What Pegman Saw: Calamity Hollow

Alis stared out across the Monongahela River.

Wherever she looked was billowing smoke, from the steelworks to the tug boats and paddle steamers, to the shanty town with its huddle of shacks and stove pipes.

On laundry days her sheets came in dotted with smuts. Every sip of water and bite of bread was gritted, speckled black.

‘Not so different from Merthyr after all,’ Evan had said, wrapping oily arms about her waist.

In a way he was right. Half of Glamorgan seemed to have followed them across the ocean to Pennsylvania and seeing the men trudge home, black faced and bowed was so familiar, she had to nip her arms to remind herself she wasn’t home.

She was lucky to have a life, to have breath and water and food, no matter how tainted.

To have a husband, not a ragged corpse swinging from the gallows back in Wales.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that gallops across the world using Google Street View. This week we visit Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

On reading about Pittsburgh, I found an interesting snippet. It seems that in the 1830s many Welsh coal miners and steel workers immigrated to the city after the Merthyr Rising, a protest against working conditions and unemployment. The unrest only lasted a week but during that time several locals and soldiers died. One man was hanged as an example to others.

It’s said that the Merthyr Rising was the first time the red flag was used as a symbol of revolution.

I found Calamity Hollow on the map, on the banks of the Monongahela River.

I imagined Alis being the wife of one of the men who had taken part in the rising. The house pictured is probably too fancy to be that of a coal miner or steel worker, but I imagined Alis standing at that balcony, staring out across the polluted river.

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Friday Fictioneers: Through the narrow window of the sky

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

When the house and her parents became too much to bear, when the tide was neither out nor in, Molly would run to the beach and the ruined pier.

She’d counted the perfect distance from the rusted beams, one foot in front of the other, toe to toe – nine feet.

Standing just there, with the beams cutting off the endless sky above, snapping short the sand below, she could pretend.

Pretend barrage balloons weren’t jostling the clouds, that barbed wire didn’t loop back and forth amid the dunes and marram grass.

Pretend Charlie was home, safe.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the lovely pic (this week supplied by the very talented writer Sandra Cook), write a story and join the fun. See here to find out how.

During the Second World War, many of England’s lovely beaches were strewn with barbed wire to combat an invasion from the sea. Fortunately, such an invasion never occurred, but still, that sight in itself must have been disturbing for residents, a sign that we were vulnerable, that only the narrow strip of the Channel stood between us and possible defeat.

For a child’s perspective from the time, see here.

What Pegman Saw: The house of Dajjal

Dajjal’s house was an eyesore.

Corrugated iron sheets rusted over the front door, the balcony was crumbling, buttressed by wormy wooden posts. People would retell the story of the day the railing gave way, when metal poles and curlicues pocked the street and concussed Ori the grocer.

Food rotted in the kitchen, the floors rippled with rats and the drains flooded in the annual rains, turning the street into an impassable sewer for weeks.

Still, no town inspector visited. Dajjal was never reported by his neighbours for the stench, the ticks or the occasional outbreak of Weil’s disease.

Instead, they nodded courteously if he was sitting on his front step smoking his evil smelling cigarettes, though each house kept planks by the door to lay over the filth when the street was in flood.

When your neighbour is the Antichrist, you show respect.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt with Google Street View as its inspiration. This week, we visit the Israeli city of Lod.

Whilst reading a little of the history of this city, I discovered a couple of interesting snippets.

Firstly, the UK’s patron saint, George, is reported to be buried there.

Secondly – and the snippet that inspired my story – is the fact that according to Islamic tradition, the Antichrist – Dajjal – will be killed on a battlefield in the city before The Day of Judgement. I just imagined what Dajjal might do while he was waiting for that day.

What Pegman Saw: Cisco’s mission

Image : Google Street View

Every day Cisco sat in the Plaza De Armas, overlooked by the Cathedral and the Jesuit Iglesia.

When drizzle speckled his lashes he pulled up his hood. When the sun blazed he did the same, ignoring the children selling day trips to the mountains or alpaca wool hats. The young hawkers would stare with their deep, curious eyes before scurrying after tourists with deep pockets.

