The Curse of Gotten Wood (sample)

So, I’ve been having a little fun going back to my writing roots (silliness) to move out of editorial mode and into creative mode for the next few months.  Last night I got more done in one go than I have done for aaaaages. So, I’m very happy.

In light of the fact that my last post raised wide-spread concern about the hearing loss (and thank you all very much who responded so kindly on facebook) I thought I’d lighten things up a bit around here. 

And yes, I’m deliberately writing in the omniscient voice. Gasp!

All thoughts, comments etc very welcome… please save me from the sound of the crickets!

15th March 2018, round about sixish

“I’ve been fantasising about my husband dying.” Emily twisted her ring and searched Matt’s face for signs of horror. He gave one of his earnest, sober nods and put his pad to one side, a gentle smile tugging at the corners of lips that she would launch herself upon if they didn’t belong to her trauma counsellor. Still, a smile—ovary-searingly-gorgeous though it was—struck her as an incorrect response. It looked like the response of a man who probably wasn’t listening. She cleared her throat. “You did hear me say I wanted my husband dead, didn’t you?”

“You said you fantasised about his death,” Matt corrected, hoping that the minute hand on the clock of the hired room would reach twelve before he had to delve into her more frightening follow-up statement. He slipped his glasses off and soothed his eyelids with the pads of forefinger and thumb. “You know, it’s not at all uncommon for people to fantasise about the deaths of their spouse. Especially a spouse like Brendan.” Oops. Badly put.

Emily grinned. “So much for objectivity.”

“I just mean… he put you through a great deal. It’s natural to want to escape a relationship where your sanity is continuously being challenged.”

“So… other people fantasise about their husbands driving their trucks off Grubberty Bridge?”

“Well… that’s quite a localised example, but—”

“What about stairs? Has anyone mentioned the convenient-yet-fatal plunge down the stairs or the terminal faceplant into the pon—” she brought herself up short, heat thundering through her cheeks.

Just because something was true, it ought not necessarily be expressed. One of her mother’s many truths. But then… why else had she asked her GP to refer her to a counsellor? Things needed expressing or she’d pop, and it wasn’t as if she’d get a fair or gentle ear from anyone who wasn’t paid to listen. Brendan was like the local no-discussion topic. The mere mention of his name was enough to send most people into the kind of shuddering fit you associate with a gin bottle shoved up the nostrils. And she was bloody married to the git.

Matt’s navy-blue eyes gleamed attentively, even as they flicked six feet NW of her left shoulder to the clock on the rear wall of the community centre’s mini-clinic. Once the local, unfriendly loan shark, he’d discovered himself in prison. Now, he was a reformed soul, the evidence of his reconnection to his conscience oozing from every sexy, compassionate pore. His collection of thin, clingy sweaters did nothing to hide the build lurking under his remodelled, conservative exterior.

She took his covert bum-shuffle towards the edge of his seat as the gentle hint intended. Session over—he was just too polite to slam the shutters down. She managed to force out a smile.

“I imagine that spousal death fantasies aren’t a recommended part of the ‘path to healing’.”

“They don’t feature much in the NLP practitioner’s manual.” He grinned as he gathered the papers on the tiny coffee table between his chair and her couch. “But it would be daft to pretend that people don’t have them.  Look, I’m not going to give you any stupid homework—”

“Like, ‘list the top ten most satisfying Brendan-deaths this week’?”

“Nope, none of that.  But there is something I would like you to think about until next Thursday. When you find yourself getting lost in these… escapist thoughts, I’d like you to pull yourself up short and think about what has happened to you in the hours before the fantasies started creeping up on you. It’s an efficient way of getting a handle on the marital issues that cause you the most frustration.”

“And then?”

Matt sighed, knowing there was no solution to Emily’s problems other than divorce, or her fantasies coming to life. He stood, reaching a hand down to her to haul her from the couch. She was fit and spry, but the bloody thing had come cheap with the community centre’s ‘rebuild’ and had a nasty tendency to trap octogenarians and anyone with arthritis. He felt Emily’s expectant, trusting gaze upon his cheek and guided her towards the door.

“And then,” he said, making it all up as he went along, “we work together to develop non-murderous coping strategies for your frustrations.”

Must not indulge feelings for client. Certainly must not fuck client. Repercussions—terrible.

He’d nearly herded her to the front doors when she came to a dead stop in front of the painting that had been hung behind the reception desk. He jerked his gaze towards the hazel bushes hemming in the entire building so he didn’t have to notice the way her bottle-green, jersey wraparound dress made her waist so neat or her backside so… cuppable.

Emily grimaced at the ‘artwork’ someone had seen fit as decoration for the otherwise inoffensive wall. It was a head-and-shoulders portrait without the impressively flake-free hair. In fact, nothing about the portrait’s sitter was even vaguely impressive. Against a nearly-black background, a haggard man, who she estimated to be in his late forties sagged under the weight of a fur coat. The coat’s collar deprived him of a neck and made his chin look poky and tiny between two foreboding jowls. His lower lip was overly fleshy and moist—eugh!—and his nostril arches were high. Above two watery grey eyes sat thick, unruly brows which would’ve made perfect convalescent homes for ill caterpillars.  The portrait’s sullen glare tugged her in for just a second, giving her a better peripheral view than she wanted of the warts lining his sideburns and the left side of his jaw. She blinked and turned back to Matt.

“Who,” she asked, pointing to the portrait, “is that?”

“I spend as little time looking at it as possible.”


“He’s the Marquis of Grab.” The voice came from a blonde, tight-bunned receptionist who’d appeared behind the desk as suddenly as if she’d been hydraulically launched from the basement.  The blonde slapped a shiny, colour-printed brochure onto the counter. “ ’parently, the villages of Grubberty, Gotten Wood and Lower Lickbourne were all part of this Marquis-bloke’s estate. Din’t read past the fifth paragraph but ‘s far ’s I can make out, ’e was a right dodgy type.”

“If he was so dodgy, why’s he on a wall in a community centre, in a commemorative, hard-to-avoid sort of location?”

“Read the brochure.”

“Right,” Emily agreed. “But how long’s that painting been there? I don’t remember seei—”

“Again, luv—the brochure.” The receptionist swung her ever-weary gaze over to the squash courts, from which exploded a riot of youthful male sounds and, shortly after, some lively bodies to accompany them. “It’s back to the coal-face for me—I’ve got to check all them scouts out from their regional sports night.”

“Okay.” She turned to see Matt staring fixedly through the front doors of the community centre and put a light hand to his upper arm. He’d gone a little pale. She squeezed and tried not to feel hurt as he pulled away. “What’s up?”

“Brendan’s here to pick you up. He’s seen me,” he added, like a trained ventriloquist.

“Oh… Christ. Just scuttle off somewhere. I’ll handle this.”

“You sure?”

The concern in his face and the tension in his shoulders would keep her sense of over-active romanticism happy for weeks. Her over-active romanticism was easy, that way. She nodded without moving her head—a long-learned skill—and strode towards Brendan with a smile of gratitude for saving her the bus-ride home. As Brendan’s hand gripped her elbow, towing her towards the car, she felt a great thump of relief to see Matt pretending to flirt with the receptionist as the Scout troop clustered around them, pointing up at the picture, laughing, and making assorted disgusted sounds.



2 thoughts on “The Curse of Gotten Wood (sample)

  1. “the kind of shuddering fit you associate with a gin bottle shoved up the nostrils. ”
    Really? : D That’s not an image I’m like to forget anytime soon.
    Thanks for the much needed laughs and smiles!



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