I’ve been a bit quiet lately. Several reasons for this really. I shan’t bore you with them all, but one of the major things that has been keeping me slightly underground is a sudden creative burst that has seen me, over the past few weeks, manically tweaking, revisiting, progressing and developing various projects of mine. I’m not going to divulge as I literally have about 10 creative balls in the air at the moment but in the midst of all this I realised that I must not simultaneously neglect my online baby. Partially because many of the email correspondances I am having at the moment involve the sentence “to see more of my work, check out my blog…” We wouldn’t want these mystical people that I am emailing to think I am a slack blogger. A slogger!
So, for the hell of it, here’s another of my novel extracts. Last year I shared the prologue to a story I was writing. You might remember it. It involved someone cutting up their dead grandmother’s body using a carving knife in an outhouse. Remember now? If not then click here.
I’ve decided today to post up an extract from my absolute child. One of my biggest projects is the novel I am writing (this is seperate to the dead grandmother thing) and it’s the work of prose that I am so far most proud of and excited about. I have never gotten this far through a novel before and one day I will somehow get this published, even if I have to post it in weekly instalments on this blog, a la Dickens (minus the blog and plus the weekly Victorian journal). I’ve specifically selected a rather obscure section which has absolutely nothing to do with the plot or theme of the story, as I don’t want to give anything away (a la dead grandmother). This segment merely explains the back-story of my narrator’s housekeeper. It’s totally random but, I hope, delivers insight into how I like to flesh out characters in my stories, even if they are slightly irrelevent (or are they…?)
EXTRACT FROM CHAPTER 5 OF “Z” (not the actual title of the project, obvs)
I decided that I had had enough personal histrionics for a few days and committed myself to spending the remainder of that week immersed in work. I needed, however, to be away from the office. I had not thought through the Chantal situation and needed to be away from her. I needed to have a clear head. So that Tuesday morning I emailed Mindy telling her that I would be working from home for the next few days and to transfer my calls. I didn’t care what Chantal would think when she heard I wasn’t coming to work. She could think what she liked. I hoped that it worried her. I hoped she was frightened for her professionalism and the safety of her job. She deserved that for having me and deciding that she would not have me again.
Tuesday was a pleasant day –the best in a run of shitty days. I was home, in my beloved “Herons”, wearing sweatpants and an ΩΘΠ fraternity t-shirt that I had once had custom made following a brief dalliance with an American education; I had full access to my well-stocked fridge; I could concentrate on my work, the only real communication from my office being with Aunty Min; I could work from the living room, sat on my cosy blue armchair, my computer resting on a mercury coloured cushion on my lap, the French doors ajar, allowing the sunshine to stretch out across my home, the birds twittering as I typed, the smell of fresh sage and marjoram drifting in from one of my patio herb troughs; I could sip Virgin Marys all day; I could have the varsity football up on the 60 inch, beaming straight in from ESPN. Bliss.
The only person I had to deal with was Angelika, my housekeeper. She arrived on a Tuesday at 9AM. I was waiting for her in the kitchen when she let herself in through the front door, scooped the post up from the doormat and made her way into the house. I was stood, leaning back against the countertop when she came through the archway. It startled her, and she gave a little jump. This made me laugh.
“Oh! You frightened me,” she said in her thick Dutch drawl, clasping the handful of envelopes she had collected against her chest and laughing nervously. She was a personable woman in her sixties, slight, delicate and well turned out in a light grey apron, her white hair tied up in a bun above her head with a black ribbon. I found her to be a spirited woman with an intriguing tale to tell. One great-grandfather was Dutch, another was from Hungary, another from Czechoslovakia and the forth Romanian. Somewhere along the way, a matriarchal woman in the family line had seized up some of the offspring and carted them off to America to live as Amish whistle-blowers in Ohio. Angelika had hated it and ran out on the family following an incident in which she had slapped this matriarch across the face during a lesson in the art of churning butter. Apparently this battle-axe had flown into a rage and sent the other young girls in the brood after the fourteen-year-old Angelika as she ran from the scullery and across a cornfield. Two of them tripped on their puritan petticoats and fell headfirst into the wheat whilst the third girl caught up with her cousin and breathlessly instructed her to run like the wind and never look back. Angelika decided she would relocate back to Holland, to the security of her Dutch great-grandfather, who might have been pushing a-hundred but was the only member of her ancestry she liked.
She felt atrociously bad for her cousin, Svetlana, who had spurred Angelika to run away and then darted back to help the girls that were lying face-down in the hay, extracting ears of corn from their nostrils and crying dirty tears. So Angelika had spent the afternoon hiding in the local forest, waited for nightfall and gone back to wake Svetlana and encourage her to go with her back to Holland. She had taken no persuading and by dawn the two of them were halfway across West Virginia. The whole thing sounded very 17th Century Palatinate but in fact this only happened in 1962!
Cut to today: somewhere along the line the cousins ended up in England, where they rather entrepreneurially set up a housekeeping service for the London rich list. Angelika and Svetlana never married anyone and instead seemed to float around Kensington in their matching pinafores, their white hair scraped back into perfect buns, enticing the townhouse elite of the borough like a couple of Black Forest witches.
But witches they were not. They were charming, clear-headed and business-like. They had garnered quite a reputation in the district and were a well-kept secret amongst the exclusive set. They had been so successful that they had taken on a small militia of polite young girls, all immigrants who had run from their tyrannical European families and fled to England in response to an ad that Angelika and Svetlana had posted online. The cousins had trained these women meticulously and their client base had grown with gusto.
The cousins were now semi-retired, managing their business from their home. Each, however, had a favourite client that they still worked for a couple of days a week. Svetlana’s was an elderly billionaire recluse based in Ealing and I was Angelika’s. They worked for myself and the billionaire on Tuesdays and Fridays, where they would meet at the bus stop at the end of the day, precisely midway between my home and his, and travel back to Whitechapel together, where they would disappear into their crooked little house off Garrick Court, like a pair of spectres. I had heard that there were idiots around the area that had given them several nicknames. The Whitechapel Spinsters, the Grey Ladies of Garrick Court, they called them. The Feigenbaum Sisters was another one – apparently someone had decided they were descendants of Carl Feigenbaum, who was suspected by some to of been Jack the Ripper.
The story was that he was their great uncle and had coached his nieces to continue his legacy of hating and mutilating women in anticipation of his execution in 1896. Apparently Svetlana and Angelika stalked women around Soho between the hours of 1AM and 5AM, used their own chloroform recipe to drug these women, wheeled the bodies back to their house in a Victorian perambulator and tortured them in their underground dungeon. This story had purely come from location of the cousins’ house, being in the very place Jack the Ripper did his deeds. It was convenient that the ex-Amish women could be linked to a German-American serial killer who happened to be connected to the Whitechapel murders. The whole thing was also ridiculous given that for Angelika and Svetlana to be Carl Feigenbaum’s great nieces they would have to be about 120 years old.
These anecdotists were ignorant to what they were mocking. For starters, Angelika and Svetlana were not sisters. As well as this, they were sure to be sitting on a fortune, as they lived to work and spent no money. They were not a couple of poverty-stricken sorceresses who massacred slutty girls and used their body parts for voodoo. They were lucrative, delightful ladies who were sure to be richer than anyone who mocked them. I adored them. My social stance was abetted by the fact that I was Angelika’s client of choice in her semi-retired state. And Angelika was the better of the two, given that she had been the one to slap the matriarch and run out on her family of puritan shunners.
“It’s just me, Angelika. I’m working from home today,” I assured my housekeeper as she came into the kitchen and placed her things on the central island…