Author Topic: The Limbo Garden - 1460 words  (Read 717 times)

Offline Lena Brennan

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The Limbo Garden - 1460 words
« on: November 29, 2017, 10:37:48 AM »
I'd appreciate any kind of feedback on this one.
Note:  CILLINÕ, Ďgraveyardsí for unbaptised children, are scattered throughout the Irish countryside, in overgrown corners of conventional graveyards or outside their boundaries.

The Limbo Garden.

   My sisterís getting married today.  Sheís so excited her cheeks are pink.  Sheís going to be wearing grandmotherís lacy, white dress. The one she made herself for her own wedding, with the tiny filigree daisies all over it.  Iím not invited to my sisterís wedding but Iím watching all the commotion from the old stone cottage window just down our garden path.  I like it here with our cow, Browneyes, and our nanny goat, Twinkle.  Nobody takes any notice of me, even when Iím in the house with the rest of the family.  Iíll be getting married one day myself, though, and Iíll be wearing that lacy, white dress as well.  So my sister had better look after it. 

   Every now and then I slip away from the cottage to search for my friends.  Iím dying to tell them about my sisterís dress, but I canít find them today.  Theyíre not at the usual place near the church, just over the hedge from the cemetery where we usually play. Itís called the CillŪn Garden and Dad and Star, our plow-horse, brought me here for the first time in the dead of night.  We passed no one on the road and all the cottages along the way were dark.  Dad still comes now and then, but he doesnít play with us.  He usually stands for a while, his head bowed, near my favourite place in the corner. 

   My friends and I like the overgrown grassy places where we lie down and look at the sky, and the rocks jutting out from the ground.  You have to be careful not to trip on those rocks because some of them are so small you canít even see them, but others are high enough to hide behind.  In the centre, thereís a Hawthorne tree where we sit and look out into the distance at the sea splashing against the rocks.  On a windy day, we take bets on how high up the biggest rock the sea-spray will reach.  On a sunny day, we just stare out at the sparkles on the water and, often, I feel my eyes drooping from the sunís heat.  Today is a sunny day and Iím glad for my sister.

    I go back to the house and creep up the stairs to her bedroom.  The door is open and sheís sitting on a stool in front of her dressing table.  Mam is brushing out her long, brown hair, talking to her in a soft, whispering voice and my sisterís smiling at her in the mirror.  I move closer but I donít want to disturb them.  I can see my sisterís eyes in the mirror and it seems like she is looking right into mine, but she doesnít say anything to me.  On the bed is grandmotherís lace veil.  I reach out my hand and let my fingers slide over the little daisy bumps.  I lift up a corner of the veil to see if the other side looks the same.  My sister shivers and Mam goes over to close the window.

   Down in the kitchen, Aunty Peggy is making can-Ďo-peas.  I think thatís what theyíre called, although I donít see any peas on the table.  Aunty Peggy was married to Dadís brother, but he died.  Sheís still our aunty though and lives in our house too.  Sometimes I see her near my favourite place in the CillŪn Garden and she always leaves a posy in the corner where Dad likes to stand.   Earlier she cut out circles of bread, the same size as a penny, and toasted them for a while under the grill.  Now sheís leaning over the table, very close to the can-Ďo-peas, putting bits of salmon and cheese on top of each one.  Sheís mixed a bowl of mayonnaise with tomato sauce and chives to put on crackers.  Dad comes into the room and strokes her bum and presses himself against her as he passes to get some glasses out of the press.  She stays very still over the can-Ďo-peas and doesnít jump.  Probably because she doesnít want to mess.  When Dad leaves the room she straightens herself and I can see she is concentrating on something because her head is bowed and her eyes are closed.  I take the opportunity to dip my finger into her bowl of pink mayonnaise and it leaves a track across the surface of the mixture as I scoop up a blob.  Aunty Peggy picks up a spoon and looks behind her, right into my eyes, but she says nothing. 

   Even though our house is just down the boreen, Dad has got out the trap and Star will be driving my sister to the church.  His collar has white ribbons twined around it and heís waiting outside our front door.  Iíve made two daisy-chains to put around his ears but when I move towards him he shakes his head and whinnies.   Instead, I slip them onto my wrists and go back to the stone cottage where I can watch the house from the window.

   Itís warm in here, even though the door wonít close and the window has no glass anymore, and thereís a smell of fresh hay.  I can see Browneyes out in the field, her fur shining in the sunlight. Itís so quiet now that I think I can even hear the sound of the grass as she tears it from its roots and the chewing sound she makes.  Twinkle is standing on top of a rock, watching her.

   Dad is waiting beside the trap and I can see the smile on his face as my sister comes out of the house.  She holds her dress up off the ground and stands for a moment in front of him.  He leans his body back as if heís trying to get a better view of her, then he takes her hand and helps her up into the trap.  Mam and Aunty Peggy come out of the house, each wearing a hat with bits of netting that cover their eyes.  When my sister is settled with Dad beside her, Mam passes her up a horseshoe covered in flowers, then Dad shakes the reins and makes a clicking sound out of the side of his mouth.  Star moves off and Mam and Aunty Peggy walk along behind the carriage.  I run on ahead because I want to get there before anyone else.

