The Art Site

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The continued story

The man got out of the car, and cursed as his lame leg hit the ground with considerable force. He opened the side door and grabbed Kitty, pushing her roughly out of the car, then he took me by the arm, and jerked me out of my seat. He leaned over, shoving his face into my vision. His breath smelled of beer, Tui, I guessed, the cheap beer that these guards got drunk on.

'So, is this what you were expecting?' He hissed at me, his hands making a sweeping gesture that encircled the whole camp. I looked around. Beyond the flimsy chicken wire fence, lined up in narrow rows, were things that looked like chicken coops. They were small, wooden, based on a box like structure, and had pointed roofs. They are where we are going to stay, I thought. Huddled around in little groups were women. They had faces that showed no emotion, their shoulders bent over, their clothes shapeless rags.

The stink of the place was like nothing on this earth. The man had stopped gripping my arm and was talking to the guard at the entrance of the camp. Kitty was standing by herself, arms folded. She looked angry and disgusted. I tried to walk over to her, but the other man stopped me.

'You're not alowed to talk to her.'

He sounded like he was reciting.

'But she's my sister. She's coming with me.'

'She is not going with you. She is going into the women's camp.'

Again, the droning voice.

'She's not in there yet. Let me talk to her.'

The man spat neatly through the chicken wire. He did not stop me.

'We'll get out of here soon, Kitty.' I lied.

Kitty looked at me.

'Will we. I can't see them just opening the gate and letting us escape.'

'Well obviously they won't do that. I'm gonna have to plan our escape.' I whispered.

'I won't be much help. Look at this disgusting place. It's the women's camp, and the men's will probably be worse. You're gonna have to try and get more than just us outa here Andy, figure for as many as you can.'

I shoved my hands in my pockets. Kitty's brain went too fast sometimes.

'It's gonna be bad enough trying to get just us outa here.' I said.

At this point, the guard came over and grabbed Kitty's arm. He walked away with her to the 'registration office.' In reality, this was a poorly constructed shack, where a man 'registered' the women.

This included taking any valuables they had on them, burning their clothes and giving them a grey dress, and giving them a number which would be their name. It also involved handing out the three loaves of bread which was the weekly quota of food for each woman. By the end of the week any bread that had lasted that long would have maggots in it, partly due to the hygeine problems, partly to the stinking heat.

'You, get over here.' The guard adressing me had a cigarette in his mouth, and as he spoke he took it out, threw it on the ground and stamped on it. He shoved me into the van and hopped in himself. He got comfortable, put his feet up on the dashboard and opened a can of Tui from a couple of boxes underneath the seat, apparently put there for the purpose. The heat in the van began to build up, but the guard in the front seemed oblivious to it. The back of my neck started to sweat first, and then my forehead. I looked out at the camp for the other guy who was supposed to be coming with us. He wasn't around. Maybe he's gone to have drink with his mates, I thought. This could be my opportunity to escape. What about Kitty, how will I rescue her? I'll have to gather up some guys to come and take as many people as we can. The guard in the front began to snore on account of the heat and the beer. I opened the sliding door as quietly as I could, and crept out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Part 2 of Yellow Paper

She walked around the corner of the brick house to the back door, went inside and closed the heavy door. When she turned around, her mother was there, facing her.
"Was there any mail for me?" Kathy asked as she took the pile of mail.
"Yes, there's a couple there for you."
"What's this?"
She was holding a piece of yellow paper. Ava realized sickeningly that it was her letter she'd left in the pile.
"It's just something that came for me."
Ava tried to grab the paper, but her mum held it away from her. She was reading the front of the paper and she looked surprised. Then she turned it over and read the other side. Her expression changed. She adjusted her glasses carefully and looked over them at Ava, who squirmed uncomfortably.
"What's this you've been doing, Ava? She demanded.
"It's just... it's an invitation to a competition I'm playing at. At the School of Music. I've been studying for weeks to get my piece right, and there's prizes you can get if you win."
Kathy's face was tight, but Ava didn't notice, she was looking down at the carpet. She did sense the tension in the air.
"What are the prizes?"
"The first prize is for three years of tuition under Mr. Johnson, the head teacher there. I don't know what the other ones are. Granma told me I didn't need to know, because I'd win the first prize."
"What has Tessa got to do with this?"
Her mother's voice was quivering with fury. Ava looked up to meet her mother's gaze and was shocked that her mother looked so angry. There were deep lines on her forehead and little lines around her upper lip where she was pursing up her mouth.Why was she so angry about Granma?
"Granma... she's been helping me to get this far. She's been awesome, with the directors and making me do my practice and everything. She got me here. Now I have a chance to get those three years."
"Ava, I've told you so many times that I don't want you to play at concerts or go and do competitions.
You'll never be able to earn money by playing, it's just a waste of time. How could you go directly against me like that?"
Ava's tongue was all knotted up, she couldn't speak. She shook her head, no. Her mother held the yellow paper in front of her daughter's face.
"This... this piece of paper, what's it worth? A competition you won't even win!"
Ava looked up at her mother, and felt the anger build up inside her.
"How would you know I couldn't win it? They said, Granma and the people at the School of Music, that I had talent. I could do a career in it, be a concert pianist like Granma. I'm going to play in that competition! I don't want to study law, I never did. It's boring, and I don't want to have a career in something just..."
Her mother interrupted her.
"How dare you speak to me like that! You're ungrateful, Ava. Here I am, just trying to help you. Do you want to end up like I did? Stuck in this ugly house with that weak – minded sister of mine, having to pay rent all the time, never having enough money? Is that what you want?"

