Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Groundlings

Published 'Lost' 1992

The drought lasted longer than anybody thought.

The family did manage to start thinking, however, about the well at the bottom of their narrow garden, one which for years had remained hidden and forgotten amongst the orchard trees. Not quite a forgotten thought, though, but more wished away by the pace of modern life, with sons and daughters growing up, assuming personalities of their own, launching themselves into a world becoming uglier than the aging process itself.

Needs must, where needs be. Old Granddad was the first to start thinking about the well. He even intimated that in his childhood, there was a treadle and a bucket ... even nursery rhymes that his own granddad chanted, one of which was about the well’s endless plunging shaft. Also, there was the legendary winter when some of my cousins, paying a chance visit, boisterously climbed down there, fully expecting the ice at the bottom to bear the brunt of their otherwise lack of pot-holing expertise.

"Did my cousins come back up?" I asked breathlessly.

"One of them did. He said your other cousins slipped and fell."

"But was there a scandal? Police enquiries?"

"We kept it mum. Those cousins were not really cousins proper but were merely foundlings, and easily forgotten."


"Yes, we lost all thought about them soon after that incident with the well. There were no further enquiries. No repercussions to speak of."

I stared at Granddad, believing him more than I thought I should believe him.

"We need to test it for water, then?" I asked.

"There's no other way."

His voice cracked, as the dried-out veins in his neck stood out like wickerwork. And, while a full moon crossed too swiftly an unnaturally luminous night sky, I took Granddad to where I assumed he would take me, given half the chance. I.E: THE WELL.

I wheeled him through the nettles, him cursing all the while that I had purposefully chosen such a route. He perversely trailed his limp arm, gathering deliberate stings.


He pointed insanely at a hump.

"That's a cairn," I idly replied.

"Yes, you're quite right, the well's not where I thought it was at all."

He turned his head as if life depended on his every move. I heard his bones snap, despite the noise of insects. I wheeled him further into the trees, thus wiping from the moon even of the ghost of its own glimpses. It was too dark even to think.


Again he pointed. Now with more method in his madness. It was a tiny convex lens of land. Lurching there, through the ill-kempt trees, I reached down with my hand. I turned back to shout out my findings.

"It is a hole, but there's no water to speak of."

"The well's far deeper than just one single arm."

Granddad's voice was convinced of its own uprightness, but his body's bearing failed the test of truth. He had flopped into his own lap, but he still managed to say something that caused me instinctively to snatch my hand back for dear life:-

"The foundlings down there have much longer arms than yours."

I was never to discover that I myself was a changeling, so there my tale must rest.

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