Framed Canal Prints
By Bridget Scrannage
Suzette sketched the monochrome lock gates, then the terracotta brick paths that ran in quarter circles beneath them. Her fair, freckled skin reddened in the hot sun, exposed shoulders showing white lines beneath a strapless top, blonde hair flowing in cornrows down her back. She glanced up from her barge every so often at the dog walkers and families who traversed the tow path, looking for suitable figures to draw.
‘Is that called the stern, or the aft?’ A young, male voice broke her reverie. A canal nerd. Suzette sighed. The warm weather always brought them out with their plethora of inane questions.
‘Neither. It’s the pointy end. I don’t do technical terms. Go bother somebody else,’ she said.
‘What’s that for?’ he persisted.
‘What’s what for?’ Growing irritated, she shielded her eyes to look up at him. He was around 15 years old, with dark hair and an inquisitive face. He pointed at a rusty L-shaped piece of white painted metal that lay on the floor beside her.
‘It’s my favourite murder weapon for people who ask too many nosy questions,’ she replied.
‘Oh come on, tell me what it is, please?’
‘It’s a key for the canal locks,’ she gestured towards some black and white gates further up the stretch of water. ‘It has holes one end that you fit over a sticky out bit that’s attached to a mechanism thingy. Wind it around like a mangle handle. Flaps open and let water in. Once both parts are level you can go through. Happy now? Will you shut up and let me get back to my artwork?’
‘What’s a mangle handle?’
‘Can I have a look around?’
‘No, you can’t. It’s my home, not a tourist attraction.’
‘You live on it?’
‘No, I use it as a very slow getaway vehicle,’ Suzette sighed. ‘Yes, I live on it, year round.’
‘Do you need any help?’
Suzette considered for a moment. ‘Actually, I could do with moving along a bit further. You’re not coming onto the barge, but you can run ahead opening the locks whilst I drive through if you like.’
‘I’ll get my new key, not that rusty old thing,’ Suzette said, ducking inside the cabin, where she pulled on a pair of gloves, took the key out of its plastic wrapper and placed it into a cloth bag. Then she returned onto the deck and handed it up to him. ‘Be sure to put it into the bag before giving it back.’
Suzette smiled as he ran off along the tow path. His fingerprints would be all over the metal bar, but not hers. She’d let some more canal nerds open gates and add their prints too. When she did use it as a murder weapon they’d never trace it back to her.
Bridget Scrannage lives near Bath with her husband. She’s founder of a writing community with more than 150 members, bridgetscrannage.wordpress.com
Our Reader said:
A powerfully written story that reveals just enough. There are a lot of unanswered questions at the end but that just makes it better.