Helen picks up the scalpel, presses it firm between thumb and forefinger. The point digs into the flesh of the paper. Her hand shakes. She has to be careful , follow the outline to the millimetre. If she leaves a scrap behind …
What if she’s wrong?
The print sings from the book, black ink on a discoloured page, the surface sunk under thick lines where the wood block has bitten. She studies the picture for the thousandth time.
There’s a forest clearing surrounded by fir trees scaly with cones, prickled dark with needles. A tawny owl sits high on a branch, watching. A family of mice huddle at the base of an oak, though she only noticed them after the fourth night poring over the image.
What she always returns to is the clearing.
Ankle deep in clover flowers tiny as rice grains, is a girl in a white dress, stitching crisscrossing her bodice. Helen imagines the thread to be red and yellow, though only black shows on the print. Around the girl’s shoulders hangs a cloak, the hood fallen, exposing pale plaits. The bow unravelled on one hints something is wrong. Will be wrong. Is wrong.
But the face … Dark, fear filled eyes, mouth open in a gasp. From her left hand hangs a stuffed teddy – threadbare through love – with one button eye.
Helen looks up to the wall, to a picture frame hanging there. The same eyes – joyful then – the same plaits, yellow and red diamonds on her favourite party dress. It’s the photograph the police used for the Missing Person poster, though they focussed on her daughter’s face, Bear only visible in the bottom corner. Helen found his other eye after they’d searched the bedrooms.
She turns back to the book, scalpel shaking.
‘Hold on,’ she whispers. ‘Hold on.’
The blade scratches the surface.
Here’s a Wednesday Word Tangle – a W4W – with a difference. Today, I’ve used my chosen word as a jumping off point for a story.
The word of the day is SCRATCH, which according to the Online Eymology Dictionary is from the early 15th century and probably a fusion of two Middle English words – crachen and scratten, meaning, well, scratch. Aren’t they brilliant?
Fancy a good scratten? Crachen my back and I’ll crach yours?
To accompany this is the nickname for the Devil – Old Scratch – probably from the Old Norse skratte, meaning goblin or wizard. Similar words for goblins and imps abound in the colder climbs of Europe – such as the German schratt and Polish skrzat.
So, we have scratching, the Devil and my new found love of paper cutting … What else could I write but a wood pulp bound fairy tale?