More about Elsie

Back in March, I “interviewed” a character for my current writing (see here: https://talltales2016.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/elsie/ I didn’t get to ask her many questions because she was such a great talker! She didn’t make it, but I’m sure she’ll find a home one day. She’s been tapping at my mind, asking to be put in a story NOW. There’s not even a hint at an outline, but I wrote a short piece about an incident in her working life. I hope you enjoy it.

Uncle Jim

Jim was a steelworker, something he’d never intended to do, but circumstances forced it on him. He grew to love his work, the smell of the molten iron, the heat – and even the noise. Others called him foolish, or even mad, but steel was what made Jim tick. While his workmates rushed off when the factory whistle blew, Jim would stand a while and listen to the sounds of the workshop shutting down for the night.

Through the nearby partition, he heard the last of the grinding-wheels stop its growling and grumbling and he opened the door to the grinding shop. All the women had already left, but as he thought, little Elsie was still there, looking for crumbs and slivers of metal.

“Lass? It’s time to go home, didn’t yer mam fetch you?”

“Oh, Uncle Jim! She went home early. A stone broke and cut her arm bad. Now we’ll be short, so I’m looking extra hard for the bits of metal.”

“Come here, there’s something I want to show you.”

They went back into the machine shop and Jim marched over to some bins along one wall, lifting the lid.

“Elsie, come and look!”

The bin was full of corkscrews of bright metal, all in shimmering rainbow colours. Iridescent greens vied with deep purples. Blues, reds and even yellows shone in the gloomy corner. Elsie’s eyes widened.

“Uncle Jim, what is it? It’s so pretty!”

“It’s metal shavings from the high-speed planer. We call it swarf. It won’t stay pretty for long because it will rust. Here, watch your fingers, this stuff is sharp. Can’t have two of you needing an expensive doctor now, can we? Take these bits, wait for them to go dull, and sneak them in with your sweepings. Bit by bit mind, or we’ll both be in trouble.”

Elsie wrapped the steel curls in a bit of old sack. Jim saw her frown lessen as she realised she could help her mam.

“C’mon love, let’s walk home together.”

Elsie skipped out of the door for the first time since she started work.

SHTF

Ellie walked back to the campfire and smelt the char before she saw the blackened sausages in the pan.

“Hey, burnt sausages, my favourite! No really.”

Chad smiled. “Me too… we must be made for each other.”

“A shared love of charcoal wouldn’t get you a quick snog, never mind eternal matrimony.”

“So, why did you marry me?”

“Must be your boyish good looks, plus your father’s fortune of course.”

“Oh no, you’re not getting your hands on that. Remember that pre-nup contract?”

“What pre-nup? I reckon that went tits-up around the same time the world did. Talking of which, where did you find sausages?”

“I went scavenging this morning and found a warehouse with one of those walk-in deep freezers. Massive, foot thick insulation, plus I reckon the automatic generators ran for quite a time after the shit well and truly hit the fan. I broke in and stuff in there was thawing, but buried deep in some boxes I found some almost-frozen packs of sausages. Burgers in another box.”

Chad nodded towards another pan, this one covered.

“Sweet! All we need is some bacon…”|

Chad couldn’t contain his grin this time. “In the pan as well, dear heart.”

***

The couple lay on the soft grass, replete with food and watching the clouds float past.

“Chad, what do we do now? With the world ending like that, now what do we do?”

“Ellie, I think, that as the only survivors of a worldwide holocaust, we have a very solemn duty. A duty no-one else can carry out. We have a duty…”

“Stop messing around! What?”

“Shush, I’m getting to it. We have a duty -”

Ellie’s jab in the ribs interrupted him this time. Chad rolled over to face Ellie.

“Ellie, seriously. We can do whatever we freakin’ well want!”

Review of Faithless by Graham Austin-King

 

Faithless CoverI first came across Graham’s writing by way of a promo on Bookbub – The Riven Wyrde Saga, and recognised his talent to tell a rich and dark tale. Faithless is darker still, more mature and also challenging. I first have to declare that as a caver and old mine explorer, I was absolutely delighted to find that Faithless is set entirely within a cave and mine complex. Despite its narrow boundaries, the world is rich and detailed and I found it easy to slip in, unnoticed. I was there at the discovery of minerals, at the rock falls, the underground pools and rivers, and the utter darkness when the lamps are turned off. I loved the underground dwellings and was reminded of the ones in The Devil’s Arse in Derbyshire. Caves and mines are dangerous places and with low tech doubly so, making a setting rich with conflict.

This is a book which is difficult to review without giving too much away because of its structure – a choice which must have been challenging to write, to say the least. Did the author pull it off? Perhaps not 100%, but very close. The fact that it had a very strongly stated theme pulled it together.

Faithless is one of those books that tugs at you for days after you finish reading. Recommended.