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by AnnaBlume 

Posted: 27 December 2006
Word Count: 1809
Summary: rly sorry if i've joined the wrong group here! if anyone can suggest a more appropriate category for my work then do let me know! You see, unfortunately, the work i am doing at the moment isn't actually fiction. i try to treat it it like fiction tho, to handle it creatively &hopefully give meaning to my experience. plz put me right where i go wrong - i'm so new to all this!

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The Horse without a Tongue.

I had agreed to meet Stef in town, and it seemed then like I would remember every step of the way, as I crossed the open market place. Every weak and heavy step, every kick of that invisible boot behind my knees. I wished I could be just a little less conscious. I wished I could faint in the spotlight of the midday sun.
It was Thursday and the stalls were open. I found a space among the crowds and sat down under the statue of the horse with no tongue. I clutched my bag to my chest for protection. My feet and knees were together, my back straight. I aimed a fixed at stare at… well, at nothing.
In a film or a totally made-up story Stef would have appeared immediately and we would have hugged and cried and gone to Caffe Nero’s. Either that or some other catastrophe would have sprung up in our path and I would have to be brave and saintly, putting my own troubles to one side in order to resuscitate Stef’s baby brother or something. Neither of those things happened of course, firstly because - overwhelming as it may all have seemed at the time - my life is not interesting enough to be a film. And more importantly because Stef could not possibly have a baby brother, her mother being sixty-six at the time. What did happen was as boringly stressful, unexpectedly bizarre, and unpredictable as anything else in life.
But first came the waiting.
As I waited I was aware of people around me; kids in school uniform with sherbert fountains or bags of chips or chewy things. They came out in swarms on their lunch hour; the rolled up skirts and loosened ties, the laughing and chatting and snogging. The sun was out. Students were sitting on benches with open files, or with closed files. Old with men with their pipes sat and soaked up the sun. I noticed a lot of people sitting on their own waiting for someone. If you watch them like I do you’ll notice that people on their own always pay a lot of attention to their mobile phones. I think it’s because they don’t want people to think they have no friends. I watched them then, and couldn’t believe that I was even thinking such things. I closed my eyes and longed for blackness. What I got was that bright orange that comes from closing your eyes in the sun.
Somewhere on the bridge a busker I knew called Paul was playing something by Andrew Lloyd Webber on a kind of harp, and the music spread out like water ripples through the market. I opened my eyes and familiar faces drifted past me; me saying hello and smiling at them from some place under water. I don’t know what was in my head. I think I was thinking how I would tell my friend Charlie that I wouldn’t make it to her birthday party.
Or maybe I should go to take my mind off things.
I quite fancied going out drinking.
Bad idea
I touched the hard bench beneath me, reminding me that the world was still solid. Held onto it. For once the wood was dry and the sun was brilliant. I looked up at the perfectly cloudless, thirstily-blue sky and words came into my head. I felt them form there, solidify in their curly shapes like molten wax dropped into water. There’s a tumour in the sky today, they said, there’s a tumour in my afternoon. It’s bleeding poison into the air, feeding it into every blade of grass. It’s turning light into sickly chemicals. It smells of bile. A tumour.
I held onto my phone and bag. Blackness is seeping into this afternoon’s blood and lymph. Black as the inky circles floating in the corner of my eye. Black as oil on feathers. Suffocating. There’s a swollen rain cloud no one else can see. It’s blocking everything else out, filling every space. It won’t let me think of anything but that. Anything but the tumour in the sky – there’s a tumour in the sky
I gripped the bench. The sun shone on.
The Tumour in the sky.


