Well I was all set to post another snippet from Confessions of a Hit Man but damn if I can find it. I know I wrote it. I can remember isolated bits. But massive searches of my files say that it isn’t here. Well crap. So plan B… This is the beginning to one of my pieces set in Scotland, which I wrote in bulk when I got back from my semester at the University of Edinburgh.
WARNING: Lack of Plot Ahead: This is not intended to be anything more than a character sketch of both the girl and the city. I do realize not a lot happens. It never got turned into an actual narrative. I just wanted to capture my impressions of the city while they were fresh. Not the normal subject of a snippet, but I couldn’t find what I planned to post! 😀
And to steal the disclaimer from Pot: [Copyright, common decency, mine mine, don’t steal, don’t copy, link if you will, yadda yadda…]
Judith pulled her hood more snugly over her head and stuffed her gloved hands inside the pockets of her knee length blue wool coat to ward off the February chill as she left the cheery lights of Easy Everything behind and strolled down Rose Street toward the bus stop. She contemplated popping in Auld Hundred for a bite to eat. Sean’s cock a leekie soup would surely hit the spot and be light on the pocketbook, as he’d not likely charge a friend and former fellow employee. And Patrick would always cheerfully draw her a pint.
Not tonight, she thought, having just had her fill of crowds at the 24-hour internet café behind her.
She checked her watch in the glow of a streetlamp as she reached the bus stop and mentally compared the hour to the running times of the three buses that would take her home. Number 82 would be along shortly.
A waning quarter moon hung soberly in the velvet night above the lights of Edinburgh Castle, perched high on its rocky promontory overlooking the city. After four years of seeing the castle nearly every day, it still fired her imagination. It had looked just so her first night in Edinburgh when she had arrived with her small life savings, two bulging duffels, a backpack and her dreams.
The shifting of the handful of other people at the stop alerted Judith to the approach of the double decker bus. She got in line behind an elderly gentleman in a well-worn tam of Campbell plaid and a young teenage couple with a taste for leather and piercings in odd places. The bus pulled to a screeching stop, making Judith wonder as she always did whether Scotland had ever heard of WD40. The door swung open with a hiss of air and they filed on. She flashed her Day Saver pass at the driver and headed upstairs.
Settling herself on the cold vinyl seat she tuned herself out to the commute, barely registering as they made their way over the bridges, down Nicholson Street, to Clerk Street and over to Dalkeith Road. When they rolled past the Royal Commonwealth Pool she began to pay attention again. Three more stops. As the second rolled by she pressed the red button and made her way downstairs again, reaching the side door just as they were screaming to a stop. She stepped lightly down to the pavement and the bus went rumbling along its way.
Judith walked a block and went up the stairs of a slightly dilapidated but neat brownstone with a red front door. She pulled the key from her pocket and slipped it into the lock, which stuck only slightly, and went inside. The lobby or vestibule, if it could be dignified with either term, was plain, with dark wood and fading wallpaper of ivy creeping vertically, except for tiny patches, which were beginning to peel at the top. There was a small board with a listing of the tenants. She climbed the stairs, up and up and up again, until she reached the fourth and final floor. Hers was the only flat on this level, as the sloping roof prevented further division of the space. In not too many decades past, it had been an attic.
As she stuck the key in the door, she heard a scratching of feet on the wood floors on the other side and smiled. Judith opened the door to the beautiful brown eyes and happy grin of the man in her life—Bob the cocker spaniel. She knelt and gave him a quick cuddle as she snapped on his leash. Bob didn’t wag his little stump of a tail. He wagged his entire rear end.
Nearly twenty minutes later, they returned from doing Bob’s business and Judith hung up the leash and shucked the coat and scarf on the ancient coat rack by the door. She tossed her keys and her purse on the small table near the door and spared only a second’s glance at the winter roses on her fair cheeks, or the perpetually windblown dark blonde hair. Bob promptly took up residence on one end of the faded, but quite serviceable sofa that Judith hadn’t quite gotten around to reupholstering. She crossed the room that was a testament to the beauty potential of shabby chic and put a Miles Davis record on the old turntable she’d picked up in a second hand shop on Nicholson owned by a man called Maury from Casablanca who had claimed, within two minutes of conversation that he loved Americans, gave Judith a sloppy kiss on the cheek, and promptly invited her to tea. She had jury-rigged the turntable to the compact stereo system she’d had her sister ship from the States as soon as she’d had a permanent address.
Satisfied with the crooning sax pouring out of the small speakers set throughout the room, Judith turned to the matter of dinner. Impatient and not excruciatingly hungry, she plugged in the electric kettle to make up some of the instant Cup O’ Soup that was a stock item in her small pantry. While she was waiting she checked the moisture level of the soil in the indoor window boxes where she was trying to nurse some ivy and philodendrons through the cold Scottish winter. The kettle whistled. Judith doused a tea bag and the contents of a packet of tomato soup and stirred a mug with each hand. Then she turned to the refrigerator to find some sort of vegetable to go with her supper. Settling on half an avocado, she added that and a hunk of wheat bannock to a plate, finished preparing her tea by adding a dollup of milk and two sugars, and took it all to her favorite chair.
Absently chewing and sipping by turns, she picked up the Raymond E. Feist novel she’d started yesterday and became absorbed again in the struggles of Krondor. The tiny mantle clock chimed midnight as she finished the last page. She looked up bleary-eyed. Bob was snoring softly on the couch. Her mugs and plate sat on the small table at her arm, the avocado peel carelessly discarded on the newspaper rather than the plate. Breadcrumbs trailed down the front of her shirt.
Judith stood, winced at the assortment of pops and aches that accompanied her stretching, and brushed the crumbs to the floor for Bob to find later. She took her dishes to the tiny kitchenette and washed them, knowing she’d be annoyed with herself in the morning if she didn’t. Setting them clean and dripping on the drying rack, Judith dried her hands on the towel looped through a drawer handle to the right of the sink and padded into her closet of a bedroom.
Here the roofline sloped sharply giving an almost claustrophobic feel to those inclined to such phobias, but feeling intimately cozy to Judith. The old brass bed had been a superb find at a half-antique/half-junk shop. Lovingly polished to a gleam and with new mattresses, the value had undoubtedly tripled or more from the ludicrously low price she’d talked the shopkeeper into. Fitted with comfortable old sheets, a couple of equally comfortable cotton blankets the bed was topped with an enormous wool blanket—a rug, thought Judith with a smile—in the Gordon plaid that she claimed from her mother’s side. A pair of slightly battered Queen Anne nightstands that had been painstakingly stripped and refinished flanked the bed, accented with mismatched lamps. The far wall, painted the same neutral khaki as the rest of the room, held a wardrobe and a chest of drawers. A seaman’s chest sat beneath the huge dormer window opposite the bed. And in one corner was another refinished chair and tiny dressing table, above which hung a completely incongruous mirror in a gilded gold frame.
Judith tossed her clothes into the basket in the corner and pulled a pair of flannel pajamas out of the second drawer of the chest. She briefly paused before the pictures scattered across its surface, kissed her finger and touched first her sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, then her grandmother, and finally the group shot of all her college friends at graduation. That done she sent a quick prayer to Heaven and fell into bed.
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