Below is a short story I began in class. It was inspired by a 1602 map, and written within the twenty or so minutes we had:
I was strolling along at dusk with the chill of the Thames sweeping across my neck, when I saw, in my state of bleary Flaneurism, a figure whom others might call Shakespeare. William, as I knew him, was smoking a pipe at the tip of Three Cranes, the wharf where my brother worked as a docksman. The two porters I had drunk an hour earlier at the George Inn were warming my belly quite well, and despite my great desire to say an uninhibited hello to the professed writer, I clambered on along the river, towards Broken Wharfe where my missus lay in bed waiting for me. Or so I’d hoped.
‘Top of the evenin’ to you mister Lloydy,’ the round cheeked baker shouted with a rosy smile as he closed down his shop.
It was one I rarely chose to pass, for Gluttony always got the best of me, sending my hands into cake and moneys in my belly. Porter, of course, was different, as she helped me carry on my work through the evening. Without her, my writing would be less colourful. I wondered, as the sky faded from fire to kindle to blue, if Mr. Shakespeare also used porter to wet his creativity.
‘I’ll be back ’round again soon Mr. Baker. Don’t ye worry.’
‘The missus is draggin’ yeh away from my sweets, I know. I’ve not seen yeh in a fortnight!’ Mr. Baker was not only wagging his finger, but his entire body at me as if his grandiosity rose from cake.
‘O but she’s fine! She keeps me in order. Or out of it. Dunno which one’s best these days.’
I nodded and continued on, passing the fountain at Queen Hyth, glorious in her nighttime tremor and bubbling with youth despite her old age. The fountains had been there since I was a boy, or so I recall, and I do believe that every pence I dropped in had turned into a granted wish. With the exception of one. I have never been able to have a child. Whether it was Maggie’s fault or mine, or God and his decision we weren’t fit parents, I could never understand why my greatest desire escaped me, like the fish from grimy hands in the Thames.
I’d make a fine parent to a boy or girl. Sure, I’d love to show a young lad the great cold ship at St. Mary’s Overies. Or take him to the Globe, where I would say, ‘I’ve met William myself, and we are great friends.’ Or to take my boy to watch the mudlarks by Banches Lyde – oh the poor spectacle!
But what if it were a girl? Would she be inspired by the cakes of Lion Kaye or would she go to market in Blackfriers? Could I help her find a man to take her to Brydewel and marry her off with joy and porter merriment, or would I never be able to let the little girl go?
Maggie was less concerned. She sat around the house, sewing and doing some odd work but she really drank more than a missus should, and that’s a lot coming from my mouth. We had enough money from my inheritance that neither of our work was relevant, but nonetheless, we’d light the candles, she’d sew, and I’d write.
It was full evening now, and nothing was going to stop me from a cup of tea in front of the fireplace. Just off Broken Wharfe was a road – Penwyth Lane, which curved up all the way to the fields. It was there along Blenwyth that Maggie and I had a home, and there where I arrived with my wet boots and coat, dripping from the spring rain we were so luckily given.
Maggie’s face was scrunched in concentration. She never did look pleasant anymore. I’m sure I didn’t either, as my smile seemed to fade the longer we were married. I’m not sure if that’s a terrible thing to say, but I, once an odd smiley fellow who strode from Whine Fryers to London Bridge in confidence, now wore a withered look on his shoulders, and even a pessimism shoved in his pockets, hidden from the world to see.