Before Ava had a chance to answer that question, the door opened and the 'weak – minded sister' of Kathy's came in. She sighed heavily as she bent down to take off her shoes. Her figure was like a potato sack, and she filled up half the space of the narrow corridor. She looked up at her sister and niece.
"What are you two doing, standing there?" Kathy ignored the question and turned to her sister.
"Doris, Ava refuses to obey me. I don't know what to do with her. She's gone and disobeyed me, under my strict orders, and now I've been trying to talk to her, and she's rude to me."
"What's she been up to this time?"
"She's gone and applied for a piano competition, and you know how many times I've told her, stick with the lessons, that's all. I've told her, she needs to take up a career in something that will bring money, cash.
But what do I get? She's thrown it all up in my face, and she refuses to obey me. I don't know what to do with her!"
Ava's aunt looked at her with a pained expression.
"How could you, Ava?"
"Oh for goodness sake! I haven't even done anything, all I wanted was to play in the competition, and you won't even let me do that. Why can't you all just leave me alone!
Ava ran to her room and slammed the door. The sound reverberated through the corridor where her mother and aunt were standing, dumbfounded.
"Well, Ava doesn't usually act like this. What's got into her?" Doris asked her sister.
Kathleen's face was hard. For answer, she took the yellow paper and ripped it in half, then in fourths.
Dorris went to the lounge, heaved herself onto the single couch, and turned on the TV to escape it all.

Sitting on her bed, Ava clenched her hands hard.
It was always what her mum wanted that mattered, and Auntie Dorie would usually back her up. If only she hadn't seen that letter! But it had happened, there was no point in thinking what if. Ava sighed deeply, and looked out the window. Outside the sun was setting, making the garden look prettier than it really was, the yellow light streaming in through the big oak tree in the corner of the yard, creating sharp areas of light, and pools of shadow.

The feelings of anger were fading as Ava looked. How was she going to get to the competition? She wondered. She'd planned on her mum taking her. What a stupid idea, she thought viciously, she should have known her mother better than that. Anyway, there was no way she could just not go, after all the work she'd done. She couldn't let granma down, and anyway, she was booked in to play. Probably there was a bus she could catch to the school. When she thought about herself playing for all those people she felt dread gripping her stomach and twisting it, hard. But she was going to play well for them. She'd show her mum. Ava felt like her mother had just told her she didn't love her. Because her mother didn't care what Ava thought or wanted, and that was a way of telling her that she didn't care about her one way or the other. She felt broken up inside, like everything she'd wanted was smashed to little pieces, and she couldn't put them together again.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Yellow Paper

This is a story I'm writing at the mo. See what you think. I've written more, but I thought I'd just put them up at decent intervals, so you don't have to read the whole thing at one go...

The cold August wind pierced through Ava's jersey as she walked down the shingled driveway. Involuntarily, she pulled her jersey around her more tightly. She had something bigger on her mind than the cold weather.

Her fate rested on a letter that she'd been waiting for for two weeks. The letter would either say: “Your application has not been accepted. Thank you for your effort.” Or: “Your application has been accepted by the board of The Music Department." Ava desperately hoped that it would be the second. She walked slowly to the letter box and opened the door cautiously. Opened too fast, the rusty hinges on the thing would give out an unearthly screech. Ava grabbed the pile of advertisements and letters and sifted through them. There was a pamphlet from Countdown, a piece of green paper advertising gardening services, a couple of letters for 'Kathleen Newbery' – Ava' s mum, and a little yellow slip of paper that said: The Music Department. Ava turned it over and read: "Dear Miss Newbery, your application has been found acceptable by The School of Music. Please be present at the hall at 7:00 pm on Saturday, August 17." Ava gripped the paper with both hands. Happiness wasn't the word to describe it. All those weeks she'd slaved over her piano and theory so she'd get this piece of paper, and the work had paid off. She felt all the worry and stress of the last few weeks go, and in it's place was relief, and thankfulness. Those stodgy people at the music school couldn't know how she felt. It was her granma, Ava knew, who'd made it happen.

She'd gone to talk to the directors of The Music Department about her grandaughter and the'd listened to her because she was a well known concert pianist. Ava could see her handling those high and mighty directors, twisting them around her little finger. She laughed. Her granma acted so dignified and powerful with those people.

She'd pushed Ava along to come and meet them and made her play for them. It had seemed weird, all they wanted her for was to play for them. All that Ava remembered of playing was that she felt like she'd mucked up the whole piece. When she turned round to face the directors, the'd smiled at her for the first time, and talked really fast to her granma. They were saying a whole lot of things Ava didn't understand yet, technical theory terms and the flow of her playing and things like that.

Her granma had seemed pleased though, and had told Ava to study hard for the competition. So she had. Ava couldn't have slacked if she'd wanted to, because her piano teacher was in on it as well, and he'd made sure she had more than enough to do.

Ava walked slowly back to the house and thought of the only problem she could think of. It was a big one. Kathy had never approved of the lessons that her mother- in-law had paid for, or that her daughter spent so long perfecting the pieces. To her mind, music as a career was a waste of time. Music was nice, and playing a CD always had a calming effect on her, but to have a career in it would be dreadful. It would be almost impossible to earn any money by playing. To use good money on piano lessons, when her daughter would never need to play, was a needless waste of money, and it wasn't as though they had much. She had made up her mind: her daughter would not go any further with the music than the lessons. Ava would study law. If she took up a good line in that she would be well paid. Ava had heard it all before, but still, she hoped that she'd be able to talk her mother round. They were poor, Ava knew that, but her mum didn't have to give any money towards the lessons. Soon, if she won the competition, her granma could stop paying as well.

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