City Of Discoveries — Episode 43


Jennet watched William fiddle with the pocket watch one of the women had stolen from him the afternoon he was attacked in the downstairs close.

It had been shaken out of her grip by the sailors who rescued him, and it wasn’t working.

“I need tae get this tae my faither on Sunday,” he said. “If anybody can get it back working, it’s him.”

“You’re right. Your dad is so good at making things work.”

Jennet wrinkled her nose as a breeze from their open window wafted across the slops pail.

She’d pulled it out after their meal to tip in the few remains from their plates and had been distracted by William’s description of the way a crate of fruit had fallen from a sling and smashed open on the pier.

He’d not been able to get anything from the accident when it happened, but later he’d picked up two bruised and battered pieces.

He called them apricots and Jennet tried these things so bitingly sweet they set her teeth on edge.

“Don’t worry about the slops,” William said. “I’ll be going down in a few minutes anyway.”

But Jennet was worrying. Smells had taken on a heightened intensity for her in recent days. She could hardly focus on the lovely poems in her new book.

Eventually, she stood up.

“I need to go down myself, William. I’ll take the pail with me.”

She was aware of William’s brief nod and left their room with the pail gripped in her right hand.

She gathered her skirts in the other. No point in risking a tumble on the uneven treads.

The door clattered behind her and she set off.

Another smell that had become familiar, and even more unpleasant than the slops, was hanging on the air.

Tobacco.

It was Drew Fleming’s tobacco, and it was mixed tonight with the smell of alcohol.

“Aye, there she is. Carrying her ain slops downstairs like any country-wife.

“My wife has a girl tae tak care of that,” Fleming half-shouted up the stairwell.

Jennet wondered when Fleming’s wife ever saw her man, but said nothing.

Should she go back, or carry on down to the drain in the back beside the privies, she wondered.

She decided it would be prudent to go back and avoid the man.

He was much bigger than she was and, if his slurred speech was anything to go by, already drunk.

There was no knowing what he had in his mind.

Why was he here, in their land, in the first place? Jennet shuddered.

Maybe William was right and they should ask his brothers to have a “word”.

She took a step back and up, but the steps were treacherous to come down, even the right way.

Attempting to climb them in reverse was madness, and she knew she’d have to turn her back on Fleming eventually.

Just as she did so, he plunged forward towards the stairs.

Mistress Wightman’s door opened. The elderly woman stepped out, barring Fleming’s path.

He shoved her hard and Phemie Wightman went down heavily, shouting in pain and anger.

Without hesitation, Jennet swapped the pail from right to left, gripped the bottom and tossed the contents over the banister – and over Drew Fleming.

He slithered a couple of feet and then fell heavily on his front. Jennet heard the thump as his forehead cracked against the stone.

His shrieked curses filled the tight stairwell with noise.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.