"They should sack that wanker."
"along with three French hens, two turtle doves, and a condom in a pear tree."
I think I was pretty drunk by then.
"Rod," I said, "I feel a bit sick. I think I'll sleep on the sofa tonight."
I made a bed with a quilt and pillow. When Velcro settled on my tummy, I closed my eyes and drifted onto the deck of a ship that bobbed and dipped, and when it lurched, I slipped into rolling waves. Water gurgled in my ears, but within minutes I shot to the surface and drank in air inside the kitchen of 75 Copper Lane.
I climbed a spiral stairway, because I saw a tiny door at the very top. I stumbled up the steps, fighting for breath because the atmosphere was heavier than lead. There was a table next to the door, with a key lying on it. But when I reached out, it vanished. Searching for somewhere to escape, I saw a hole full of light, but the soil crumbled when I tried to scramble out, and I fell down, down, and dirt filled my mouth and I couldn't shout out. I heard the hollow drip of water and down, down, I went.
PART ONE: THE SIXTIES
Chapter 1: 1965
Saturday, April 17
33 Cherry Blossom Road, Dorton,
United Kingdom, Europe, Planet Earth
I bite my lip. "Can I have a suspender belt instead?"
My mother, Biddy, runs her nail along the top of a packet to split open the cellophane. "You need a girdle for support," she says, pulling out a corset the color of salmon-paste. "And take that look off your face. It's a beautiful foundation garment." She pats her fresh hairdo, a lacquered helmet, before opening a second packet.
Spirals of stitching, three sets of hooks, powernet panels, and longline, too.
It's one hell of a bra.
"Try it on," she says.
I fasten it at the front, swivel it around, and pull the wide straps over my shoulders.
My first bra, and I loathe it.
"Mum, I really don't think I have enough to fill these cones yet."
"They're called cups, Kate, and sure, the size is only a small thirty-two A."
"The other girls have trainer bras."
"Fine. And in two months they'll all need a good brassiere like yours."
Snatching Biddy's shopping bag from the floor to see what else she bought, all I find are a couple of pastel twinsets, a pair of brown stirrup pants, and what's this? Drop earrings. All for her, nothing cool for me. A cheap shift dress would have been okay, one of those polka-dot ones with a Peter Pan collar.
Or a trainer bra.
"Kate, stop poking inside my bag."
I pull out a leaflet before I stop poking. It shows a busty blonde skipping around Piccadilly Circus wearing nothing but my salmon-paste set. "With the firmest control," she says, eyebrows arched, teeth flashing, "my Cross Your Heart bra shapes and my girdle flattens."
"Hey, Mum, did you see this? "Shapes and flattens with the firmest control.' "
Reprinted from Cover the Butter by Carrie Kabak, pages 1-13, with permission from Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 20054 by Carrie Kabak. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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