Progress by Linda Taglialavore
‘Brothers, we’re here today to sort out our plan of action. We are Stours,’ he raged, ‘and we stick together.’
He slammed his empty tankard down on the table with a crash. Some little drops of froth laid upon his beard.
Ethan folded his arms across his chest in a defiant gesture, as if the enemy were in the room. His rough woollen tabard bagged loosely about him. He wasn’t a man of style. He looked cold, and he was cold. Not only because of the chilly kitchen but in his very nature. Despite his cheeks being ruddy red and his hands a sweaty pink, he was cold all through.
Albert’s hands, rough and calloused with work, sat clasped on the pine table. He’d cooked at this table most of his years since Ma died. Cutting, peeling, seasoning and serving had left its mark. This table, almost a living thing, so much life having passed over and on it.
‘We’ll stop them brother, don’t you doubt it,’ he almost shouted; his sentiment so earnest. ‘This land is ours, legally. I’m not selling it to some greedy builder with a fancy government initiative in his head, just for underground pipes. It’s outrageous, man’.
Ethen grunted his agreement.
The clock ticked solemnly on – there was nothing else.
Jeramiah’s hands fiddled restlessly with his pipe, although it wasn’t alight. He had heard rumours on the wireless that smoking could make you ill. He didn’t want to get ill, not now, not with the money that might be coming his way. He wanted to spend it on whisky and Maria Kennedy. Truthfully, he didn’t care about the family land. He thought the village deserved pipes and taps and flushing lavatories like they had in the town. His brothers thought these were fanciful ideas, rough and uncultured as they were.
Over at the Croft, Maria pulled the wet laundry from the tub and strained to haul her heavy load into the mangle. The handle felt like it was glued shut and took all her strength to turn it. This was just the start of a long Monday, her back felt like it had snapped. She needed to boil up more water so took a pail from the pantry, pulled her shawl around her and started out across the yard. The well was only five minutes from the washhouse, although, in the freezing air when the pail was full, it seemed like an eternity. She scratched through the snow on the ground with her cracked fingers and gathered some moss from the forest floor. She was planning a stop at the privy. The smell crept out to meet her. As she crouched, she thought of the rumour she had heard up at the mill, that the Stour brothers wouldn’t let their land be dug up for water pipes. She’d be damned if she would court that Jerimiah Stour now. Never was there such a selfish lot. She spat and wiped her mouth on her cotton sleeve.