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Smoke Rings and Surprises

Title: Smoke Rings and Surprises

Author Eglantine_br

Rating G


Word Count 1480

Smoke Rings and Surprises

We smoked as we worked, drawing on our
pipes, so that the words came down through the clouds, to the page.

The day was dimming when Kit looked up.
He grinned at me and sent a smoke ring spinning to the ceiling,
wobbling, enlarging as it rose. Two could play. I sent a smaller one
through it.

“That was well done!” Kit said. “Do

And I tried, but I was laughing now, in
foolish joy, happy with my writing, my puppy, my friend. And the
smoke leaked out my nose and mouth all anyhow.

“I bless Raleigh daily for tobacco.”
Kit said. “Don't know how I lived without it.”

“Do you know him well?”

I had seen Walter Raleigh in the
street, in his shining silver and velvet. He had a face like a fox,
but he walked wide, like a sailor. He seemed worlds away from my
little room.

“Not well, no.” Kit said. “But I
have met him at Scadbury. Everyone comes there”

Not me, I thought. But I did not say

“Tobacco does not suit everyone,” I
said “Greene says it gives him a cough.”

Greene did not like tobacco, nor did he
like me. I had spoken to him once of my plans for the Danish play. He
smiled to my face, but I heard him scoff when I turned away.

'Novarint' he called me-- meaning
scrivener. Which I am. As was my father. No shame there, none. We do
what we must. I do not have family money. I do not have a wealthy
patron like Kit. I do not have university, to boast of, to call
myself a gentleman.

And now my smile had faded. I wish I
had not bethought myself of Robert Greene. He is enough to spoil
anyone's cheer.

Kit was sitting back, leaning against
the wall. His legs extended forward, his body tilted like a
forgotten ladder. His arms were folded. He was spilling smoke slowly
from the sides of his mouth. But those green eyes were watching me
even so. He was charting my darkening mood. He missed very little.

“Greene is a fool,” He said. “He
who does not like tobacco is a fool.”

I laughed, a little.

“And boys” Kit added. “Tobacco
and boys.” His voice was airy but his eyes were steady behind the

“At least you like tobacco, Kyd.”
He added.


Kit could not afterward remember what
excuse he gave. He had, after all, years of mild words to absent
himself from here or there. There were years of things he had ducked,
escaped, avoided. . He left Kyd writing, twisting his pale hair in

Even in the beginning, before he went
to Rheims, Kit had had trouble sleeping. Francis Walsingham spoke of
'The state' and Kit had imagined it to be the crown itself, pushing
into him. In his dreams he felt it crushing him, as the Queen
watched, her black eyes deep in her white face.

In Rheims he had met Robin Poley. It
had helped, for a while. Poley did not look like an intelligence
agent. He did not look like anything. He was the sort of man to buy
you an ale, or two, or three. He made stupid jokes. His features were
plump, his hair receding, he was forgettable.

In Rheims Kit he had done all that they
asked. And in the last seven years he had lived like a fish, hiding
in the shallows, or fighting the hook. He still slept poorly; better
with another man in his bed, for that reason as well as the other.

It would be Poley he spoke with
tonight. There would be a new demand. He pictured Poley's bland
face. Maybe tonight he could say 'enough no more.'

So Kit walked the little distance to
the tavern. The heat of it was good against his shivering sides.
Underneath he was soft flesh and skin, no match for a knife. He felt
his own breath move against his shirt. He took his ale, and some
meat, greasy and hot. He climbed the stairs, without asking. No one
looked up.

A small room here, with a sagging
shabby bed. Kit took the joint stool facing the door. He ate as he
waited. He was hungry. There was a low fire on the hearth-- more
heat than light. It was enough for his needs. Lamps would be brought
if he needed to read.

The steps on the stairs came. A tread
he did not know, lighter by far than Poley, but not trying to be
silent. A trickle of fear in Kit's belly spread, cold and horrid.
His knife out now, to slip in his sweating hand. And him to the
shadow-most corner of the room. There was no back stairs-- the window
then, and a fall to the icy ground, if need be.

The door opened. Not Poley, but a face
he knew.


The man smiled. Kit had never seen his
smile before-- it was unpleasant. It did nothing to dilute his miasma
of hostile glee.

“Where is Robin Poley? What are you
doing here?”

“Walsingham sent me.”

“Tom sent you? What, what's wrong?”
Kit's mouth was dry.

