Title Old Friendship
Wods Count 1075
Kit rose up from the floor where he had
been crouching with Pup.
“Good to be back, I have work to do.
I have had some new thoughts for the---” Kit was already riffling
through his papers as he spoke. Some of them spilled to the floor.
He had a piece of Mistress Smith's bread in his hand. (She brought
it, on baking days, on a covered plate.) It was not the white
manchet of his patron's estate. But it was new, and good. He ate
rapidly, still speaking.
“And then he could rise to the
heavens, (we will have to get John to check the harness,) and I was
thinking a drum could...”
I listened, sharpening my pen. Some
poets write best when alone. I have tried this, it is not my way. I
seem to do best with another being nearby. Best if they do not talk
too much. But Kit's voice was welcome, I found. It wove in and out of
my thoughts, spicing them with his own. The scratch of his own pen,
and the smell of the ink was homelike to me from earliest memory and
So we worked along, he at one side and
I at the other, for hours. My clenched gut brought me back. The weak
winter sun had climbed the window.
“I'll fetch us some dinner.” I
“Wait, Tom. -- just a moment.”
He had drawn a small purse from his
dirty shirts bag, and upended it on the table. Here was a jumble of
scrap papers, used handkerchiefs, shriveled bits of apple, and coins.
Heavy golden coins, and many.
“Walsingham has paid me,” Kit said.
“Your patron is generous.” Well,
this was so, although Kit's words brought him soaring glory.
“Aye.” Kit said no more, but his
chin dipped a little. I felt that I had hurt him somehow.
He spilled the coins into my hand, well
more than I needed.
He said. “Here is for Mistress Smith,
if you see her,” He said. He gave me a brittle smile.
“What are the apples for?” He was
putting them back in his purse.
“Walsingham's horse, ” Kit said.
“Really, I need not keep them.” Still he put them back carefully.
I did not see Mistress Smith on my way
The noise of the street was pleasant to
me. This was not the city proper. It was nothing like the prosperous
street of my parents house. There I had walked every morning to
school with the day breaking, and my little satchel. I had passed the
church where my father assisted, and the goldsmiths, the treed
gardens, the places where men write facts with pens.
This was nothing like that. This was
the liberty, beyond the city. People here began the day late, as I
had done. Here was everything lawless, pungent, drippy, dangerous.
The tanneries were here, the shambles, the bear pits, the stews. And,
of course, the theaters.
I had brought a basket to bring the
food back in. Today was a fish day.
“Tom Kyd--” Here was a voice I
knew. I turned with a smile.
“Where are you going with that basket
Tom? I know you are not going to walk on by me today.”
Marcella is a friend of mine,
Sometimes more than a friend, although not just now. Just now she is
a widow. She is a big woman, near as tall as me. She is forthright
in her kindness. She has dimpled elbows. Her skin is the color of old
oak. Her parents came from Africa.
“Ah, but I had in mind oysters--” I
said. I was already smiling, she was too. We both knew she had my
“Oysters!” Marcella made a face.
“Oysters are shit. Come into my shop. You'll forget all about
The storefront was narrow. She had a
high perch where she sat to watch the street. Behind her, on a pole,
the gleaming fish for sale. Not much more-- she had a little pan of
coals to warm her feet. She had a piss-pot around the corner, back
out of sight.
I helped her down to the ground. Her
belly rounded between us-- a great ball. She pressed her hands to her
arching back, Her apron was tied high, clean, but old and soft.
“You are huge,” I said. My
embracing arms could not compass her. She had to lean in for my kiss.
“Aye,” her voice was wry. She
rested a hand on the apron bulge. “I had to put the 'prentices to
the scaling and gutting. I cannot get near enough the table.”
“Good for them to learn--”
“ Well, they are not good for much.”
Still her face softened. “But they are sweet boys.” She rose up
on her toes, stretching, wrinkling her nose with the effort.
“Sometimes I wish Richard back.”
“You complained at the time,” I
“Marriage leads to complaining.”
Marcella said. “He was not the best husband, but he knew his fish.
I miss him, Tom.”
She shook her head sharp, to send the
thought away. “He has been gone a year next week. Seems forever.”
And now I could see the lines by her
eyes, the blister on her palm. The midwife would push for a father's
name when the pains began. I was reasonably certain Marcella would
not name me. The timing was off. The fish shop was hers, and she
would remarry, in time. Until then she was working too hard.
She wrapped me several trout, fresh and
perfect. Mistress Smith would cook them in butter. And we would eat
them, with the bread of the morning.
I was leaving when Marcella called me
back. “Tom--” I turned in the doorway, her voice and face had no
“There has been a man asking for
you-- a Mr. Skerries. I sent him to the theater, it seemed best. I
did not like to send him to your rooms. He-- I didn't like him.”
So I kissed her again, in friendship. I
helped her back up onto her perch. I left her leaning her lovely
elbows and gazing out at the street.
I did not know anyone named Skerries.