Rebecca’s Place

Here’s a clip from one of the medieval flashbacks in my novel, Hippies.


She was standing in a long hall with post-and-beam walls. The floor was covered with rushes, and on the timber of the walls hung dyed linen cloths decorated with embroidery. There was little furniture – a couple of long wooden benches against the wall, a chest, a trestle table holding a small earthenware pot filled with sprigs of sage and basil and rosemary. The man who had spoken to her of Jeremiah sat on a stool at the table sopping a crust of dark rye bread back and forth in a mug of small beer. His sharp features and curly black hair and severe bearing had not changed. The narrow windows had no glass but were shuttered against the rain, which was coming down hard outside.

Another man opened the door and charged in, drenched. “God’s Bones, William, we need to fix that gate.”

“Is it done for the night, Jeremiah?” asked the sharp-featured man.

“Aye, for the night.”

Jeremiah had softer features than William but more vitality in his demeanor.

William pushed back from the table and stood to move about, although there were not many places to move in the small house. The main room in which the three now stood was for cooking and eating, relaxing and performing other small domestic tasks. At one end, it had two wooden cots with straw-stuffed mattresses for William and Jeremiah. There was a hearth at the center with low-burning embers, and a lean-to addition protruding from the back, apparently to give a modicum of privacy to Rebecca and her decrepit bunkmate, the old woman who begat the sturdy William…

She noticed a separate chamber at the end of the main room opposite the men’s cots. William strode over and into this chamber, which functioned as a workshop.

“What must it be like to be maidservant to such a man?” Jeremiah said, shaking his blond locks.

“What you to be apprentice to such?” said Rebecca.

“Ah, it’s not so bad,” said Jeremiah, stepping in closer to Rebecca. She could smell his scent – citrus and leather. She could feel his hot breath on her neck.

“Jeremiah, watch yourself! He’s just in the workshop!”

“Aye but he’ll be there for a while. And we’ll be free of him tomorrow, after the Lord Bishop arrives from the Michaelskloster with the Mohametman boy of which I told thee.”

The hot breath closed against her neck. She turned her chin in to nudge against him, and he turned up and kissed her on the mouth. The diagonal scar on her lower lip tingled. The scar was a relic of a childhood disease. She had only been twelve, and when it hit, she raved in delirium. It was not part of a larger plague like the one that had taken her mother. She and only she had the illness, which elicited speculation of a divine cause. Sores had multiplied inside her mouth and on her lips; it had felt like hot coals pressed and rubbing against tender skin.

At the time she had lived with her father, an already old man known as Meister Conrad to the local townspeople and peasantry, in a thatch cottage near the edge of the village. He had daubed what oils he could on her lips against the pain, mainly at the little girl’s instruction since herbal lore had passed from her mother to her.  He was, however, preparing for her death. Then fate intervened in the form of a traveler, a companion from Conrad’s youth, who’d shared his wenching days at market towns and fairs, and with whom he’d ventured off on an abortive crusade, incoherently organized by a local lord to please a less local duke in the service of a quite distant king, who had hoped to gain the support of the pope in a family dispute with another royal dynasty. The Holy Land was never reached though many brave men were lost in battle against cholera and scarlet fever. Conrad had turned back at the Donau River and had never seen the friend again. But in Conrad’s present time of sorrow, Berold, the companion of old, returned with his own mass of herbal lore to match little Rebecca’s.

Berold immediately took a fixed interest in Rebecca’s malady, and spent long hours gathering local herbs and fungi to combine with the tinctures and powders in his safekeeping. The townspeople, already on edge about the transcendental sources of affliction in Conrad’s household, implored the local magistrate to suppress the witchcraft and heresy, which seemed to them more openly practiced since Berold’s arrival, lest the pestilence spread to the faithful. The magistrate, a man of letters, did not share the superstitions of his constituents but was well aware of the material advantages – the casks of beer and oysters, fine English wool and fat capons – that come the way of a perceived deliverer. Thus the wheels of destruction and death were set in motion for Conrad’s house.

One morning when Rebecca had recovered enough to work in the garden, the old man, Berold, came to her as she sat pruning a bush of black currants…


For those who have read the other clips, is this more or less engaging than those 1960s hippie clips?

See Tripping on Tan Acid, Magic Mushroom Head Shop and Dry Cleaners, Day Tripping with the Hippies.

Log line: In this long overdue epic of the Age of Aquarius, Jazmine, Ziggy, Ragman, and a coterie of hippies struggling with the contradictions of the 1960s counterculture discover an LSD-spinoff drug that triggers past life regressions and sweeps them toward a dramatic climax.




13 thoughts on “Rebecca’s Place

  1. Pingback: New comments welcome on Rebecca’s Place | shakemyheadhollow

  2. As with Steve, it’s hard for me to get a sense of this taken out of context, as it is. The writing is clean and precise, well articulated, though without having had time to relax into the style of narration, it does feel a little distanced, a rather neutral objectivity that doesn’t quite invite me in. Now, that can work very well of course, though without acclimatising to the story and style over many more pages, my subjective take here is pretty meaningless. I need fifty pages.

    Liked by 1 person

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