Billy Part 20 - Worms

1967


Billy watched idly as the little old woman continued to laboriously bend and pick up the few dry birch twigs that were scattered around the clearing. Each stoop seemed to require twice as much effort than the last. So far, her daily foraging did not look to have been very successful. He looked up to the sky; the morning was quickly drawing in, he doubted that she would have the quantity of firewood she required to see her comfortably through the next day. Billy looked towards his own pile. It had taken a strapping bloke like him half the night to come up with a bounty like that. She had no chance!

Billy watched as she struggled to tie her small bundle together. Her hands were chapped, the fingers knotted with age. He tensed as the bushes around him rustled and a little white terrier with one red ear emerged from the undergrowth and padded up to him. He bent down to pat it and delighted with the dog’s enthusiastic response, continued to make a fuss of it.

“Calm down now, lad,” he said playfully, and stood up fully again. The dog reminded him of his own dog, Monty. He hadn’t seen Monty since...he couldn’t remember when.

He looked over to where the old woman had been scavenging. She had moved on a bit, although her bundle of twigs had not grown any larger. Billy had seen the old woman on many occasions but he had never seen the dog before.

“Best get gone now,” he ordered the dog. The dog splayed out on his belly and wagged his tail. Billy smiled despite himself. “What’s up with you? Eh...soft lad,” he said, unable to resist bending down and making another fuss of it.

The old woman had turned around and was catching up the distance between them. Billy noticed a dejected air about her and sighed. Grabbing a large amount of his own prized firewood, he ran over to her, the dog following behind.

“Here,” he said, cheerfully thrusting the wood in the old woman’s direction. “Yer may as well ‘ave this lot as well!”

***

“See that tree?”

Elizabeth looked over to where her mother was pointing and squinting through the sunshine, and peered closely at the very boring tree situated in the tiny garden beyond the graveyard they were standing in. Elizabeth nodded.

My dad planted that tree when I was not much bigger than you are now. In fact, I might have been even younger. He took the pip from an apple I had eaten and planted it in the garden.

“‘One day,’ he’d said, ‘There’ll be a tree here even bigger than the house.’ And we both laughed. Every time I see that tree I think of my dad. Some people believe that as long as a person is remembered, they never die.” Margaret smiled down at Elizabeth and ruffled her hair.

Elizabeth looked at the colourful flowers carefully arranged in the vase beside the black marble headstone and the names carved upon it. 1952, that was in the olden days! Her mother must have been very young when her mum had died. Elizabeth felt sad thinking about it.

“We’ll call in there and have a nice cup of tea with Mrs Bibby, shall we? See how she is?” Margaret said encouragingly to Elizabeth. “If you’re a good girl, we can call and have a toasted teacake for tea at the Myna Bird Cafe!”

Elizabeth smiled brightly and skipped along the cobbled rake leading down from the graveyard and into the town square.

***

Elizabeth concentrated on not staring at the grey whiskers on Mrs Bibby’s chin. It would be such a disaster if she missed out on a visit to see the Myna bird. “Why don’t you go and play outside, dearie? It’s such a lovely day and plenty of juicy apples have fallen off that tree today. Have a look and see if any of them are worth taking home with you!”

“Yes, Mrs Bibby,” she said in her best voice and skipped out of the tiny kitchen into the garden beyond.

Most of the apples had tiny worms in them. Elizabeth giggled to herself; the worms always looked so funny wriggling about. Her dad always told her it was because apples were used to make cider and the worms were drunk. The warmer the day, the drunker the worms! These ones were steaming.

Nobody likes me Everybody hates me

“I think I’ll go and eat worms!” Elizabeth sang out.

Big fat juicy ones Eensie weensy squeensy ones

“See how they wiggle and squirm!” Elizabeth giggled.

“What’s your name?”

“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers!” Elizabeth pouted at the man sitting on the grass beside her.

“I’m not really a stranger.”

Elizabeth tilted her head to one side. “Well, in that case, if you’re not a stranger, you tell me my name!” she said cheekily.

The man laughed.

“You got me there! Is that your mum in there? I think that’s your mum in there because that’s my girl -– that’s my little girl...Maggie.” He answered looking through the kitchen widow and gazing into the room beyond.

