Hoople The Hunter

Mott The Hoople

There’s a moment in the film Alice Doesn’t Live here Anymore where the son is spread out of the floor with his head between his stereo speakers blasting out All The Way From Memphis. That’s the moment when Mott The Hopple were superstars. The song was a sensation for a group that had an glam-art-rock reputation. They took their name from the novel by Willard Manus. 

They started as an average British rock band then fell under the guidance of David Bowie who produced their All The Young Dudes 1972. He wrote the title song for them. The album has some interesting Bowie atmospherics & is clearly Bowie. He added the sparkle of glam rock but with Mott 1973, (with All The Way From Memphis), they became a hard rock group. Mainly original material & sharper guitar & less atmosphere. Their final studio album was The Hoople 1974. The recent reissues include live tracks etc.

After The Hopple Ian Hunter went solo. His work without the band is merely as extension of his work with the band. So he didn’t leave to pursue a vision that was stifled by the band.  I have Ian Hunter 1975, All American Alien Boy 1976, You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic 1977 ( with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band). All are solid rock lps with some strong tracks & good listening but none had/have the bite of Mott from 73.

Ian Hunter has one of those distinctive rock voices, sort of a gravelly Bryan Ferry, that never loses its tinge of blasé detachment. His lyrics are typical love, life on the road stuff that never become overly political, & sometimes veer on sentimental romanticism. Clever with a touch of Noel Coward word play I enjoy these lps when they come up in rotation but rarely feel compelled to dig them out to listen to. If you are unfamiliar start with Mott it’ll take you all the way to Memphis.

this is the final section of

Down The Drain

4

He lifted my feet for me to pull my jeans away. Quickly sliding his hands up the backs of my legs he forced me closer to his kneeling body. My cock was in his mouth. Despite the numbness I felt in my head, my other nerves were as functional as always.

Without the strength to push him way, I fell back onto the bed, twisted to one side to pull him away but I couldn’t. Every time I managed to get my cock out of his mouth he would quickly have it back in again. We wrestled back & forth until I couldn’t focus my energy enough to resist.

Moaning he slowed to take the easy rhythm he knew worked best on me. Only this time it wasn’t working. I stopped struggling & put my hand on his head as if to encourage him.

“You like that don’t you.” I said.

“You aren’t into it. You’re not getting hard.” He leaned back from me.

“Must be the blood I lost, asshole.” I put my feet on his shoulders & pushed away, hard.

“What the fuck.” He tumbled to his back.

He started to get up & I stood & pushed him back down.

“Don’t waste that pained look on me Jim. I’m the victim here.”

I tugged on a pair of sweat pants & went the the living room. I pulled his jacket out of the closet, found my apartment key on his key ring & removed it.

“What are you doing?” He asked from behind me.

“Here’s your coat.” I handed it to him. I opened the door. 

He stared at me. “You can’t be serious. We can sort this out.”

“Take care.”

“I said I was sorry.” He put his coat on.

“I accept your apology. End of conversation. Good night. Take care.”

I grabbed the front of his coat & guided him out the door. Shut it. Locked it.

His knocking stopped while I watched my blood go down the drain in the shower. 

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Into the Van

Continuing to listen to the heartbeat of Van Morrison I have Wavelength 78, Into The Music 80, Beautiful Vision 82, Inarticulate Speech of the Heart 83, A Brand New Sense of Wonder 85, No Guru, No Method, No Teacher 86, Poetic Champions Compose 87, Irish Heartbeat 88, Avalon Sunset 89, Enlightenment 90, Hymns To The Silence 91, Too Long in Exile 93, Days Like These 95, Duets: Re-working the Catalogue 2015. 

So you could say I’m a fan 🙂 Some these I had as lps, some as cassettes & now some are stand-clones & others mp3. Wavelength was Van going out his period of transition & into what I consider his prime with a series of spiritually complex &  musically compelling albums with often astonishing lyrics. He accomplished the sort of mystic poetics that band like Moody Blues failed at.

