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Mark M Lichterman

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Books by Mark M Lichterman
The ClimbingBoy11: Bit'a'Luck
By Mark M Lichterman
Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2011
Last edited: Thursday, August 16, 2012
This short story is rated "G" by the Author.
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Climbing Boy11:Bit’a’Luck 

London, England

December 24, 1843


Having no idea where Johnson had gone, Zachariah had

no idea from what direction he’d return, so, as walking

helped to keep him warm, he walked to the corner again,

then back, past the lady’s staircase to the far corner, then

back again.­


 As the sky grew darker, the air became colder, and on

the boy walked, from one corner to the other.


So tempted to invite him in again, but unwilling to put

Zachariah or herself through the emotion of another

goodbye, or what she might say to Johnson when… whenever

he returned, “Where is that stupid, drunken man?” the lady

said aloud from her observation point behind the drapes of

the second floor bedroom window where she’d been

watching Zachariah as he’d waited for Johnson, first sitting

patiently on the front steps, then impatiently pacing to the

corner and back.


A carriage turned the corner onto Broad Street.

The passengers, a man and woman dressed in garishly

expensive clothing, were sitting huddled closely together.

The man, his face under the woman’s chin, was nibbling on

her neck. His left hand, on her chest, was fondling the weight

of an overly stuffed bodice, while in his right hand he held

an all but empty flask of brandy.


Giggling, “Aye, Elmo, that tickles.” The woman belched

into the man’s hairy ear. “Stop now, ya bad boy.” Looking

past his head, out of the window, “Eiii! Driver!”


Disentangling one of her arms, banging on the carriage roof,

“Stop ‘ere!”


Turning on the spring seat, looking at the frantic woman

through the carriage’s small, oval shaped window, “Whoa!”

the driver jerked sharply on the reins. “Whoa!”


In an effort to comply with the driver’s sudden command,

the two well-trained horses pulled to the side of the

cobblestone road even as they struggled against the forward



“Stop, driver! Stop!”


Pulling back on the breaking lever, sparks flew from under

all four iron-shod wheels and eight iron-hoofed legs.

Within the carriage, the suddenly halted forward

momentum caused the man and woman to slide off the seat,

onto the floor into a tanglement of arms, legs and

hooped skirts.


“What the bloody ‘ell!” the man shouted. “Else, why the

‘ell’d ya do that?”


On the start of a return trip to the corner, Zachariah had

hardly noticed the carriage as it rounded the corner. Now,

stopping dead in his tracks, he watched as the carriage

careened towards him, grated against the gutter and—its

wheels spewing a shower of sparks on the cobblestone

street—slid to an abrupt halt fifteen feet in front of

him, and…


Else pulled herself from beneath the man atop her and,

with her hat askew, shoving the door open, vaulted out of

the carriage onto the street.


…The carriage door sprung open as a disheveled woman

wearing a vividly colored, wide hooped, silken dress and a

cockeyed, albeit matching, hat hurdled herself onto the street

and barreled towards him, and…


His mouth dropping open, “Lordy!” he said. “What’d I

do?” as, panicking, glancing over his shoulder he hoped that,

maybe, it wasn’t him but someone behind him she was

after… but it wasn’t!


Bounding into him, almost knocking the boy off his feet,

grabbing him, Zachariah winced as the woman, “Elmo!”

shouted into his ear, “Elmo! I got me one!” The boy tried to

break from her grasp, but, hanging onto him, “I got me one!”


“Yeah, Else, I sees.” Stepping from the carriage, onto the

street, tottering, Elmo saw his friend hanging onto a boy.

“What the bloody ‘ell’s gotten into ya? What the ‘ell ya

shoutin’ ‘bout? Who the ‘ell’s this?”


“A sweep, ya bloody id’jut!” Holding Zachariah at arm’s

length, showing him, “Can’t ya see?” And, as though the boy

were a toy doll, lifting him off his feet, Elsa turned him

towards Elmo. “I tol’j’ya I be wantin’ to be touchin’ a sweep

afore the New Year! Ya know’s, Elmo, for good luck an’ such.”

Almost taking the wind from him, hugging him, she squeezed

the boy against her chest.


