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Carol 10

by Richard Brown 

Posted: 22 December 2004
Word Count: 1695

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Carol 10

On the glory day, the African violets were being given yet more water. Edith, humming with erotic anticipation, provocatively suggested that they were getting too much. ‘How can they?’ asked Carol, who, for negative rather than positive reasons, was also in an anxious state. She added; ‘If it was raining they'd just have to take it.’

‘Yes but they come from Africa. It’s desert.’

‘Nothing grows in the desert. They live in the jungle. It rains every day.’

Carol was the clever one, the diligent pupil, she generally had the last word on disputes about matters of fact or theory.

‘Well, they probably don't like having water just poured over them in a torrent like that. Maybe you should sprinkle it, like a rain shower.’

‘I don't see why,’ said Carol, splashing liberally from her bucket, ‘water's water.’

‘Do I look alright?" Edith asked Carol for the hundredth time, horticulture completely forgotten. She seemed gawky and raw but Carol reassured her.

‘Oh, where is he?’ whined Edith.

‘Maybe he won’t come,’ suggested Carol with a bonus burst of optimism.

‘Oh yes he will,’ said Edith confidently. Carol looked sharply up. The tone of voice told that Edith had a trick; the broad grin confirmed it.

A hand slipped into her shorts pocket and emerged a second or two later with a gleaming object, red and silver. ‘A Swiss, Swiss, Swiss.’ Edith chanted, waving the treasure triumphantly. ‘Don’t worry, he’ll be here’

A twig snapped. Both girls jumped as though shot. The knife was pocketed in a flash.
‘What's that?’ Edith gasped foolishly, for she surely knew.

Wellington emerged furtively from the trees. He had approached, as instructed, by a devious route.
He seemed taller and older than Carol recalled. Shorts and T-shirt hung loosely on his skinny frame. It might have been better had he smiled disarmingly but he looked confident, greedy and surly, an unattractive combination. There were white, dusty patches on his thin thighs. Carol unwound from her crouch. She had dressed strategically in her scruffiest clothes but the unwanted invader was looking at her and, disgustingly, licking his lips. ‘Hi, Marilyn!’ he said, ignoring Edith. Carol thought; ‘Oh no!’

‘I got the knife Wellington,’ the older girl announced and was rewarded with a momentary glance. The youth nodded, as though simply acknowledging something which he took to be his right. ‘It’s in the shed,’ lied Edith easily.

Carol had her instructions. She was to pretend to be watering the poor flooded violets. If anyone approached, she was to bang on the wall of the hideaway and then engage with whoever it was, diverting their attention whilst the gigolo escaped and Edith, improbably Carol thought, pretended to be engrossed in some gardening task.

For a few moments she attended perfectly to her duties but boredom came quickly. Edith had issued very strict instructions that there was to be no peeping yet the planks had many tantalising gaps. Carol tried to resist but the part of her being which made thieving pleasurable seemed to be in control. With a swift sentry’s glance about her, she put her face to the aromatic wood.

Wellington and Edith were standing, holding each other in an awkward embrace. Their heads were stuck together at the lips. The sight disgusted Carol yet, once she had seen it, she could not tear her gaze away. Mrs. Campbell could, at that very moment, have been on course for one of her surprise raids but the performance was totally compelling. Had Carol been asked to predict Edith’s mental state from her facial expression she would have suggested anguish but when Wellington broke off the contact he was grabbed and encircled by octopus tentacles. The kissing resumed but the clearly reluctant Wellington quickly forced another break. Irritatingly for Carol, a low flying aeroplane on its way to Kingston airport blocked out the ensuing argument. As the engine noise faded she was compelled to jump back to her flowers because a sour-seeming Edith was on her way out of the shed.

Conveying total innocence, the crouching flower tender looked up and grinned. Edith was smiling too. ‘Did you go all the way?’ Carol asked in hushed fashion but with as much passion for the topic as she could muster. Her friend smirked. ‘Course’ was the curt reply. ‘He wants you now, then I’m going to have another go.’

Carol’s big, brown eyes were at maximum size. She had not anticipated second goes. She said, ‘Er, no, well that’s alright, I mean, I don’t mind, I don’t really feel like a go at the moment. Can’t he just do you again?’

Edith’s mask of contentment vanished. ‘Look, Carol’ she urged, ‘it’s really, really good and I want to do it again but he won’t until he’s done you. Get it? He knows we’re soul sisters. I told him that’s the deal.’

