Here is another excerpt from my book of the dead, Edwin Copperpot, which is nearly complete. This is an unusual scene. Our hero, Edwin Copperpot, is nowhere to be found, at least not yet, and everyone is very much alive, for now that is!
xoxo -- Hilary
Pulling down the peaked cap over his ears and thrusting hands in pockets, the man walked briskly down the alleyway. He was eager, excited, his heart racing like a rabbit's. Food, he thought, you must eat first. Last time you went out on an empty stomach, you nearly got pinched.
He took a sharp left out of the alley, onto a street lined with ramshackle houses. Men and women lurked in clusters, their numbers growing as he neared the city square, cackling, drinking, laughing, cursing, all swathed in soiled, tattered attire, ripped shawls and patched trousers, none of them seeming to mind the cold drizzle, all comfortably numb on gin and beer.
One of the women called to the man as he trudged past the front steps of her boarding house. "Looking for a bit a company? You're a sailor, aren’t you? I like your kind, I do." She paraded her figure, spinning in a circle on the stoop, but he kept walking. Her girlfriends pushed her playfully, laughing giddily. "Me and my sister share a room, but it can be ours for the night if you be changing your mind later on. Long Liz, ask for me," she called as he disappeared from view. No, he thought, too risky with a sister creeping about. He liked her though, Long Liz. Her size, close to what he preferred.
Two streets later, he arrived at the market district. Music skirled from the public houses, loud voices bouncing off the pubs and cracked cobbles, the air flushed with flickering gaslights. Working girls, beggars and street vendors lingered about, quack doctors selling cure-all oils and elixirs, costermongers selling scarcely edible fruits and greens. Even children, a shrill and boisterous group, scrounged for farthings, a scrap of bread, pick pocketing drunkards, too far gone to look after their change.
The man cringed, forced to knock arms and shoulders with the grimy populace as he made his way to a public house. Ah, finally, he thought, The Five Angels. He stared at a woman, blocking the doors. She smiled back at him with a chocolate toothed grin. By his stoic mug, it was plain he wasn't interested. She slowly sauntered out of his way, flashing her cockeyed teeth at another prospective customer.
He headed inside, again rubbing against the masses as he pushed his way to the back. He made his way to a small table by the back door. A wobbly old gentleman approached the table at the same moment as he. They swapped glances. The swaying man stared an extra moment, took his glass of whatever spirits he'd had far too much of and left.
Settling into a chair, the man pulled down his scarf from around his mouth and pulled down his cap a little more, shadowing his eyes entirely.
A portly man in an oil stained apron came to the table. "Ah, back again, eh? You must really love my stew. You're the only one!" He laughed jovially. "Same as last time then?"
Unbuttoning the top buttons of his pea jacket, the man nodded at the pub owner, who jaunted off to the kitchen. Stew tastes like entrails, thought the man, probably serving up the customers, snatching them up as they keel over on their pickled feet.
He scanned the room. Not a soul seemed sober, everyone half in the jar or nearly there. He spotted a woman, men swarming around her, different from the other trash that marred the place, looked to be about twenty or so, maybe less. She teetered on her stool, laughing excessively at the jokes of her adoring horde. He studied her, watching as she inspected her perspective suitors. She seemed to have her eye on a particularly inebriated fellow with a nice pocket watch, as she surely wasn't infatuated by his oversized belly or rotting teeth. Greedy tart, thought the man.
The proprietor came back, plunking down a bowl of reeking stew and a glass of gin. The man grabbed his arm, pulling him close. "Who's that?"
Looking over his shoulder, the pub owner snickered. "That there is Bonnie. A sweet one, isn't she? Goes by Bee, but I call her Busy Bee if you know what I mean!" The pub owner laughed again, the man did not. "Me and Bee, we help each other out, both with a business to run, so to speak. You got more than a pocket full of halfpence she can be yours. That's for sure." He tipped his head towards her, raising an eyebrow. "With a little persuasion, I might be inclined to put in a good word for you. Treats her customers real nice, that one."
The man reached into his pocket, slapping down two paper bills on the table. The pub owner looked around suspiciously, quickly snatching them up. His eyes widened. "Stay here then, eat your stew. She'll be yours tonight."
The man smiled.