Pretty much sums it up. Today was a crappy writing day. I pretty much hated just about everything I wrote, and every word on the paper felt like I was carving garbage out of granite. It was hard to write today. Nothing came easily, I was tired, and grumpy, and bummed out that my sentences were clunky, repetitive, and my words and descriptions elementary and boring. I guess some days are just like that.
But, in the interest of keeping my promises to myself, I am posting my crappy writing from today. Please feel free to give me suggestions on how to make it better. The good news is that its probably not hard to improve it, since there’s so much to fix!
by Anastasia Betts
By the time Ella reached the steps leading up to the front door, she was thoroughly drenched. Hair plastered to her face, mud and damp sticking her skirts and petticoats to her legs, sweat making her chemise and under garments chafe in the most uncomfortable ways. But she was her at last. An din one piece. She gratefully set her bag down on the portico, and rang the bell for assistance. No one came. She waited a period of time that she deemed acceptable, and then added an additional count of five, owing to the fact that her version of acceptable, and the worlds version of acceptable did not always agree — and then rang the bell again. She waited. And waited. But still no one came. She had raised her hand to ring the bell a third time when the door was pulled open to reveal a very stern looking woman. She was tall and slender, and had the look of a beauty faded by time or circumstance. Her had was perfectly coiffed albeit in a style quite austere, pulled severely back from her face, which was all hard angles and edges. Gaunt was the word that came to mind. Don’t they feed people here, Ella thought?
“Umm, hello. I am Eleanor Whitby and I was sent ov-“
“I know who you are, and that’s a nit wit. How dare you think to enter this house, dressed like that? Why you’d have mud all over Mr. Poe’s floors.”
“Oh, quite right. I”m very sorry but I wasn’t s-“
“You’ll need to walk around back.”
“-ure where I sh-“
“There’s an entry for servants, you know.”
“-ould go.” Ella finished lamely.
The woman made no introduction or offer of help.
“Off with you then. Around the house, in back I said.”
And with that the door was promptly and most decidedly shut in Ella’s face. She was liking the place less and less by the minute, not that she had liked it all at any point, but she had been hopeful — hopeful that it would be at least a friendly and congenial place to work, full of people with whom she could make acquaintance and connection. She began to think that hope may have been in vain. With the door shut and no other option, Ella once more picked up her bag, and began to hobble and tote herself around the house to the back where the coveted servants’ port of entry was to be found.
The house was big. Much bigger than was perceptible from the road. Her trip around its perimeter told her that much. At least the ground here was a bit firmer and prevented her boots from sinking in, gathering more mud on her hem. Oh will this walk never end! Ella said to herself, exasperated. Her experience of this evening had called to mind a story she had once heard, where a man was made to walk on and on as a form of punishment. He was made to walk without ceasing until at last, in a state of utter exhausted, he collapsed and died. She didn’t know if this were possible, death by walking. Nothing in her medical training provided her any evidence to the contrary. She began to laugh at the irony of it – to have survived drowning only to die walking.
No sooner had she these thoughts that she had arrived upon her desired destination, the servants’ door. Or at least, she presumed so since she was now at the rear of the house and this was the only door on the bottom-most floor. The doors upon the portico were likely for the residents, and not for the help. She knocked lightly and the door swiftly opened. Her friend Ms. Severity greeted her about as warmly as an icicle greets a cold winter morning.
“Well don’t just stand there like a ninny, come in,” the woman barked.
Ella wasn’t about to argue. The temperature outside had dropped considerably just in the time Ella had walked from the front to the back of the house. She stepped in from the cold, bag dragging behind her, to find herself into what knew to be aptly called a “mud room.” It was dark and cramped, with overcoats and boots piled up around the perimeter.
“Take your shoes off your shoes and put them there,” she pointed harshly to the floor. “You can take off the rest of it in there,” she pointed to a small door that must have led to a closet.
“You mean for me to take off my clothes?” Ella asked, astonished.
“Just the one’s with mud on them.”
“But all of them have mud on them!” Ella replied.
“Well then I guess you’ll have to take them all off,” the woman said shoving Ella more forcefully than was necessary into the small dressing room behind her.
“You can’t be serious,” Ella exclaimed, stumbling backwards into the much smaller room. The woman slammed the door and said, “Master Poe insists on a clean house, and I’ll not let a gutter snipe such as you be the cause of trouble in this household. Now hand me your filthy garments or you’ll be walking up to your room as naked as the day you were born.”
Ella couldn’t believe this was happening, but she didn’t doubt the seriousness of the woman’s threat. She began to unbutton, untie, unfasten her garments with a haste and efficiency she’d hardly known possible. The closet was small to be sure, but at least there was a pitcher and basin on a small side table. She use the water and wash cloth to vigorously scrub the mud from various parts of her body, her face, her hair. There really wasn’t a spot on her face, arms, or lower legs that hadn’t been tarnished.
The door opened abruptly on Ella standing only in her chemise, which was mud free thank goodness. The woman snatched Ella’s soiled garments and in turn thrust another stack of clothes at her, then disappeared with a slamming of the door just as quickly as she had appeared. Ella looked at the grey woolen garments in her hands. They were woolen and very itchy, but at least they were clean and no doubt warm. Despite the manner in which they had been provided, she found herself feeling grateful for them.
“Hurry up, girl!” she heard the woman snap. “Don’t dawdle!”
The door flew open again just as Ella had finished fastening the last button.
“Well, I don’t know how fit you are, but at least you’re clean,” the woman pronounced, turning to exit into the adjoining room, which Ella presumed was the kitchen from the look of it.
Now that she had been deemed acceptable, Ella picked up her bag and attempted to follow the woman.
“No.” Came the automatic and stern reply.
Ella had no idea what the problem was. She was clean. She had left her offending clothes and shoes behind in the room. The woman motioned to the muddy bag in Ella’s hand.
“Oh, but all my things are in there,” Ella said.
“You’ll get your things later,” She said. “For now, leave that filthy thing in the mud room.”
Ella dutifully, if not somewhat reluctantly, returned her bag to the mud room.
“I’m sorry, I don’t even know your name,” Ella began, hoping for an introduction. “My name is Ella Whitby-“
“You may call me Ms. Beaufort, Master Poe’s head of household,” the woman said.
“Head of household? You mean like a housekeep-“
“Head of Household.” Ms. Beaufort said with air of finality. The subject brooked no more conversation.
“Yes, I understand. Head of Household,” Ella said, trying to keep the peace.
“And as Head of Household,” Ms. Beaufort continued, “It is my responsibility to ensure that the household is run according to Master Poe’s very exceptional, very singular standards.”
Ella had never heard of a head of household as a position in the house before. Perhaps this title was one of Poe’s peculiarities? She wasn’t sure.
“We’ve been expecting you all day, but I’m sure no one expected you to be so rude as to arrive after sundown.” Ms. Beaufort said, scolding.
“It’s too late tonight to get into particulars,” the woman began, “So, I’ll show you to your room, and then we will discuss your placement here in the morning.”
“Yes, thank you.” Ella said, grateful to hear that she would soon be in her room resting.
“Yes…?” Ms. Beaufort challenged.
“Uh, yes ma’am?” Ella replied, remembering her manners.