Trying not to burst into tears, Carol got up from her crouch. She hung her head. It was true that they had sworn, whilst mingling blood from painful cuts, to follow each other in all things. She tried to reassure herself that, from what she had seen, ‘going all the way’ seemed to mean only the mouth-fixing business but she could not eradicate memories of Robert and Anne wrestling and moaning in the marital bed. There had to be more and the more was appalling.

‘Er, Edith?’ Carol began, meaning to ask a bit more about how the complete journey had been but her friend was in no mood for further conversation. ‘Quick!’ Edith snapped ‘suppose my mother comes! Get in there. I want to tell all my friends that I did it twice.’

Head still bowed, stomach rebelling, Carol trudged towards her destiny. The rectangle of sunlight created by the door frame just touched Wellington’s dusty feet. He was leaning against the workbench and there was a smile on his face. ‘Marilyn!’ he said, ‘come in! Shut the door.’
Struggling to walk, Carol took a few paces inwards. Wellington’s gaze never left her. ‘You fren’s plug ugly but you got something, girl,’ he said, raising an arm and reaching out to take Carol’s hand.

Her brain conducted millions of calculations. Fear was still by far the predominant emotion but there was the dim dawning of a realisation that the Monroe games had not been simply for entertainment.

Without meaning to, she smiled. He said, softly, ‘You little but you very, very pretty.’ She could not consider him to be the prince of her rich dreams yet he seemed no longer brutish. With strength in the skeletal arms which surprised Carol he held her waist and lifted. There was silence and peace as, thus deposited, she sat on the bench. She knew then that he would not hurt her.

‘You very, very pretty,’ Wellington quietly confirmed as he stared with apparent wonder into her face. One slow-moving hand skimmed over her sleek, jet hair, barely touching. She felt a warmth, then an unexpected kindling of the night pleasure and, although she could not have expressed the new ideas in words, she reached a fresh, sweetly frightening, level of understanding.

She sensed that she had mesmerised him. When his right index finger came to touch her lips she welcomed it. He traced the contours, directed by her powers. She was on the verge of thinking she could, after all, kiss him when a piggy squeal and a brutal crashing broke their magic.

Faster than any ferret, the boy was away, dipping and skipping through the bashed-open door before Mrs. Campbell could fill the space with her bulk. The invader was not interested in the fugitive. The hand which just might have grabbed him was already, like its companion, on the aggressively ordered hips. ‘You lie, you steal and now you fornicate!’ was the charge, delivered at top pitch and volume. Carol knew that there was no point whatsoever in pleading any degree of innocence.

Mr. Campbell was a very kindly man who lived in perpetual fear of his belligerent partner. Mostly he survived by keeping clear but she forced the poor soul to administer the beating which he delivered under her gaze with shoulder-shrug reluctance. Nevertheless, the belt was fat and whippy. It tore vilely into Carol’s shamefully denuded skin. She neither screamed nor once flinched, even though, as she subsequently told Edith, it hurt ‘like hell’.

Edith, not caught in flagrante, was assumed to have been unluckily in the wrong place and she escaped any retribution. Carol did not mind; there was no point, she thought, in needless suffering. As she lay, face down on the bed, letting the dampening pillow soak up the sounds of her sobs, Edith came into the room. Expecting some sympathy, Carol smiled through the streaming tears. Edith did not return the smile. She hesitated only for a moment before asking in an urgent whisper; ‘Did you go all the way?’

In her acute distress Carol could not work out which would be the most diplomatic answer. If she said ‘yes’ she would be a whore, if ‘no’, a traitor. All she could think to say was, ‘I don’t know,’ a type of truth which brought a contemptuous snort from her blood sister. It was puzzling to Carol that thereafter her reward for refraining from incriminating Edith was a coldness which it seemed nothing could thaw.

Daily Mrs. Campbell reminded Carol that her parents ‘soon come’ and that the first thing they would hear would be a catalogue of their child’s disgusting misdeeds. ‘You evil, girl,’ was the oft-repeated judgement ‘an’ your precious daddy goin’ give you some almighty licks.’

The child had been yearning for the return of Robert but she suspected that the eye-witness account of her dalliance with Wellington would indeed fire her father to administer yet more corporal punishment. He would be just as much unwilling as Mr. Campbell had been but it would hurt almost as much.

