A sample from the novel, ‘Frozen Tears.’
Chapter 3, The Witch
The sound of a single note can change the world. Not many people would think so but Granddad did. The hum of a diving bird, the squawk of a white stork, the purr of a mute swan, the sound of a window torn open, bringing in morning fresh and the gust of breeze blowing over long grass, the sound of a childs voice, a person’s finger touching softly a piano key. Gathered around that piano in song was for me like we were breathing life into the room, into the world and that piano, it was the centre of our lives if only for a short while, it was ‘the magic machine’ as my sister used to call it, it was the sun and we were the planets, spinning and colliding. Looking back now I didn’t appreciate the piano like I could have, but at the time, I wasn’t to know how important a memory it was to be, the role it was to play. Did I appreciate it then like I could have… do any of us?
Guns sprayed metal bullets into David’s chest, and he is dead, the blood on my hands has turned purple and I try to understand what it all means – and who is to blame. All I can do is think of that piano. Chopin plays through the walls of the ward and it makes the procedure much more bearable – of course music and sound can change feeling, how could we ever think otherwise. I knew the piece well, it was Prelude in E-Minor , Prelude Op. 28, No. 4 to be exact, I knew the piece because it was by his request, played at his own funeral. Chopin, not David. David won’t get a funeral. I still don’t know which piece I will have them play at mine.
Walking to the corner shop I passed an old man, bent over as if carrying an invisible sack of onions on his big back, digging into his neck and pressing in hard. Still, he managed to turn his chin to find my eyes, his pupils – the colour of nicotine and his skin, a wrinkled white, with a pink burn from winter wind. There were many homeless walking the streets these days.
‘One box for Granddad’, I said to the hag behind the desk – she was a witch and I was sure of it this time. Witch was my name for her anyway, the shopkeeper woman who would stand in front of her till and never move, but for a shift to her left to ring money through her tin metal box. I’d try and get in and out of the shop as quickly as I could, else, at any moment, she’d cast a spell on me and do her bidding. Staring at her face, I would always turn away and find something else to look at, less threatening than her red eyes, the colour of boiling honey, and her long black hair, taught and thick like wired rope. Perhaps at any time, she would reveal a set of black vampire wings, grab me and fly away into the mountains. ‘Do you colour those sweets with children’s blood?’ It was the question I never asked her. If you wanted to hurt children, you would definitely run a sweet shop like this one. She would always dress in the same scarf, that silver thing, and there was no need for it – it was far too thin a scarf to keep off any breeze, so she obviously uses it to strangle children, and swing them around and carry them off downstairs. Some of the big glass jars of aniseed balls were I think children’s eyeballs and the pear drops, their frozen tears. The boiled fruit ones that would look and taste like raspberries were just pretend flavours, really she just put those flavours in for disguise, because if you wanted to hide the taste of blood, you need to use a disguise. Mixing different potions for magic spells was really hard but witches pass down knowledge through generations, so they know it very well and write it down in big black books that have spiders webs on them. Every time I went to the shop, Granddad would give me an extra penny, and I would save my pennies up until I had ten, which would buy me a small grey paper cone full of my favourite sweets. I didn’t really think she was a witch, but sometimes it was quite fun to pretend.