Sunday, 16 March 2014

February Writing Task by Cherry Doyle

Here is Cherry Doyle’s response to the February Writing Task, where we built up a character suitable for young readers, and used that as a basis for a story. It’s the opening of a story about the main character, Jennings.

Jennings ran his hand slowly through the dog’s long fur. He toyed with it between his fingers as she made whimpering sounds in her sleep. He felt her warm belly move as she breathed and put his head down to nuzzle against her.
            Skye was his best friend in the world; always by his side, she knew when he needed cheering up with her pale blue collie eyes and dappled fur. Now, as Jennings held his ear against her, he wondered about all the biology underneath – what made the pulse throb so much faster than his own, why her paws shook while she was dreaming, why she slobbered all over his clothes with her tongue, lolling like a rich ham.
            The log fire in the farmhouse was violent and noisy, drowning out the drone of his grandfather’s radio and the persistent click-clack of his grandmother’s knitting needles. Jennings pictured himself in green overalls like the vet who came to see the farm animals. He used a stethoscope to listen to their hearts, which he wore around his neck at all times. He carried a black suitcase full of carefully wrapped needles which made such pleasing crinkly sounds as they were released from their packaging. Jennings wanted to be like him.
            If nothing else, it would get him off the farm. Despite Skye’s friendship he did get bored of living, eating and learning between these flowery wallpapered walls. His grandmother gave him a simple education of basic maths and spelling – he would need these for ordering in animal food when he eventually took over the farm.   
            His grandfather, a gruff man, took him out on the trailer to the high fields to watch Skye bring the sheep in. He loved watching her sleek figure dart across the green grass, striking terror into the confused sheep.
            As much as he loved his grandparents, the farm and the little farmhouse, sometimes when he ran past the cow pasture and climbed the tallest tree to look across acres of green and yellow land, he felt a sinking feeling, knowing he wanted to break away from what his grandparents expected him to do.
            The only problem was, Jennings had seen life outside the farm and he didn’t like it - the children of the nearest village were mean to him, shouting names if he ventured to the shop with his grandparents. They always seemed not to hear the cruel comments, and Jennings wondered why they kept their unflinching faces so stony - was this some adult trick to get rid of unhappy things, or were they really that deaf?
            He started to imitate them, faithfully freezing his scrunched face when he spied the kids coming over the village green. He concentrated so hard on keeping his eyes forward, he barely felt the sting of their words, chanting about his old threadbare clothes and smears of grease on his face. His grandmother placed a guiding hand on his ragged hair as Jennings wondered why those kids cared what he looked like or wore.
            As far as he was concerned, his faded T-shirts were all he needed for farm work – after all, his grandfather wore the same green wool jumper every day. There was no point in his grandparents spending their money on posh new clothes when all he did was climb trees and help muck out the pigs. Besides, he often heard his grandparents grumbling that there was no money in farming, and cursing the men who came to collect eggs and milk in big vans.
            “You’re driving us into the dirt!” his grandfather had yelled one day as a particularly frowny man had driven away.
“It’s the market” he shrugged out of the driver’s window. Jennings had watched from the cowshed as his grandfather’s face fell when the man had finished unfolding notes into his palm. It creased with a desolate mixture of distress and concern, and it gave Jennings a tight feeling in his chest.
He knew that things cost money, so he didn’t ask for anything. He just wanted to have fun with Skye and somehow evade a life looking after the farm.  

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