Passing the Time W I. No 6.
There comes a time in every aspiring writer’s life when their need of support for earthly necessities, food, drink and somewhere to rest their weary head overcomes the burning desire to have at least one of their outpourings of literary splendour accepted by the publishing fraternity.
Marmaduke Updyke-Dickens, known as Mud by friends, of whom he had few and long forgotten family relations of whom he once had many, was impoverished, rather like his writing. At sixty-four with no visible means of support, living in a derelict caravan perched on the edge of a disused stone quarry. This meagre amount was supplemented by occasional nights of shelf filling in a local supermarket allowing him first go at out-dated ‘sell by’ bread. To say that his circumstances were straitened is an understatement.
A battered Remington typewriter of dubious vintage and worn out ribbons sat upon an upturned tea chest whilst he perched upon a reclaimed sofa, which doubled up as a bed, stabbing relentlessly at jamming keys. His only means of lighting were flickering candles made up of paraffin wax melted down and inserted with bits of string for wicks. An old wood burning stove supplied heat for cooking and heating.
His literary outpourings reflected his lifestyle. Reams of unfulfilled manuscripts filled any space not taken up by mouldy loaves of bread and rejection letters. The outpourings of endeavour consisted of tales of woe, suffering and misery. They were not in the least uplifting, intoxicating or stimulating. And yet, and yet, he had faith. Faith in his ability. A love of stringing words together forming compositions worthy of literary merit, an attribute unfortunately not shared by publishers, literary agents or magazine editors.
The need for a change of lifestyle was brought home to Mud one early morning when, after returning home from a stint of shelf filling with a dozen loaves of bread and a jar of stuffed olives he found his caravan home lying at the bottom of the quarry smashed to bits. It had been pushed there by a bulldozer employed by the local council with intentions to start using the quarry as a landfill site for household rubbish. The driver, wishing to make a good first impression on his employers, employed the blade of his machine to start the process with aplomb.
Grief-stricken Mud scaled down the rocky formation gathered his manuscripts and notes, stuffed them into a black bin liner and trudged off to find solace. Two hours later found him sitting on a bench in the town square. His father and mother had separated when he was fifteen, a brother and sister might as well be on the other side of the planet. His lack of friends and family, not to mention money, precluded him from finding shelter and as the afternoon dragged on into the evening, darkness descended a flash of lightening and following rumble of thunder sounded in the distance. It started to rain, gently at first and a vivid bolt of light throwing the distant chimney pots into stark relief followed by a loud clap of thunder announced a heavy deluge. Through the gloom and rain Mud, clutching his precious manuscripts, spied a figure approaching. As the newcomer dressed in a black cloak and helmet drew close Mud realising he was about to be confronted by a member of the local constabulary had a sudden burst of inspiration. He stood up and waited for the policeman to come near and without further ado swung his arm and knocked the constable’s helmet off.
The resultant night in the cells, apart from giving Mud succour in the form of food, shelter and warmth, also gave him time to reflect. The time had come to bounce back from the unmitigated pit of nihilism, but where to start. No qualifications of any significance, no work experience except shelf filling in supermarkets and certainly no ambition in life other than the overriding urge to see his authorship accepted by his peers. Trouble was he had no peers. He had no place to live either and no viable means of support.
These realities he reasoned, as he waited in the police cell for the law of the land to wield its retribution, were the result of a misspent youth progressing through middle age and now decidedly the last lap, it was time to take stock. The thought of ‘stock‘ triggered a thought process that was interrupted by the arrival of the desk sergeant with a plate of bacon and eggs and news that no charges were being brought as it would involve ‘too much bloody paperwork.’ The sergeant added he was free to go as soon as he had finished his breakfast. Mud thanked him profusely and received the sum of ten pounds, the result of a whip round by the station officers who all felt rather sorry for him and after collecting all his worldly possessions staggered out into the bright sunlight.
Mud walked aimlessly, oblivious to any sense of direction or plan. He passed a large rubbish skip and with an impulse he wasn’t really aware of dumped the black bin liner containing his life’s work. As he meandered forth towards an unknown destination his thoughts returned to the germ of an idea that started to germinate before the kindly sergeant bearing breakfast and the wonderful aroma of bacon invaded his olfactory senses. Eventually, he found himself back in familiar territory. Black wrought iron gates drew him in. A row of beach and silver birch trees intermingled with rhododendron and climbing hydrangea bushes brought back a sudden flash of memory; an aged aunt’s garden he used to visit when a lad a but he couldn’t remember her name, let alone where. He sat on a bench, a shudder of pain swept through his body and he started to weep.
Some time later Mud realised he wasn’t alone, an elderly couple sat down beside him and out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed a sort of fuzzy effervescence surrounding their bodies, as though he was looking at them through a kaleidoscope.
‘Hello Marmaduke’, said the lady.
‘We’re so glad you’ve come home,’ said the man.
‘Home’, said the lady, our home. You were happy here when it was our garden.’