Then Came The Liars, Then Came The Fools by Dorothy Davies

EXTRACT FOR
Then Came The Liars, Then Came The Fools

(Dorothy Davies)


Chapter 1

Dark was the night - dark is the night - dark as the night. That’s it. Dark as the night. The meaning of my name. But the night isn’t dark. It’s a sort of dark blue silk scattered with Mother’s teardrops.
I swear I didn’t mean it. It was a real accident. Sometimes it all gets away from me.
I didn’t mean it.
But I can’t tell anyone, can I? They wouldn’t believe me. They’d call me mad, and look somewhere else for an explanation.
The room is strangely silent. I ought to sleep; it’s been a long, long day. But sleep won’t come. Only memories. And as Nanny Jayston said, they tend to walk a little hard sometimes.
Don’t think about it.
Think about today. The nice bits of today.


The show arrived in town this morning. Jess and I went to watch the freaks stumbling along on the ends of their chains, creating clouds of fine dust that made me sneeze. I stood in the sunshine, hair sticky on my neck, sensing a dampness under my arms, knowing if I moved I’d leave a perfect footprint in the dust.
‘Why chains?’
I must have asked aloud, because Mr Keith, white hair, red face and huge belly, leaned over my shoulder and whispered, ‘So they don’t escape, Mary.’
My name isn’t Mary. I’d told Mr Keith that a million times, but he never took any notice. Mrs Keith gave a funny little snort from the other side of me, and I looked round.
‘Ignore him, Leila. He calls all the girls Mary and all the boys Charlie. Always has done, always will, as far as I can tell.’
Mrs Keith had told me that a million times, too. She was small, white-haired and plump, a Mr Keith condensed without his softness. I liked Mr Keith, even if he did call me Mary, because he always had time for me.
I wondered, for the merest flicker of a moment, what chaos it would cause if the freaks did escape. I pictured the confusion, and then gloried in the noise and colour of the procession. It was a lovely summer day. The sky was clear washed blue, and trees stood proud with light behind every leaf. The ground was warm under my toes. The colours on the high-sided carts parading before me shrieked like badly processed film. That wasn’t my phrase, you understand - I read it somewhere. It suited the day.
The noise was overwhelming. Carts creaked and wheezed their way through the dust, accompanied by the regular clopping of hoofs as the horses strained against their large collars. The freaks walking alongside the carts or following behind jabbered senselessly to each other, and the neighbours, most of us from the two Rows, called out, adding to the cacophonous parade.
I sneaked a quick look round to see who had come to watch. Janny Jenkins from next door, hair done in tight curls, with her two grandchildren. With Jess, they were leaping up and down, creating their own dust storms in their excitement. I couldn’t see Mr Jenkins anywhere. I guessed he was still in the garden; old, frail, skeletal fingers turning over the pages of yet another book. John Mallory was there, leaning up against the wall as if supporting it. His wife Meg had her hands wrapped in her apron as if she were cold. She was serious, surveying the walking disasters. Marie Sands was waving frantically to her husband who stood on the opposite side of the road, chatting to Mr Green from the other Row. I wondered if Tam had his plastic bucket with him. He never seemed to move without that plastic bucket. Scary Josie Page was there, dark and gloomy as always, but her ancient mother hadn’t made it to the street. Josie would go back and shout the news to her when the procession had gone, no doubt. Angela from the second end house was there, holding on to her two girls as if afraid they would run away, while looking on the verge of running herself.
Many of the residents from the other Row were out; Miss Holloway was among them, so big, so heavy she almost qualified for a place in the freak show herself. She looked at me, her eyes cold and sharp, and I turned away. I had the feeling Miss Holloway knew more about me than she was letting on, and I didn’t like it. If she wasn’t careful I’d do something about putting her in the show.
And then, in a moment of spite, I visualized her sitting in solitary splendour in a lantern-lit tent, and stifled a giggle. Neighbours looked at me, astonished, for the freak passing before us was nothing to laugh at. A young girl, with stumps for arms, and a distorted face. Not so distorted that you looked twice, until she opened her mouth, showing a gaping cavern of nothing, no teeth, no tongue, nothing. Jess screamed and grabbed me, and I put my hands on her thin shoulders, feeling her body tremble.
‘It’s all right,’ I told her, and it was. The freak had moved on and there were only the carts to look at, each with its own highly individual design painted on the side. The huge covers gave no hint of what was inside.
I felt suddenly sorry for the freaks. There was no freedom for them, jerked along on their chains, kept moving at the speed old Mr Silverman set. They seemed tired, as far as you can say a freak feels anything. There was a certain dragging of the feet, leaving long gouges in the dust which the carts rolled over. It talked of tiredness, but Dad always said as soon as you start feeling sorry for someone, common sense goes out the window. Dad was always right, so I hardened up, thought how much better off than us they really were. They didn’t have to work or go foraging. They just sat around and looked awful. True, the ones who could walk had to walk while the others rode, concealed from our eyes until we were ready to pay for a view of them. But honestly, one chemical plant blows up, one travelling freak show comes into being. They were set for life. Jess soon got over being scared, and jumped up and down again with Bryan and Fiona. Jess’s blonde curls tumbled as she jumped. People looked at her with soft smiles. I felt proud for a moment, as if she really was part of the family, as if she really belonged.
The procession passed, trekking on to the top field, where old Mr Silverman would get the tents set up. If we were lucky, we’d have money to pay to duck under greasy canvas sheets and see the freaks in all their glory, surrounded by lanterns casting hideous shadows, and be frightened to death. It was a good feeling to hold on to in the middle of the night, when shadows became monsters, and you were scared, yet safe. Just like standing watching the procession surrounded by neighbours, people you knew and trusted. Scared, yet safe.
When everyone began to move away, I squeezed past Angela and her girls to go and tell Mother all about it. Lisa and Dawn trailed after me.
‘Ley, coming to see them set up the tents?’
‘Not this time.’ Had I ever considered them fit to play with, to talk to? Sometimes they seemed like very young children to me. Especially now, with the secret I had to hold on to.
‘Don’t go alone, will you, girls?’ Angela’s hectoring voice followed me down the alleyway as I rushed for home.
‘Where’s Jess?’ Mother looked tired, dark rings round her normally lively eyes.
‘With Bryan and Fiona.’
‘That’s all right then. How was the procession?’
‘Much the same as last year. Nearly everyone came out. Didn’t you want to?’
She leaned on the worktop, her slim fingers winding themselves nervously round and round each other.
‘No, Leyli, I didn’t want to see those poor people this year. It hurts too much.’
I didn’t understand that. They were just freaks, after all.
‘Can I go up later?’
‘Yes.’ But the reply was absent-minded, as if she had not really heard or understood the question.
I climbed the stairs to our room and lay on the top bunk, feeling the warm breeze move over me from the open window. It gave an illusion of coolness.
A year had gone, in the merest hint of time. A whole twelve months had disappeared. Once again old Mr Silverman had timed his visit to catch the end of the summer holidays, when people were bored stiff with the town and each other. He came as a welcome diversion.
It always seemed to me that the show and the swallows came together. There would be one or two of the tiny darting birds flying with the sparrows and starlings that normally lived in our part of town. Dad would stand in the doorway, shading his eyes with a broad hand.
‘Swallows, Leyli, for sure. You can’t mistake that tail.’
Then the freak show would arrive in town.
End-of-summer ghosts. Swallows and freak shows.
What a mixture.

