13 comments

Fiction

You hear the shuffling over to the corner of the kitchen. The clink of the tin as your mum opens it just wide enough to get the teabag out, two teabags actually, she's making a pot. You'll need a whole pot after the day you've had. She knows there's something up, so she invited you round for a cup of tea. The pewter teapot lid is open and waiting for the kettle to click off. You sit at the table.

The kettle is heating up, it's gargling and bubbling and steaming. Suddenly you think it might override its off-switch and rebel from the everyday monotony of boiling water for tea. You stand up to go and check that it's working okay and you hold on to the handle, but instead of switching off, it starts to lift up. You hold on to it tightly to bring it back, but it goes higher and higher. Soon your arm is in the air, you don't let go, you pull it again to bring it back, but the strength of the kettle is too much. It pulls you towards the open window.

Your mum is looking in the cupboard for some biscuits and hasn't noticed you getting yanked out of the house and into the sky. The steam is now hooting out of the kettle at full pelt and you are shooting up and up. Don't look down, you think and you know the opportunity for letting go is now past, you are far too high for that.

But you do look down, it takes your breath away, not it a good way, not to begin with anyway, it takes the air out of your lungs. You see the house down below, now a tiny toy house getting smaller, and the roads with little cars going about their business, and patches of green, and patches of blue, and clouds.

Now just clouds.

A surprised seagull swerves to avoid you. The air is getting a bit thin, yet up and up the kettle howls. You try to collect your thoughts, but it's difficult to collect them, and you can't work anything out. This is more than unexpected you think, and quite cold and windy. Obviously, shooting off into the sky was not how you imagined spending the afternoon when you were cycling to work this morning.

What would they think of this if they could see it!? Those senior managers, all entitled, all white, and all of them men. They treat you like their servant. They don't seem to know that you have your own boss, and it's her that gives you assignments, not them. Is it because you are a woman that they bypass her, or because she's a woman? Or maybe they're just rude. They are infuriating, and how dare Ray Johnson shout at you this morning at the bike racks in the car park? He said you almost bumped his car, but it was him that almost ran you over, he drove on the bike lane. It would do him good to get off his bum and onto a bike, I would like to see him dealing with some angry drivers.

The kettle keeps pulling you up, you still can't see much apart from clouds.

And that Dave Smith, prancing down to your floor asking for this and for that, he pretends not to remember how he tried to ply you with vodka at the Christmas party. Every time you passed the drinks on to one of the guys from Accounts, you turned around and there was another double being handed to you, luckily you didn't get drunk enough to lose your senses. Shame on him, he has a wife and kids, and even if he didn't, it's not cool.

Through more clouds, and some icicles.

Still, he wasn't as bad as Jack Allen, another senior manager and family man, he tried it on with you and tried to get you back to the hotel room that he had reserved for after the Christmas party.... Yuk. He doesn't bat an eyelid now in the office when he hands you the authorisation forms for his team before you arrange their business trips.

Puff, you leave the atmosphere.

And Ali Scott, now he doesn't try it on with you, he just treats you like you're his PA, you even had to check with your boss that you weren't actually his PA, just to make sure, because he certainly seemed so sure it was your job to wipe his arse. Could you order some flowers for his wife, he asked. What? Was he serious? Yes, it seems so, flopping his hair all over the place and letting his head fall backwards, oh, and could you book him a table in Mother India for tonight? Um, no.

These guys: are they delusional, or is it you?

You're in darkness, you see millions of stars and look down at the big blue glow of the Earth. Wow.

Then there's your workmate, Kaylee, who is painfully present at all times, sitting at the desk next to you. Oh! She has a comment and opinion about everything and doesn't hold back judgement on anything. When she started work she asked you how old you were. Twenty-eight, you said, ''Oh God, I would kill myself if I was that age and still not married'' she replied. What? Well nice to meet you too.

You reach the moon, glowing golden and beautiful.

''You can't talk ill of the dead'' is what she said seriously another time when Margaret Thatcher had died and Kaylee had read a column about how damaging her policies had been in the 80's in Glasgow. Okay you replied, what about Hitler, Mussolini or Jimmy Saville? Can we really not talk ill of the dead? Or had it been a mistake to start that conversation? You can't keep up with her rules to be honest. Yesterday she said that Juan from the Production department was the worst, incredibly rude and weird and you weren't to talk to him. Then today Carla from Logistics said how nice he had been to her, and Kaylee replied ''Oh I know, I love him, he's the best.'' You say that out loud now and remember her voice. Again: what? Your face screwed up when she said that. It's too hard to hide the despair and confusion.

You orbit the moon. This feels good!

