Door – a pretty picture for this week’s #writephoto prompt from KL Caley at New2writing.com. It gave me a very simple idea, but far too simple, really.
I did another book stall at a craft fair on Saturday. It went really well, by far the best one I’ve done to date. I was very grateful to meet my new readers, too, including those who bought all my stock of the Perihelix! Also I’m delighted that Dylan, Deirdre and Dougall will be gracing the bookshelves of the year of 8&9 year-olds at Halterworth School.
But it’s the comments from people that don’t buy who really drive the writing. “How on earth do you think of all this?” and “What goes on in your imagination?” being the commonest exclamations. I think this story really says it all. I had a very small idea for the story. The rest was in the writing of it. (500 words)
The Door in the Wall
“There are far too many rats in this compound!”
A regular cry from the townsfolk, but never before expressed by the king.
“Call the town warden!”
He stood, cap in hand, eyes down, trying not to mumble. “We’ve carried out several ‘seek and destroy’ missions, Your Majesty, but they just come in from the fields to fill the spaces.”
“Well, stop them coming in from the fields, then. Build a fence!”
Several versions of fences led to the deforestation of the nearest woodland. More fields to sow, but more rats.
“Build a wall!” the king ordered.
The fences deconstructed, a beautiful wall slowly took shape around the town. Neatly fitted cobbles set into stone facings. Brick pillars up and down, extra layers of cobbles at the base. After the first rainstorm, some cobbles were removed to allow for drainage. Iron grills prevented the rats using them.
“Your Majesty, the people are starving!”
“Why are the people starving? The rats haven’t eaten the grain, have they?”
“No, my lord. There seems to be a design fault.”
The town warden hesitated, but led the king, queen, several daughters, and a host of the palace retinue on a tour of the town.
“I see no design fault.” The king plumped himself on a bench outside the Welcome Inn; the barkeeper plied him and the family with ale.
“Beg pardon, my lord, but the townsfolk can’t get out and tend the fields.”
“There is no door!”
The king spluttered over his ale, and waved away the barkeeper who tried ineffectually to mop him up. The king’s butler removed the wet jacket and helped the king clothe himself with another.
“Well, what nincompoop made a wall with no door?”
The town warden looked at the retinue, who looked at each other, or up at the eaves of the inn, or out of the window at the dungheap.
Seeing that no answer would be forthcoming, the king sighed. “Make a door in the wall. Make it ratproof but people-friendly.”
Such a simple demand, but one that gave the designers of the town several headaches. How could something that easily opened and shut to allow the good people to pass through to go about their business, be made secure against the slippery, squidgy, fast, athletic—and hungry—rats?
Eventually a design was agreed on. A simple wooden door that butted up against an iron seal, so the rats could not squeeze under, or gnaw the edges to make holes. The seal effectively made a four inch barrier over which the townsfolk could easily step when they went out in the fields to collect vegetables and sow new crops.
Until the king went out to inspect them, and the queen, following him, tripped over, twisting her ankle in the process.
“Get rid of the trip hazard!” It was a clear order from the king, and it was done.
Two days later there were rats back inside the town.
© J M Pett 2022
The idea was prompted simply by the small hole at the bottom right corner of the door in the picture.