You dont want people to think youre odd, do you?
Yes, odd. Touched. Funny in the head. Like Gutor Wern. The kettle lets out a gentle steam, blinding the window, shutting out the rest of the world.
People wont think Im like Guto just because I can fly in my sleep, I say.
Dreaming is one thing. Saying you really do it is another. What did Aunty Lol say?
She said perhaps I was a witch.
You see what I mean? says Mam. Her knuckles turn white as she tightens the dressing gowns sash around her waist.
The kettle belches steam in great snorts.
Fetch the tea tray, says Mam and takes it from me when I bring it into the living room. The cups and saucers rattle on the tray. Its early for Mams nerves to be so bad. She sets the tray down on the table, then picks up the milk bottle from it and pushes it in front of my face.
Youve given John Morris the top of the milk again, she says.
He likes it, I say.
So does everyone else, says Mam. Ive told you before not to waste it on the cat. I may as well talk to the man in the moon.
She bangs the bottle down on the tray and scoops tea into the teapot. Two scoops. She lifts the kettle from the fire, holding it away from her to keep the soot from her dressing gown, and pours the water into the pot.
So, promise me you wont say anything to anyone about it, she says.
About what? I say.
Mams hand shakes again as she puts the lid back on the teapot. This flying nonsense.
Not even to Alwenna?
Certainly not, says Mam.
But shes my Kindred Spirit. I want to show her how to fly, once I remember.
Not Alwenna. It would be all round the council houses in no time. Cross your heart.
I make a big cross over my heart. But I cross my fingers at the same time. Alwenna already knows about the flying I do at night. Cross my heart, I say. And hope to die. I drop down into Tadas armchair and pull out my book.
Mam slips the knitted cosy over the teapot. Dont start reading now. Youve got to get cracking this morning.
Why? I cant change the beds if Tada and Bethan are still in them.
Bethan can do that today. Ive promised you to Mrs Evans Brwyn Coch this morning to look after the two girls.
I hate going to Brwyn Coch.
Dont be silly. You like the children.
But I dont like Mr Evans.
Dont like Ifan Evans? Mam stops pouring milk into the cups. Hes a wonderful man. Well respected. I only promised you to Elin as a favour to him.
His face is too red.
He cant help his red face, Gwenni. Its because hes out in the fields all day.
Hes just like those Toby jugs.
Mam looks up at the three jugs on their shelf above the looking glass. Straightaway, the Toby jugs pretend theyre not staring at the china woman that Mam and Tada were given as a wedding present by their best man who died in the war. The china woman stands on the sideboard and doesnt wear any clothes at all, not even knickers. When the Toby jugs watch her they forget to smoke their pipes or drink from the tankards in their hands and their fat cheeks turn redder and redder and their eyes grow darker and darker.
Mr Evans doesnt smoke or drink, Mam says. Chapel deacons arent allowed to.
Excerpted from The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan Copyright © 2009 by Mari Strachan. Excerpted by permission of Grove/Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher
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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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