There are social rules at work that you will easily get lost in. And do you even care who thinks what and if you get them wrong? It's best if you keep quiet, only speak when you need to, don't let them walk all over you, maybe don't go to the Christmas party, avoid talking to Kaylee, use headphones and don't listen to her drivel about people on benefits and tabloid tatter, ask for a pay rise. And big note to self: apply for a new job, something a bit more fulfilling, something you don't dread. It should be somewhere that your colleagues respect you, or at least where you like the person you sit beside everyday.

Suddenly the kettle clicks. It starts to drop.

Wooohooo, this feels great.

You yell with exuberance and joy. And liberation. You are falling back down, through the darkness, seeing the stars, the blue glow, into the atmosphere, through the clouds, it feels fast now, you see the patches of green and blue coming into sight, the dots become houses, cars and trees, and then the house gets bigger and bigger, you see the open window, you go straight back through it and land in the corner of the kitchen.

Plonk.

The steam stops billowing out of the kettle, the bubbles slow to a stop and the noise ceases to drown out Classic FM which had been gently playing and talking on the radio in the background the whole time. You fill the teapot with the hot water from the kettle.

''Ah, at last I've found the chocolate digestives'' your mum says as she comes out of the cupboard.

The two cups lightly clink together as she places them in front of you. First she pours in a small glug of milk, then the hot stream of brown tea, seeing it warms you right to the bones. You hold it with both your hands and and blow gently over the top. You see the tiny ripples flutter over it, then you take the first sip, it burns a little, but it's perfect. You're already feeling much better.

''Thanks for the tea, Mum'' you say.  

January 14, 2022 10:51

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13 comments

Craig Westmore
12:09 Jan 20, 2022

What a great moment! I'll skip all the details about what works in a story and just tell you my reaction to it. You had me wanting to fight each and every employee at that company...and I'm a married, white male. You had me thinking of advice I could give to your character about being single at twenty-eight being a good thing. And I felt that breathless high when she makes an important decision about her life and comes back down to earth. When you can get a reader caught up in the story like that, you've done a great job. Congratulations!

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Lorna Carruthers
12:40 Jan 20, 2022

Thank you for such a lovely and thoughtful comment Craig. I am touched that you felt the emotion! :-)

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Craig Westmore
12:48 Jan 20, 2022

Lorna, one additional thought. They always say you have to keep your readers reading. I found myself stopping in the middle of your story to think about what I would say to some of the characters (I always get pulled in with bullies). I think that still counts as an engaging story, right?

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Kip Koelsch
12:52 Jan 21, 2022

I agree with Craig--there were moments where I found myself pausing and thinking. But it was a good thing and did not detract from the story. I was mainly thinking on past jobs and coworkers and uncomfortable/inappropriate situations. Well done.

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Lorna Carruthers
18:18 Jan 21, 2022

Thanks Kip, great to hear from you. And thank you for your kind comment. I hope it didn't bring back too many bad experiences for you! L

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Lorna Carruthers
14:01 Jan 20, 2022

Ah, interesting, do you mean that that prevented the flow of the story? Or that maybe another voice somehow standing up to the colleagues would be useful? L

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Craig Westmore
13:08 Jan 21, 2022

I'm not sure if you need to change anything. While reading Game of Thrones, I often stopped to think about what each character should do. It could just be me. I didn't write this week and got caught up in a daydream induced by your story. I think I'll run this by a few others. Probably they'll say as long as your story is in the reader's head then it's a success.

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Craig Westmore
13:37 Jan 21, 2022

Okay, I think I figured it out. We don't know what the main character wants (initially, I think she figures it out when she reaches the moon). We don't know if she wants to flee or fight these people. So I felt the need to step in and help. What is her initial reaction to these jerks and what does she imagine doing to them? Then when she reaches the apex of her frustration, she realizes what is the right thing to do for her. Does that make sense?

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Howard Halsall
11:22 Jan 19, 2022

Hello Lorna, I loved reading this story; what a flight of fancy and a marathon of magic realism. The voyage of the mind as that kettle takes an age to come to the boil is a great idea. I wonder, as we perform our daily tasks, how many other times one drifts onto a different level. It’s an interesting notion and one worth working on in further submissions, perhaps? I lock forward to reading more of your stories. Well done. HH

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Lorna Carruthers
11:48 Jan 19, 2022

Thank you so much for such a lovely comment. I for one quite often find my mind wandering off when doing day-to-day tasks! I will be sure to dabble in it again, see where it takes me. Thanks again :)

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Kip Koelsch
12:56 Jan 21, 2022

An enjoyable and thought-provoking journey. I love the idea of the tea kettle (and the greater ritual of making tea) becoming the vehicle for a trip through memory and, ultimately, a catalyst for change.

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Lorna Carruthers
18:20 Jan 21, 2022

Thank you Kip! :-)

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