I’ve no idea how long I sat there but I know it was a long time. I sat upright like that, looking ahead, praying for Stef to come along. Bless her, she’s wonderful person and a loving friend, but she’s not the best of timekeepers. So here I was, on that bench, under the horse trying not to hear the voice that whispered “abnormal growth. Abnormal growth”.
That and that tumour in the sky
After some time a man sat beside me. I was aware of his heavy presence and his smell of cigars and leather jacket. I was aware of a heat and solidness even though I didn’t quite acknowledge it. of course I paid no attention to him, but after a while I couldn’t help but notice the way he was beginning to inch his way closer to me.
Piss off, I thought Not today. But I could feel his body pressing up against mine. He was looking at my right side that didn’t have a tumour. He would change his mind if I turned around.
The man began clearing his throat, realising he would have to start getting less subtle. “It’s a beautiful day!” he said.
I had to look at him then. I turned and saw that he was dark-haired with strong features and a pitted complexion like lots of acne scars. He wasn’t bad looking – though at least twice my age – and I thought he might be Middle Eastern. I couldn’t be more specific than that. His accent was quite heavy. I’m surprised how much I can remember.
“Sorry?” I said trying to see through that black blockage. “What did you say?”
“It’s a beautiful day”, he repeated.
Beautiful day? What was beautiful about it? From a long way off I heard myself say dreamily “Yes it is, isn’t it”, and (amazingly!) “first time I’ve seen the sun this year!”
The man cleared his throat again. If you speak I’ll hit you, I thought. “And this is a beautiful city as well”.
“Yes it is”, I agreed. I think I smiled at him.
There was a pause.
“Do you live here?”
“I do,” But you needn’t think I’m giving you my address. And then because I felt guilty, I added “do you?”
“No,” the man said regretfully, “I live in the Newcastle.”
“But it is such a big city, the Newcastle! You cannot really know people. The people there, they run around, they have no time, they are not kind. I am looking for a kind person.”
I heard you.
“A kind woman.”
Oh no, I thought, oh no you don’t. “Really?” I said mildly, nodding my head. “Well I’m sure you’ll find one.”
The next line was predictable. “I think you are a kind woman”, he said.
“Well I wouldn’t say that,” I told him with a little laugh. “You don’t know me do you?”
“But I can tell”, the man said knowingly. Triumphantly. Oh God, leave me alone! He nodded a few times for emphasis. “I can tell. You can look at a woman’s face and say ‘ah that is a kind woman’!”
I wondered if I should tell him what Mr Samuel had just told me at the clinic. I could tell him the whole thing, just pour it out. Why not? I had a feeling that if I did he wouldn’t be able to get away quick enough, and that suited me fine. But somehow I ended up saying “Thank you, that’s very nice of you”. Maybe those women up in Newcastle were unkind to him or had some stupid ignorant idea he was going make them stay at home and wear black. Maybe they were judgemental, maybe they didn’t like his spots. Maybe they were cruel and intolerant. Or he had been abused in some way.
There again, maybe he was just annoying.
“Do you have a mobile phone?”
Again I could have guessed this was coming. I briefly thought of saying that I didn’t, but you could be sure that if I tried that one it would start ringing the next minute. “I do…” I said slowly.
Already the man had got his own out. “Can I have your number?” he asked.
I had to be firm here, I told myself. No giving in like I usually did. If I couldn’t think of a decent excuse there was nothing wrong with just saying no because I felt like it. I had a perfect right. It wasn’t unreasonable was it? Remember Peter from the prison, Anna! And what about the “Ancient Egyptian” and his “English grammar lessons”? Always a big mistake. This is not a time in your life when you can be doing with any of that nonsense. Cautiously I said “would it be okay if I took yours instead?”
He looked disappointed and began to say something. “I’ll call you later on in the day,” I cut in. “It’s just that I’m in quite a hurry at the moment. I have to meet a friend.” (Where the hell are you, Stef?…) “I’ll call. Promise!”
He couldn’t really argue with that. Not reasonably anyway. “Well…” he began reluctantly. I wasn’t going to say anything to help him out. I wasn’t going to change my mind. I sat silently with my phone at the ready, eyes scanning the crowd for Stef.
“Okay,” he said eventually, realising this was the best he was going to get. He gave me his number. I put it in so he could see me pressing the numbers, and saved it under “man on the bench”. It’s still there in my phone book. Maybe I’ll ring him up someday for a laugh. Remember me…?
“Thank you,” I said, “I’ll call”.
Then suddenly I saw her. Stef! At last! Standing right across the square outside Woolworths. I stood up abruptly saying “I have to go”.
Maybe he said something, maybe he didn’t – I wasn’t listening any more. I waved frantically at Stef and started moving. I didn’t look back. I ran across the market place as she turned and caught sight of me. Her arms opened. She was holding some kind of branch covered with big white blossoms, which she held out awkwardly as I ran into her embrace and squeezed my arms round her neck. Twigs poked into my boobs; fragrant, lush, wide-open petals tickled face. And Stef had her arms around me. She held me there, the branch poking both of us, my head against her shoulder. I didn’t cry; this was way too scary to cry.

