Castlekeep Writing

THE COIN AT DOG LEAP STAIRS

The coin was found by Pup in the dark. He nipped it up in his fist and stared at the little black spot. As if it had been carved out of the night sky. Pup wondered how it became like that and how it had found its place upon Dog Leap Stairs.

It looked up at him like a little black eye. He liked the feel of it, all powdery with soot. Rolling it on its edge, it trailed darkness and he strained his eyes in the streetlight to see the line it spun and how it intersected with the creases on his palm.

He had only come home because he was spent up. But now he found the coin he could go back to the Three Bull Head to drink some more. He was not needed tonight. The young ones were at Mrs Dee’s so he wouldn’t have to feed and bed them. But going home meant hearing Ma and Da claw at each other. The midnight cannon had not yet been fired so it most likely wouldn’t be over.

He decided he couldn’t keep the coin. Thinking about it formed his own little black spot inside his gut. Though he couldn’t think why. He had a way with things like that. He had heard the trains long before they were built . Just a child, buttoned up with sleep, he heard them behind the rain. They  wailed softly till they were under the bridge that crossed Black Gate. The houses quivered as it slowed and stopped as if to smell and taste the sleeping creatures. Then when its curiosity was satisfied it would rattle away. It would be years before Pup learnt what the sound meant.

His foot met the step as he made his way up to their rooms on the seventh floor. He was ready to hear the noise grow wider as he ascended, but as he met the curve of a new flight, no sound was heard. As he reached the Seventh floor his woozy head was thankful for the level ground.

The door was open and the lock broke. Toes coiled in his boots, he pushed the door into the quiet and immediately grew happy to see Ma asleep in the chair. In a stupor with drink. Da must’ve been in bed.  A crow-bar lay on the table. Must have locked themselves out again. The fire was out but the moon lit the room well enough for him to understand the shape of things. Stumbling and falling into a seat, his head began to writhe and whisper with drink.

His bones were iced up but he remained restless. Pup wanted it. It still lay out side resting on the stair.

Pup fetched the coin.

And he returned to the room triumphant. So that he didn’t notice the lit fire. So that he didn’t hear Da sobbing next door. So that he didn’t notice the softly lit expression on Ma’s still white face.

‘Son?’ Da called.

Before going to fetch Mrs Dees and the officer Pup placed the coin in Ma’s hand and closed it with difficulty.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After graduating from Newcastle University with a BA in English Literature Holly Douglas is carrying out a Masters in Creative Writing. She has an interest in British folklore , fairy tales and children’s stories and his currently writing a novel exploring the mythology of fairies. She has recently won the Great North Museum’s short story competition for her original fairy tale ‘Foundling’.