Words for International Women’s Day 2021
Misbehaving in Stately Homes
In the old days, they might have burnt me at the stake or ducked me in a stool. But nowadays, my unmarried, childless, impoverished status means I’m the perfect candidate for cleaning their houses. ‘No house too big for this miracle worker’, my advert stated. ‘Discretion assured, even during a pandemic.’
I was due to start work the following day.
A whistle escaped my lips as I approached. Stately home, extensive grounds, even a tennis court and swimming pool tucked away somewhere. Only the deer look rather under the weather. They huddled meekly in the shade of the monkey puzzle tree. No amount of coaxing or feeding convinced them to step forward. I sighed and performed my party trick of humming until I caught the frequency of their language. They’d had enough of hay and nuts, they told me. It’s too dry, too brittle and, besides, it cracks their teeth. They crave the lushness of tropical foliage, but how to access that in England in a lockdown April with zero rainfall?
I was about to turn away. After all, I didn’t want to be spotted as ‘that crazy woman’ who’ll talk to anyone, even woebegone deer. But stop, they interjected, there is more! The does were increasingly exasperated by the peacock who kept parading on the lawn, claiming it as his own, opening his tail with a swish at every passing car.
Was this a test? Was it part of my job? I didn’t know, so I fed them peaches, with tanned summer skin and soft fuzz, peaches too young and juicy to sustain the deer for long. How they gobbled, how they let the juices gather on their sweet inquisitive noses! With every bite, the eerie screech of the peacock grew fainter and fainter, until it ceased to bother them at all. Soon, soon… I too will stop hearing the derision in other voices. I will stop slaving for others and dance amongst the deer on the lawn after the rainbows come out, with no need for music, no shame or fear.
Somewhere, a squirrel darted up a tree, winking. One flash of its bushy tail was enough to remind me of the duties which always precede the magic.
Marina Sofia is a global nomad (of necessity rather than choice), translator, blogger and writer. She has published poetry and flash fiction in online and print journals, as well as a couple of anthologies, and thinks they are the best form of procrastination instead of writing a novel. You can find Marina on Twitter – @MarinaSofia8