Months of hard work and liaising with over 60 artists and writers in the ‘Assemblance of Judicious Heretics’ project has paid off – as the exhibition I co-curate with Barry is now up in Rochester Library, Kent, and we held a fantastically well-attended (70+ audience) launch event on 20 October 2016, where some of the writers read their poems and stories. A musical interlude was provided by Didi Bergman and Rew Oates who had set lyrics from Shakespeare’s plays to music.
This year’s theme is Shakespeare. The word limit was 500 words so that we could display the art alongside the words for the first time. My story was inspired by a quote by George Bernard Shaw “Hamlet’s experience simply could not have happened to a plumber.” Well, actually, I think it could… so here is my version of Hamlet 2016.
Waiting for the spectre of my old man… Hamlet 2016
Three months since we put him in the ground, I’ve quit my philosophy degree to take over the family business. Uncle Claude would have sold it. The town council is all he bothers with… and my mother, she interests him muchly.
Here on the roof, the stars are bright; clear and frosty. I wish I’d paid more attention the times Dad brought me up here to look at the stars, hefting the heavy telescope through the dormer. He could name all the constellations.
“Whatever you might be when you grow up, boy, even just a plumber, don’t think you can’t experience the bigger things in life just as powerfully as anybody else.”
My mum shacked up with my uncle almost as soon as she was out of widow’s weeds – can’t say I’m happy about that, but I can’t say anything to her, so I’ll bide my time and wait till Claude slips up. Which he will; the cream faced loon.
I can’t believe she did it: Claude always had his eye on her. When she was younger, my mother was the woman they all wanted to be with, but it was Dad, a lowly apprentice at her Pa’s plumbing, heating and engineering firm that she finally chose. Claude, his older brother, had higher aspirations; Politics at university. Maybe the two brothers were always both in love with flirty Gerty. Maybe they tossed a coin for her like in a cheap story.
So my when my mate, Marc, called me up and said he’d seen my dad floating in the air above our house, I told him to do one! He swore he wasn’t pulling my plonker, so now here we are, me and Marc, freezing cold, looking at the stars. It would be romantic, if he were a girl, or if I was gay. But he’s not and I’m not, so we are just shivering, waiting for the spectre of my old man. He passes me his hipflask.
I think how nice it would be if Philly was up here, not him. Ophelia O’Hallorahan, the girl I have been in love with from age six. Philly didn’t want to go to university like me, didn’t do very well in her A-levels, so she stayed, working in the local where we supped our first pint aged 14.
Then, oh my God, angels and ministers of grace defend us! It’s my father. Floating above the eaves, see-through, eyes burning with hatred and anger. I push my friend aside, I climb out onto the tiles. Marc screams at me ‘You shall not go’, but I am already face-to-face with this shade. The eyes recognise me and no longer rage and broil, but look sad, insubstantial. Lonely.
I ask it ‘why’? Its response, and what it bids me to do, chills me more than the cold night air: “I am thy father’s spirit. If thou didst ever thy dear father love, revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.”
I will bide my time and do as it asks…
(© Sam Hall, 2016)
All the rest of the text entries in the exhibition can be read online in the new Wordsmithery magazine: Confluence.