The albums from 78 up to 91 follow an increasing Zen sense of being with assessable lyrics & sweet music. There are some tracks full of memories of his Irish childhood that become universal – who doesn’t remember listening to the radio late at night, who doesn’t remember poets who raved on to open them to new thoughts. Van plays his sax in some deceptively simple instrumentals on some of these lps. He fully embraces his Celtic roots on Irish Heartbeat. 

The later albums are more reflective of his musical career & he is clearly aware of his legacy, which he continues to add to. He always followed his own muse, there is never a sense that he is out to create hit songs. This is adult pop – like Robbie Robertson, Jackson Browne – to name a couple – who make music they want to make not what the market demands. 

This is a piece I wrote in the early 80’s.

Down The Drain

1

“It’s time we talked.”

“About what?”

“What do you think. About us. About what is going on & what’s to come of it.”

“About life & the superficial way so many people deal with it?”

“Don’t make fun. For once let’s be serious. Or does that make an unbearable demand on you?”

“I’m listening.”

We’d had this conversation once before. Then I’d only known Jim for almost four months, for me a remarkably long time. More than amazing was that nearly a year had passed since then & for the past few months I’d been expecting him to start another ‘serious’ talk.

Sitting on the sofa I pulled him close to me. 

“I’m listening.” I brush this moustache with mine, quickly darting my tongue along his lips. “Sex is all I can seriously think about when I’m with you.”

“I’m not complaining about that.” He pushed me away from him.

A vague tiredness came over me then, a sort of dismaying boredom, this time I knew he would corner me. I was used to slipping away. It wasn’t going be easy on either of us.

“Neither am I. Shoot.”

Jim seemed a bit surprised to find me receptive. He knew I preferred to avoid, or at least to cloud, emotional issues between us.

“Do you know where to begin?” I asked.

He shook his head. 

“Well, what it is? Does it something to do with me flip fucking you last night?”

“No.” He took a deep breath. “Weekends aren’t enough. You know I’d move in, we could …”

I silenced him with a finger on his lips. “Impossible. I couldn’t do anything with you around all day.”

“Fuck impossible! Do you know what it’s like for me when you aren’t around. You & your privacy. Selfish fucker you are.” He went to the window. “Sometimes I feel that what I want & what I feel aren’t really important to you, that this is all you want from me.” He gestured to his crotch.

“Okay, I’m selfish. I admit it. I want my own way, my own time & space. I can’t …”

“Jesus, Donald.” He punched the window frame.”You know how difficult it is for anyone of us to … You should understand …” Futility fused with a trace of tears challenged his usually placid composure. “I …I’m not blind. It’s not as if …”

He moved quickly, suddenly. My eyes blinked for the moment the back of his hand cracked against my cheek. I thudded heavily into the couch, my shoulders twisting as my head rebounded from his blow. I bounced a little into the next, slammed into the full force of his fist. I could taste blood.

The inside of my mouth was bleeding.

Silence.

I heard my breath.

Lungs bursting I inhaled blood & anger. Jim was crying, staring at his hands.

I wanted to talk, to say I understood his anguish, to explain how I invited this fury but I couldn’t. Words disappeared even before they could be conceived. I wanted to make a joke of this but I couldn’t.

Touching my nose I was relieved to find it wasn’t broken, merely bleeding. My left eye was numb, vision fuzzy, my bottom lip felt inches thick. Blood was dripping onto my t-shirt.

I tried to talk but gagged, spewing a self-swallowed mouthful of blood. Dazed I stood slowly. Jim backed away shocked & frightened.

(part 2 next week)

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Chapter XL – Lillian Leaves Castleton

Coal Dusters: Book 1 is now available as as PDF – this covers the first 35 chapters – 65540 words – send $1.99 to  paypal.me/TOpoet

Coal Dusters – Chapter XL

Lillian Leaves Castleton

When Lillian returned to the manse she appreciated the cool silence of the house. It was as if she had gone deaf as she stood in the stillness of the kitchen. No shouting, no children rushing around her, no bullets being fired over her head.

