Message From Calcutta

December 18, 2013 § 17 Comments


The first draft of the beginning of a short story about a young woman’s relationship with two plastic angels…

‘You’ll like it here,’ said Beth, putting the statue on the mantelpiece and flicking it with a feather duster. ‘It’s much better than being stuck in that cardboard box under the stairs. And you’ll be able to see all the goings-on in the street.’ The cherub sneezed, winked with his good eye, and giggled. ‘Behave, small fry,’ she warned.

The cherub perched at a funny angle on the shoulder of the fully grown angel. He’d been stuck there with glue – Beth could see the join where his bottom met the angel’s shoulder. The maker had overdone the epoxy and let it dribble down the angel’s robe and not bothered to wipe it off. It gave the impression of a rather impious approach to the subject of icons. The blue paint had peeled off one of the cherub’s eyes, and his wings were more fluff than feathers in a fledging kind of way. Beth decided to call him Raz – short for Raziel, the Angel of Mysteries.

The grown up angel’s wings were long and sleek which Beth found rather soothing. They shimmered with a special silvery paint that had bits of glitter mixed in which made them sparkle when Beth put the kitchen light on. The paint was beginning to peel off and made his wings look a little moth eaten. She called him Gabi after Gabriel the Messenger because he was always telling her things she ought to know but for some reason didn’t; but mostly she just called him ‘G’.

               The icon was made of cheap, brittle plastic – the sort that didn’t bend if you dropped it, but shattered into vicious little splinters that stuck in your feet if you didn’t vacuum the whole lot up straight away. Beth thought it had probably been made in some sweatshop in China or Taiwan – being one of thousands churned out by small children with holes in their clothes and hunger in their bellies. It wasn’t surprising really, she decided, that they hadn’t cared enough to wipe away the dripping glue, or check that the faces had been painted on properly. G’s eyebrows were wonky and made him look like he had a question that needed answering. Raz had no eyebrows at all.

‘You should get more kip,’ said G. ‘You look knackered.’

Mind your own business’, said Beth, as she did the washing up.

‘And when was the last time you had your barnet seen to?’

Beth decided long ago that G hadn’t been brought up very well. He would, she was sure, have been taught a much nicer way of speaking if he’d been silver-plated. ‘I know it’s not your fault,’ she said, reminding herself that when he wasn’t being rude he often said quite useful things. ‘And just for the record,’ she hissed, ‘I went to the hairdressers last week, thank you very much.’

            ‘Perhaps you should shop around for a better one then.’

            ‘I really don’t need this right now,’ she replied. ‘And in any case, it only needs a brush.’ She slammed the kitchen door so he got the message. Sometimes G was rather thick skinned.

Beth usually enjoyed her chats with him, although it had been getting progressively harder since the cherub had embraced the stroppy toddler stage and taken to shrieking until he got her attention, or shouting ‘Mummy. Feed. Now!’ to no one in particular. But when Raz was asleep – and she could never tell for sure because he had no eyelids – Beth and the angel had nice talks about the weather, and what she should cook for dinner. If Raz stayed asleep, they’d have bigger chats about why she wasn’t getting on with Patrick anymore, or how she was worried she might be turning into a nagging wife.

Patrick took no notice of the icon unless he felt like winding her up. There was no reason why he should be interested, Beth supposed – they’d been a present from Aunty Dora when she’d been baptised a long time before they’d got married, and in any case Patrick had been brought up agnostic. ‘Talking to those fallen angels again?’ he’d said, when he caught her having a chat. You’re mad as a barrel full of squirrels.’

‘Monkeys,’ she replied. ‘You mean monkeys. I’ve never known anyone so intolerant. Live and let live.’

‘What do you get out of talking to a piece of plastic?’

‘At least they listen. Not like some people I know.’

‘How do you know they do?’ he said rather nastily.

‘Because they answer me, Not like some people I know.’

‘You need to get out more,’ he said, slamming the door…


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§ 17 Responses to Message From Calcutta

  • I like the set up to this story, Rachael. Plenty of underlying tension and no real clue as to where the story is going to take you – Are the angels ‘real’? Will Patrick face some retribution for his attitude? What lead to the breakdown in communication between them? Is the story going to act as a metaphor? What are the consequences of being dismissive of others beliefs? I think that I had better stop now as I feel like I am getting a little carried away!
    Look forward to reading more!

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      Thank you for that- it may well give me some ideas where to go next! Do you ever post fiction btw? I must look in your archive. I should love to read some.

      • When I first set up the blog I put a few stories on pages, and have posted a couple as well – they shouldn’t be too difficult to locate. I hope that you find something that you like, and if I’ve given you something to think about, then I am pleased.
        Take care, Chris.

  • Rachael Charmley says:

    Look forward to exploring later!

  • mikesteeden says:

    Fine words – this one certainly has ‘legs’ on many levels – love to see where you take it.

  • Its really great the way the personalities, and some of their quirks, come out so strongly with just a few words. Very well observed I think

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      Yes. It’s satisfying to plant a small seed of what could be and leave the reader to make of it what they want.

  • Miranda Stone says:

    Poor Beth isn’t catching a break from anyone in this story! I like how Beth speculates on the angels’ origins, and feels that G would be more polite if he were silver-plated. I think you’ve set the beginning of this story up very well. I was a little confused in the first paragraph, not immediately knowing whom Beth was talking to. Maybe you could reword it like: “You’ll like it here,” Beth told the cherub statue, putting it on the mantelpiece and flicking it with a feather duster. Just a suggestion.

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      I’m open to suggestions if I think the suggester understands my writing! I’ll play around with the beginning – and thanks for taking the time with it. 🙂

  • JessicaHof says:

    Happy Christmas xx 🙂

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      My dear Jess – thank you. May I wish you a peaceful and content Crimbo too 🙂

      • JessicaHof says:

        Thank you – and can I just say I really like your stories – they are so creative and interesting – don’t know how you do it – but glad you do 🙂 xx

        • Rachael Charmley says:

          Thanks, Jess. I am not a Christian – possibly as a result of coming from a long line of Baptists (my great grandfather was one of its founding members) – but I still look for a spiritual practice, and so appreciate your posts. I particularly enjoyed your blogs posted on NEO’s site in his absence – some of Solzhenitsyn words touched me deeply. xx

          • JessicaHof says:

            All that matters is that you have what you have, which is love for others – the rest is in God’s hands and happy to leave it there 🙂 Thanks for your kind words – but real talent is being able to take thoughts and ideas and do what you do with them xx

            The only Baptist I know is dear Geoffrey on my site, and he’s quite fun once you get beyond the forbidding facade – took ages before I realised that wasn’t a piccy of him 🙂 xx

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