Moral Mondays: My Sweet Butcher

Opium poppy

Image : Pixabay

Light stabs through a meagre gap between the curtains. I could rise, pull them to, but the effort is more than I could bear. I turn over, hoping sleep will welcome me back.

Once I dreamed of sun slicked pebbled beaches, the scent of seaweed, frothing waves. Now sleep holds only darkness, hate filled eyes, the death of love.

I could ring the bell for the maid, have my hair dressed and coiled, my waist turned waspish, laced and corseted. I could.

My hand reaches for the stout brown bottle, my sweet butcher of nightmares.

 


 

Written for Nortina’s Moral Mondays. See the moral – this week is ‘say no to drugs’ – and write a story of 100 words or fewer on the theme. See here for full Ts and Cs.

At the mention of drugs, I didn’t think of rave culture or crystal meth or the UK’s recent ban on ‘legal highs’, but of the 19th century’s addiction to opiates.

Women particularly used a tincture called laudanum – usually a mixture of opium and alcohol – for every conceivable malady from menstral pain to diarrhea. Many 19th century literary figures used laudanum too: Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker, Elizabeth Gaskell, Wilkie Collins, Edgar Allan Poe and Elizabeth Barrett Browning among others.

See the marvellous Victorian Web for Dr Andrzej Diniejko‘s article on Victorian drug use.

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35 thoughts on “Moral Mondays: My Sweet Butcher

    1. Ah, thank you my love. These tiny tales do make you think of every single word, which is no bad thing. That last line was changed several times. Thank you for reading and for being so lovely 🙂

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      1. The Beeb just keeps rolling them out at the moment – their drama dept has been doing stella work over the last few months. Just finished Peaky Blinders – stunning telly. 🙂

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  1. I like the way you’ve gone back into history for this one – in the current climate it wouldn’t occur to many to do that.
    I started reading Jonathan Swift and Mr Norrell last night, and I love it – the characters are so visual and ridiculous – almost caricatures. Wonderful! Thank you so much for the gift xxx

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    1. Thanks so much Jane 🙂 I do love a bit of historical fiction – give me a corset over jeans and trainers any day. Mmm. Maybe not. Glad you’re njoying JS & Mr N. Delicious stuff 🙂

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      1. Have you ever worn a corset? It feels awful, but looks amazing…
        I couldn’t be happier – that book will keep me going for ages.
        Have you ever read the Gormeghast trilogy? I’d love to know what you thought of it…

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      2. I haven’t worn a corset, no. The closest I’ve come is highly elasticated ‘big knickers’ and they were bad enough!
        Haven’t read Gormenghast, but it’s always sounded right up my street. Maybe when I’ve worked my current ‘to be read’ pile down a bit more 🙂

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      3. I wish I hadn’t given away my set. I got rid of all my novels before going to Wild Boar Wood, and now I hand on most of them as soon as I’ve read them. I try not to get too attached to possessions 🙂

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      4. There’s wisdom there. Hold on to anything for too long and it becomes impossible to part with. I remember when my dad died and the executors moved in thinking ‘all this stuff he hoarded and it’s all just going. What is the point?’

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      5. Four years isn’t very long. I wondered, because he’s come up a couple of times recently. You’re probably still processing it in the back of your mind.
        I have a friend who had a two sisters and a bitch of a mother who was fond of her sisters, but not her. She spent her life trying to gain her mother’s affection, with no success. When her mother died it was terrible for her. She didn’t know whether to be sorry or glad, but she was left feeling incomplete.

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      6. It’s a weird thing. My husband lost his dad (who he was very close to) 2 years ago and I don’t know whether to envy him or not. His grief has been so painful to watch, but he so loved that man, had such a bond with him. I missed having that with my dad. Not sure I’ll ever quite forgive my dad for being the man he was, but parents are only human too.

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      7. I thought I’d never forgive my dad, but I suppose it was different for me – he was a great father until I reached puberty, and then things changed…
        If your husband had that kind of a relationship with his dad, it is enviable. He will reach the point when he’ll remember him and feel like smiling. All good things ultimately become memories…

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      8. Very true, Jane. Nothing lasts. I’m glad you’ve come to terms with your dad – a damaged parental relationship is hard to get over. I don’t think of my dad as often as I did, though unfortunately, my feelings are rarely positive when I do.

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  2. It always fascinated me — 19th century noblewomen’s addiction to laudanum, especially in literature. I think the common story was that the husband was having an affair with the maid or sleeping with everything that moved, and she just wanted to feel numb, pretty and numb. Not sure if that’s what you were going for in this story, but I definitely see it in the way you describe this woman. Great job!

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    1. Thanks Nortina. From what I’ve learned, it was so common as to be ubiquitous. Cocaine drops to help infants sleep, laudanum which was so fashionable for ladies and artists – Sherlock Holmes is depicted as an opiate user. Historians call that period of freely available drugs The Great Binge – before everyone worked out how terribly addictive and harmful they were! Thanks so much for reading and for another great prompt 🙂

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