginald grinned back' or "His friend grinned back"?
Thanks for your feedback.
My wife also made the point about the last two sentences. I deliberately repeated the same line for what I thought was comedy effect, but I guess it didn't come across. Maybe I'll change it, as you suggested. Still kicking myself about the tongues thing...
I'm not sure I want to tone down the banter between the adults though. Maybe most couples don't talk to each other that way in real life, but then there are no witches in real life either and I think that as this is intended as a comedy piece, it would be detrimental to tone it down too much.
Incidentally, a couple of friends of mine who have been in a relationship for five years or more constantly talk to each other this way and seem to revel in it, even with their sons/daughters around. They still love each other...or so they say! Maybe it's just a personal taste thing, but I'd rather the sarcastic exchanges remain intact.
Thanks again for your thoughts.
I remember reading about Edith the Grey some time ago.
I enjoyed it then and thought there was scope for more.
I liked the banter between those at the table.
The fast dialogue made it seem real and present.
I will be looking forward to the outcome.
Thank you, Peggles
I enjoyed writing the banter. I have a few ideas for story progression running around my brain (not much space in there) and once I decide which one warrants priority, I will write more.
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