“No, blockhead. Not Tom, Francis. “


“But you are young Tom's man of
business-- is that what you were going to say?” Frizer shook his

“I work for the old man,” He said.

Kit sat down slowly. This was a
different danger.

“Didn't know that-- did you?”

Kit shook his head, mute.

“Eyes everywhere.” Frizer pointed
at his own. His smile was a retraction of the lips, corpse-like. He
drew forth papers, a pen, and ink horn.

“Now. You were in Newgate. We have
the dates. What use did you make of that?”

“Use, none.”

“Come now,” Frizer said. “Surely
you can do better than that. What did you see? Who did you hear?”

Kit shook his head.

“I was not kept with others. I was

“You were moved after four days had
elapsed. You were held with Thomas Watson. What of him? Did you hear
him at prayer? What did he speak of with you.?”

“Nothing. We spoke little. He has
done nothing--”

“He is a murderer.”

“He has not yet had his trial.”

“Well, no matter. What about the man
who collected you-- you have moved into his rooms we see. A Mr Kyd?”

“Kyd has done nothing wrong.” Kit
felt his voice rising. He forced it down.

“Your bail was posted by Ned Allyn.”
Frizer's voice was a disinterested drone. “He was eager to have
you back, Marlowe, to increase his wealth by your immoral writings.
Still, despite his wealth, he did not have the gold to hand. He
borrowed money from a man well known to us-- a Mr Skerries. And Mr
Skerries came to us directly. This was only right.”

“Allyn is good for it. He has plenty
of money.”

“Aye no doubt. Brothels and bear

“I want out. I want no more of this.
Tell your master, I am done.”

“Hmm. Not so simple, really. Francis
Walsingham, my master, as you say, saved your ungrateful arse when
you were like to loose your place at Cambridge. A word in the right
ear, a letter from the Queen herself. You were permitted to finish
after all. And look at you-- a gentleman now.”

The flick of Frizer's eye was

“That was long ago. I have repaid--”

“I am sure you have. But there is
much work yet to be done. We must be vigilant, all of us. Anyone
might be an agent of Spain. We must watch London as closely as we
watch-- Canterbury.”


“You have younger sisters Mr Marlowe?
How merry you must all have been in that house together, with your
cobbling father. Your parents still live. You are a fortunate man .
And such good people. No one has ever accused them of anything-- Not

It was enough.

Kit bit down on the words that lined
his mouth. He held out his hand for his instructions.

Frizer handed them over and said little
more, he departed.

It was left only for Kit to read,
learn, burn. This as always.

And then home in the dark, with his
neck crawling.

Tom Kyd was abed, a dim shape in the
dark, snoring faintly. He muttered something as Kit climbed in, and
rolled away to deeper sleep. It took Kit a long time to do the same.


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 23rd, 2013 09:34 am (UTC)
you get the atmosphere absolutely right.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 03:58 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 12:14 pm (UTC)
Yes, this is exactly the kind of situation in which Kit would have made the 'tobacco and boys' remark. I liked the rest of it too. One little thing, wasn't he Robert Greene, not Thomas? I know practically everyone in those days was called Thomas!
Feb. 23rd, 2013 03:57 pm (UTC)
You are totally right, the Thomas sneaked in there because I was thinking about Thomas Nash. Do you know if I can still fix it, I am not sure I can edit now that comments have been made.

I always felt the tobacco and boys thing was a bit of bravado in Kit's part. He seems to me to have guarded his heart- by acting outrageous. I think he was sort of soft and squishy on the inside. I have grown to love him quite a lot.

And yes-- everyone who was not named Thomas was named Robert! (Were they just tired of John?)

************ I was able to fix it! Thank you so much for telling me...

Edited at 2013-02-23 04:18 pm (UTC)
Feb. 23rd, 2013 05:40 pm (UTC)
My pleasure! You're right that Kit was full of bravado, saying things just to shock people and totally careless of how dangerous it was. In fact, some of the things he said would shock people nowadays too, even in our permissive society! But he still made people love him, so there must have been more to him than just a big mouth.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 10:16 pm (UTC)
Yes, he is easy to love. I think he acted badly to try and get people to dislike him before he invested his heart. He did not want to be hurt.

