Third week in of the online Faber Academy writing course and I’m really getting stuck in.
This week it was all about character. The task I chose to post to the forum was a character sketch of someone I knew. I struggled with this at first because the picture that jumped instantly into my head was of someone I didn’t know, and she just wouldn’t go away. So I wrote about her. Mary. She must be real somewhere in the world, though, right?
Feedback started to arrive. Always the scary part. Thankfully my piece was liked, but as per previous week’s posts opinions on certain words were divided. One person’s favourite line was another’s suggestion to drop! Proving again that writing is such a subjective business and we simply cannot possibly please everyone.
It’s so encouraging to read people’s comments about your work and it’s thrilling to be able to tell others the same about theirs. Week four starts tomorrow and I’m itching to get my hands on it already.
In the meantime, here’s Mary.
Black roots seeping down the centre of her dyed blonde hair is always the first thing that lurches to mind when I think of Mary. Next comes the swirl of the foul smelling cigarette smoke as it curls its way up her face and into her ever squinting eyes. I don’t remember the exact colour of them. Her eyes, I mean. Maybe that’s because they were never open for long. When they were closed you could see just how much baby blue eyeshadow she’d smeared on that morning without using a mirror. And gaze in disbelief at the great smear of blood red lipstick she’d plastered on at the same time. Thick, sticky lipstick that always pooled into a gloopy mess at the corners of her mouth by the end of the day. Not a pretty sight, I’m sure you’d agree. But she didn’t seem to care.
“If no-one don’t bleeding well like me then that’s their problem, it aint mine. I don’t give a flying fox crap what anyone else thinks of me, they can all go to hell for all I care.” She didn’t have many friends. Not a surprise really.
Her body was thin and wiry, not one you’d want to cuddle up to. Years of existing on caffeine and alcohol did that to a person, I guess. If she did ever attempt physical contact it was probably because she was drunk. Although saying that she did have an affectionate side to her because she loved the next door neighbour’s dog; often squeezing cocktail sausages through the broken section of fence for it when the owners were out. If the other side’s neighbour’s cat dared to stray into the garden, however, she’d send it on its way with a well landed boot to its ginger backside.
Mary’s favourite time of day was the evening when all the terrible soaps were on the tele. One after the other she’d watch them, through a haze of cigarette smoke and gin fumes. When the last one finished she’d slump back in her chair and fall asleep. Sometimes I threw a blanket over her; depending on whether she’d been nice to me or not really.
Sometimes she offered me food, other times she didn’t even speak to me. Sometimes she’d pat me on the back and say “You ain’t that bad really, I suppose.” This was a compliment, you understand. Other times she’d kick me swiftly in the shin when I wasn’t looking and say “Get out of the way you useless sod.”
I don’t know if she regretted some of the ways she’d lived her life, I never got to ask her, because one chilly February morning I found her dead in her chair; TV still blaring out and next doors cat asleep on her lap, purring. Even though I was only ten at the time I knew instantly that she’d died because her face had turned grey under all her hideous make up. All that said I did still love her, though. She was my mother after all.