Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Whole 'nother Level!

Yep, I've won it - the Olympic Gold for Procrastination. Having said that, I present here my FIRST warm-up exercise as assigned by Jen. The hard part was keeping it to 600 words; it's the #29 exercise from "The 3 AM Epiphany". For your pleasure I present:

Mrs. Whittier

Mrs. Whittier seated herself at the table, placed her napkin in her lap and watched as Eleanor poured her tea. Setting the teapot back, she lifted the covered Haviland dish and asked “Sausages, Ma’am?”

“No…no, Eleanor, this will do.” Eleanor studied her mistress for a moment, then turned and went back to the kitchen. Almost instantly, she heard the chiming of the little bell, and hurried back to the table.

“Eleanor, my daughter is dead. We must make arrangements. The wake will, of course, be held here. I’d like you to arrange for the undertaker to bring her body, and see that the parlor is prepared; he will tell you what he needs for the laying-out. And Eleanor – spare no expense. I must have a large black wreath for the door.”

Eleanor stood, uncertainly, then quietly retired to begin the preparations. She heard Mrs. Whittier whisper something, but decided it was not for her ears.
Mrs. Whittier had said “Draped in sable….like her hard, wretched heart.”

The night before, her daughter had come to supper, stalking in ahead of her family, and announcing “We cannot stay long, Mother.” Her husband Edgar had whispered “Sorry” as he kissed his mother-in-law’s cheek, and the little boy and smaller girl had eagerly embraced her, one on each side, as she bent to kiss their heads.

Margot led the way to the dining room, and arranged her skirts around her as she seated herself at the end of the table; her husband helped the little ones to their chairs and held Mrs. Whittier’s chair before taking his own seat across from the children, at her right.

“I trust you’ve spared no expense for the menu? You must know, my only pleasure these days is your occasional invitation for a decent meal. Lord knows I can’t return your hospitality unless you favor cold ham and biscuits. A clerk’s salary doesn’t stretch very far,” she said, smoothing her napkin over her lap.

Edgar said quietly, “I’m doing well enough, my dear, and I’m not a clerk. Mr. Lawson says I’ll be a partner in the firm one day.”

“Yes, well, I can only hope it’s before all of my gowns have worn completely to shreds.”

Mrs. Whittier had rung her bell, and Eleanor had set before them a very satisfying meal indeed. As instructed, she placed the small crystal bowl of herring at Margot’s place, and Mrs. Whittier said, “I know how much you like herring, Daughter, your shared your affection for it with your dear father, of blessed memory. Eleanor found it at the market – although it was quite dear.”

Margot had emptied the bowl onto her plate with no thought of offering any to others, and devoured the herring greedily.

The conversation during the meal was terse, and in short order, Mrs. Whittier was standing at the door, watching her daughter hasten down the steps and into the hansom cab without a backward glance. Her husband dressed the children against the cold and again embraced Mrs. Whittier. She again kissed the darling children’s little faces, then paused and took Edgar’s shoulders firmly, looking him straight in the eye.

“I have confidence in you, Edgar. You provide very well for you family, their future is secure. I foresee greatness for you, and in time, for the children as well. Brighter days surely are just around the corner.”

Mrs. Whittier remembered the scene as she sat at her tea. Nodding to herself, she lifted the cat to her lap, and, stroking its back, said to it, “Do you suppose that herring really had turned?”

(598 words!)


Jen in CT said...

ooh, very very nicely done! Who's evil? The spoiled, bitchy daughter who's cold to her loving husband and children? Or is the mother who arranged to dispatch of her. What a very clever 598 word story! This was well worth the wait!

Shan said...

That's a great little story. I can't wait to read more (well, yeah, I understand that this isn't an ongoing saga, but... well, you get what I mean, right?)

Shan :+)