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The Trapped Worm

by songbird 

Posted: 13 August 2007
Word Count: 6301
Summary: Story of a young girl's short life due to a series of unfortunate events.

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The Trapped Worm

When you read this, I will be dead. This will be as the result of, what some might call, a series of unfortunate events.

And so to begin. I left school in a small village in Ireland as I just turned 18. I headed straight to London and had just under £200 in my pocket. This was to be enough to keep me going for a month or so until I found work. As I left home on that cold wintry morning, my Mother stood in the doorway with my two younger brothers and sisters who sobbed and begged me not to go. I was close to my siblings as I had opted in and out of school in order to help my mother bring them up. It’s funny the things you remember about the day you leave home. Like my Father being nowhere to be seen so I couldn’t say goodbye to him.

I took the ferry to Hollyhead and arrived at the port in good time so as to secure a reasonable seat. I felt sad and lonely about leaving the only life I had ever known but at the same time I was excited about the unpredictable life that lay ahead. England was the nearest largest country to explore and for a young girl, it opened up a whole new world of opportunity. The window seat I chose allowed me to watch the waves crashing and falling away as we moved steadily along. I slept on and off but became suddenly alert as a voice on the intercom announced our arrival in Hollyhead.

I made my way to the upper deck and felt very warm inside on seeing the strip of flood lights guiding us safely in to port. I checked my watch and saw it was 6am. At that same moment I became aware of a little red breasted robin that had landed on the ferry railings It seemed to command my attention and for a few moments we maintained eye contact. I took this to be a welcome and did not consider that it may in fact have been a warning.

I took the bus from Hollyhead to Victoria station and used public facilities to clean my face and change in to my best dress. I bought a newspaper and spent the day visiting the addresses of the jobs shown in the adverts. As I had no formal training, I was looking for work as a domestic helper. Although I was smartly dressed, most people I spoke to had either already found someone or didn’t like the look of me or my thick Irish accent. My first weeks in London were spent gracefully accepting their job refusals.

After several weeks I finally struck it lucky with a hotelier who employed me as a chamber maid. The hotel was called “The Bear’s Rest” because of its proximity to Paddington station. It was a nice enough place but I found that the girls I worked with liked to keep to themselves. Not wanting to impose where I wasn’t wanted, I did likewise. I was given my quota of 14 rooms in the morning and 18 in the afternoon. It was made clear that all would be duly inspected each day and if they did not meet the required standard I would be asked to leave and would not be paid. My wages were meager but I had my own room and three square meals.

I worked hard and made sure I met my quota but as time went on I began to be hampered by an unfortunate disability I inherited from my Father. I was born with one of my feet being two inches shorter than the other. My disability was not obvious though, thanks to the platform shoe I wore which cleverly hid my impairment. I had strong medication for when the pain became too much to bear. This usually happened during the winter months when the weather was cold and damp. Being on my feet for long spells at a time also worsened my condition. Both these factors acted against me when I took up work at the hotel and within a couple of weeks my room quota began to slip. For the first couple of days this seemed to go un-noticed but early on day three I was called in to see the Manager Mrs Everett.

She was a harsh and bitter woman. She never responded when I wished her a good morning and she could often be seen slapping us on the back and instructing us to move faster. As I entered her office, she was seated behind her desk but quickly got to her feet and shouted at me to sit. I noticed that her face was more shriveled up than usual. She looked truly wicked and there was no mistaking that my time in the hotel had come to an end. She did not make any long speech, she simply asked for an explanation as to why I had not been meeting my daily quota. I told her about my bad leg and immediately regretted it. “ So you’re a cripple” she snarled. I felt stupid and inadequate. “Did you mention this to Mr Downing when he offered you the job”? she snapped. I nodded my head, suddenly unable to speak and feeling quietly devastated by what was about to happen. “Well, that’s it then” she said angrily. “Pack your things and get out!. And don’t expect this month’s wages”.

Back on the streets of London, I walked along blindly, tears stinging the backs of my eyes. I felt lost and terribly lonely. I had an overwhelming desire to go home to my family. After walking for nearly an hour, I ended up in a small park. It was beginning to get dark and I knew I had to find lodgings but I just needed to sit for a minute. More than anything, I wanted a friendly smile and someone to say “Gretta, is that you!”. But I knew nobody. They were all strangers. Thoughts of my family returned again and tears ran uncontrollably down my face. I reluctantly stood up, picked up my small bag and began walking again. I was embarrassed by the looks people gave me as they passed. I tried to wipe my eyes but it was no good, the tears fell and I felt lost and frightened.