   I can hear organ music playing at the church and, even though I know Iím not supposed to go inside, I sneak in through the side door.  My sisterís fiancť is standing at the altar.  He is so handsome with his black hair Brylcream sleek.  One day Iím going to have a fiancť just like him.  Next to him is his brother and they are whispering to each other and chuckling.  The priest is standing on the top step in front of them, dressed in a white robe with a white and gold stole draped around his neck.  Heís holding a black prayer book and he fidgets with the binding as he waits.  Thereís a lot of people sitting on the benches in front of the altar and, as my sister comes in the door with Dad, the organ music gets louder and they all turn to look at her.  It seems as if her feet arenít moving at all as she glides up the aisle and the people are smiling at her, but she only has eyes for her fiancť.  The priest glances over in my direction as he opens his prayer book, and I slip back out the door.

   My friends are all there when I get to the CillŪn Garden.  Some are hiding behind the bigger rocks, some are just lying in the high grass, and others are sitting under the Hawthorne tree.  They run to greet me and I canít wait to tell them about my sister, and her handsome fiancť, and my grandmotherís dress.  Then the church bells peal and we all rush over to peep through the hedge.  My sister comes out of the church holding her husbandís hand.  They are laughing as they run under the archway of arms and through the cloud of confetti. Someone has tied tin cans to the back of the trap and my sisterís husband jerks the reins. Her veil floats in the breeze as Star trots off, the cans clanging and rattling on the road.

   Dad is at the back of the procession that follows them to our house and he glances over at me peeping through the hedge. 

   ďOne day Iíll be getting married myself,Ē I whisper to my friends. ďAnd Iíll be wearing that lacy, white veil.Ē 
« Last Edit: November 29, 2017, 10:42:04 AM by Lena Brennan »

Jo Bannister

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Re: The Limbo Garden - 1460 words
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2017, 04:24:01 AM »
I enjoyed this enormously.  It's a clever idea, well-written, sensitive without being over-sentimental.

The only point I would make is that understanding it depends on your explanation of the cillini.  Since asides of this kind are generally an admission that a piece can't stand on its own, I would find a way of incorporating the information into the story.

Apart from that, it's fine as it is.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: The Limbo Garden - 1460 words
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2017, 07:03:34 AM »
I don't think it needs the explanation.  There's enough subtle clues scattered throughout to make it work without.  If the reader can't pick them up as they go along, like a series of tiny footfalls building to only one possible conclusion, then the story is not for them.

She's a lovely little spirit and I get the feeling she's dimly aware of her own status, such as when she knows she shouldn't be in the church, but only leaves when she feels the priest looking straight at her.

Gyppo
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Offline Lena Brennan

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Re: The Limbo Garden - 1460 words
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2017, 01:50:59 PM »
Thank you for your feedback. You've hit my problem with this right on the head. It's really difficult to show those who don't know what 'Limbo' or 'Cillin' refer to who my protagonist is without 'telling'. Some will know. Most will not b

Offline Simple Things

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Re: The Limbo Garden - 1460 words
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2017, 02:28:31 PM »
The writing for the most part is good enough for you to not be overly concerned about. There are a few instances where you insert words like 'just' or 'any' for which they more take away from the moment/image, rather than add.

This section:

Quote
Itís called the CillŪn Garden and Dad and Star, our plow-horse, brought me here for the first time in the dead of night.  We passed no one on the road and all the cottages along the way were dark.  Dad still comes now and then, but he doesnít play with us.  He usually stands for a while, his head bowed, near my favourite place in the corner.

I can find no use for it. I like the name and purpose, but its introduction needs to be some way else.


Offline hillwalker3000

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Re: The Limbo Garden - 1460 words
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2017, 05:52:09 AM »
I also enjoyed this, but felt it would work just as well without explaining what the Cillin Garden is (or even mentioning it by name, unless that's the reason for writing the piece in the first place). I picked up on the narrator's 'status' quickly enough to not need further clues.
The only other change I'd suggest is to dispense with the 'can-o-peas' reference. It changes the tone, and is too cutesy by far for a piece like this.

Just one opinion - use or lose.

H3K

Offline Lena Brennan

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Re: The Limbo Garden - 1460 words
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2017, 07:10:02 AM »
Thank you.  That's very good feedback.  Looks like I could lose some of my darlings and make it an even better story!

Offline Vogel

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Re: The Limbo Garden - 1460 words
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2017, 10:35:26 AM »
Hi Lena,

I really enjoyed your story. I also think that the definition is not needed. But if you want to be sure, you can ask a couple people to read it without it. I don't think the narrator needs to explain what it is because I'm not entirely sure that the narrator knows she's dead. Or at least that was my impression. I think your details are enough to show us that it is a cemetery. The placing of the posies, the fact that dad comes to see her sometimes but doesn't play with her ... those details should be enough to clue the reader in, I would think.  But I would definitely have a few clever people read this without any information from you just to make sure.

I enjoyed the can-o-peas section myself and learned something new in the process. I'd never heard of them, but salmon and cream cheese stuffed bread sounds delicious! Since we're in the POV of a child, it makes total sense to have her focus on the food, while she's actually witnessing something that's not right, something that she is maybe too young to even process.

There were some little details that I loved. Like this: Itís called the CillŪn Garden and Dad and Star, our plow-horse, brought me here for the first time in the dead of night. 

Subtle hints that not only provide information and backstory but also enhance the atmosphere.

I really loved the atmosphere you've created. It's dark, but because it's told through the POV of a child, it almost feels whimsy to me. A lovely little story. I don't imagine you'll have any trouble placing this one in a magazine or anthology somewhere.

Thanks for the read!
« Last Edit: December 03, 2017, 11:21:49 AM by Vogel »

Offline Lena Brennan

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Re: The Limbo Garden - 1460 words
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2017, 10:45:54 AM »
Thank you for your comments, Vogel, they are very encouraging v