Three days before the longed-for yet dreaded reunion, Carol rushed home from school to lavish attention on her mother’s beloved flowers. She stared at the pots in dreadful, stomach-sick dismay.

Every single violet was dead.

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Comments by other Members

JamesAllen at 20:26 on 22 December 2004  Report this post
Hi Richard,

I'm relatively new to the site, and whilst exploring I decided to read this piece. I think the story is very interesting, and well handled. However, I feel that on occasion you might be trying too hard to play with language. It's not a major thing, but I reckon that an editor could go through this and cut quite a few words without damaging the style and accomplished nature - and in the process make it a lot more readable and free-flowing. Here are a few examples:

"There were white, dusty patches on his thin thighs. Carol unwound from her crouch. She had dressed strategically in her scruffiest clothes but the unwanted invader was looking at her and, disgustingly, licking his lips."

You've mentioned earlier that Wellington is skinny, so you don't need 'thin'. An invader is usually unwanted. From the effective description we can imagine how disgusting he is.

I wondered if it was just this piece but I read 'Carol 9' as well, and saw the following paragraph:

"The feeble flames highlighted segments of the elaborate chandelier, making it seem as though glass shards were floating in the centre of the room waiting to rain down on the unrighteous. The heavy gilt framework of the furniture glinted confusingly whilst choking incense fumes emanated from a dark corner. Mrs. Campbell, dressed in a glossy black robe embroidered with red and gold, was leaning aggressively over the polished table, her face akin to a hideous gargoyle which Carol had seen in one of her father’s books about York Minster."

I'm not saying take them all out, but perhaps some. It would make for a smoother read, without losing any of the atmosphere or style.

Let me know what you think.

Best, James

Richard Brown at 10:58 on 23 December 2004  Report this post

Many thanks for the thoughtful comments. Others have drawn attention to the elaborateness and I will certainly look at your suggestions when, at some far distant point, I start to edit the text. I feel, though, that there is room for thickness of prose even though the modern trend (trend only - there are plenty of counter-examples) is for sparseness. I like brevity and economy but I also love the richness of the baroque. My sense is that the style suits Carol and her times but I'll certainly think about what you have suggested.

It's an interesting point about 'unwanted invader' but it's not the case that invaders are always unwanted. Many French people, for example, surely welcomed the D-Day landings. In the above extract, Edith welcomes the Wellington incursion into their territory whereas Carol does not - and since this book is written from Carol's pov, this is what I intended to convey.

Apropos 'thin'; I will certainly take a look at this but in general I think there is no harm in some repetition - the reader cannot be expected to remember everything. OK, maybe I was seduced by the alliteration of 'thin thighs' but it's entirely possible that the seduction will persist! I'll note the text and decide later!

And with 'disgustingly' - in fact I by no means intended to portray Wellington himself as disgusting. If this is the image I have created then I will have to look at that. As I said above, the story is told from Carol's pov and she sees something as 'disgusting' where her companion doubtless views it much more positively. It's Carol's naivety that makes her see Wellington's gesture as 'disgusting' As the later text reveals, the lad emerges as a sensitive soul - far from 'disgusting'

But, as I say, thanks for taking the time and effort. What you have written will certainly go into the melting pot and will definitely be of influence when it comes to the re-write.


Nell at 08:39 on 24 December 2004  Report this post
Hi Richard,

Another chapter that sucked me in and drew me on to the all-too-soon end. I love the way you write from Carol's perspective and make me forget the writer, and her fluctuating emotions are so sensitively described that one cannot doubt the truth of them, especially the insight about 'the Monroe games'. Carol is a fascinating and complex personality whose story makes compulsive reading. More soon please!



I forgot to say that I thought beginning this chapter with the over-watering of the African violets and ending with their ominous death was inspired. One can't help fearing for Carol.

Richard Brown at 18:52 on 29 December 2004  Report this post
Thanks, Nell. You're an inspiration! One of my 2005 resolutions is to keep the Carol story moving along and I will try.


Dreamer at 01:51 on 19 March 2005  Report this post
Hi Richard,
I have not commented on this yet as I am working my way through the earlier chapters.

I must say I also liked the African Violets at the end. It leaves your readers whilting for the next episode!

Somewhere you mentioned that you were not writing this with the intention of having it published. Why not? I think its great!

