My third novel tells the story of the Alexander family, beginning in 1911 in Govan, Scotland and spanning the next 24 years. It is an unedited work-in-progress.
I would like to share the beginning and get some feedback. Any comments would be appreciated.
Autumn Govan, Scotland.
Lucretia Alexander is about abandon her middle child, Dominic. Where she is going, she cannot bring him. She is poised on the wide front stoop of her brother-in-law’s house, draped in sorrow. Her father waits in the cairt which he has pulled to the side of the street. Her hand is raised to rap on the faded wooden door but she lingers. Looking at her eleven year old son Dominic, at her side, almost as tall as her, she sees the uncertainty in his eyes. Like her heart, her will is almost broken. She yearns to hold him, to cling to him, to carry him away from the sadness they both feel. Biting her lower lip, the need for him to survive strengthens her resolve. She knocks firmly upon the door.
The sun is setting over the roofs along the street, detail is lost to silhouettes. A cool breeze whispers around the corners, it carries the scent of iron and oil from the shipyards Govan is famous for. The two horses pulling the cairt prance, unfamiliar with city sounds and the odd automobile on Govan Road where they turned on to Waterville Row. The street dead ends a short distance from River Clyde. The river is deep and hosts an abundance of shipyards. It separates the municipality from its bigger brother Glasgow. Ibrox is to the east and the borough of Renfrew is to the west.
Robert Alexander, Duff to his buddies, is leaning one-handed against the back of the house, staring bleary eyed at the vomit on his new shoes, Florsheims that he paid 2 pounds sterling for yesterday. He has to work a whole day for these. The pansies at his feet are covered with the frothy remains of a once damn-tasty haggis. It failed the taste test miserably coming back up.
He wobbles but stiffens when he hears a rapping at the front door. Straightening up he guesses its Jacky Boy and Tubs, come to see if he has anything to drink. Pulling a wrinkled, stained hanky from left front pocket of his trousers, he swipes the spittle from his bearded chin, flips the fabric over and honks his nose. He bellows with a raspy slurry voice.
“Hold yur peckers you dumb lads. I’ll be along in a shake.”
Lucretia stops rapping, a frown scrunches up her narrow face. Placing a hand on her hip she turns to Dominic.
“The bugger is drunk.”
Dominic is snickering, he only heard “pecker”. His brother Tommy told him what a pecker is last summer. Tommy didn’t know why they call it that but is certain his big brother wouldn’t tell him a fib. Lucretia pokes her son on the shoulder with her free arm.
Tugging on the fabric of his coarse shirt, she starts towards the walkway.
“Come along, I think we should forget this and…”
Her directive is interrupted by Duff staggering along the dirt driveway, coming from behind the house. He’s trying to tuck his loose shirt in but can’t get the edge around his ridiculously red suspenders. He stops two tentative steps towards the front walk of fieldstone sunken in the neatly clipped lawn. Forgetting the shirt he closes one eye to focus on the two bodies on his stoop. They’re about twenty-five feet away. Expecting a rotund Jacky Boy and taller Tubs he is surprised when the image clears. The porch is in shadow with the sun behind the houses across the street. He only sees the outlines. Both are thin, one is wearing a dress. The other is a step or two behind the dress. The dress has one hand on a hip. Why does he feel like he’s going to be scolded?
“Robert Alexander! You should be ashamed of yourself. I know you’re a man of an odd drink, but as long as I’ve been related to you, I’ve never seen you this drunk. Look at you. You can hardly stand up.”
Duff perks up, the lilt of his favorite sister-in–law is warmly recognized. He opens his eye, spreads his burly arms open.
“Lucretia, my dear, did you finally leave that no good brother of mine. Duff is here to rescue you…”
Motioning for Dominic to remain, Lucretia walks down the two steps to the walkway watching Duff shuffle along the flat stones. When he is halfway he stumbles on the edge of a larger stone that frost has lifted and yet to be fixed. The unbalance causes his arms to cartwheel, like one of those lawn ornaments of a man in a boat. His forward drunken momentum, powered by enthusiasm propels him, head down, directly at Lucretia’s feet. His temple and right ear are the first to connect with the stone in front of her. He is unconscious upon impact. The thud of his bulky body causes the horses to stir. Old man Watson, tugs on their reins and whistles a melancholy tune he made up for them. The familiar trill calms the pair. Lucretia, steps back one pace in shock, both hands on her face and exclaims with a high, alarmed voice.
“Oh goodness, he can’t be dead too?”
Lucretia bends over the inert form of her brother-in-law that is lying on his side, arms outstretched. She gently pushes him onto his back and places a hand on his chest. Finding the even rise and fall of his lungs she sighs. Looking up at her son, she points at the front door.
“Check and see if it’s open.”
Dominic turns to twist the knob and the door swings inward on silent hinges.
“Get yourself down here then and give me a hand with this sorry sight.”
Dominic joins his mother on the pathway and when he slides his hands under the shoulders of his uncle’s supine form, Duff stirs and bats his hands away. Momentarily disoriented Duff sits up rubbing his scalp where flesh met stone. Lucretia backs off a little and Dominic stands beside her facing the stunned man, their backs to the house. A welt grows on his forehead. His hand comes away with a drop of blood on the index finger.
“Damn, me head hurts. What did you hit me with Lucretia?”
Clasping her hands in front of her, chin up as if insulted, she regards him with distaste.
“I didn’t do a thing you silly fool. You slipped on that cobblestone and landed on your face. You scared the life from me man. Can you get up?”
Eyeing the boy in front of him he scratches his head.
“Who’s this lad? Can that be wee Dom?”
“He’s not wee anymore Duff. Now c’mon, let’s get you into the house and I’ll tend to that scratch on your head.”
Waving to Dominic, the two get their hands under Duff’s arms and wrestle him to his feet. He wobbles like an infant that’s just learned to stand up. Dom holds him under one arm, a smirk on his face, knowing better than to laugh. Straightening out his loose shirt, Lucretia helps him tuck the errant edges in when she catches a whiff of Duff’s liquor laden breath. She scrunches her nose. Turning him towards the front door she comments on it.
“You’ll be wanting to gargle with something sweet and I’ll be getting some tea in ya.”
The two steps up to the porch and entering the house requires Duff’s full attention. Shrugging off his assistants, he uses the wall of the hallway that leads to the kitchen in back.
“Why would I be needing tea? S’better to have another tot of that whiskey inside.”
Following him closely, she urges Dominic along with a wave to get behind his uncle in case he loses his balance. Pausing while her middle child, the quietest and most obedient of her seven children, helps the man into a two armed wooden chair at the table, she dreads what she must do. Trying not to cry, she clears her throat.
“You’ll want to be sober when you hear what I have to ask you?”
Thank you for dropping by the Scribbler today. As I mentioned above, any comments would be welcome.
Next week, we are happy to have returning author Chuck Bowie of Fredericton, New Brunswick for the 4Q Interview. A world traveller, an interesting gentleman and a talented author.