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Carol 6

by Richard Brown 

Posted: 09 September 2003
Word Count: 1890
Summary: More of Carol's biography
Related Works: Carol • Carol 10 • Carol 2 • Carol 4 • Carol 5 • Carol 7 • Carol 8 • Carol 9 • Carol3 • 

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Carol 6

As a ten year old who would quite soon be moving on to big school, Carol felt that she was too sophisticated to play with dolls yet she could not resist the comfort proffered by Marilyn and the others as the implications of the parental betrayal sank in. The compliant creatures were taken from their cupboard luxury hotel and greeted warmly. Their princess wanted to cry but could not, she felt the beginnings of anger but the rage would not develop. In the haven of her bedroom, she re-created her controllable world.

There was, as far as she could tell, only one advantage in her new circumstances and that was that both traitors, but especially her father, were keen to compensate for their act of abandonment. There were treats a-plenty and when she expressed interest in a huge box of coloured pencils, Robert bought it for her without any of the usual reluctance.

Carol showed the gift to her new Marilyn who, though not able to read quite as well as her predecessor, could follow the letters as they were pointed out. ‘Lakeland,’ Carol said as her fingertip reached the ‘d’. She and her companion looked at the exquisite rural picture on the lid. To the doll’s rapt interest, the young teacher explained about England and the climatic seasons; the falling of leaves, the freezing of ponds, the flowering of springtime buds. ‘It’s very, very strange, and often cold and dark,’ Carol told her fascinated pupil, ‘but the people who live there are used to it and dress warmly.’

She failed to make the connection that this alien country was where her daddy and her supposed mummy were soon to be resident. ‘I’m going to take these pencils to school,’ she told Marilyn.

Friends gathered round Carol, good girls like herself. She opened the lovely tin and the evocative scent of cedar wood intoxicated those within its ambit. The pencil points, thorn sharp, graded according to rainbow principles, glowed in the strong sunlight. Boys and girls who were not Carol’s friends drifted over. The proud pencil owner, smaller than almost all of them, was the centre of a cylinder of attention. Astonishingly Beverley, the biggest girl, the one who boasted disgustingly about her experiences with older boys, was drawn towards the crowd. She barged through and peered from her great height. Carol looked at the hitherto aloof leader of the bad girls and experienced an excitement which brought her from inner numbness back towards life. She handed the tin to Beverley. ‘Here,’ she said, ‘have a look.’

The big girl, who avoided school work as far as she was able, had no evident use for coloured pencils but nobody could resist the lure of these luscious implements. The bronzed reverse side of the opened lid reflected sunlight directly up onto Beverley’s face. She was golden, like a ceremonial gold statue, something beautiful and precious from the tombs of ancient Egypt, Carol thought. Beverley said: ‘Can I have one?’

One of Carol’s friends, a brave soul, called out in protest. ‘They’re a present from her daddy, Beverley, and they’re a set.’ The words were an irritant.

Eyes met. There was the promise of a compact, of entry to a world which, until then, Carol had not known that she wished to join. ‘Just one,’ Beverley begged.

Beverley begging! The circumstances were unimaginable. Daddy would certainly forbid the spoiling of the array but the supplicant was smiling, saying ‘Please’ beseechingly. Carol imagined the pencils blunted, shortened, jumbled in the tin. Who could ever know that one was missing?

She smiled and nodded. ‘Pick one,’ she said and an astonishing flush of pleasure suffused her being.

The clamour was then overwhelming. Friends cried that it was not fair, children she barely knew pleaded shamelessly. Carol looked at the encircling group. Every girl and every boy was staring, waiting for her word. With eyes shining, she took the depleted tin from Beverley and handed it to her foremost friend. ‘Here, you can have one too,’ she said.

Then, quite quickly, the pencils were all carried off, some to be discarded carelessly, others to be buried in the dark recesses of school desks, some to be used on maps of alien lands and neat drawings of dresses. When the tin was empty, Beverley said; ‘Eh, Carol, can I have that?’ In her fat fist were three of the pencils whereas Carol had none. It made sense. The absence of the tin made its former owner feel pleasantly light.

The crowd dispersed and Carol’s friends began their annoying remonstrations. Some even offered to return the pencil they had taken. ‘Your daddy’ll kill you,’ one said. Carol shrugged. ‘He’s rich, he doesn’t care,’ she declared. ‘He’ll just buy me some more.’