She cleared the ashes out of the kitchen stove. This was one of the jobs she hated and one which she was already grateful to have Father Patrick do but he was no where to be seen when she got back to the house. After the incident at the wharf the union was meeting at the Hall so she knew he was there. 

Once the fire was going she put the kettle on. Even if they were having a cold dinner her Uncle always enjoyed a fresh cup of tea with his evening meal. As she was in the pantry she heard him coming in the back door.

“Is that you Father Patrick?” she called.

“Who did you think it was?” came his gruff reply. “One of those empty-headed miners you’ve been convortuing with behind my back?”

She stepped into the kitchen to confront him. “Behind your back? Yesterday you said how much you admired me for helping the striker’s children.”

“Children, yes.” He grabbed her roughly by the shoulders. “You weren’t seen walking down the street holding hands with children. Flaunting it. Mrs. McIssac was all too eager to say how good the women thought you are but I know she wanted to make it clear was they there talking about you. About you and those dirty mine rats. ” He shoved her hard against the wall.

“Mine rats? Mrs. McIssac? They were walking me home. Seeing that I was safe.” She struggled to get out of his grip.

“She was all too eager to tell me all about you and that Franklin strumpet. Visiting her at the brothel she runs.”

“Brothel?”

“Was she hoping to entice you into becoming one of her house maids? I see through your innocent act my child. I can see the evil conniving behind your eyes. I can see fear there. Fear that you have been caught once again trying to inveigle some unsuspecting man into the mire of your carnality.”

He loosened his grip to grab the wooden plunger she used to wash the clothes. She turned to get out of the kitchen but he hit her across the back before she got to the door. The blow sent her sprawling on to her hands and knees into the back pantry. Before she could get up he struck her repeated until she was on her stomach.

“I should have beat the evil out of you the last time my child but that interring O’Dowell harridan got in the way. This time there is no one to hold back the wrath of God.”

Each time she tried to raise herself up he pushed her back down with his foot.

“You want to cavort with those …. unwashed animals you might as well get used to living at their level.”

With a groan Lillian rolled on to her back. She could taste blood in her mouth. She wiped her lips with the back of her hand her eyes holding her uncle’s eyes.

“Do not look to me for mercy.” He said. “There is none for wonton females of your sort who are nothing more than the evil that leads men away from the will of God.”

She reached up to the edge of the counter to pull herself to her feet with taking her eyes away from his.

“I said do not look to me for mercy.” He reach up to her face to shield her eyes from his. 

She flinched back.

“I won’t mar your face. Not this time my child.”

Bracing herself against the wall she moved unsteadily from the pantry without taking her eyes from his.

“Take your eyes off me you … witch. I will not fall under you spell.” Pulled the rosary out his vest pocket and held it up between them. “Leave my house.”

“Gladly.”

She steadied herself firmly against the counter.

“I said to stop glaring at me.” He raised his arm and stepped toward her.

Pushing away from the counter she parried his arm with hers and shoved him with all her might with the other. Her sudden attack caused him to slip and fall back hitting his head against the lower cabinets. He slid down until he was sitting on the floor. Without hesitation, using what strength she had left she slapped him in the face with all her might.

“The Lord is my shield …” he began.

“Turn the other cheek Father.” She said as he slapped him again. 

Using the railing she pulled herself up the stairs to her room. Each step was agonizing. She was in tears by the time she got to the top and had brace herself firmly to keep from falling backwards.

In her room she longed to sit long enough to catch her breath but she was unsure of what her uncle would do next. She bent to reach for her carpet bag and momentarily lost consciousness.

Dazed she thrust her hair brushes from the top of the dresser along with some underclothes and her other house shift into the bag. The house was quiet as she walked down to the front door.

“Uncle Patrick?” she asked.

The noise of a creaking chair came from the living-room.

“I will return to collect the rest of my things tomorrow. I will not be alone.”

