Conglomeration No. 1
Conglomeration No. 1
Mary will tell nobody about the viaduct worker, not even her sister, Nelly.
‘Not a rough-hand, Mary!’ Nelly would say. ‘They vanish in the night.’
But he is a gentle soul. He brought her a bunch of bluebells—her first gift of flowers. She will press them tonight and keep them for ever. A navvy! Mother would have a fit.
It’s market day. She slips away before his work-fellows return. Easy as a breath. Outside his hut, the ground is deep with dung, straw, vegetable leavings. Nobody saw them, she is sure, but look here—an upended horseshoe on his doorstep. She shudders, turns it the right way up and runs home fast, ahead of the bad luck.
Eight steps gone and there’s a woman in mourning clothes washing something big and awkward, something charred and beyond hope. She cranes her neck as Mary passes—a glance too lengthy. Her frown is following the swish and the billow of Mary’s skirts, and Mary’s cheeks turn crimson: her skirts are back to front. That horseshoe!
She hurries on, but the grasses sigh as she straightens her skirts, and the wind gets up the back end of Billy Dinsdale’s grey mare tethered to a post, and it startles and she jumps. The moor has turned to undulating veils of rain and the path is rutted and Mary stumbles, nearly lands in the muck. She dashes round the last corner, throat thick with regret, and there is Mother in the doorway.
Too late to slow down. Too late to fashion a smile. Before she turns back to the kitchen, Mother’s face is black night. Winter. Worse than when she found all Nelly’s hidden trinkets. The house is seething. Mary creeps inside and the kettle exhales its shrill song of trouble.
Story by Clare Weze
Clare writes for both adults and children. She is a Northern Writers' Award-winner (UK, 2016), and her work has been short- and longlisted for several UK prizes. She is widely anthologised and works in science editing. Her dream is to meld her day job with her fiction and move somewhere warm where she can write outside. Find more of her work and connect with her at clareweze.com and @ClareWeze.
Painting by Joanna Jensen
Joanna is an illustrator and art historian living in Aarhus, Denmark. Her illustrations are made out of watercolour, fineliner pens, and a big desire to experiment with the chemistry and possibilities of paint. The images are dreamy depictions and abstractions of an inner life and everyday experiences in a big universe.