Underneath the Chestnut Tree

 

tree-sandra-crook

Underneath the Chestnut Tree

(Genre: historical fiction)

Amy arrived at the barn flustered, cheeks flaming almost to the colour of her hair. The lambing man’s face in contrast was grey with exhaustion.

For once her words were bold, urgent.

‘The meadow, courting corner; ewe caught in the hawthorn hedge.’

His thoughts were muddy with lack of sleep.

‘Courting, caught?’

‘Under the old Chestnut. She’s birthing a lamb.’

It was the word lamb that did it. He rose, shaking himself to wakefulness.

‘Pass me them sacks,’ he said.

He took her hand and pulled her with him into the yard.

‘You’ve the hands of a midwife at any rate.’

Miranda Lewis 2017

Welcome to Friday Fiction and hello again after a bit of a hiatus. Thanks as always to our host, the writer Rochelle, whose own story can be found here, along with all the rules of play and Friday Fictioneers from around the globe. Thanks to Sandra Crook for the photo. (Realised I could have put a crook in the story, Sandra! Take the shepherd’s crook as read.)

(Please respect photographer’s and writers’ copyright. Join in, read and comment on other stories, but please do not use the photo for any other purpose than Friday Fiction.)

The Lambing Barn

sheep-and-car

The Lambing Barn

Placental blood and ewe’s milk: but she was used to the smell by now. Head down, pouring cider from the heavy flagon, the girl ignored the remarks of the hired men.

He was at the far end, one hand braced on the floor, one inside the ewe. She stood silently, watching. A pause, a long pulling together of anticipation and with a rush of liquid and an almost human bleat from the animal the sac slid onto the straw. The lamb was tiny, but alive.

He looked up. ‘She’s two more already – this one’ll need mothering.’

‘You mean  me?’

M J Lewis 2016

Here we are at Friday Fiction and it’s already Sunday. Thanks to our host the writer and artist Rochelle and, for the photo, thanks to Sandra Crook, a regular at Friday Fiction (and often the first to post).

What I know about lambing could be written on the back of a postage stamp – remember those? – but we’re all mammals, so based this on my own experience. Any sheep farmers out there are welcome to put me right on the details!

 

The Esteemed Companie of Travelling Players

in-the-light The Esteemed Companie of Travelling Players, Summer 1600

Born backstage during a particularly noisy Act 2 crowd scene, my first view of the unruly audience was from between my mother’s bountiful breasts in Act 6. Not liking what I saw, I vowed to join my father in the musicians’ pit. By the age of 2 ¾ I was deemed sufficiently proficient on my chosen instrument to swell the orchestral numbers. Accompanying my father on the lute and his lumpen second-cousin on the crumhorn, I added a certain ethereal quality, tapping out tunes between scenes on variably pitched vials of sunlight, my golden curls nodding in time.

Frances/Francis du Plessey; musician to actors, kings and courtesans (The Cock and Bull, Cheapside, 1699)

All the world’s a stage and we thank Rochelle for travelling (or if she prefers traveling) to its many corners, and all on an extended Friday. And thanks also to G.L. MacMillan for the luminous photo. You have bottled the dawn!

Meanwhile in another kettle of fish entirely, down another dark psychological alleyway, Dream Girl by Miranda Lewis is available to download on Kindle in the UK and US and many other parts of the globe. If it sounds like a rose-tinted/hormone-filled love story think again. I’ll let an independently verified reviewer describe it:

Dream Girl by Miranda Lewis is a compulsive page turner. She drew me in to her strangely entangled worlds of sleepless nights and dream filled days, where the lines of reality and dreams entwine. A great read, beautifully written.

The Maze of Longing as retold by M J Lewis

Is it Friday already? It must be because here is another photo prompt (this time by the appropriately named Melanie Greenwood) to put us the mood to write for Friday Fictioneers. Thanking, as ever, the excellent Rochelle for her graciousness and energy. (Does she ever sleep I wonder?) Please click on this LINK to find an eclectic mix of stories from across the globe.

Lacking inspiration this week, I took myself up to the attic. I tripped over a box of video cassettes, heaved the defunct enlarger out of the way and squeezed past the dusty old cider press. And there it was, my grandmother’s book of fairy tales, its foxed pages turned by many before me.garden-maze

The Maze of Longing has several versions. One involves a magic apple and an unbelievably short pregnancy, followed by a precipitous labour and a post-partum trek over hill and down dale. (Don’t you just hate it when they sanitise these stories for children?) Another is so sad your heart might break into a million pieces if you read it.

This version is somewhere between the two.

A mathematical point of information: one way to solve a maze is to place your hand on one edge and let the maze take you hither and thither until you emerge from it. It’s not necessarily the quickest way, but it works.

The Maze of Longing, as retold by M J Lewis

There was once a miller’s wife who, though she loved her husband dearly and often, bore no children. Setting out one bitter morn, she crossed woodland and valley until she came at last to the maze of longing.

‘Plunge your hand into the thorns and do not take it from there, lest you lose the path,’ instructed the wizened gatekeeper.

At the very centre, nestled in the grass, lay two sweetly swaddled, nut-brown babes. Tearing her bleeding hand from the briar, the miller’s wife scooped each infant to her bosom, left and right, and turned to find she was lost.

M J Lewis © 2015