“Satan will always find those willing to his biding.” he said.

She walked unsure of where to go. Mrs. Franklin’s boarding house was the nearest thing to a hotel in Castleton Mines. She was sure Rose would understand her need for a room? All she needed was temporary lodgings. How would she pay? Thee were a few items of value in her trunks. Perhaps she could trade them. She stopped at the gate to catch her breath.

The front rooms of the house were well lit. She walked up the steps, glanced in the parlour window and saw Colonel Strickland standing with his back tot he window regaling the men in the room.

She knocked on the door. Mrs. Franklin opened it and caught Lillian as she collapsed.

The sun was streaming across the foot of the bed when she awoke with a start. She had been undressed and put into the bed. Her dress was laid across the back of a chair by the bed. Her back throbbed as she pushed herself up and swung her feet to the floor.

It took her a few minutes to understand where she was. Her last memory was of a group of men looking down at her once floor. Mrs. Franklin must have put her to bed. 

There was a timid knock at the door. “Miss McTavish?”

“Yes.” she answered. “Mrs. Franklin?”

“No ma’am.” the door opened wide enough for a head to appear. “T’is Aileen from the O’Dowell’s. Might I come in?”

“Yes. Please.” she pulled a shawl around her shoulders.

“Mrs. Franklin sent a boy over to tell us you were here.  Dr. Drummond said you weren’t to be disturbed. We’ve all been mighty worried about you.”

“Dr. Drummond?”

“Yes ma’am. Miss O’Dowell saw how … harmed you were. She knew who had done it. That uncle of yours. Some priest he’s turned out to be. So kind to all who sees him but when no one sees him he’s … sorry ma’am.”

“That’s quite alright Aileen.”

“She’s been to his house, if’n you don’t mind, and had all your things removed.”

“How long have I been asleep?”

“All day yesterday. Doctor says not to worry but you will be sore for a bit.”

Mrs. Franklin strode into the room. “Aileen you were to let us know if Miss McTavish had awakened, not tire her with conversation.”

“Sorry, Mrs. Franklin, but when i saw she was sitting up I forgot.” Aileen pulled at her fingers.

“That’s quite alright.” Lillian said. “I could do we a cup of tea though Aileen. If there’s some brewed that is.” She glanced to Mrs. Franklin.

“The kettle just boiled in Aileen. There’s a tea pot where you can see it. Let it steep a few minutes before you bring it up.”

“The tea things?” Aileen asked as she backed to the door.

“I’ll be down shortly to get them.”

“Yes mum.”

“And shut the door when you leave.” 

“Yes mum.”

“Some of these girls have to be told everything.” Mrs. Franklin moved Lillian’s dress and sat on the chair. “So how are you feeling Lillian?”

“I’m a bit dazed. have I really been asleep for two days?”

“Asleep … more like unconscious. Do remember arriving here?”

“Yes. Colonel Strickland was here?”

“Yes. He still is, along with a couple of his men. He was talking with Mr. O’Dowell when you arrived. It was Steven who forbad us to move you at all until Dr. Drummond had examined you.” 

“I see. I don’t want to be any more trouble to you.” She tested the floor with her feet as she stood up cautiously. Dizzy she sat on the bed.

“Dr. Drummond is here now. He wanted to speak with you once you were awake. Shall I let him come up?”

“Have you a mirror, Rose?”

“Of course.” Mrs. Franklin went to the dresser and brought Lillian a mirror and a hair brush.

“Oh! These are mine!”

“Yes I took a few things out of your bag.”

Lillian realized she was wearing one of her own nightdresses.

“You robe is here too.”

Lillian was relieved to see that her face showed no signs of her ordeal. Her hair however was quite tangled. She started to brush it out but the brush pulled at her scalp. Her back ached the harder she tried. She began to cry.

“It’s hopeless.” she said.

“There! There! Lillian.” Mrs. Franklin took another brush off the dresser and began to help. “It isn’t that bad.”