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Comments by other Members

Becca at 07:14 on 03 January 2007  Report this post
Hi Anna, and welcome to WW, and this group. To the reader, your story is fiction, so it doesn't matter if in fact it's real. The pick-up scene certainly does sound real, annoyingly so! Lol.
I liked the way the MC's vulnerability is shown not just through her mental state, but through the fact that she's not yet confident enough to be able to say no in a straightforward manner - that also links in with the kindness, I've just realised. The man tells her she looks kind and forces her to be so in a way.
I got lost at 'Remember Peter from the prison...' and the phrases that follow. It's something as reader I can't guess about. What did you want the phrases to do or imply in the story? Or are they there because you're telling the facts as they happened? If so, you could leave them out if they haven't got a real function, and then you really have created fiction.
This is a very visual story, I could see it all, and I enjoyed that a lot.
There were only two typos I picked up:
'Old with men...' misplaced 'with'.
'...tickled face' ?? my face?
Keep writing, give us more stories.

AnnaBlume at 15:40 on 04 January 2007  Report this post
thanks for pointing that out -i'm terrible at typing!...
The other characters i mentioned are not important at all. they were just to show that this kind of situation is quite familiar to me! (yeah - annoying!)but it's hard to tell whether it works or not when it's your own work... So thanks :)

Becca at 09:42 on 05 January 2007  Report this post
Hi Anna,
the thing about the 'Peter from prison' etc, is that unless you elaborate, they're lost on the reader, so they don't work in the story as they stand now. If there was a pertinent point you could make out of them by just saying a bit more, then it would be worth working on. '...they were just to show that this kind of situation is quite familiar to me!' - but might they be familiar to a reader, for whom the story is written?
Anyhow I think you've drawn the main character well enough as it is in the tiny snatch of time in which the story takes place to leave them out IMO.

Sally_Nicholls at 12:02 on 19 January 2007  Report this post
Hey Anna,

I thought peter from prison was OK. All we need to know is that this is something that happens a lot, it doesn't matter that we don't get details.

i thought this was very well written. i liked the way you hint at things rather than telling us outright, it's much more powerful and interesting and draws the reader in. i liked the tumour in the sky and the invisible water of the harp - lovely image.

i can see why you've got the man there - it's an introduction to your MC and it's familiar and emphasises the randomness of reality. problem is, it IS very random for chapter two. I wonder if maybe you could make him a bit more comic? There are a couple of bits that are very funny.

Maybe they were judgemental, maybe they didn’t like his spots. Maybe they were cruel and intolerant. Or he had been abused in some way.
There again, maybe he was just annoying.

The experience is awful, but it's also funny and i think if you emphasise that you'll draw your readers in more. i would also give him a bit less space - your MC is much more interesting than a random bloke on a bench.

I also saw there's a 'Memoirs' group - maybe you could post there as well?

Hope this helps,

Sally xxx

Corona at 09:13 on 31 March 2007  Report this post
Hi Anna,

I enjoyed your style of writing here and in particular the way you weave the MC's thoughts into the dialogue. She reminds me of a friend of mine that also had such a hard time in speaking her mind in situations...still does! :)
This says it all, loved it;

Beautiful day? What was beautiful about it? From a long way off I heard myself say dreamily “Yes it is, isn’t it”, and (amazingly!) “first time I’ve seen the sun this year!”
The man cleared his throat again. If you speak I’ll hit you, I thought. “And this is a beautiful city as well”.
“Yes it is”, I agreed. I think I smiled at him.

Having read it once, I am a bit confused as to the 'tumour' bit you refer to. A hidden illness to be explained later or a metaphor perhaps? Sorry!
Keep your visual description skills - you've got that down to a tee!


Jubbly at 13:44 on 18 April 2007  Report this post
Hello Anna, I'm sorry for coming to this so late. I really like your style of writing and was very moved by the piece. I read it as fiction and didn't realise it wasn't until I read the other posts. It works very well as a short story, though I was slightly befuddled by the Headings, it could have just run on without them. I've no problem with the intimation of her other experiences, though if you wished to elaborate slightly it might enrich her character. Personally, I could easily identify with that 'chatting to a stranger' syndrome, I've spent my whole life trying to extricate myself out of 'polite' situations and only ending up going in deeper and deeper. I'll check out your work in Memoirs as I really did enjoy this.

Best of luce


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