As I reached the park’s exit, I stepped back to allow a young woman with her pram through. As she turned to thank me, she saw the wretched devastation on my face and enquired if I was alright. Unable to control myself, I broke down in front of her and she put her arm around me and guided me to a park bench. “You look like you’re in need of some help” she said. She divided her looks between me and the pram she’d been pushing. I could see she was a caring and responsible Mother and this made me feel safe. “What’s his name”? I sobbed. “Oscar” she said “and I’m Melissa, Melissa James”. I told her my name was Gretta Madden and I explained about having just lost my job. She listened to everything about me having left home to come to London to earn a living for myself and when I’d finished, she insisted that I stay with her until morning.

She said her house was only ten minutes away and we walked quickly along as the rain was now beginning to fall quite heavily. Once inside her living room she lit the fire and once it started to blaze, I instinctively moved towards it. It felt welcoming and reminded me of home. She pulled up a chair and invited me to sit down. Not long after she brought me a bowl of hot soup and a large chunk of buttered bread. We chatted while I ate and she busied herself with her little boy. I noticed the beautiful paintings, the antique furniture and the artifacts which seemed to hail from all around the world. As I pondered on this, I heard footsteps and a man appeared in the doorway. As he brushed passed me, there was a strong smell of whiskey. It reminded me of my Father and I was immediately on my guard. He crossed the room, picked up some papers and left without a word. Despite being next to the fire, I felt an icy chill run through me.

“You must excuse my husband” Melissa said and without any further explanation she showed me to my bedroom. It’s not big but I’ve put a fire on for you and I hope you’ll be comfortable” she said. The room was sparsely furnished but it had a good sized bed and a lovely dressing table and wardrobe. I looked around me, still not quite believing the events of the past few hours and how quickly everything had happened. “I’ll leave you to settle in and we’ll talk tomorrow “ she said. “Goodnight Mrs James” I said “and thank you for everything”. “Goodnight Gretta” she said, “and you must call me Melissa”.

Being used to waking early at the hotel, it was still dark outside when I opened my eyes. I was restless and anxious to find work and a place to stay. I got up, had a nice warm bath and then packed away my things. Although it was not yet 6am I could hear Melissa’s voice downstairs. I quickly brushed my hair, and picked up my small bag of belongings. As I went downstairs I could hear Oscar gurgling in the kitchen and could see that Melissa was trying to hold him while boiling the kettle. I immediately offered to help and took him in my arms. He looked at me strangely, but thankfully he didn’t cry. I mimicked his gurgling sounds and this brought a hint of a smile to his handsome face. He was clearly a good tempered baby and although only six months, he seemed to have quite a personality already.

Melissa brought me a cup of tea and sat watching me playing happily with Oscar. I told her I was used to amusing children having younger brothers and sisters of my own. She appeared pensive and asked if I’d be interested in working as a nanny. It turned out that she had been trying to find a nanny for some time but none of the girls who had started with her had worked out. “Too old, too grumpy, too young. None of them were right” she said. “But I think you’d be perfect”. I was delighted and told her she wouldn’t be sorry and promised her I would look after him as though he was my own.

Oscar was a dream baby. He was rarely naughty but did have a definite mind of his own. He was a pleasure to be with and he put a smile back on my face. I was very happy and was delighted at finally being able to send some money home to my Mother. She wrote to thank me and said she missed me but was grateful for the financial help. Dad was now suffering from severe depression at having been out of work for so long and I knew she was finding it difficult to cope. My sister Mairead wanted to come to London on a school tour and she wrote to ask if I could send her half the price of her ticket. She said the school would pay the other half. I was happy to help out and I jotted down the date of when she was due to arrive so I could arrange to meet her.

Melissa and I were now firm friends and I began to understand better her relationship with her husband. She had realized shortly after marrying him that she had made a mistake. He had really only married her because of her Father’s wealth and had wasted a considerable amount of her money in failed business ventures. When she told him she wanted a divorce he was furious and became violent. This culminated in his raping her and shortly after she realized she was pregnant with Oscar. She didn’t dare tell anyone, least of all her Father. She felt too ashamed and found it somehow easier to pretend everything was alright. I was astonished to learn that her husband had never once held Oscar and never wanted to see him or spend time with him. Melissa hoped as time went on this would change and her husband would warm to his son.

For my part, I rarely ever saw Mr James. He was never around during the day and spent evenings at his club. This of course was none of my business and I knew little of a husband and wife living together in marital bliss. My own Father and Mother spent much of their married life in separate rooms and rarely spoke to each other. When they did, it often resulted in an argument over him not trying hard enough to find work or his drinking too much. I had learnt from an early age to close my eyes and ears to their shouting and to my father’s occasional violence towards my Mother. Despite this, however, I do have fond memories of my father cuddling and kissing me as a child and bringing us all home iced jam and cream cakes. I can remember as well, him holding my Mother in a loving embrace and for a while, them both, if not being happy, at least being content. But this was all before he lost his job and “the curse of a pain in his leg” prevented him from finding another.

Although still winter, I had settled Oscar into a routine which involved a daily walk to the park. On the days my leg ached, I took my medication and stayed indoors and rested. Looking back now, I recall those months as being some of the happiest times of my life. I was good at looking after Oscar, I was helping out my own family as best I could and I had a true friend in Melissa. I wanted for nothing and felt truly contented. I could never have imagined how things were about to change.

Melissa worked as a secondary school teacher and usually left the house just before 8am. Mr James never ate breakfast and was always out of the house by 9am. He had an assistant who sometimes telephoned to ask in a very polite voice to speak to Mr James. I would always give the same answer; that Mr James was not in and that I had heard him leave the house in the early morning. He would then thank me and apologise for having disturbed me.

One afternoon while I was putting Oscar in his cot for his afternoon nap, I heard somebody downstairs in the kitchen. I froze and tried to remember if I had left the back door open when I had brought in the washing. Unable to recall one way or the other, I cautiously crept down the stairs and tried to peer through the kitchen door. Somebody was definitely moving around and rather than allow my heart to explode in my chest, I felt compelled to confront whoever it was. I gently pushed the door open and there stood Mr James. He looked pale and dirty and was holding a whiskey bottle in his hand. He motioned me to join him but I refused and muttered something about needing to see to Oscar.

As I turned to leave the kitchen he grabbed my arm and pushed me against the door. I was so shocked I momentarily forgot to be frightened. I looked at him and smelt his stale breadth. He reeked of alcohol and found it difficult to focus. I felt sure he would not dare do anything to me as surely he knew I would tell Melissa of his behavior. “Please Sir, I said, you are not yourself, can I get you something to eat or help you in any way”. He was clearly amused by this and a hateful snarl crossed his face. “Oh yes Gretta, you can do a lot to help me. You can do what my wife refuses to do”. He pressed himself against me and pushed my face back against the door. His mouth opened and his teeth beared down on my lips. I flinched with pain and tried to turn my head away but he pinned me viciously to the door. His hands mauled my breasts and I felt as though I was going to suffocate. With all my strength I cried out and pushed him away. He stumbled momentarily and I ran for the door.

Within a moment, I was out on the street running blindly in the rain. I felt ashamed and somehow responsible for what had happened. Why? Why did this have to happen? The sleety rain fell mercilessly as I finally stumbled into a doorway. My leg throbbed as I slid to the ground. I wanted to hide and never be found. My whole body trembled as I crouched down further in to the doorway. I suddenly became frightened that someone would find me and get out of me what had happened. I desperately wanted everything to return to normal, to be just as it was. I knew I had to go back to the house, Oscar was on his own and would be frightened if nobody was there to pick him up when he woke. I slowly got to my feet, my body still trembling from shock and trauma. I stood for a moment to steady myself and as I turned to face home, I was hit by a merciful blow in the face. As I fell to the ground the last thing I saw was the look of triumphant contempt on Mr James’s face.

When I came round I was lying in a hospital ward. My right jaw hurt so much, I couldn’t bring myself to move. The horror of the day’s events suddenly hit me and I felt sick to the stomach. I wanted the oblivion of sleep but pain and worry prevented it. How could I explain what had happened without putting my job in jeopardy? As I searched frantically for some kind of made up story, a nurse came in to the ward. I was not ready to speak to anyone and didn’t have my story straight so I pretended to still be unconscious. She checked my pulse, tucked in my blanket and left to see to another patient. I heaved a sigh of relief and began again to consider what I would say to people to explain what had happened.