“Not so!” Elizabeth said standing up and putting her hands on her hips. “That’s my mummy and her name’s Margaret, NOT Maggie!” She stuck her tongue out at him and then screwed up her face. “So there!”

The stranger also got up onto his feet. “Margaret is her Sunday name but she was always my Maggie. See this tree here?”

Elizabeth nodded wide eyed.

“Well, I planted this tree when it were a little tiny seed like this one here,” he said, picking up another apple and plucking the seed from it. “If you want, we can plant this seed over here and when you grow up it will be bigger than this house!” He walked over to the far corner of the garden and waited for her to join him.

“My name is Elizabeth,” she announced gaily. “What’s yours?”

“Billy. You can call me granddad if you want.”

Elizabeth smiled and nodded.

“Elizabeth’s a Sunday name. How about I call you our Bess?
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6 Comments:
  • At 11 March 2010 at 13:48, Anonymous Melissa said…

    There's that little white dog again -- what's he up to! :D LOL. What a sweet scene with Billy and Elizabeth -- there's something about the special names we have for those we love whether it's Maggie, Bess, or Granddad. This scene made me feel sweetly melancholy -- in a good way!

     
  • At 12 March 2010 at 13:19, Blogger Miladysa said…

    There's that little white dog again -- what's he up to!

    Ah... Melissa...he/she is a little white dog with a red ear:

    "The theme of the hunt uses animals to pass to and from the realm of magic and the gods in Celtic and Welsh mythology. For example, during the excitement of the hunt, the chosen party pursues an unusually fleet of foot, magical prey out of the world of the mortals and into a place of magic. Other ways to enter the other world are by charm, like the song from magical birds (Ford, 71), or by spell, like the mist descending over land (Ford, 77). Wells, springs, rivers, and earthen mounds are some of the magical places that border with or co-exist in the other world. In these places, magic is much more prevalent and sometimes even time passes differently there.

    The magical animals are noteworthy in appearance and get the attention of the hunter by their supernatural shape, color, speed, and power. There are many other examples of the pursuit of supernatural beasts throughout Celtic and Welsh mythology with the common characteristic being their unnatural, white color. While pursuing a large, white deer, King Arthur arrives at Sir Pellinore's well, a magical site, without his hunting party or his horse (Baines, 37). Pryderi and Manawydan pursue a "gleaming white boar" (Ford, 80) which leads them and their dogs to a magical trap. The bright white animals from the other world sometimes have bright, glowing, red ears, but they are not a natural type of white or red. Prince Pwyll encounters king Arawn's dogs from the other world. The dogs appear with "glittering bright white" and red ears that glitter as brightly as their white bodies (Ford, 37). Rhiannon arrives from the other world on her white horse at an earthen mound (Ford, 42-45)."

    Quoted from Animal Symbolism in Celtic Mythology
    http://www-personal.umich.edu/~lars/rel375.html

    So...what do you think of that? :)

     
  • At 16 March 2010 at 13:14, Anonymous Melissa said…

    I LOVE it!! :)

     
  • At 3 April 2010 at 11:46, Blogger Miladysa said…

    Hee hee :)

     
  • At 1 June 2010 at 23:43, Anonymous @Howiehippobum said…

    A beautiful & well-written episode. I like the old woman gathering firewood, who I bet is going to be very significant in future scenes.
    I did in fact suspect the dog with a red ear had escaped from the Mabinogion, and your explanation to Melissa confirms this!
    I'm glad there are dogs in the Otherworld, as dogs are (in my opinion,anyway) the best people in the world.

     
  • At 2 June 2010 at 00:34, Blogger Miladysa said…

    "I did in fact suspect the dog with a red ear had escaped from the Mabinogion, and your explanation to Melissa confirms this!"

    Awesome! It's great to know that *you get it* and it feels wonderful to receive such feedback from a reader :)

    I LOVE dogs too - they're the best!

     

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Whituth's living can't see the dead but psychic Elizabeth Whyte can see everyone: living humans, delayed souls, fallen angels, vampires and fae. She helps maintain the fragile peace between light and darkness in her work with RoYds, an unworldly refuge. But that peace has suddenly become fragile. Whituth's carefully maintained balance is tipping toward darkness. Now Elizabeth and her angelic allies must discover who or what is threatening both town and refuge before balance is lost forever

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