Is there a more depressing time than the New Year return to school? The following is an extract from a short novel I wrote called Elijah Cotton. It’s gathering dust, but I had fun with it……..
Elijah Cotton was staring out of the classroom window when his life changed forever. He knew at once why the shadows and spirits had plagued him since birth. It was only a little after lunch, but darkness was already falling across the town. In the distance, trucks roared up and down the motorway, their headlights casting freakish shadows in the fields and marshes. Elijah wiped a smear from the condensation and looked out over the town Common. Rain began to fall in slanting sheets. Horses roamed, seeking shelter against dripping hedges. There was a lone bench at the top of the Common that no one ever sat on. It looked down on the glue factory. A thick plume of grey-blue smoke rose from the factory chimney. The firm’s motto – We’re sticking together! – was painted on the sooty bricks.
Elijah pressed his face to the cold glass. It was a damp, joyless day in the most boring town in the world. Christmas was as far away as it could ever be. Presents had been opened and toys played with. He hated January. Snowmen had sunk into damp lawns, leaving frosty carrots and soaking, knotted football scarves. There was a soggy trail of wrapping paper trodden into the pavement. Limp tinsel hung from bins and crumpled boxes. But Elijah knew that anything was better than being at home. Living rooms seemed dusty and bare without Christmas trees and lines of cards. Elijah’s house was magnolia and white and, under the glare of a 60-watt bulb, it felt like being at the dentist’s.
Elijah scuffed his shoe against the stair rail. He was third in line in a mournful procession of 7C pupils. They filed into class, coughing and grumbling, tugging at scarves and hats and thick winter coats. Miss Stubbs was wearing a chunky, cable-knit jumper and dangly amber earrings. She tapped a bony finger impatiently on the desk.
‘Come on, come on. I’ve seen less kit in an Arctic expedition,’ she said.
She snorted at her joke. She had large nostrils and a long, pointed nose. Prepared for take-off, Simon Harris was always saying under his breath. She suffered from a permanent cold and dabbed at her nose with a balled hankie. Elijah slung his bag strap over the back of the chair and tugged it from under the table. He winced as the chair squealed on the smooth tiles. It was odd how some sensations felt horrid. Elijah hated to see fingernails dragged down blackboards. He hated to bite on foil or wool and he hated the ridges he got in his fingertips after a bath. They made him cringe.