Workington. Fisher Street. Jackson’s sweetshop.
Mother of thirteen rolls the fruit drops in powdered sugar, dusts off her fingers, puts in her curlers. Says sweet dreams children. Father of thirteen, at sea, rolled by waves and night thoughts. Father where are you? Is it frightening out there? Thirteen salty-sweet voices callingfrom their bunks, bar one belonging to Louise Jackson, who isn’t in her bunk because she’s in the outhouse pouring caramel onto the oiled marble slab and she’s not going to burn anything this time. This time she’s going to make a sweet the whole of Fisher Street will be talking about, the whole of Cumberland, and Rowntree will get to hear about it, and people will queue and queue, and they will feel as much promise as on the first day the shop opened, andthe girls will get an education and she won’t have to marry Raymond Wince with his collision of teeth and mackerel breath.
York. Haxby Road. Rowntree factory’s chemistry department.
Seebohm Rowntree is trying to devise a methodology for measuring poverty. He doesn’t want to be disturbed. Had he nodded, though, instead of shaken his head when his secretary Daisy Winters said there’s a little girl who’s come to see you, she sent a letter last week, then two weeks before that, he would have let the girl into his office and she would have popped her little bottom on the green leather chair, given her speech she’d planned on the train coming up which she’d managed to pay for because a man had handed her one of his golden teeth. Seebohm Rowntree would have nodded following the girl’s criticism of his company – not only did they need to be more courageous in their product development, they needed to get better at making chocolate – and he would have gulped and leant forward to take a sweet from the white paper bag she was holding out in front of her, and he would have tasted such an exquisite mixture of caramel and milky chocolate that a discreet tear would have wound its way down his right cheek, and the little girl with the tear in her dress and hungry eyes would
have seen that even big dreams have traction.
It’s 5am and the horizon is hers. But it also belongs to the other girls, long dead, who probably sat in the same spot, looking out to sea, believing that something was glowing beyond their reach. The baker is still in bed. Mrs Pewter who runs the ironmonger’s is listening to 2MT. Nothing is coming down the road apart from Tony Greene, the former Geography teacher turned paedophile, which means someone who loves children but not in a good way, not in a Christian way, in a way that makes you feel filthy, and can you stop asking questions now Louise and wash your hands before tea? Maybe Louise Jackson doesn’t have to get up from the pier and make excuses when Tony Greene comes and sits next to her and speaks of longshore drift. Maybe she could just pocket his golden tooth he removes from his mouth that’ll be worth 13 shillings and 9 pence if she takes it to the pawnbrokers in Whitehaven where the cholera was. Maybe she could do what he says and feel the sediment inside her shift, drift further down the shoreline to Moss Bay, because she has a dream and needs a train fare from Workington to Newcastle to York.
Biography: Kik Lodge writes short fiction in France. Her work has featured in The Moth, Tiny Molecules, The Cabinet of Heed, Milk Candy Review, Reflex Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, Splonk, Bending Genres, Janus Literary and Litro. Follow @KikLodge.