Why had I left Oscar alone in the house and gone wandering in to the street? What had prompted somebody to attack me and leave me unconscious in a doorway? My jaw ached and my head throbbed but I was determined that everything was going to be alright if I could just come up with a feasible explanation. After considering several different possibilities, I decided it was best to put it down to common, everyday theft. I would say that a call had come from the shop for Mr James and I had just heard the front door close as the phone rang. I went on to the street to call him and could not see very far ahead in the rain and mist so walked along quickly and called his name. Having realized he had too long a head start, I turned to go back home when a man approached me and insisted I give him whatever money I had on me. When I refused on the grounds of not having anything he struck me. As I dreamt this up, I decided to make the whole thing more believable and endured the pain of removing my gold pendant. I also took my watch from my wrist and stuffed both in my pinafore pocket which lay on the bedside chair.

I rang the little bell next to my bed and after a short time a nurse appeared. She asked me how I felt and if I was ready to send word to anyone. I said I would very much like to telephone my employer as she would be frantic with worry. She helped me down the corridor and in to an open office. I thanked her and slowly picked up the receiver. I dialed Melissa’s number and she answered within a couple of rings. She was clearly very concerned and heaved a huge sigh of relief when she heard my voice. “Gretta, I was so terribly worried about you, where on earth are you”? I could feel tears beginning to prick the back of my eyes and for a split second, I just wanted to tell her the truth. Instead, taking a few moments to collect myself, I told her that I had been robbed and assaulted. Luckily I said somebody had found me on the street and called an ambulance who took me to the hospital. It suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea which hospital I was in. The note paper on the desk said “St Mary’s Paddington”. Melissa said she would come straight away but I assured her there was no need and that she must stay and look after Oscar. I would see about getting a taxi and assured her I would be home within the hour.

As I left the office the nurse who’d been looking after me asked if I had reported what had happened to the police. I explained that all of this would be taken care of once I got home. She seemed satisfied with this and agreed to call me a taxi. I thanked her and all the staff for having set my jaw and they said I was very lucky that it was not broken. They gave me some pain killers and told me to expect the bruising to last for at least four or five days.

Before I knew it, I was home again, sitting in the kitchen sipping a hot cup of sweet tea. I didn’t know how I would face Mr James and thanked God that he was nowhere to be seen. Melissa fretted and fussed over me but she never questioned my explanation for a moment. She simply asked over and over how somebody could have done such a thing and said what a beast he was to strike me and leave me for dead in the street. And all for a few small pieces of jewelry. “You must give a full description to the police” she said. I explained that it had all happened so fast, I had not the slightest idea what he looked like. I tried to persuade her it was really pointless to notify the police but she insisted it had to be done. Within moments of her call, two police ladies arrived and I made a full statement.

They asked at length if I could describe my attacker. If he had any distinguishing features, his height, his build, if he was dark or fair. I said I was sorry but it all happened so fast, I couldn’t get a proper look at him. They appeared to understand this and were sympathetic about how difficult it all was for me. “What can you tell us about the items of jewelry that were stolen? Can you describe them for us please?” the older one asked. I explained the gold pendant had a picture of my Mum and Dad and the watch had been a birthday gift from Melissa. I described the personal greeting which was engraved on the back and they duly noted everything down. Feeling agitated and guilty, I thrust my hands into my pockets, and felt the icy cold steel from my watch sting my fingers.

The following morning I resumed my duties as normal. Melissa didn’t want to attend school and said she would ask that a substitute teacher be brought in for a few days. I insisted I wanted things to go back to normal and assured her having my work to concentrate on would keep my mind off what had happened. I agreed that she could phone me on and off throughout the day.

The days and weeks passed. I didn’t have any direct contact with my attacker – he came and went as usual but I had no reason to see him or speak to him. My face healed in time and while I couldn’t forget what had happened, I felt I was beginning to put it behind me. It would remain mine and his dirty little secret. There was no doubt my state of mind was greatly improved by news from Mairead reminding me that she was to arrive in London Friday, October 28th. She would get in late evening and had suggested that we might meet for dinner. Although this was nearly two months away, I began to look forward to seeing her and hearing all the news from home.

Looking back on things now, I can honestly say that I truly believed that everything was going to be alright. This was of course heightened by my not having to see him. I think I was almost beginning to believe that what had happened wasn’t really that terrible and that it must happen all the time. I was not the first girl and certainly wouldn’t be the last to undergo such an ordeal. I even began to thank God I hadn’t made a big deal of it to Melissa and the police. I was quite sure I did right in making up the story about the burglary. And had, what happened next, not occurred, my life I think could have been simply that of a victim who’d learned to live with what had happened. But this was not to be and my life instead took a very different turn.

