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"The Descent of Chloe Jackson" is a set of connected short stories, picking out moments in the lives of an extended family over the course of the 20th Century. This is Susie's chapter. It will become apparent shortly that Susie and her family are down from London to pick the hops...



Chapter 4

Susannah Morris

Harnham, Kent, England

Friday 30th September 1904


There was one thing Susie wasn’t going to miss; her fingers and thumbs were all blotchy, yellow and black. Liddy said you’d never get rid of it. Susie tried again in the cold water from the standpipe, but she didn’t have no soap, and the stain didn’t budge.

She filled the kettle, and trudged back to the hut. The whole camp was awake; small fires burning outside all the huts, families having breakfast. Aunt Sal had their fire going already, and Alice was breaking eggs into the pan. Jessie sat by the hut door, combing out her hair before tying it up again; it was almost black, and straight as anything. Not like Susie’s. The kids were up, poking in the mud with twigs; Wilf and Sid finding creepie-crawlies to scare little Flo. Susie put the kettle on the fire. One of the forked sticks was wobbly, so she pushed it in a bit.

Mummy normally had the bread cut already, but yesterday’s loaf was just sitting on the little table. ‘Where’s Mummy?’

Aunt Sal smiled funny, like when she had one of her good stories to tell. There were always good stories, especially at the weekends when the dads came down and they all got boozed up. Mummy never said nothing, but Aunt Sal always told stories.

Alice and Jessie both stopped what they were doing, and smiled funny, just like their mum. There was definitely a good story coming, probably about Mummy. Like the one when she climbed on a table and sang “God Save the King”, or when she fell on her arse, pissing in the hedge on the way home. She probably had one of her headaches. ‘Is she still in bed?’

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