“I really don’t know what to do, Rose. I can’t go back to that man’s house. I can’t go back to Boston.”

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way, Lillian.”

“Of course. Do I look presentable?”

“Under the circumstances you look fine.” She went to the door. “Dr. Drummond, Miss McTavish can receive you now.”

A few moments later the doctor came into the room. He was much younger than Lillian had expected.

“How is my patient today?” he asked putting his bag on the dresser and taking out a stethoscope.

“Sore.” Lillian said. She felt faint as he put his hands on her. She was accustomed to much old doctors. Men as old or older than her father. 

“Understandable. Umm … I don’t want to seem indelicate but I must examine your back.”

“Oh!” Lillian blushed.

“Of course Mrs. Franklin will remain in the room. Would you like Aileen to be here as well?”

“Yes. If you don’t mind?” Lillian said.

“No, not at all.” He went to the door. “I’ll send her in and once you are ready have her call me back in. You needn’t disrobe completely if it makes you uncomfortable.”

“Thank you.”

 

After the doctor had listened to her breathing and heart, he gently felt her back.

“Is this painful?” he asked.

“I don’t feel anything.” she said.

“Not even this?” he asked.

“No.”

“I see. Very well you can get dressed.” He turned his back to her as he looked through his bag.

“Is it serious.” Lillian asked.

“Nothing feels broken, if that’s what you mean. There is of course bruising but it is the lack of sensation that is worrisome.”

“It will return as the bruising subsides?” Lillian attempted once again to stand.

“Yes.” Dr. Drummond held his arm out for her to hold as she took a few tentative steps.

“I … I don’t want to be an invalid.”

“No, that is unlikely.”

With his help and with Mrs. Franklin near at hand she walked around the room.

“Can I tell her now ma’am?” Aileen asked.

“Tell me what?” Lillian asked.

“Miss O’Dowell says you are to come live us in North Sydney once you are well enough to come.”

“That’s very kind of her but …”

“I don’t want to sound inhospitable Lillian,” Mrs. Franklin said. “But this isn’t a … fitting place for a single. young lady to reside.”

“She is right, Miss McTavish.” Dr. Drummond said. “I would say you are fit to travel.”

“Thank you. Yes, tell Miss O’Dowell I’d be happy to accept her kind invitation.” Lillian was grateful but knew she had no viable alternative either.

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Chapter XIX – Lillian Bruised

Chapter XIX 

Lillian Bruised

“Lillian!” He was shocked. “What is the meaning of this?”

Mr. O’Dowell released her and moved quickly away. “Father Patrick I … invited myself along with my sister to learn more about the Catholic Missions in Africa. Miss McTavish had no idea I would be here.”

“You will kindly remove yourself from my house at once, Mr. O’Dowell. And as for you Lillian go to your room at once.”

Lillian ran up to her room, yanked off her smock and threw herself on her bed pounding it with her fists. She could hear Mr. O’Dowell’s protestations as her uncle lead him and his sister out of the house. Miss O’Dowell apologizing as she explained that her brother had foisted himself upon her.

After a few moments there was knock at her door.

“Come in.” she said. She didn’t know what to expect from her uncle. The news that Mr. O’Dowell knew something of her past had stunned her. It was supposed by her family that she would be safe here from any rumours.

“I had hoped you were changed Lillian.” Her uncle began quietly. “It appeared to me for a time that you were repenting and atoning for your untoward actions that hurt your family extremely deeply. But to see you practicing those same wiles under my roof disappoints me.”

“Wiles uncle? I … I did not know Mr. O’Dowell would be here. It was you who invited Miss O’Dowell, not I.”

“Lillian, explanations do not further your case. I am aware of the subterfuges you indulged in to play the sham with your family. They may have worked on the simple men in Castleton Mines but they will not work here in my house. They will not be allowed. There will be no more callers at this house. Do you understand that. I have a reputation to maintain even if it means nothing to you.” He went to the dresser and removed the mirror. He stepped into the hall with it and she heard it smashing as he threw at the wall.