And you are right, he would shock, even now. He would be frustrating, and brilliant, and annoying, and his friends would want equally to protect him, and to shake some sense into him!
Oct. 3rd, 2016 03:22 pm (UTC)
That sounds a little like snarky defensive Archie.
Oct. 3rd, 2016 10:37 pm (UTC)
They are not unrelated. I think they would have understood each other well.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 01:01 pm (UTC)
Feb. 23rd, 2013 09:20 pm (UTC)
why is it whenever i think of early tobacco use bob newhart's wonderful skit comes to mind?
Feb. 23rd, 2013 10:17 pm (UTC)
I know i have seen it, but not for a long time. Newhart is brilliant. I love him with Harvey Cormen and Carol Burnett.
Feb. 24th, 2013 12:40 am (UTC)
It's a great skit. Also from Flanders and Swann's 'Greensleeves' sketch: 'Kyd said: "Well, it's all very well for you, standing there, smoking that potato, telling people to write plays." ' Do you know that one?
Feb. 24th, 2013 01:41 am (UTC)
Charlie put me onto that one. I love it! Hilarious.
Feb. 24th, 2013 09:19 am (UTC)
i used to know most of Flanders and Swan skits by heart...then the dead parrot took over my brain!
Feb. 24th, 2013 01:20 am (UTC)
This was well worth the wait. I've been saving it, looking forward to the right moment to read it.

I love the way this begins so lightly and then the fear starts to build. You can feel Kit suffocating by the end. Do you think Kit ever knew Kyd's "foolish joy"? I feel bad for him. I think you're right that he used outrage as a shell, to keep people from getting to close. Perhaps Kyd is lucky he is not a gentleman, being a gentleman is clearly a dangerous business.

He had a face like a fox, but he walked wide, like a sailor.
Best description of Raleigh ever. End of.
Feb. 24th, 2013 02:13 am (UTC)
i have been waiting to hear what you thought! this one took a while, because I had to think about what would be a long enough lever on Kit.

Sometimes reading about the Elizabethans reminds me of the Mccarthyism days.

Ordinary people turned on their neighbors to protect themselves. There were a few sadists or fanatics at the top, and a sprinkling of people who believed in making money. Ugly times. My father was a newspaper editor. He and my mom knew a lot of people who got persecuted, blacklisted. Just being accused was enough to ruin a person.

Claustrophobic, indeed.

I am sure I would not stand up very well, if my kids and elderly parents were threatened. Most people probably don't.

Have you ever read or seen 'The Crucible' It is by Edward Albee. He is amazing. We did the Crucible at school because it is a local story, and it is about teenagers. (Sort of)

Albee wrote about the Salem Witch Trials. (Which were not really in Salem, but Danvers,) He was really talking about the Mccarthy hearings. As Shakespeare did, Albee made comment on the times by talking about the past.

(Sorry, I got a little sideways there.) I think you are right. Kit has not had a lot of foolish joy. At least, not lately.

It makes me angry that his life ended so early.
Feb. 24th, 2013 09:21 am (UTC)
the Crucible is by Miller not Albee....but you're right it was a brilliant commentary on the McCarthysim that Miller was a victim of.
Feb. 24th, 2013 03:09 pm (UTC)
Of course-- you are right. My brain is on Pluto this week. Thank you for telling me.

Was it Miller that was married to Marilyn Monroe?
Feb. 24th, 2013 04:22 pm (UTC)
Sometimes reading about the Elizabethans reminds me of the Mccarthyism days.
Yes when I was reading this it made me think of what you'd said about Elizabethan England effectively being a police state. We take so much freedom for granted now.

I am sure I would not stand up very well, if my kids and elderly parents were threatened. Most people probably don't.
You're absolutely right. It's so easy to criticise the actions of others and to believe that we would behave differently, but I doubt many of us would

We did the Crucible at school because it is a local story, and it is about teenagers.
The Crucible is taught in our schools too. My class didn't study it, but I've read it and seen a few productions. It's a very powerful play indeed.

I think you are right. Kit has not had a lot of foolish joy. At least, not lately.
I hope he will get to experience a little of that foolish joy before the end.
Oct. 3rd, 2016 03:25 pm (UTC)
This is getting more and more frightening - especially since I did my wikipediaing and know it will all end in doom. Even the two boys writing innocently in their room fills me with dread of the future incriminating paper that will be found there and blame-shifted around. Poor boys.
Oct. 3rd, 2016 10:40 pm (UTC)
Yes. 'waste paper we thought not of,' is how poor Kyd described it.

I am torn you know-- it feels disrespectful to change much. I have less of a free hand because they are real. But it is going to hurt to go with them to the end...
Oct. 4th, 2016 12:28 am (UTC)
Oh yes. Tragedy is coming. But that is what drew you in to them, isn't it?
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )