Date Of Birth

Entry by: percypop

27th October 2015

Once upon a time I lived in a seaside village. The sun shone and the sea was blue. The fishing boats rocked to and fro in the little stone harbour and when a gentle breeze blew, they sang a tune as the shrouds tinkled against the masts.
In our garden flowers and fruit trees and soft fruits grew. Raspberries and strawberries hid under wispy leaves. Overhead the trees blossomed with white flowers and the grass was soft as feathers.
My mother fed me with fish straight from the sea, fruit from the apple trees and warm bread from the oven. She cleaned the cottage and beat the carpets in the yard every week. Sometimes the birds would sing as she worked and the sound of the strokes blended with the birdsong to make a lively tune.
I learnt my numbers from her and soon I could read a little as she patiently sat beside me at my stool in the parlour. There were stories of giants and princesses and fairies which seemed to come alive as she read them to me. At church on Sunday she sang and I listened to the parson who told us about the devil and the angels. On my birthday she always asked me what I wanted. Sometimes it was a pet, other times a toy or a new pair of shoes.

She said “I will always give you something special on your birthday.”

One day, a man came to the front door. His hair shone as black as tar and was combed into two bunches tied with red ribbon. In his right ear he wore an earring. His glittering eyes were blue and shiny. His mouth was large and when he smiled with his big red lips, a gold tooth sparkled.

"I've sailed the seven seas" he said "I've seen the Barbary Coast and drunk rum with Captain Blood. Been with natives with rings through their noses and wearing grass skirts."

He told me he had been a mariner all his life and knew magic and spells too. I pretended I believed him but I never trusted him. Each morning he waxed his hair and admired himself in the mirror, smiling secretly at himself. He never fooled me.
My mother seemed pleased to talk with him and she told me that he would live in our spare room which had been empty for years. I did not want this man to share our home. He drank rum most of the day and when drunk he sang loudly. Soon he was everywhere in the cottage and the garden. He drank from a stone jar and sometimes fell down after drinking. Mother cleaned him up and put him to bed.
Eventually he moved into Mother's room. He spent more time at home and became louder and drunker each evening. One day he took the money my mother saved and bought more drink. When mother found out she asked for it back and he swiped her with the back of his hand. He pushed me out of the way and stormed out. Mother said nothing but I knew this would happen again and so it did, many times.
One day I asked him for a penny and he laughed at me

"You little dog, do yer think I am an almoner? Get out of my way."

And he cuffed my head and turned away. Mother found it hard to manage with the extra food to buy and less time to do the scrubbing and housework that paid for our needs. She never sang now and the sweet birds that used to warble with her fell silent. I knew if I did nothing, my Mother would wither and her life sink in drudgery.
My tenth birthday was near and I found a book in his trunk. The book was about magic. One page had a spell on it which was easy to read and showed how to rid one of a demon. All you had to do was to catch and kill a toad and burn it, crushing its ashes. Then mix the ash with rum and henbane (which grew in the fields nearby.)
I thought about the spell and asked myself if it was a sin to try to do such a thing? At church on a Sunday, the minister had said that only God could judge us. But surely this man was wicked in anybody's eyes? I had seen a picture of the devil and his face with its horns and cruel smile was like the Mariner. God would surely judge this man in the same way as I did?
The rum was easy to find, there were jugs in the parlour and so I caught and burnt the toad and picked some henbane and put the mixture into one of the stone jars he used. That night the man went out as usual and before I went to bed I moved all the jars and jugs away from the parlour leaving the magic jar beside the comfy chair. Sleep was impossible; as I tossed in my bed I wondered how he would die. Would he fall dead at once? Would he die quietly? I wanted to know so I kept awake.
About midnight he came staggering back to the house. Mother was asleep and I heard him fumble at the keyhole. I crept out of my bed and hid behind the curtain. As he pushed open the front door a gust of cold wind blew out the small candle I left on the side table. In the sudden darkness he clawed his way towards the chair and sat down. My eyes were well accustomed to the dark and I could see his slobbering red mouth agape and his gold tooth glinting in the half light. He reached out for the jar and with one hand lifted it onto his elbow and took a long swig. He belched and took another pull, then sat back. I shifted myself a little to see better and at once his eye turned on me and he snarled
"What ye here for? You little dog!" and he kicked out.
I scrambled away as he leapt forward, his gnarled hand inches from my face. His sudden move unbalanced him and he crashed to the floor where he knelt gasping and trembling.
His tongue stuck out of the side of his mouth and he began to drool and mutter. He started to crawl towards me, his eyes blazing with anger.
I turned to see my mother at the doorway her face as white as candle wax. She moved forward just as the man was about to grab me and she took the stone jar high above her head. Without a word she smashed it down on his bushy black head and it shattered into a hundred pieces. He fell and never moved again. We dragged him outside just as he was and left him crumpled on the doorstep.
Mother washed her hands and swept up the broken jar.

"Come, my angel, get some rest, tomorrow is your birthday”
She looked up at the sky and said “I’m sure tomorrow will be sunny.”

They took his body away the next morning. No one doubted he had died of drink and it was true. The spell had worked in its own way.
That day the sea was blue and the sun shone and the flowers in the garden bloomed brighter than ever. It was my best birthday.