“I will send a message to the Mother Superior. It is clear to me you must be placed where your wiles will not gain foothold. You will leave this house tomorrow whether she agrees to take you or not.”

“Father Patrick.” Lillian was on her knees. “Please. You must believe me I did nothing …”

“Nothing! I saw you! In his embrace. In my home.”

“That was none of my doing.” She was wringing her hands.

“That is why you must be removed. If you are as unaware as you claim I must make sure others are protected from you.”

“Uncle! Father Pat.” She began to stand and reached out to him.

“Do not come near me.” He smacked her across the face with his open hand. She stumbled back to the window. His next smack sent her sprawling on the bed. 

She rolled over to protect her face. There was stinging across her legs. 

“All women are vessels of deceit. You are vessel of deceit.” Her uncle said. “This is something that brother of mine should have done a long time ago.”

She glanced over her shoulder to see that he was holding the old bamboo fishing rod she would use with a cloth on one end to reach corners in the house for dusting.

“He thought his money would be enough. Thought it made him better than me.” With each statement he brought the rod down across her back and shoulders.

“All the money a man has cannot buy his way into grace. He bought disgrace through you. But you will not bring that same disgrace into the House of the Lord.”

The rod whizzed through he air as it cut down on her. It was tearing through the crepe of her dress

“This will beat the devil out you. You hussy. As bad as the whore of Babylon. Temptress.”

“Father Patrick!” a woman’s voice came from the door way. “What in the name of God are you doing.”

It was Miss O’Dowell.

“My brother confessed to me your niece’s innocence in his attentions. I … knocked at the door and when no one answered I came in and could hear your accusations.”

“These are not accusations.” Father Patrick turned to face her.

Lillian painfully sat up on the edge of the bed.

“Irregardless this is not the way of the Lord either. It says clearly in Deuteronomy ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’ Not your’s Father Patrick.” She took the now frayed bamboo rod out of his hand and went over to Lillian. “Are all right my girl? My foolish brother has never been capable of much decorum where his interests are concerned.”

“I …” Lillian faltered. “I am willing to face ….” she wanted to explain that in some way she was deserving of being punished but not to this degree.

“Miss O’Dowell your interference in private issues of a family matter are most unwarranted.” Father Patrick said.

“They are proper when a member of my family is the cause of this conflict between you and your niece. Come my dear.” She helped Lillian to stand. “You will come with me. I cannot allow you to remain under this roof.”

“Thank you Miss O’Dowell but …” she would not be driven out of another home. “But this is my home now. I’m sure you understand.”
“Very well. But if I hear of any further … abuse, I will pursue what channels I have available to me.” She looked Father Patrick in the eyes. “We have powerful connections.”

“I’m sure you do but I too, have connections. More powerful than yours.” Father Patrick glanced upward.

“Perhaps you are unaware of my mother’s maiden name Father Patrick. Before marriage she was Madeline DuPont. Sister to His Eminence Georges DuPont. The Bishop. A word to him about your behaviour Father Patrick and I can have you removed from this diocese. Is that clear. Perhaps you would be happier in the African Missionaries.”

“Is that a threat?” Father Patrick said.

“The O’Dowell’s do not make threats Father.” Miss O’Dowell said coldly. She turned back to Lillian. “The next meeting of the Catholic Ministries in Africa will be this Monday night. I hope to see you there Miss McTavish.”

“Yes, Miss O’Dowell.” Lillian replied.

“You may see me out, Father.” She reached out and took Father Patrick firmly by the forearm. “These steps are rather steep. Watch out for the broken glass.”

Alone Lillian took a few tentative steps but each movement rippled painfully across her calves and back. She heard the front door shut.

“Lillian.” Her uncle called from the bottom of the stairs. “There appears to be sufficient prepared for your luncheon that didn’t get eaten. I will have that for my supper. You can remain in your chambers for now.”