All the while, he’d try to keep the same scene running through his mind and when his rumbling stomach or stiff limbs distracted him, guilt would descend like a cloud. Because how else would God know what he wanted – what his family needed – if he couldn’t keep the image clear in his head?

The kitchen at home. Mama at the stove. The scent of chilli chicken.

Papa walking in through the back door, face wide with a smile.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its jumping off point. See here to join in and to read other tales.

Friday Fictioneers: The simplest act


PHOTO PROMPT© Sandra Crook

There lies Fournier the weaver.

His head is bare, curled wig lost to the Thames. The coral pink silk stockings of which he was so proud are torn and muddied, rucked at the ankle.

The constable will seek answers, question the Spitalfields’ innkeepers and lightermen, turn beady eyes on fellow weavers, those resentful of this recent miasma of incomers.

But murder is often the simplest act.

There lies a bloated panderer who plucked a goose too close to home, turned those clever fingers to a guild man’s daughter.

A sharp knife and the river remedy all.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. Write a tale and join in here.

Notes

Spitalfields is part of the East End in London, once well known for its silk weavers and a refuge for French Huguenots fleeing religious intolerance in their own country.

Fournier is one of these Huguenot weavers, Calvinist Protestants who made their home in the East End during the eighteenth century. They were not always welcomed by the English, especially by native weavers who saw them as a threat to their trade.

Lightermen where boatmen who ferried goods in flat bottomed barges along the Thames.

What Pegman Saw: The only honest soul

Image : Google Street View

Maria was the town’s scarlet woman, though she didn’t help herself.

Well into middle age her hair changed with the seasons – auburn, black, white blond, gold – while the wives of the village turned a respectable steel grey. And while the Mamas went to market in buttoned up dresses and skirts to their thick calves, Maria’s cleavage was always golden in the sun, a camelia nestled in the chasm.

Her neighbour Dorothea would tut over shared cups of black sweet tea and hand rolled cigarettes. ‘Got to play the game, girl. Whole town’s built on lies – why’d you have to be the only honest soul?’

When Maria died her memorial was there among the others, jostling with the Mamas who’d feared her, the Papas who’d loved her. And though she had no family and Dorothea had already passed, there was always a freshly picked camelia tucked by her smiling image.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we are in Patagonia, Chile.

As it’s Mother’s Day here in the UK this weekend, I have a very busy week ahead, so please forgive me if it takes a few days for me to reply to your comments. Normal-ish service will be resumed soon.

Friday Fictioneers: Easy Pickings


PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Pinkie waits by the big wheel.

The rink is closed for the night, the wind cutting across the ice, bringing winter with it. Fairy lights shiver in the black fingered trees, the smell of fried onions from the food stall reminds him of summer and richer pickings, long nights of beer and open jackets and easily lifted wallets.

‘Alright, Pinkie.’ Rose is smiling, a soft, wet-eyed smile that makes him want to punch her. Her hand in his is cold, slightly damp. Like a dead man’s.

‘The wheel is it?’ he says. It’s high up there. High and windy.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See here to join in and to write your own tale.

Apologies, but due to a heavy workload this week I won’t be reading as many FFs as usual, though be sure if you read and comment on my story, I will reciprocate … eventually!

Fairgrounds and seasides always have a darker side for me. On the surface it’s all family fun and bright lights and loud music, beneath there’s grime and dirt, rather like the rides themselves. Perhaps it’s all those holidaymakers with money in their pockets that attract folk wishing to have a slice of that money and not always legitimately.

Anyway, for some reason the image reminded me of Graham Greene’s novel Brighton Rock, the tale of the sociopathic teenage killer Pinkie Brown. There’s death and violence, sex and Catholicism, all mixed together in a rather distasteful brew – or at least I found it so when I read it as a teen. For those unfamiliar with the novel, look here.

In my story, I picture Pinkie meeting Rose, his girlfriend later wife who is oblivious to the extent of her spouse’s depths …