Underneath the Chestnut Tree

 

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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.)

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A Fair Wind

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A Fair Wind

The seventh of seven daughters, and all my sisters married, I was promised to a merchant of Moorish extraction in exchange for a cargo of Madeira.

The wine – sweet and rich, the colour of menstrual blood – restored my father’s fortune and I insisted on a male tutor, fair skinned but well-travelled. I mastered algebra and anatomy; the constellations and the continents; theology and food storage.

When my ship comes in I will not be locked in any fine palace, tending a full womb. There will be but two courses to navigate: to sail by my husband’s side or escape.

M J Lewis 2017

It’s Friday and so I’m late for Friday Fiction. I can only plead fantastic gardening weather. All hail to Rochelle, our indefatigable host, and to Fatima Fakier Deria for the nautical photo.

Thanks to all who visit and a huge thank you to those who stay and chat.

I dedicate this piece to all those (children and adults – you know who you are!) who have questioned the part algebra has to play in a well-rounded education.

The Singer and the Song

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The Singer and the Song

A present from Banbury fair was expected. But a bright ribbon or a swatch of cotton lawn. Not this.

He sat, gruff and unreadable, before the strange contraption.

‘But how?’ she asked.

Recalling the demonstration, he began to coordinate the movements of his large feet. The sharp needle danced up and down, uncertainly at first, then faster and faster.

In a blur of shining metal her wide blue eyes saw curtains and cushion covers for her tiny cottage, a little extra money; while he saw a comely wife, a companion against loneliness and, god willing, a young mother for his children.

M J Lewis 2016

Welcome to Friday Fiction, hosted by the talented writer and artist Rochelle Wisoff- Fields.

Click here for more 100-word stories, stitched together by creative Friday Fictioneers around the globe. A keen sewer myself, I enjoyed this week’s photo prompt from Sandra Crook.

How to Cross a Bridge

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How to Cross a Bridge

(historical fiction)

At pitch of night? With a tiny chance of arousing huge suspicion – a flame-haired girl in Sunday-best coat and a hired man.

Far better, on market morn in the chaos of cattle and carts and cabbages, hair greyed with ash, an old shawl, scuffed boots. And the hired man in deep conversation with a herdsman as to the possibilities of late summer work, over West way.

Before doubling back – we hope – to where his lover waits in the darkening copse, listening to the soft rustling of leaves, the low notes of roosting pigeons and the secret flutterings of her own belly.

M J Lewis 2016

Arriving late to Friday Fiction (what, on a Friday?!) after a visit to Shetland to help celebrate a family wedding. Crossed various bridges between some of the many islands of that northern archipelago (love that word!), but this is not set in Shetland – would have definitely been sheep on the bridge if it had been and my poor heroine would have had to hide in a rocky outcrop, sheltering from the wind, there being much wind, multitudes of sheep and few trees. Quite tricky to get to, but well worth a visit for any lovers of nature, history and hospitality.

To travel with ease to a virtual land of stories click here. With thanks to artist and author Rochelle who keeps us all from straying too far, even in these summer months and to Adam Ickes for the photo.

The Lambing Barn

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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 Whole Wide World

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The Whole Wide World

She loved the big atlas in the dusty corner of the schoolroom. Her tiny fingers paddling across the mighty oceans, she visited the whiskered Chinaman and the black-skirted lady outside her little white house.

At playtime she tipped her chin to the sky, opening her arms to embrace it all and turning round and round as she pictured the people – North, South, East and West – living their strange lives beyond the stamped earth of the schoolyard.

Miss James sighed. At least that funny little mouse was a quiet one; but really, what was the point of educating farm labourers’ children?

M J Lewis 2016

Welcome to Friday Fiction, hosted by writer and artist Rochelle Wissoff-Fields. Thanks also to Jan Marler Morrill who provided this week’s photo prompt. To visit more 100 word stories from around the whole wide world click here.

Here in the UK – don’t shout it too loud – summer finally seems to be arriving. No rain so far this week of Wimbledon, that resilient Scott Andy Murray through to the next round (although wouldn’t have minded if the lovely Tsonga had won through) and the Welsh football team playing Portugal as I write this.

Hope all is well with you and yours in these uncertain and troubling times.

Miranda

Contradictions

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Contradictions

I walked again on the beach at dawn, skirts clutched around me, bible in gloved hand.  Seagulls wheeled in the clear air, but my mind was far from clear. No stone creatures today, but I knew they were waiting, their silent scrolled forms trapped in rock.

After church I dared to talk with Mr Giles, the new curate.

Maybe they are God’s joke Miss Austen, a metaphor.

But why? What do they signify?

Or maybe God himself is a metaphor.

Dancing blue eyes met mine and I blushed despite myself; it was not at all the answer I had anticipated.

(Genre: Historical romance; Setting: Lyme Regis, Dorset)

M J Lewis ©2015

Drowning in end-of-year reports and wrote this late this week when I should have been working. Think I’m dreaming of seaside holidays and fossil hunting in Lyme Regis, mixing up my references to Jane Austen and famous fossil girl, Mary Anning. Then coincidentally I found this story on BBC News of the fossil find in Alberta. Fossils really do say different things to different people.

Thanks to Douglas M Macilroy for the stimulating photo and to our incredible host at Friday Fiction, Rochelle. More secrets from the deep here at this link.