Peppermints under the pillow

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the first chapter to the book. It covers the main characters family and home situation.
I just need comment on structure, style and a feel as to whether I am on the right track.

Submitted: November 17, 2011

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Submitted: November 17, 2011

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It was another winter’s morning in mid July in Cape Town’s southern suburb of Claremont. The old Victorian wall clock in the passage ticked away, and then chimed, Ding dong, ding, dong…Dong ding dong ding, signifying the time to be 6. 45am. Finlay looked out of his bedroom window and saw the neighbours leaving for school. It was still dark, and it looked cold.

“Was school really necessary?” he asked himself. A typical question any five-year-old would ask. He climbed out of bed and quickly got dressed, and was soon ready for breakfast. He headed for the kitchen and poured himself some cereal and milk, grabbed a banana and sat down to eat. His mother was busy at the kitchen sink and his sister Lyn was still getting ready in her bedroom.  

The year was 1965, and the internet and information age was still unheard of, so school was very necessary. Television was more than twelve years away in South Africa, and the radio was the main form of entertainment. Life was definitely simpler. Or was it? As children they played a lot. Relationships and friendships were long lasting due to the amount of time they put into it. Children did not have the pressures of their peers in the same way that children face today. There were no TV games, Play stations, computer games and the like. The most mechanised toy was the train set.

Finlay finished eating and got up to go and brush his teeth. He passed by his grandmother’s room. He could hear her shuffling around.

“Morning  Ouma,” He called out. “Hope you slept well!”

“Don’t forget your raincoat. It looks gloomy out there!” Ouma replied from her bedroom. 

Finlay’s grandfather had passed away earlier that year, and his grandmother was still very lonely and delicate. He loved her very much, and she was always kind to him. Ouma was born in the Small Boland town of De Doorns and moved to Cape Town after Oupa transferred there. He was an engine driver, and spent much of his time driving passenger trains between Cape Town and Beaufort West.  De Doorns is a beautiful little town that lies in the centre of the Hex River Valley, close to the town of Worchester. It is known for its Cape Dutch homesteads, vineyards and snow-capped mountains, making it one of the most picturesque valleys in the Western Cape. After Finlays grandfather passed away, he started reading the bible to Ouma every evening because her eyesight was starting to fail her. These were precious times, and he got to know her well. She often spoke of her younger days and enjoyed telling Finlay the romantic stories of her relationship with his grandfather. Ouma Chaney was Finlay’s mother’s mother. She owned the house they lived in. Despite suffering from severe arthritis, she always saw the brighter side of life.

“Bye Mom," Finlay shouted as he opened the front door to leave. The cold air hit his face, and the wind blew straight through his four layers of clothing. Ouma was right. The sky was black in parts, and rain was definitely on the way. 

Finlay’s mom Ethel, like her mother, was also born in the town of De Doorns, and when she moved to Cape Town at the age of 10, she couldn’t speak a word of English. Finlay’s Dad Terry was a Post and Telecommunications employee. He was born in India, and his Mom and Dad were born in Scotland. Finlay’s Scottish grandfather was doing military duty in India when his father was born, but it was not long before the whole family settled in South Africa. They chose Cape Town as their home.

Finlay’s sister Lyn, who was five years his senior, came out of the house, and they left to walk to the end of the short street to meet Mrs Bodie. Mrs Bodie was their means of getting to school. She would collect them every morning, and they would squeeze into her little Anglia with her two children, and motor off down the road. Finlay was always amazed at the simplicity of Mrs Bodie’s car. She didn’t have the luxury of air conditioning, but there was a strategically placed air-hole next to the gear lever. All the children thought it was really novel that you could see the tar of the road below you as she drove along! If it was raining, you would even get the odd splash of water up from under the car.

Golden Grove Primary School was merely fifteen minutes away. As Lyn and Finlay were dropped off they entered the school gates and parted ways to their respective classrooms. On the way to Finlay’s class, he was passed by a grade 7 pupil who said,

“Straighten your tie and walk upright!”

He sometimes wondered, even at this young age why primary schools needed bossy grade 7’s.

“Was this the best that Grade 7’s could do?” he thought.

The school had approximately five hundred pupils; boys and girls. There were two classes per grade. The school catered for the middle-class community, and the level of education was good.

One afternoon, upon arriving home from school, Finlay found his Ouma eating plums under the heavily laden plum tree. It was a hot day, and he could see she was enjoying the shade of the garden. The glossy starlings were very active and there was always an ongoing tussle between them and ouma as she shooed them away from her juicy plums.

“Hi Ouma, how’s your day been?”

“Fine, I folded your pajamas for you," she replied.

“Thanks,” he said, wondering why Ouma had told him this.

Finlay sat down with her and chatted about school, ate a plum and then decided it was time to start his homework.

He went to his room and lifted his pillow to see why ouma had gone to the trouble of folding his pajamas. He found a pile of peppermints. He smiled. From that day on, his pillow used to be the first stop upon arriving home, and was often spoilt in finding gifts like peppermints, toffees or liquorice placed there. The small things in life are often more memorable, as this was the case for Finlay.


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