It was exactly seven weeks on and I had just put Oscar to bed. I remember looking at the clock and it read 4.30pm. Melissa would be home in an hour and I was making a nice meal for her to celebrate her birthday. As I studied how all the ingredients fit together I heard a crashing noise coming from the outside hall. I cautiously made my way out to see what had happened and the first thing I saw was Mr James’s briefcase lying on the marble tiles. I then saw him sprawled on the bottom step of the stairs, staring bleary eyed at the ceiling.

I could see his head swaying from side to side as he tried to get to his feet. As I approached him, that same old strong smell of whiskey filled the air. I immediately froze and backed away from him. He had a gash on his head and was clearly only semi-conscious. He muttered for me to help him and I edged forward and began to drag him up the stairs. He was heavy but just conscious enough to help me with his body weight. When we reached the top step, I was sweating and he was watching me with a sneer on his face. He began muttering something about liking to finish what he’d started. He grabbed me roughly by my arm saying ”you’d like that wouldn’t you.”

I tried to pull away from him as his reeking breadth bared down on me and his open mouth pressed against my face. I cried out for him to leave me alone but he wouldn’t. Instead I felt his hands between my legs while his mouth began grabbing at my breast. I cried out again, begging him to please stop. He swore at me and tried to pull me down the step so that I was underneath him. I was frightened but somehow knowing he was so drunk empowered me and with all my strength I cried out and pushed him away. He stumbled down four or five steps but then he laughed and began clambering back up towards me. “Come on Gretta, let’s finish what we started you little slut. You’re all the same, you pretend not to want it but” …… his voice trailed off. He tried to pull me down the step again and he grabbed my face and began dragging it towards him. His mouth was open and I felt his teeth dig through my clothes and viciously bite down on my breasts. He grabbed hold of my legs and began spreading them apart.

I screamed out and began pushing him away. At first I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere but then he stumbled a little and his weight was momentarily shifted off me. I looked him straight in the face and everything I thought I’d dealt with quite successfully burst into my mind. I felt an overwhelming hate and disgust for him – he had no right to do this, no right at all. I let out a loud scream and at the same time pushed him with all my might head first down the stairs. The last thing I heard before the deafening silence was his head hitting the marble tiles below.

I sat for a long time on the top step staring down at his lifeless body. I could see his neck was quite broken. I felt no guilt and even when I finally mustered up the strength to walk down the stairs, I stepped over him as though he was nothing more than an inconvenient obstacle. I then calmly telephoned for an ambulance. The paramedics and police arrived within a few minutes. Mr James was pronounced dead and I had little need to offer up very much of an explanation. It was clear what had happened. He had arrived home clearly having had too much to drink, lost his footing on the stairs and had fallen to his death. It was an open and shut case.

Melissa was in shock when she came bursting in. The colour drained from her face as she saw, what could only be, her husband’s lifeless body lying under a sheet. I had not given her all the details when we spoke. I’d just said that her husband had had a tragic accident. I had called her on her mobile and she had been in heavy traffic. The full series of events were now explained to her by the nice police sergeant. Once she’d come to terms with what had happened, she turned and put her arms around me. “How awful this must have been for you Gretta” she said.

The funeral was a somber affair. Despite spending all his time at his club, Mr James had not made many friends there. I stayed home to look after Oscar. He did not need to be troubled with seeing his father go into the ground. The man was a stranger to him anyway. I understood from Melissa that not a single tear was shed – not even by his only brother who attended with his wife. They were both asked back to the house for refreshments but declined because they were going to a wedding later that afternoon. His wife, who liked to look after the pennies, was quick to point out how fortuitous it was that both events were happening in succession. It meant only one trip to the hair salon was required.

In the days following the funeral, had anyone been watching, everything in the James household would have seemed perfectly normal. There was never any suggestion of foul play. What possible reason would anyone have to harm Mr James? It was, as the nice police sergeant had said, an open and shut case. I rarely thought about it and if I did, I persuaded myself it was, as I had described it to Melissa - a tragic accident. I would keep the look of frightened horror on my victim’s face, just before he was pushed to his death, to myself. I should have known that there were other ways for my exposure to come about rather than me admitting it.

