Unsafe Containers – Schoolroom vignette

The DP prompted me to make a little more progress on my novel The Streetsweeper of Between: here is a little developmental extract that will slot in somewhere:


“It is highly acidic, don’t spill a drop.”

Cecilia’s arms were aching, and the heat of the glass bowl was making her hands go red. She was standing on one foot on top of a pile of books, holding the bowl at arm’s length and trying to balance. It wasn’t, she reflected, the most unusual of Miss Bridges’ lessons.

Her governess was holding a candle underneath the bowl, keeping the fluid inside it warm. The bottom was slowly turning black with soot. The slight quiver from Cecilia’s arms made the surface of the supposed acid ripple, although Cecilia doubted Miss Bridges would take such a risk.

“How long do I have to hold this?” Cecilia asked through clenched teeth. She had been at this for almost five minutes and her strength was draining rapidly.

“That’s up to you.” Sometimes Miss Bridges had an annoying way of not actually answering a question, but Cecilia had learned that it meant the wrong question had been asked.

“What are my options?” she tried.

Miss Bridges smiled as Cecilia risked a glance her way. The little flash of approval steadied her on the pile of books for a few moments more.

“You have four. You could drop it.”

“That would damage the school room floor.” Cecilia shot back.

“Very well, then you could drink it down.”

“It is acid I would die.”

“You could ask for help so you could let it go.”

Cecilia paused. She knew her governess’ methods. “Why would someone help me?” Miss Bridges smiled again, “Let’s come back to that one. It’s too late for your final option. You could avoid letting the bowl fill up in the first place.”

With a sigh Cecilia stepped down from the pile of books and placed the bowl on her desk, the fluid inside flowed back and forth with the movement, almost, but not quite spilling over. “So this is one of your allegorical lessons.” Miss Bridges nodded, blowing out the candle and picking off the little bits of wax that had dripped onto her fingers. Cecilia sat down on the pile of books, and rubbed her aching arms. “The best solution is to avoid the liquid building up, which means there is a choice. Once it has built up the best way to let go of it is to find someone to help. I could let it go, or drink it down, but there are consequences to each. And I couldn’t hold on to it because eventually I would tire.”

“A reasonable summary.”

“Could I stop the fluid dripping, so it didn’t need to be caught?” Cecilia asked.

“Possibly, but for most people that would be unnatural.”

Cecilia supressed her own smile, it was unusual for Miss Bridges to give away a clue like that, but there was no reason to let on that she had picked up on it. “Anger.” She said, looking up at Miss Bridges.

“Go on.”

“It is natural to feel anger, but the trick is not the let it build up. Once it has accumulated the best thing to do is get help, discuss it, resolve it. If you let it all go you hurt those around you, if you take it all in yourself, you hurt yourself.”

“Very good,” Miss Bridges picked up a little square of paper and dropped it in the bowl. It turned yellow and began to dissolve. “Now one more lesson for today: next time I tell you that you are holding a pan of acid please be a little more careful where you put it.”


If you are interested in my storytelling look here


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