Robert was waiting as usual, smiling a greeting. His first words were about the pencils and it was only then that worry came. Carol pretended not to hear. In the car he asked again. He wanted to know if she would be using the set to enhance her homework. It might have been sensible for Carol to say that she had inadvertently left the implements in her desk but she had a better, more permanent, solution.

‘Oh, er, Daddy,’ she said with sorrow in her tone, ‘it’s terrible, I know, but the pencils were stolen.’

The Beetle threatened to stand on its squat little nose as the brake pedal was slammed towards the floor. Robert shouted. ‘Stolen, what do you mean, stolen?’ She hung her head and forced out tears, a tactic which did not prevent him forcefully repeating the question. Stammering, she lied that she had left the tin in her desk at lunchtime and that it had been missing when she had returned for the afternoon classes.

Visibly enraged, spitting temper, Carol thought, Robert began turning the car round, revving the engine, crunching the gears, making the tyres squeal.

‘What are you doing?’ she whimpered.
‘Going straight to the headmistress,’ her champion declared. ‘This is outrageous!’

They were almost back at the gates of the school when Carol resigned herself to the inevitable. The tears turned into dramatic sobbing. .Robert stopped abruptly and turned to look at her. ‘Have you been telling the truth?’ he demanded.

He stayed calm whilst she unraveled the story and at first it seemed that he might see the impulsive action as an example of laudable generosity. Having finished her confession, Carol glanced hopefully in his direction, an angelic smile curling her mouth. Robert showed nothing of tenderness. ‘Carol,’ he said solemnly, ‘those pencils were a gift, an expensive, precious gift. You must have known that it was wrong to give them away, otherwise you would not have lied to me.’

Carol bit the inner part of her lower lip viciously, breaking the skin. She knew that she was due for a beating but this was of no consequence. She felt not guilty but ashamed. The story would be told and told. In the grim silence her mind worked itself up. She had been so happy giving out the pencils, they were her pencils, to dispose of as she wished!

She prayed for an accident. Robert, in his cold rage, might cripple a child or kill an old woman. That would divert him and the price would be worth it.

Nothing so dramatic happened. The Beetle’s nose pushed into the driveway of their apartment block. The car was trundling slowly but it was going quite fast enough. Without plan, Carol opened her door and tumbled out.

The asphalt took skin off hands and knees. There was no immediate pain but there was gratifying bloodiness. Robert slammed on the brakes and came rushing. ‘Oh, Carol, Carol, Carol!’ he cried, staring helplessly down at her. She sobbed, ‘I didn't mean to be naughty, Daddy, honestly. The girls just kept asking and asking and I was afraid to say no.’

He picked her up and held her with tenderness, stroking her hair and murmuring forgiveness. Of course, he had to deliver the homily but being attentive was a small price to pay. The cuddle of reconciliation was delicious.

At school the next day, Beverley was her friend. ‘What your rich daddy give you today?’ the big girl asked. She made it heart-warmingly clear that she was only joking but at the first opportunity Carol used her painstakingly saved pocket money to buy candy which she distributed as though her resources were unlimited.

Some of her former friends argued against the growing alliance with Beverley and her gang, others crept into the bad-girl circle in Carol’s shadow. The pocket money savings stretched to cheap jewellery, comics and sweet treats. Beverley was heard saying that she wished she had a rich daddy like Carol’s. ‘He’s going to England on important business soon,’ the little rich girl announced. ‘My mummy’s going too. I’m going to stay with my favourite auntie. She lives in a big house with a swimming pool. It’ll be lovely.’
The fantasy about her temporary home became so real to Carol that when she was taken on a preliminary visit the shock of tawdry reality made her forget how to be charming. She sensed that Mrs. Campbell’s dislike of her came instantly. She tried her best to disguise dismay as she was shown her intended bedroom but knew that her lip was curling. The future foster mother surveyed her paying guest with palpable distaste. ‘You stuck up, girl?’ she asked. Carol shook her head vigorously. She thought, just for a moment, about revealing that she was Beverley’s best friend. ‘No,’ she cried, ‘it’s lovely.’ Mrs Campbell’s scrutiny continued. ‘Very small,’ she said, as though to herself. ‘Maybe I arrange for some tests.’ Carol’s eyes widened in alarm. One of the few things she knew about Mrs Campbell was that she worked in the hospital. Visions of large needles came unbidden and Carol shuddered.

A bent-shouldered giant of a young girl drifted in, glanced wordlessly at Carol, raised her head in dismissive distaste, kissed her teeth ostentatiously and went into another room. ‘That my daughter Edith,’ Mrs. Campbell revealed with the hint of a prideful smirk which subtly suggested that height was the prime determinant of merit in young females. Carol remembered her parents’ prediction that she and Edith were destined to become close friends. ‘Jack and the beanstalk,’ she thought glumly.

In the few days before her parents were due to depart, Carol’s mood veered from terror and anxiety to indifference. She could not share their excitement. ‘Daddy, do I have to have tests?’ she asked. ‘Of course darling, sometimes; they’re part of your schooling,’ he answered and she seemed not to have the energy to explain what she meant.

Then she was delivered to the Campbell household, like a piece of furniture into storage. She did not cry. Committed to her charge were precious African violets in their bright red pots. ‘Make sure you water them daily,’ Anne commanded.

When they had gone, Mrs. Campbell smiled. ‘Now, madam,’ she said with heavy sarcasm, ‘let’s see about sorting a few things out.’

‘Hello, Edith,’ Carol said hopefully as her new semi-sister entered. It came as no surprise that there was no response.

In the hateful room, Carol cried. How she wished she had had the courage to bring her dolls.

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Comments by other Members

Jumbo at 14:45 on 09 September 2003  Report this post

I haven't read any of the revious parts of Carol's biography. Is she based on a real child?

The thing that hit me straight away is the style of language you have chosen for her. Most of the time it works well but there was one word which jarred for me - etymologically (hope I spelt that correclty). The word seemed too far out of the vocabulary of a 10 year old to remain consistent with the rest of the piece - even with your (assumed) intention of giving the child a more mature voice.

I particularly liked the part where she helps Marylin to read 'Lakeland'.

A couple of other small points. Is the first sentence too long? Would it be better split with a full-stop after dolls?

There's an extra full-stop between sobbing and Robert.

Not too sure about the American school systems, but isn't the first year of the intermediate schools (7th Grade) for 12 to 13 year olds. Carol tells us she is 'soon' to be moving to big school. Would this really be soon in the mind of a ten year old?

Hope this is useful and not too low-level!

I enjoyed the piece and look forward to reading more. Are the previous parts archived?



Richard Brown at 15:14 on 09 September 2003  Report this post
John, thanks for your comments. This section is actually part of a chapter, not a thing in itself, and I hope that the deliberately chosen style might make more sense in the longer context. The opening sentence isn't, in fact, the beginning of a chapter but I will, when re-editing, consider its length.

Yes, it's very much a true story, though the location is Jamaica (and hence a British schooling system in those days) and not the US.
I did hesitate about the use of 'etymological'. I justified using it, and other words which a ten year old would not know, because the story is actually being told by a narrator (whose identity will eventually be revealed) rather than by Carol. However, I agree that I have set a child-like style which, of course, will change as she gets older. Another consideration is that the use of such a word struck me as being mildly amusing in this context but maybe it doesn't work. It may be worth noting, though, that the book is intended to be amusing some of the time. I'll bear what you say in mind when re-working the text.

Yes, the other 5 sections are in the archive. I would be interested to know what you think if you ever have time to plough through them.


Nell at 19:33 on 09 September 2003  Report this post
Hi Richard,

I thought Marilyn had disappeared from the car when Carol's father had driven off in it in the last chapter, so I was surprised to find her appearing in this. Have I somehow got things wrong?

I stumbled a little at 'etymological' too I'm afraid. It seemed rather a shock if that's not too strong a word, but I am following Carol's story with curiosity if not fascination, and look forward to the next chapter.

Best, Nell.

Becca at 22:19 on 09 September 2003  Report this post
I think this is one of the best sections, the description in the playground and handing out the pencils seems to remind me of things in my own childhood, seemed very real. I'm dying for her to grow older.

Richard Brown at 09:24 on 10 September 2003  Report this post
Nell, Spot on! Thanks! In an earlier version I had a section where Carol acquired a new Marilyn which I then removed. I'll edit at once!

It looks as though my fat, unfunny word has got to go. Goodbye 'etymological'.

And many, many thanks for the continuing encouragement; it really does inspire me.

Becca, thanks a thousandfold. Such wonderful support! Worry not -Carol grows older all too quickly!


Bobo at 15:49 on 10 September 2003  Report this post
Richard -

The latest instalment was definitely worth waiting for. Like the cuddle of reconciliation, your work is delicious!

BoBo x

Richard Brown at 16:54 on 10 September 2003  Report this post
Thanks, Bobo! I've just been working on the next section, changing the voice a little as Carol matures. Hope it turns out ok! More soon.


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