Extract from Thomas the Rhymer
Chapter 6: Yesterday upon the Stair
Reaching the park Jack began to feel nervous in case the beautiful lady appeared, or worse, the tramp. Sensing his discomfort, Catherine was sympathetic, “Jack, we do not have to go this way.”
“What do you mean?” he asked defensively.
“Nobody would go all the way to Smithdown Road unless there was good reason. Sometimes they call me names. Once or twice they chased me. I know where they hang around now and avoid them.”
“It’s nothing like that!” he protested.
When she looked unconvinced, Jack kept his mouth shut. Not feeling up to persuading her otherwise, he let her take him through the park. It was not long before he heard some shouting, and wondering what it was all about looked back before she could stop him. Recognising a gang of older lads from school, he realised they were probably the very ones Catherine meant.
“It’s that weird kid an’ look who’s with him. What a pair!” he heard one loudly say, and felt his face burn red.
“Hey, come here!” shouted one of the gang.
“Ignore them,” Catherine advised.
She took Jack’s arm and he allowed himself to be pulled away. They got no more than five meters before they heard the older boys roar.
“They’re chasing us!”
She grabbed his hand. “Run!”
As they ran, Jack looked around in despair. They were in the middle of the park, there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. They were heading straight for the hill where Dan vanished. It loomed closer with each step, rising like a mountain. The next thing Jack knew he went sprawling, almost pulling Catherine with him.
Jack wondered if he tripped by accident or deliberately; anything to avoid the hill. But he didn’t dwell on it. Having almost been knocked senseless, it was all he could do not to black out.
Catherine helped him to his feet, holding him steady him as the gang closed in.
“Go on!” he rasped to her. It’s me they want!”
Catherine was not going anywhere. Bravely she stood by Jack as the bullies descended. He felt such a coward. If anything happened to her, he would never forgive himself.
“Oh I’m mad now!” wheezed a big lad, dragging on a cigarette. “So what was it ya saw yesterday then? Yer brother’s ghost? What was that rhyme, Mickey?”
Mickey smirked. He was smaller than the others, and younger. “Yesterday upon the stairs I met the man who wasn’t there.”
“Is that what ya saw then? The man who wasn’t there?” the big lad persisted, mocking Jack.
Jack, trying to get his breath back, didn’t say anything; mainly because he couldn’t.
“Are ya deaf?” the big lad demanded.
“He wasn’t there again today, I wish that man would go away,” sneered Mickey.
“Shut yer hole Mickey!” barked another big lad, taking the cigarette off the first.
Mickey looked crushed. To make himself feel better, he scowled at Jack, “I could give you a right good pasting.”
“I always believe people who bully are inadequate,” Catherine stated bluntly.
She sounded calm and very adult, but under the circumstances, Jack did not think it was the best thing to say. If the gang were messing before, he reckoned they would really mean it now.
The leader jerked his cigarette at Catherine. “Piss off, you!”
Mickey tried to push her away, but Catherine was immoveable. She knew she was right and there were principles at stake.
“You talk big,” she began.
“Catherine, go home,” Jack gasped, between clenched teeth. “You’re making it worse.”
“Too bloody right she is. She wants to get out of here before I make her,” jeered Mickey.
“You and whose army?”
“She’s got a right mouth on ‘er! Is she yer girlfriend?” the leader asked.
“No, I don’t even like her! She sits next to me in class. Go on you, get lost,” Jack yelled desperately.
Things were turning nasty and would get a lot nastier before it was over. All Jack wanted was to get Catherine out of the way and hope they did not knock him around too bad. He racked his brains for something funny to say, knowing it is harder to hit someone who makes you laugh.
The Bullies by Dona Zawadzka
You can read about how Dona and I started working together in the Birch Maiden on Sally Cronin’s Fantastic Blog Smorgasboard Variety is the Spice of Life. Click here & the link is repeated below.
The Bullies was the fourth and last drawing Dona did for Thomas the Rhymer.
How can you not love a artist who brings your characters so deliciously to life?
She made Jack look like a young Justin Bieber. This means if the movie ever gets made….(God willing! Who am I kidding I’d settle for a dozen readers!) then schoolgirls will be at the premier screaming for Jack Hughes. The very thought warms my heart… I can hear the cash registers ringing from here!
Even more than handsome Jack, I love Catherine. The look of haughty disdain Dona gave her is everything I imagined and more. When writing Catherine I kept thinking of an old British TV commercial starring a precocious youngster who proudly told us,’Mummy says when I grow up, I’m going to be a right little madam!’
Catherine is tough but vulnerable, yet never fragile. She knows she is prickly and is prepared to live with the consequences. But, when two friends unexpectedly come along she immediately treats them like the brothers she never had. Catherine is the antithesis of the Bullies.
And what a delight they are; smoking their thuggish little heads off and one playing with a yoyo… wish I’d thought of that. As kids we all knew tough nuts, and were probably terrified of them. I know I was! Looking back we see it was because they had terrible homes. They were scared and put up a front. I often wonder what happened to our childhood bullies. I hope life turned out for them and they learned to drop their guard and let people in. Just like Catherine does in the book.
I am forever in Dona’s debt for the work she did for Thomas the Rhymer.
I always treasure her friendship.
This post celebrates the work of Donata Zawadzka.
6 years ago, after falling in love with her work on the internet, I cheekily asked Dona if she would mind doing some illustrations for Thomas the Rhymer. She agreed, but only if she liked the book. Fortunately for me she did!
Although she has many styles I fell in love with her delicate black and white line drawings reminiscent of the classic Victorian illustrators such as Charles Snickett, Walter Crane and of course the great Arthur Rackham.
Please check out her website http://dezawadzka.wix.com/donatasgallery
Like Dona on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/donataewa.zawadzka?fref=ts
Follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/DonataEZawadzka
Read the Birch Maiden on Sally Cronin’s must read blog for writers and readers alike!
Another fantastic illustration by Dona telling an old Scottish folk tale.
See the full illustration here….
The Birch Maiden:
Find Dona’s first illustration The Old Woman and Dan here
2nd illustration Happy Thoughts here
3rd illustration Still a Nightmare here
Follow the Story of Thomas the Rhymer on the lavishly illustrated website
Download a free e-book of the full novel: