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Celebration Part Two - Gold Top Mornings

Celebration Part Two - Gold Top Mornings

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Part Two..
Author: Nuit and Fourleaf Clover
Rating: Adult
Disclaimer: I certainly didn’t invent Steven Shaw or Joe Byrne of course. These are pure wild imaginings for which no one would pay me, even if I asked them. Apologies to David Storey for borrowing his difficult and emotionally restrained character. Joe I think is used to me taking liberties (ha!)
Warnings: Only sex and complete confusion
Summary:  An opium dream takes Joe Byrne to places he couldn't have dreamed about. This idea was conceived by Four Leaf Clover who has written 2 parts of it- the introduction and the third part where Joe finds himself as Orlando at the stage door. Mine is where he finds himself in 1960’s Britain and the life of Steven Shaw, a character from David Storey’s In Celebration.
It is a weird premise for sure, but inspired by an overwhelming flood of feeling and gratitude at seeing flashes of ‘Joe’ walking around on that London stage, live and in person. Truly a gift.


Gold Top Mornings
The black smoke had hardly ceased stroking his mind before he jumped at the caustic voice in his ears “Steven! Are yer coming down?” Without moving his head, his eyes scoured left and right to find some clue as to how he should respond, covering flock wallpaper that wasn’t a million miles from the Commercial, taking in an ancestral familiarity too, perhaps not of Ireland but one belonging to a common thread of middle classes, of aspirations and the pulpit. The aspirations of his mother’s eye. A dark wood cabinet stood in the corner, filled to overflowing with paper. How did he come by so much paper? He hardly dared look down, squinting at fingers that hovered at an unnatural angle over keys suspended in the air by metal rods, each one with a different letter and forming words in his mind before he could stop them

Dear Sir,
I wish to acquaint you with some of the occurrences of the present past and future. In or about the spring of 1870 the ground was very soft a hawker named Mr Gould got his waggon bogged between Greta and my mother's house on the eleven mile creek…

But it didn’t say that. He closed his eyes again to see black, swirling sick black that offered neither comfort nor clarity. A stomach churning lurch opened his eyes to focus on the white paper emerging from the roller.

Chapter 7: Ad Nauseum
Trudging the cobbled streets before dawn his footsteps echoed around the lines of red brick prisons that flanked his isolation. Tin box in hand and the lamp rattling on the single screw attached to his regulation helmet, the black colliery wheel loomed from the pit like a maniacal Ferris ride mocking his very existence, as if happy smiling faces of childhood were turned back on themselves into the grimace of disappointment and emasculation


What in the name of Christ was that? The evidence would seem to suggest that he had written these heavy words, why else would he be sitting in this spot, but a frown creased between his brows as he read again. This was hardly the daring flair and passion of the Jerilderie Letter, the rust in the wheat replaced by extravagant introspection. “Steven! Yer dinner is getting cold!” the voice made him jump a second time. Steven, right then. Slightly anxious hands reached into his hair, noting its combed shortness as he remembered he could look at himself, that his own body might tell him a secret or two, and curious eyes examined the wool mix brown cardigan, a sort of loose waistcoat with sleeves that enveloped his body, the sharp lines of creases in the trousers and the neatly tied brown leather shoes. No larrikin heels here. The shirt button at his neck pulled at his skin as he stretched across the table to pick up a bundle of typed sheets; there were pages of it, crossings out, scrawling handwriting between neat lines- the lack of satisfaction however evident in the frustrated lines that covered the page. His intense consideration however was broken by the alarming sound of light footsteps on the stairs “Tell your father his dinner will be in the bin unless he comes down this minute” echoing in a threat behind them

“Da’! Mum says that you’re to come down and have yer dinner. It’s a roast but Mum said she was sick of waiting for you to come carve it, that we’d be biting the meat off like cavemen if it were up to you” and as he sat there looking at the scrawny curly haired young boy in short trousers and miniature shirt who was grinning round the edge of the door, he wondered if in fact any sound would come out of his mouth in answer.

“Did she?” an unfamiliar voice took him by surprise, thick and warm like mud from the bottom of the creek

“Yeah and Jimmy has already eaten the parson’s nose, Mum said he didn’t know any better and it’d do no harm, so are yer coming? She’s made jam sponge for afters too”

Just how many people were there around a table waiting for him to descend the transitory comfort of this room? Despite it being home for less than 20 minutes, if he went by the big round clock on the wall, he was reluctant to leave, unsure of what was in store for him, but his mouth answered ‘Aye’. Pushing back the heavy wooden chair he stood a little unsteadily and peered at the boy, a vague recognition of self flickering at the edges “Lead on then, we wouldn’t want to miss out on yer mothers’ jam sponge now would we?” it seemed that any alliance at this stage would be better than nothing.

The carpeted stairs led steeply down to a hallway and he watched ‘his son’ scamper into the room to the left, a sharp question greeting him “Is he coming?” which must have been answered by a nod given the quieter response “’bout bloody time an’ all” which barely made the doorway. With a little trepidation he stepped through it and into the gaze of five pairs of eyes which appeared to be expecting something from him. ‘Are they ALL mine?’ he intuitively guessed, not being exactly the thing to say.

“Well don’t just stand there! Boys, move round so your father can sit hisself down”

It was hard to swallow food so he pushed rehydrated peas, tatties and the chunks of chicken around the patterns of the plate while he listened to ‘his wife’ tell the children in turn to eat this or that, to mind their manners and use forks not fingers, and not talk with their mouths full, with his eyes half raised to take her in. He couldn’t remember her name but every now and then a look full of anger and frustration, despair and regret, pity and love flashed across the table. He would have to find out what he was to call her. Her hands moved fast guiding the children through the meal, clipping one lightly on the head in a moment, cutting up meat the next second, pouring more gravy the next. “Do what your mother told you!” he wanted her to like him more.

“Oh you do speak then!” She was just smiling a bit, but her speech had edges all the same “so what have you been doing up there all this time Steven? Get any more written?”

His stomach clenched at her questioning eyes, fearful that she might ask what exactly he had typed “No not much”

“That’s what I thought” and her mouth tightened again into a thin line. He wanted to tell her he was sorry for whatever it was that he hadn’t done to make her look at him like that.

His expected intervention in the dinner apparently over, he sank back into silence and let the family move around him. His presence was evidently not required in order for lively loud conversations or the clearing of the dishes; he followed the cues to sit in ‘your chair’ with the paper and a cup of tea. From behind the curtain of the Times he could let his eyes and his senses roam with out fear of being observed and, despite the limited view, the print on the page spun him off into a whole new world of Moon landings, men and women dancing naked in somewhere called Woodstock and British troops deployed in Northern Ireland. His brow furrowed he struggled to understand, to picture the baffling events and to contain himself, pulling only at the tie tight around his neck so that he breathe in the unfamiliar air as he read every last word that sprawled across the enormous folds of paper. At last it occurred to him that the room was now quiet and so dim that he could hardly see.

“What on earth are you doing sitting there in the dark? We can afford a bulb or two even on your wages. The little un’s are all tucked up safe and sound, sleeping already I shouldn’t wonder, would you like some tea? Stay there I will get it.” He wanted to say ‘you sit down, I will make it’, establish some purpose to his presence even if it was to get her to take the weight off her feet for a few minutes, but a flood of anxiety about sort of appliance he might find in the kitchen with which to heat the water kept him seated in the gloom and waiting as the clocked ticked loud in the silence. “Steven, for the love of God you are a useless bugger!” she was back with a tray and balancing it on one hand flicking a switch in the corner of the room so that in the second that he blinked it was illuminated like as if someone turned on the sun again “There that’s better, now what was I saying?”

“I don’t know...” He couldn’t stand this, left wanting in a different world by the unfamiliarity, unable to speak for fear of saying the wrong thing, of upsetting some balance he could feel teetering and at the same time feeling her frustration. Feeling his own inability to act. Who said ‘Joe Byrne could do anything?’ He looked at her, head bent over as she poured the tea, at the strong features that would have made her distinctive when she was younger, or at least less worn out, but that were now hardened a little, her tired skin drawn into the early hints of lines

“Aye well nothing new there then, talk to me self half the time anyhow. Your mother was right “Sheila’ she said ‘if you get an ‘I Do’ out of him in the church you will be doing better well”. I got that at least eh? For better or worse”. Well that was it then, her name; he may as well try that out. Reaching over the space between them his long fingers touched hers as they cradled the tea cup in her lap, nestled as it was in the nylon housecoat she wore over her clothes to keep them nice for some occasion that he couldn’t quite imagine.

“I am sorry Sheila, I am not feeling myself”

She had just begun to say something with a barb when she stopped, put the cup back down on the starched embroidered table cloth and looked at him with a foreboding “Are yer unwell? Only we can’t afford for you to get in trouble at work again, you know, missing lessons and all that. The headmaster he was good about it all though wasn’t he? Last time? You being out of sorts and under the doctor with it” The panic in her voice was barely masked by the concern and he reached to touch her again, unsure of the cause but at least wanting to calm her, to give her something

“No nothing like that, I am fine, don’t you worry, just not me self”

The physical sigh she made as her shoulders sunk down again indicated a sense of relief that was palpable and allowed a softer glow to her face “Right you are, well I am turning in love, been a long day. Those kids run me ragged and well…you’ve not been…Oh never mind. Monday tomorrow and back to school eh? Are you coming up or shall I leave the fire?” He couldn’t help himself staring at her. Jesus! Of course! She was expecting him to sleep with her; he was her husband after all.

A moment or two passed while he considered the conflicting notions in his head- evidently she believed he was her husband, although for sure he might need to look at the photos to check it was him that had been at the altar, check whether the eyes looking into the flash of the camera were his, but he did not know this woman. To share her bed it seemed would be taking advantage somehow, misleading her, tricking her into intimacy that she perhaps wouldn’t chose. He was still looking at her when a voice full of one two many disappointments cut through his thoughts

“You don’t have to make excuses. Stay down here if yer like, I’ll not worry me self.” But as she turned to go, his hand shot out to catch her arm, to turn her back around to face him

“I will be up in a minute, you go on ahead, let me just bank the fire so’s that it’s warm for the kiddies in the morning”. As he piled coal high on the embers acrid wafts of thick black coal steam and smoke seeped into his mouth and he considered the next few minutes in this place. He could open the door, walk out into some undiscovered world, like them explorers he read about, live by his wits and his sharp mind, be an observer of another stranger circumstance, or he could go upstairs. His stomach pulled tight at the thought of her face as she had said “Right-o Love, well make sure you lock up then, don’t want anyone making off wi’ the family silver now eh?” and her thankful smile that at last she had done for the day before her slippered feet padded off into silence. She didn’t deserve this, Christ she certainly didn’t deserve her husband disappearing out into the night, and this Steven fella didn’t deserve the roasting he would get when he came back neither. Oh you are so magnanimous Joe Byrne, never a thought fer yourself. Aye…upstairs it was then.

Placing the fireguard back in front of the hearth he wiped his hands on his trousers, the palms a little damp and now smeared with coal dust. Dissatisfied he rubbed them again, something in his mind about at least being presentable to go up to this woman’s room. The bolts all pushed across, he glanced up the stairs and, with a sudden spurt of resolve, took them two at a time. He was standing on the landing as a dawning realisation hit him, he had no idea which door he was expected behind. Ignoring the room he had first found himself in, a tentative turn of the handle brought the door on his right open and he bent to peer inside, half hoping that wherever she was, she couldn’t sense his trepidation; all her worst fears come true as her husband appeared to have lost his way around their own house and decided to sleep in a cupboard or something. As the gloom cleared he took a breath at the sight, four tousled heads in the gloom, thin limbs tangled in amongst mountains of blankets. His urge to stand and watch the fall of their chests, to get lost in a swell of innocence he could barely remember, only pulled up short by the knowledge that Sheila was then definitely across the hall.

She put down her magazine and smiled as he entered the bedroom, her hair loose now and her facer barer somehow. His eyes averted from hers to look around ‘their room’, lit by the bright street light outside the window that shone through the nylon curtains with a pallid yellowness and a small bedside lamp with fringes that looked like it came from another era, it was a mile and twenty from home. Surely people had no need for so much? So much what? Decoration, patterns, colours, cushions and things. There were things everywhere, arranged and displayed as like in those fancy shops in Beechworth enticing his fingers.

Sheila shook her head a little at him as he examined a pink powder puff from the dressing table and spoke softly “Did you look in on the boys?”

“Aye sleeping like babes they are!” He was pleased to see her smile for the moment and replaced the delicate fluff exactly where it had been on the lace covered dresser, turning to hear her reply and feeling himself wince at it

“They have worn themselves out today. Steven, perhaps next week we could go on a trip somewhere, in the car. Into Nottingham for the day, they would like that, and well…they need their Da’. Mrs Scott down road said that there’s new findings to say that it doesn’t do boys any good, you know, to be with women all the while, said it was in a magazine”

“I don’t know, if you like”

She flashed with barely disguised anger “Oh don’t be too enthusiastic will yer? Seems to me that sometimes you take so little notice of them that I’d be surprised that you remembered their names, honestly Steven…” The hollow in his jaw deepened as he clenched his teeth. Well a fine time this was turning out to be. He could have gone home to Byrne’s gully and spent the afternoon with his mother railing at him for this and that as be here, but he couldn’t help himself being drawn in to her when she sighed “I am sorry love…Take no notice I am just plain tired is all, maybe we can go to town another day eh? Come to bed will yer.” It was with some relief that he nodded; at least he could avoid all this talk and be in a place where he had some experience, something’s he was sure were the same. With a click she reached to turn off the light.

Sitting down on the edge of the mattress he felt it give under his weight and, barely resisting the urge to bounce a little on the unfamiliar sprung softness, he reached for the buttons of the cardigan, deft fingers delighting in something physical to take his mind off the confusing ethics of what he was about to do. Sure Father O’Donoghue would tie himself in knots over this one. ‘Husband’s duty’ and all that, only he wasn’t quite now was he? Folding the cardigan neatly, he then pulled at the tie and, leaning forward, he untied the laces of the shoes. He could feel her watching him from behind, the weight of expectancy tinged with desire waiting for him. Alright so maybe it was best to just get into bed quick and his hand was tugging with some purpose at the unyielding layers when she giggled a bit

“Steven did you not want yer pyjamas then?”

His what? What had seemed the simplest course of action was apparently fraught with difficulties he could not have imagined. She, now that he looked, appeared to have changed into some sort of fancy outfit in pink and lace, the thinness of which hinted at the skin underneath and teased him to look more closely but the mirth in her voice pulled him up. “Your pyjamas, they are under your pillow as usual!”

“Aye of course” he could feel a slight burn in his cheeks as he reached for the apparently new set of clothes that he was required to put on to go to bed. Cleary the ‘sexual revolution’ or what ever they called such a thing in America, at that place called Woodstock which he was reading about only that very afternoon, a place where men and women had relations in the full glare of the sun, and the full view, it said, of other folk without so much as a ‘by your leave’, had failed to reach to these shores, wherever in fact they were.

This time he stood, while slightly less sure fingers undid the buttons of his shirt, shrugging it off his shoulders to reveal a loose white vest against his far too pale skin and, ignoring her eyes, he stretched to pull it over his head. The belt to his trousers already gone his hand slid the velvet brown cloth down his legs taking the tightness of unanticipated elastic with them and he stood there, the light of the street lamp catching the ridges of his bones and his body and the shiver of exposed, that previously had not troubled his mind. Naked and not to put too fine a point on it, exposed.

Help and salvation though was at hand and his legs slipped easily into loose cotton trousers, pulling at the drawstring and tying it tightly. Not usually given to self consciousness, he felt a little like a rooster at a dance with a peacock, and it had thrown him a little, which was as well, he mused with a wry smile, since the slit at the front of these ‘pyjama trousers’ would surely have revealed any lingering expectations or desire he held. Maybe in the next dream he could find himself somewhere more congenial?

The warmth of her body had softened the sheets though and he sighed deeply, perhaps if he could fall asleep he would be delivered from the starch white restriction of unfamiliarity. “Are yer tired Love?” a smaller voice accompanied the stretch of her hand across his chest and her head nestling into his shoulder asked for him to lift his arm, to curl it around her. It was all he could do to keep his voice level, no hint of the resignation he had come to, that really he would have done better not to have handed his cash over to Aaron for this stuff, and the sooner it was out of his blood the better

“Aye a little”

“You work too hard Steven; you should relax at the weekend at least”

“I should think so, though I’ve t’ finish that chapter” One of the few things he knew about this man was that he wrote, and so seeking to not appear completely clueless he replied with one of the small titbits of information he could. What he didn’t expect quite was her pressing her body a little closer into his side as she answered with a smile

“Oh that old thing, really Steven...how long has it been? 2 years nearly? And what chapter are yer on?”

“Seven…yes chapter seven”

“Well it’s hardly what you would call progress is it?” She didn’t seem to think he would find her words insulting, well either that or it was just assumed he would just to have to put up with her jabbing comments with good grace, since at the same time her hand took his and placed it around her waist “You can if you want you know. Dr Riddleston gave the Pill, on account of the babbies coming so quick. Said I was the best case he’s seen in the surgery that week. Give me body a chance to recover so he said”

Alright now this was just getting too complicated, and he looked down at the women cradled in his arms with pleading eyes, “He gave you ‘the pill’?”

“Oh now come on, you aren’t going to say that I can’t take it! Four of them is enough- even your mother said so, and you know how much she dotes on you. The Doctor says that it’s safe, I have just to take it everyday, save for a week a month, and that way we don’t have to worry, you know, about me getting pregnant.”

“Christ…really? I mean, yeah, well that would be grand!” He was really quite glad that the light was off and she was now nestled into his arm rather than looking at his face, which was quite a mix of both elated possibilities and staggered disbelief. No of course he couldn’t take things back with him, this was a dream. Aye and the girls back home would no more believe him if he turned up with some of them ‘pills’ telling them that they could let him because they wouldn’t have babies, than they would jump in the creek in winter. He smiled a bit at the thought of their faces, open mouthed and “Joe Byrne. If you think I am going to swallow that tall story never mind that little white thing! Do yer think I was born an idjut?” Jesus will yer concentrate now. His body was reluctant to be back in the bed, intent rather on focussing on those familiar willing smiles that said often said ‘yes’ to him anyhow and feeling that warm easy flood of blood that heralded their agreement, when she strained up to his kiss his neck. A forward kiss, one that was used to jumping over some of the formalities as it were, a kiss that said years had slipped by and now would be as good at time as any.

“So anyway, you can if you want” He was still pondering what to do with the press of his cock that was connected to the past, when the present intruded again and she moved to sit up a little, the pink nylon slipping off her shoulder as she pulled away from him “For the love of God Steven! Is a wife supposed to have to beg her husband, well I tell you now…” the last bit of her tirade however was swallowed in the touch of his mouth covering hers, the curl of his moustache pressing into her lip and his hand moving to touch the silky strange heat of pink nylon. Pushing her back down into the over stuffed pillows, his body half covered hers. At least that Steven fella, her husband, could do something right today.

Oh Aye, he was magnanimous alright. He smiled a little into her mouth, perhaps it was just best to give her what she wanted he noted with some satisfaction as blood thumped through him. And she wanted him, clearly indicated by the wedding ringed hand that was now in the curls of his hair and the way that she was opening her legs a little as her hips moved. A last, slightly indignant thought skittered that this was his dream after all, before he abandoned thinking and turned to his senses.

The strange heaviness of the sheets and the pile of blankets, all topped off with a fringed bedspread, impeded his exploration of her nightie a little so his hand hastily wrenched the tucked in straightjacket from the mattress to see. She wasn’t skin and bone like most of them girls back home, and the curves of a better life, of more abundant harvests made him want to feel her skin on his face, so his fingers moved to the little ties of pink ribbons that held the thin nylon together amongst flounces he’d not seen before, except on the ladies dresses that passed through Beechworth on a Sunday.

