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!

 

Young woman of impeccable character and neat appearance required as schoolmistress for village school

jhc7

Young woman of impeccable character and neat appearance required as schoolmistress for village school

Must be: disciplined, self-assured, modest, patient. Skills to include: a fluent hand, flawless arithmetic, clear singing voice (soprano or alto), love of the bible and traditional literature of an improving nature, knowledge of the British Isles and her dominions. A passion for clouds and the still air at dusk; for bluebells in sun-dappled woods; your hand on my breast, a gasp in my throat. And forever a longing for the girl I left bare-headed under the wide blue sky, beyond the squeak of the chalk, the dusty depths of the ink wells and the high, barred windows of the schoolroom.

M J Lewis ©2016

Friday already, so this means of course I’m late for Friday Fiction. (I love a paradox!) And such an interesting photo, thanks to J Hardy Carroll. Not a school I’m assuming but, although the chairs are plastic and metal nowadays, I will forever associate wooden seating with schoolrooms.

Thanks as ever to our gracious host Rochelle and to all who visit. For more stories click here.

Love: the theory and the practice

melanie-greenwood

Love: the theory and the practice

Watch people at airports you said, to understand attachment: the tears, the hugs, the love.

You included us all: the nervous teenager, the would-be psychiatrist, the lonely middle-aged woman. You encouraged us, challenged us. I learnt that conformity is hugely overrated; that normality is an entirely subjective concept; that you preferred Vygotsky to Piaget, mountains to beaches; that you loved your husband dearly.

And I discovered first-hand that feelings are feelings, however predictable the transference of years of suppressed affection to my Psychology tutor. So, just as Freud valued insight over happiness, my mind expanded as my heart still aches.

M J Lewis ©2016

Happy January to all who visit and a huge thank you to Rochelle as another year of a Friday Fiction begins. Anyone else returned to work after the break to find they’re already playing catch-up by the end of week one? Ah, so not just teachers then (but that’s a true story for another time). Thanks also to Melanie Greenwood for the photo.

My one and only resolution for 2016 so far is to learn and write a different form of poetry each month; January has been declared Miranda’s sonnet month. Here’s a really inspiring and useful site I’ve enjoyed visiting. Not as serious as it sounds by the way – my first sonnet is about a guinea pig and begins:

He raises noble snout and sniffs the air

Miranda

London Girl

London Girl

I still have that photo somewhere, the one of you dancing on the bandstand in your new purple coat and matching lipstick, the day you had your hair bleached and shaved. You said people gave way to you on the tube and you kind of liked it. But then you never knew your own power.

Saw you once by chance, years later from the top of a bus and it still set my heart beating like a big bass drum. Don’t know why, but I let you slip away so easily, like a snatch of melody carried on the breeze.

M J Lewis ©2015

bandstand

I wasn’t going to post this week (off to a college reunion and very busy) but then the muse of lost love and nostalgia visited – must be something in the air. For more Friday Fiction please click on the LINK. Thanks to our ever-attentive host Rochelle and to David Stewart for the photo.

Beyond The Horizon

From his attic room, Hans stares longingly out beyond the line of trees. All winter he’s slept restlessly, in a bed that has grown unaccountably small, dreaming of faraway places.

Head west they say, for a hundred days, and you’ll reach a city where men and goblins walk free and unashamed – women too, of course, and perhaps a goblin girl with a wide smile and coils of green hair.

He’ll wait until the lambing is over and the top field ploughed, for the last hard frost.

Hans! Breakfast!

Hans straightens up, banging his head painfully on a low beam.

Shit!

M J Lewis ©2015

frost

Oh, those 100 words! Poor Hans was milking a goat, when Rochelle looked over my shoulder and said, Lose the goat! And apologies to any hard working parents and/or porridge makers – you were reduced to two words. What larks! Thanks to all fellow Friday Fictioneers – elves, humans, goblins, whoever – who drop by to play. And of course thanks to Rochelle (at Addicted to Purple) for linking our tales together and to Sandra Crook  for the photo prompt.

Finally, I stand humbly before the very brave, very lovely Terry Pratchett; he will be sadly missed.

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