The Writer’s House
by Caroline Greene
The great man is in the drawing room sitting for a portrait. We’ve had to roll up the rugs, but there’s sure to be paint for me to scrub off the parquet. He’s had that many pictures done, there can’t be anyone in England who wouldn’t recognise him on a dark night. Most of the country’s been up to his gate, hoping for a glimpse. Sends me out to them with his signature printed on postcards. I tell them it’s two and six. He’s not to know. And there’s stories I could tell. He’s used my words before, I know that for a fact. There’s more than one maid in his plays has voiced my opinions. But the things I could write down. I’d do it, too, if I could find the time. Some days, it’s all I think about. In that same drawing room, where his books line the shelves, I’ve polished paragraphs till they glow in my mind like the fender in the light of the fire. On a windy Wednesday I’ll be pegging out his shirts with commas and full stops, thinking about my own phrases billowing in the breeze. In the bedrooms, I dust away old expressions, hoping to find something shining underneath. In the kitchen, I scrub over false starts and faded colour before settling thoughts on the stove to brew. But I have left some pages to posterity, here in the house. Somewhere in the ledger you’ll find a record in the narrow column of accounts:
To the butcher’s boy, who brought
Me a pound of sausages and the tripe
You like to give the dog, you
Owe three shillings. To pay at
The month’s end at the usual
The real debt spreads down through those lines. To me, you owe the time. But I doubt it’s one he’ll ever pay.
Caroline Greene is an English Language teacher who has also spent many years as an editor of non-fiction, an occasional features writer, and a fund-raiser for education projects in the theatre. Her work has appeared in the Fish Anthology, Flash Magazine and the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology (Volume Three).
Detail of photograph © Michael Garlick (cc-by-sa/2.0).