She removed her dress. She teared up to see that the back of the dress was in shreds but she was grateful to see that there as no blood. Even her own father had never raised a hand to her. Perhaps her uncle was right, that she might have been better for a firmer upbringing. She didn’t know.

She rolled off her stockings and there were red welts along her calves but once again the skin hadn’t been broken. As she looked at her wounds she found it difficult to connect the bruised flesh with her. With the her who had once lived such a carefree life in Boston. 

She carefully pulled her usual pinafore over her head and wrapped her apron around once again. She stepped over the broken mirror and slowly made her way down the stairs. 

She glimpsed her uncle on his knees in the parlour praying on front of the crucifix there. In the kitchen she saw that he had cleared the luncheon tray away and left it on the sideboard by the sink.

The tea was no longer hot but as she was now accustomed to the cold tea she didn’t mind. As she washed the sandwich tray she heard her uncle picking up mirror pieces on the stairs. He took the pieces to the trash bin behind the house and went to the church. With a small broom and a damp cloth she cleared up the the remaining shards.

The rest of the evening was spent in silence. Her uncle said nothing as he ate his dinner. He did look to her once and she held his gaze. If he was looking for a sign of forgiveness from her she wouldn’t give it.

The morning also passed with the same somber silence. She heated water for laundry and had filled the tub on the back veranda. It was a sunny and already warm day as she fried his one egg, piece of bacon and toasted his one piece of bread to go with it. If the cold tea was good enough for her then he could enjoy the same this morning.

“Lillian?” he broke the silence. “I’m shamed by my actions of yesterday.”

“Are you Father Patrick?”

“I forget that you haven’t had the same kind of up-bring as the families here.”

“I am aware of that. Father Patrick there may be something amiss in me, some lack in the eyes of our Lord. I do not fully understand but accept that is so.”

“Then you forgive me?” he asked.

“No.” she replied. “As you have said in your sermons. Only the Lord can forgive. Seek forgiveness there. Not from me.”

She went into the back garden. As the weather warmed and greenery started growing this had become her refuge. This was the day to wash the linens. The work allowed her mind to clear itself as she concentrated on the tasks at hand. As she worked the soreness in her back began to lessen as well. After hanging sheets on the line she sat at the small bench at the rear of the garden. 

Her uncle came out. “I will be at the church office Lillian.”

“Yes, Father Patrick.” It was only when she was sure he was gone that she allowed herself to weep. Whatever female weaknesses he thought she was a vessel to, he would never see her sorrow.

“Why miss! What is the matter?” a male voice asked from the lane that ran behind the house.

She looked up and there were two young men with fishing poles over their shoulders.

“Ah tis her.” said the shorter of the men. “The gal looking for the colliery after the gas.”

“So it is.” Said the taller of the two.

“What has happened to ye?” The shorter one asked.

“Happened?” Lillian stood to see them better.

“Yer face?” he continued.

“Oh!” she covered her cheek where her uncle had first hit her. Was there a visible bruise?

“Some man been putting his hands on you?” The taller one asked angrily. “Isn’t fittin’ ”

“That’s right. No man should … ” the shorter one had put down his fishing rod and raised his fists. “If I caught someone hurting a lady I’d learn him different.”

“No. I … dusting the other day … stumbled …”

“I see miss.”

“Come on, Clancy we best be on our way.”

“Hold yer horses Birk. Good day to yer miss.”

Birk’s shirt was unbuttoned, untucked so that the light morning breeze caught it. Her eyes were caught by the sun’s gleam in the curly black hair on his chest. 

The men continued down the lane. 

It took Lillian a few moments to connect these faces with the two that had given her direction a few weeks ago. Today these faces were clean. What names they had … ‘Birk’ … ‘Clancy’ … How carefree they were too. Free to fish. To do what they pleased. Did they have wives at home who were tied down to children, who were, as she was, washing and cooking, while they were off on a lark.

She went back to the laundry tub saying their names over to herself Clancy … Birk … Birk. 

She was comforted that there were men who would want to protect her. Not shunt her off, not blame her, but want to look after her.

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