Surprisingly my downfall began when I was at my happiest. I was getting ready to go out to meet Mairead and was running late. It was a cold October evening so I put on my thick shawl and was trying to fasten it as I ran down the stairs. I felt something come away in my hand and when I looked down I could see that the big blue clip that kept it closed had broken away from its clasp. Not having anything else to wear to protect me from the cold, I borrowed a brooch from Melissa. I promised her I would take care of it as I knew it was a gift from her Father for her birthday. She helped me put it on and I hurried out.

Mairead was waiting in the restaurant and we hugged for a long time once I’d apologized for being late. We then talked for several hours over dinner as she told me of all the goings on back home. Watching the animated way she chatted about things made me laugh. When she talked about poor Dad’s leg giving him trouble she thanked God for whiskey saying it was the only thing that gave him any pain relief. I envied her innocence and at that moment felt the first stab of guilt for what I had done. I felt the tears well up in my eyes. I wanted my soul to be free from sin. I wanted to be pure again like my sister. What a fool I was to think that I could live with myself as a murderer. And why did it have to take the face of this sweet angel to evoke my guilt? As I walked home on that perishing cold night, there was no doubt that my life as I knew it would never be the same again.

On arriving home I was surprised to see a light on in the kitchen. Melissa usually went to bed early with Oscar. As I greeted her, I could see she had a worried and almost distant look on her face. She looked at me and said how she had gone out to the shops shortly after I’d left to get some winter clothes for Oscar. Passing a jeweler’s she’d noticed a beautiful Celtic brooch on the window. She thought it would be nice for me to wear with my shawl and she had decided to surprise me with it. She had wrapped it up and taken it upstairs to leave in my jewelry box. Surprised to find it locked, she had a quick look round and found the key in my bedside locker. As I came round the kitchen table to face her I saw my watch and pendant in her hand.

Everything that happened next, happened while I was in an almost trance like state. I picked up the telephone and phoned the police. I said I would like to confess to the murder of Edward James of 19 Springfield Way, NW1. It didn’t take long for the police to arrive and read me my rights. I was led hand-cuffed from the house and remanded in gaol. My court hearing followed swiftly, during which the Judge was sympathetic and said he had no doubt that this was clearly a case of manslaughter rather than murder. As I had no prior convictions and had freely given myself up, he showed leniency and gave me a ten year sentence. He kindly remarked that he hoped the time would pass quickly for me.

Anybody who has ever been to prison will know that time cannot possibly pass quickly if you are entirely alone in a small cell for over 20 hours a day. My family and friends came to see me when they could but as time went on their visits became much less frequent. I slowly began to go in to decline and lost my appetite for food and then for life. I became lazy about taking the medication for my leg and in the third year of my sentence, I developed gangrene and my limbs began to rot away. The prison guards were aware of my disability and on days when I was too weak to go outside, they left me alone.

As I lay in bed in my cell one cold dark winter’s morning, I knew my sentence was nearing its end. I was in a lot of discomfort and had been drifting in and out of consciousness all night. Slowly now, I opened my eyes and looked towards the window where there was the sound of church bells ringing out. One, two, three, four, five, six, I counted. At that precise moment, while the sound of the last dong still echoed in my ears a little red breasted Robin landed on the window ledge. It stared in at me and I blinked several times before finally being able to focus long enough to see that it had a small worm neatly trapped in its beak. So it had been a warning after all.

My little friend remained on the window ledge and acted as a great comfort to me in my last few moments of life. I had no doubt that in the same way it had greeted me on my arrival all that time ago, it was now wishing me a safe onward journey. I smiled slowly and drifted comfortably in to a deep sleep.

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Comments by other Members

novodantis at 14:03 on 14 January 2008  Report this post
A very interesting piece of writing, rather poignant in that a perfectly good and well-intentioned person is chewed up and spat out by the world. It seems to underline the nature of unfairness.

I found something about the style made me slow to realize the time in which this was set. I should really have noticed at the mention of £200 (although in modern London I dunno if that would last long at all), but it took mention of taxis and eventually mobiles to shake off a quite victorian image of the setting. In that way it seems to stand independently of time, as it's a tale that really could have happened in any era.

A few typos I picked up on, such as:

I looked at him and smelt his stale breadth.


“Pack your things and get out!.

Doesn't need the full stop.

On the whole a comfortable and engrossing read, if quite harrowing and cruel.

Kind regards,

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