About three weeks ago, after publishing my word association post, I began to write a story with the intention of including all 17 words kindly supplied by people in the comments section.
I initially envisaged the story being reasonably short, perhaps no more than 1000 words. It is currently well over 6000 words long with two of the contributed words not yet incorporated. A few days ago I got to the stage where I felt a bit stuck with it and couldn’t think how to move on.
Feeling frustrated by this lack of progress I decided this afternoon to sit down and bash out a new story, determined to write as short a story as I could using all 17 words.
The story below is what I’ve come up with, at a relatively svelte 723 words, and the 17 words are highlighted in bold. If I ever manage to finish the other one (hopefully in a slightly shorter form) I’ll stick it in another post.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to this little project.
Throughout my childhood our house was home to what you might call a miniature zoo. My father was a naturalist and a soft touch for any stray animal that came our way. Through his work he made frequent trips to exotic locations, often bringing back small animals he deemed in need of rescue. The house became a sanctuary for a wide variety of creatures, many of whom took up residence in the kitchen and conservatory.
We lived in a small village, more of a hamlet really, which contained about a dozen houses, a church and an old, unused, mill. The vicar was a fellow animal lover and kept several sheep, as well as two dogs and a cat. One day, during a walk in the local hills on a stormy March morning, he found a tiny fox cub, alone in the grass. It had apparently been abandoned by its mother and had a tear in one ear and dried blood on its back. The vicar took off his coat, wrapped the cub up in it and brought it to our house. Father was away at the time, paddling a boat up the Amazon, but Mother welcomed the cub into the menagerie. We had a litter of puppies at the time and the fox cub soon became friends with them, sleeping in a basket in a corner of the kitchen. I remember giving it a floppy doll as a gift. It was one of two similar dolls I had, named Betty and Hettie. It was Hettie I gave up for the fox cub (Betty was my favourite toy and I don’t think any sick animal would have induced me to part with her).
Another time while Father was away a very undernourished little dog arrived at the back door. Its bones were horribly visible through its skin and it had the saddest eyes I had ever seen. It was very nervous of people and for several days it would only take food when Mother put a bowl at the bottom of the doorstep and went away. Eventually it grew to trust us and became Mother’s special pet. She called it Oliver, because it was a ragged little orphan. ‘It’s scandalous, the way some people treat dogs,’ she told me. ‘Absolutely heart breaking. Thank goodness he found his way to us.’ Animals were always finding their way to us, the house was a magnet for waifs and strays.
On one occasion, when Father returned from one of his trips abroad, he brought back a glass container with two shiny green blobs stuck to the inside. I didn’t pay much attention to the blobs, until one day I noticed that they’d turned black. I told Father and he came to have a look. He was very excited about the change and told me to keep watching to see what would happen. The next morning the black things had turned clear and there were patterns and colours inside. Father got more excited than ever and said we needed to keep a close watch on them. In no time at all the clear shapes had miraculously turned into beautiful butterflies, their wings about three inches long. I wanted to hold one but Father said they were very fragile and I needed to wait and see if one would land on me. I sat very still and my patience finally paid off. One butterfly flew up and landed on my sleeve. It had orange and yellow wings with black veins running through them. I was so taken with the butterflies that Father decided to build a butterfly house in the garden. He accumulated all sorts of exotic plants and butterflies to fill the building with. The butterfly house ignited a passion in me that was to last a lifetime.
When I left school I followed in Father’s footsteps, studying zoology at Cambridge University. I specialised in the study of butterflies and moths, publishing two books and numerous scientific papers on butterfly identification. I recently celebrated my 95th birthday, and am now more or less confined to a wheelchair. There are many things I can no longer do, but on a sunny summer’s day I can still sit out in the garden and watch the butterflies flitting from flower to flower. For me there is no greater pleasure on earth.