Tea & Lime

The clock began to chime. It sat on the mantelpiece, between discreetly stacked cigar boxes, and was the focal point of the dining room. It had been freshly wound only the day before and all of its sounds were crisp and assertive. It was now two in the afternoon. The clock announced this in its rather grand manner, echoing around the still room, sound resonating and bouncing off the wooden table and the piano and the floor.

Chiming pierced the protective canopy of music which lay over the study next door. Music was soft. It was soothing. It was Bruckner and it allowed him to think. He was sitting and thinking. He was sitting in the study and thinking. He was sitting at the chair, and the chair was at the desk, and books were on the desk, some open, some closed with notes wedged into them, and the computer was on the desk, and on the screen there was evidence of the writing he had been doing. He was thinking, and he was preparing, making himself ready to go again, to write more. To embark on the next part of the story.

It wasn’t a story. He had been at pains to make that clear. But it was like a story. It was – the thing he was writing – about a story. But first he had to write the story it would be about. The genre defied easy categorisation. Faction has been used, and he had also heard of the non-fiction novel, but it was none of these. It was more complex than that. He was embarking on something new. He would author the critical commentary and bibliography of a work, as well as academic controversy concerning that work, including disputes about translations and editions and competing editorial versions, censored and uncensored, over the years. He would write the history of this work and all the associated scholarship about it, but first he would write the thing itself. And thus he was writing a story, yet he wasn’t really writing a story. People normally changed the subject if he got this far in his explanation of his work. That’s one reason why he didn’t talk about what he was up to very often. That and not wanting to give anyone else ideas about writing something similar. He needed to keep his idea to himself.

He was fabricating history, and turning that fabrication into literature. He hoped it would be literature. It would be well-written, he was confident of that, and that’s what literature was, wasn’t it?

There were over a thousand words typed, and that made him feel good. A sense of achievement. He hadn’t written all of that today. In fact he had taken a few days, but he decided that he would be a slow, measured writer, not a highly productive, commercially-oriented writing machine as some of the more popular authors were said to be. He was producing art, and if it took him longer than some others to finish the kind of thing he was working on then he was prepared to accept that. He wouldn’t let this worry him. It was about patience. And it was about time. He had time.

In fact the clock had just told him to down tools. He had done his three hours. He could pick up where he left off tomorrow.

He saved the file, named ‘Duncan’s Novel’, in the word processing program. And he shut the laptop.

The walk out through to the rear of the cottage was cool and dark. The others were all outside and blinds were shut. It was a quiet house. Reserved and reticent and languorous.  A house of secrets. The corridor seemed unusually long when it was dark. The open kitchen door formed a promising light at the end of a shut up tunnel. He walked past flowers, hanging up, drying, on hooks, and boots arranged in a row in front of the skirting board, and he shielded his eyes as he emerged into the brilliance of the day.

Beyond the gate of the kitchen garden he was accosted by leaping dogs. He sat at the table, under the trees, shaded but warm, adjacent to the citrus plantation. He poured a glass of licorice tea and called to his sweetheart, busy espaliering a recalcitrant lime.

“Hi honey,” she said, her voice carrying over the tops of the stand of fledgling cumquats. “How’s the story coming along?”

“It’s not a story,” he called, a little bit too loud. “It’s about a story. It’s …” And he noticed her standing there, mopping her brow with the back of her pink-gloved hand, a smile of such immense cheek spreading across her facetious face that he knew she had been winding him up. “I’ve done over a thousand words,” he said.

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Published in: on August 22, 2012 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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