So when is the next episode?


Richard Brown at 11:33 on 21 March 2005  Report this post

Many thanks for the encouragement. The main reason that I'm not thinking about publication is the one which often comes up in the memoirs/true life genre, namely the rights of third parties. As you might have guessed, Carol's story takes several turns for the worse and there are (probably anyway)relatives still around who might object to the way I describe their parts in the saga, even though I am fictionalising it to some extent. I might, though, eventually try to track the main protagonists down and ask them if they would consider reading a draft. It's 20 years since I had any contact with them so it won't be easy..

But, thanks again...your comment has set me thinking once again..


Dreamer at 17:21 on 25 March 2005  Report this post
I think you've hit on the main snag with Memoir writing. In getting their permission you may be opening up a can of worms and invinting changes which would detract from the piece. Is there any way to change it to a Novel instead of a Memoir, change names and in places the sex of some of the less desirable characters and thus get away without any permission?

From what I have read you have 'Carol's' permission right? If I recall correctly I thought she asked you to write it. Might be worth getting some legal advice on how to proceed before you put too much work into it because I think it is worth persuing.


Richard Brown at 13:34 on 29 March 2005  Report this post
Yes, Carol's permission is not a proble, - it's the others that I worry about! In fact, I did try the novel route but one of the primary strengths of the story is that it is true and so I abandoned it. I think I'll persist with the 'factionalisation'(if ever I get the time to do so!)

Many thanks for the encouragement - I've written 'Carol 11' on my list of things to do!


lieslj at 07:16 on 17 July 2005  Report this post
Well, very good luck as you make the decisions around revealing this story, Richard.

May the wisdom of Solomon be upon you. It's not easy to weigh these things up.

You create an isolated narrator being subjected to awful cruelty, which has the potential to be a tremendously powerful tale.

My concern for this work is the redundant information that your qualifiers create. Often you've already created the image and the double layering - completely, confidently, triumphantly - seems to weigh the prose down and dissipate the energy of the conflict.

You might also want to look at the speech tags you use. Gasped, suggested, snapped are tempting words, but for me they intrude and take me away from the action.

I wish you well as you revise and edit, and hope you can keep going with this story.


Richard Brown at 20:20 on 17 July 2005  Report this post

This work is very much on the rearmost of the back burners at the moment but I will certainly take your remarks on board when I recommence work on it.

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.


di2 at 21:50 on 07 September 2006  Report this post
Your story made me uncomfortable. Probably because I don't understand why young girls don't understand the moral do's and do nots. Not because of obscure rules but because of common sense. Your story told of one young girl sucumming to the stupid pressure of another. Something I've never understood and still don't. It gives me the horrors.

I think the very fact your story made me uncomfortable means that you transported me into Carol's world and did it very well.

In one of your responses to a comment you said "I like brevity and economy but I also love the richness of the baroque." Yes I do too. Richness enhances some stories and others require a more economic style. I think it depends on what you are writing and the taste of the reader. Just as it is when you paint a picture. In art I love detail and the richness of the whirls and swirls.


Richard Brown at 16:41 on 08 September 2006  Report this post

Many thanks for taking the time to comment. The piece has been so long on the site that I forgot it was there!

I'm glad the chapter at least provoked some reaction in you (even if it was an uncomfortable one) but alas I don't think that the 'common sense'rule applies as widely as you seem to suggest. If ever you get chance to read the earlier chapters (and I'm certainly not suggesting that you make any special effort!) you might see that the circumstances of Carol's life were not at all ideal for the development of common sense. She was a young person craving love and she was very vulnerable to whatever influence came along. She could almost as easily become a nun as a petty thief if her life had taken a slightly different course.

Anyway - thanks again. I keep meaning to 'revisit' this long-neglected book and your comment has reminded me of this intention!


BobCurby at 18:01 on 31 March 2009  Report this post
Oh - I got excited there for a moment - thinking this was a new chapter....
So come on Richard - next chapter...


Richard Brown at 18:44 on 31 March 2009  Report this post

Thanks for the encouragement! I suspended work on 'Carol' - mainly because I was worried about writing a 'faction' book when some of the key players were still alive (a familar problem with truth-based stories). Maybe I'll be prodded into looking at it once more..I have some rough drafts of subsequent chapters but it would take some effort to pick the story up again....I'll ponder.

But thanks again!


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