“Else!” Trying, unsuccessfully, to separate the two by

pulling their bodies apart, Elmo looked at the boy, then his

hand. “Leave the lad be for Christ’s sake!” he said as, taking

a handkerchief from his pocket, Elmo wiped soot from both

hands. “Else, you’ll be stranglin’ the lad! An’ I ‘ears it ain’t

no good luck a’tall to be killin’ a sweep.”


Standing behind her, much to Zachariah’s relief, Elmo

was able to pry Else’s fingers from around his back.


“Aye, ain’t ‘e a pretty one I found Elmo? Just look’a them

eyes!” Twisting out of Elmo’s hands, hugging Zachariah

again, she kissed him full on the mouth.


Thinking she smelled like Johnson after he’d been

drinking, though he’d never been quite this close to Johnson

after he’d been drinking, unable to hold back, “Yaght!”


Shrugging his shoulders, going back to the carriage,

standing on the rung, “Else,” Elmo said, “best get your arse

back ‘ere. We ain’t got all day, ya know!”


“Be with ya in a flash, Elmo. ‘old ya water!” Reaching

into the bag hanging from the crook of her arm, rummaging

a moment, “‘ere ya be, lad,” pressing a coin into his hand.

“I just know’s ya be bringing’ me some bit’a good luck. Good

Christmas to ya, boy!”


“Uh… thank ya, Mum.” Zachariah replied. “Ya be ‘avin’

a good Christmas, too.”


Winking at him, her dangling hat held onto one fallen

curl by a hatpin, Else rushed back to the carriage.


“Aye, Driver!” Elmo pounded on the roof.


“Giddyap!” With a slapping of the reins, the carriage

pulled away from the curb.


“Well, Else, ain’t ya the sight!”


“Me, Elmo? Sure, me ‘at’s a bit off, an’ me ‘air’s a bit

messed, but I’ll ‘ave ‘er fixed in a jiffy.” Looking in the mirror

affixed to the front partition, “Yeek!” Elsa shrieked because

her forehead, nose, mouth, and chin, and her scarf, dress,

and jacket were coated with soot. “Lord’a’mighty!” Taking

a handkerchief from her bag, moistening a corner with the

tip of her tongue, she absolutely ineffectively dabbed at

her nose.


“Else, I don’t think that’s gonna to be a ‘elp to ya. Yeah,

Else, this sure be ya lucky day!”


Watching the carriage until it was out of sight, Zachariah

then looked at the coin that had been forced into his hand:

the same as the coins given to him by the lady in the house

for the sweep.


Wanting to be sure this coin went into the proper pocket,

putting his hand under the long-coat, feeling the bulk of the

large silver coin, hearing the “clink” of the coins, he dropped

it into his right side pocket. A thought occurring to him,

stretching his index finger into the breast pocket of the coat,

relieved it hadn’t been crushed in Else’s grip, scratching its

head, “Mousy, ya sure brought me a bit’a luck today,” he

said out loud, then again looked about to be sure that no

one had heard him.


“Zachariah! Aye, Zachariah!” Having rounded the corner,

weaving drunkenly towards him, “Com’on boy!” Looking at

him sternly, slapping him on the back of his head as though

the boy were the reason for his tardiness, “We ain’t got all

day, ya know!” Johnson said. “We’s got one more job to do,

ya know! Ol’ ‘obbins, ya know!” Coughing, spitting bloody

phlegm onto the street, holding his hand forward, “Ya gots

me money?” Johnson demanded.


Reaching into his left pocket, “The lady, she paid a bit

more’n necessary,” the boy said as he fished within its depth

a moment, found, removed, and dropped the three coins

into Johnson’s waiting hand.


Glancing at the coins, somehow taking the overpayment

as his due, Johnson dropped the three coins into his

trouser pocket.


Turning, going back to the steps, Zachariah hoisted the

unequal bulk of the equipment around his shoulders and

into his arms.


From the window above, watching until the man and

boy were out of sight, sighing, “May the Lord Jesus be with

you, my boy.” The lady pressed her palms together, “May

the good Lord be with you!”


The drapes in the window of the second floor bedroom

fell into place.


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