“What are yer doing Steven? It the devils own job to get them bows done back up again… will you let me just take it off…” she was trying to sit up again now

“Sheila ssshh, will yer just be quiet a minute?” One hand on her shoulder he eased her backwards to the pillows as the other pulled open the flimsy bows, freeing her breast for his mouth to taste. Large and full, it was warm on his tongue and she pressed forward to make him have more. He did what she wanted- pulling more soft skin into his mouth and suckling hard, eliciting a soft groan as his fingers and his thumbs found the other nipple, twisting and turning while her fingers dug into his scalp. Glancing upwards made him smile, her head back in the pillow and her mouth open in acquiescence she didn’t look so different after all, but as her hands moved now on his shoulders he could feel her nails digging into the smooth skin of his back, a sharp sting of desire that was about experience and demands. Demands he would answer, when he was good and ready, though in truth he doubted that would be long. When he was ready. Right. He had pussy footed around this dream all day but now it was his to control, and he let his cock rub against her cushioned hip as his hand moved down her belly and between her legs.

Her cry of pleasure was followed by words that at last had lost their sourness “Steven…I don’t know who you are sometimes, I wish we were always like this, like man and wife if yer get my meaning”

He kissed her heavy and warm before pulling away to answer, his fingers slipping over wet syrupy desire and watching her face crumple with a grin “cause a bit of a stir out side now don’t you think? Neighbours might ha’ a word or two to say about it.”

“Oh…them curtains would be twitching down the street alright…Be in the Nottingham Post I should think” but she couldn’t quite make her words clear as he pressed strong fingers into her and his thigh worked its way between hers “but be worth it all the same” surprised eyes closed with the feel of him and her hips moved involuntarily to slide underneath him “but you are like another man when you let yerself be” He mused for a moment at the truth of that and at the ease with which he had some to this place with her, his cock wet against the soft full tops of her legs and her hands on his ass pulling him forward to enter her, how different it was back home, here just a matter of course that it would end like this, and after not to much of a wait neither.

“Well I am here now” and with a tilt of his hips he was there inside, her backbone finding the deluxe springs, his hands finding her legs to press them wider “Jesus”. The plush padded headboard hit the wall and she giggled a little in amongst little cries, about them next door and the kiddies, but not enough to make him stop nor asking him to, just feeling him deeper and faster, with the strength of the Bush and horses and hard work muscles that were miles and centuries from his desk and the typewriter. Her soft round belly indented with the bones of his slimmer hips in a rhythm of heartbeat until he felt her stop quite still beneath him, holding her breath and herself in

Looking up at his body held poised on his arms, at the Brylcream curls rebelling with the salt of his effort and the dark black eyes she could recall vaguely from before, she took one last kiss from him “Yes you are. Oh but I miss you”. Joe closed his eyes to remember the feel of her body and with one last stroke took them both over the edge.

*

Dawn had barely begun when she heard the milkman rumbling over the cobbles outside, the clink of gold tops being placed at the doors of grateful housewives. She turned to look at her husband still asleep, his features peaceful and serene, with gentleness her fingers reached to touch his lips “good morning”

It was full into the day before he whispered a prayer that what he would see when he opened his eyes was wood and earth and dirt and home. Across the shack Aaron was still sleeping on his bunk, half naked in the sun that poured through the window picking up the movement of insects and dust in the Australian air. Joe took a deep breath of lemon eucalyptus and heat before he smiled and stretched his arms over his head. Christ.




  • WOW!! What an incredible piece! You got the atmosphere, the setting so perfect (I've read the play!) it could have been a moment in time, maybe just before the Celebration (since we know he quits his book by then) it is simply brilliant!! Can't wait to read more:)
    • thanks! I am glad it rang true, yeah thats what I thought- just before the play. Iam so glad you like it.
  • Interesting concept for a set of stories.

    This part is my favorite, so I'm replying here. The scenes that you have created here are quite memorable - make me think about the story long after I'm off the computer. Joe going through the dreariness of Steven's life. I didn't see In Celebration but you make me wish I had.

    • thank you Blue! I found that myself about the play- it lingered long and sort of grew in impostance, in what it was saying, beyond the initial viewing. Glad you liked the little story, a bit 'out there' but all the same..
      XX
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