Then Came The Liars, Then Came The Fools by Dorothy Davies

EXTRACT FOR
Then Came The Liars, Then Came The Fools

(Dorothy Davies)


Chapter 1

Dark was the night - dark is the night - dark as the night. That’s it. Dark as the night. The meaning of my name. But the night isn’t dark. It’s a sort of dark blue silk scattered with Mother’s teardrops.
I swear I didn’t mean it. It was a real accident. Sometimes it all gets away from me.
I didn’t mean it.
But I can’t tell anyone, can I? They wouldn’t believe me. They’d call me mad, and look somewhere else for an explanation.
The room is strangely silent. I ought to sleep; it’s been a long, long day. But sleep won’t come. Only memories. And as Nanny Jayston said, they tend to walk a little hard sometimes.
Don’t think about it.
Think about today. The nice bits of today.


The show arrived in town this morning. Jess and I went to watch the freaks stumbling along on the ends of their chains, creating clouds of fine dust that made me sneeze. I stood in the sunshine, hair sticky on my neck, sensing a dampness under my arms, knowing if I moved I’d leave a perfect footprint in the dust.
‘Why chains?’
I must have asked aloud, because Mr Keith, white hair, red face and huge belly, leaned over my shoulder and whispered, ‘So they don’t escape, Mary.’
My name isn’t Mary. I’d told Mr Keith that a million times, but he never took any notice. Mrs Keith gave a funny little snort from the other side of me, and I looked round.
‘Ignore him, Leila. He calls all the girls Mary and all the boys Charlie. Always has done, always will, as far as I can tell.’
Mrs Keith had told me that a million times, too. She was small, white-haired and plump, a Mr Keith condensed without his softness. I liked Mr Keith, even if he did call me Mary, because he always had time for me.
I wondered, for the merest flicker of a moment, what chaos it would cause if the freaks did escape. I pictured the confusion, and then gloried in the noise and colour of the procession. It was a lovely summer day. The sky was clear washed blue, and trees stood proud with light behind every leaf. The ground was warm under my toes. The colours on the high-sided carts parading before me shrieked like badly processed film. That wasn’t my phrase, you understand - I read it somewhere. It suited the day.
The noise was overwhelming. Carts creaked and wheezed their way through the dust, accompanied by the regular clopping of hoofs as the horses strained against their large collars. The freaks walking alongside the carts or following behind jabbered senselessly to each other, and the neighbours, most of us from the two Rows, called out, adding to the cacophonous parade.
I sneaked a quick look round to see who had come to watch. Janny Jenkins from next door, hair done in tight curls, with her two grandchildren. With Jess, they were leaping up and down, creating their own dust storms in their excitement. I couldn’t see Mr Jenkins anywhere. I guessed he was still in the garden; old, frail, skeletal fingers turning over the pages of yet another book. John Mallory was there, leaning up against the wall as if supporting it. His wife Meg had her hands wrapped in her apron as if she were cold. She was serious, surveying the walking disasters. Marie Sands was waving frantically to her husband who stood on the opposite side of the road, chatting to Mr Green from the other Row. I wondered if Tam had his plastic bucket with him. He never seemed to move without that plastic bucket. Scary Josie Page was there, dark and gloomy as always, but her ancient mother hadn’t made it to the street. Josie would go back and shout the news to her when the procession had gone, no doubt. Angela from the second end house was there, holding on to her two girls as if afraid they would run away, while looking on the verge of running herself.
Many of the residents from the other Row were out; Miss Holloway was among them, so big, so heavy she almost qualified for a place in the freak show herself. She looked at me, her eyes cold and sharp, and I turned away. I had the feeling Miss Holloway knew more about me than she was letting on, and I didn’t like it. If she wasn’t careful I’d do something about putting her in the show.
And then, in a moment of spite, I visualized her sitting in solitary splendour in a lantern-lit tent, and stifled a giggle. Neighbours looked at me, astonished, for the freak passing before us was nothing to laugh at. A young girl, with stumps for arms, and a distorted face. Not so distorted that you looked twice, until she opened her mouth, showing a gaping cavern of nothing, no teeth, no tongue, nothing. Jess screamed and grabbed me, and I put my hands on her thin shoulders, feeling her body tremble.
‘It’s all right,’ I told her, and it was. The freak had moved on and there were only the carts to look at, each with its own highly individual design painted on the side. The huge covers gave no hint of what was inside.
I felt suddenly sorry for the freaks. There was no freedom for them, jerked along on their chains, kept moving at the speed old Mr Silverman set. They seemed tired, as far as you can say a freak feels anything. There was a certain dragging of the feet, leaving long gouges in the dust which the carts rolled over. It talked of tiredness, but Dad always said as soon as you start feeling sorry for someone, common sense goes out the window. Dad was always right, so I hardened up, thought how much better off than us they really were. They didn’t have to work or go foraging. They just sat around and looked awful. True, the ones who could walk had to walk while the others rode, concealed from our eyes until we were ready to pay for a view of them. But honestly, one chemical plant blows up, one travelling freak show comes into being. They were set for life. Jess soon got over being scared, and jumped up and down again with Bryan and Fiona. Jess’s blonde curls tumbled as she jumped. People looked at her with soft smiles. I felt proud for a moment, as if she really was part of the family, as if she really belonged.
The procession passed, trekking on to the top field, where old Mr Silverman would get the tents set up. If we were lucky, we’d have money to pay to duck under greasy canvas sheets and see the freaks in all their glory, surrounded by lanterns casting hideous shadows, and be frightened to death. It was a good feeling to hold on to in the middle of the night, when shadows became monsters, and you were scared, yet safe. Just like standing watching the procession surrounded by neighbours, people you knew and trusted. Scared, yet safe.
When everyone began to move away, I squeezed past Angela and her girls to go and tell Mother all about it. Lisa and Dawn trailed after me.
‘Ley, coming to see them set up the tents?’
‘Not this time.’ Had I ever considered them fit to play with, to talk to? Sometimes they seemed like very young children to me. Especially now, with the secret I had to hold on to.
‘Don’t go alone, will you, girls?’ Angela’s hectoring voice followed me down the alleyway as I rushed for home.
‘Where’s Jess?’ Mother looked tired, dark rings round her normally lively eyes.
‘With Bryan and Fiona.’
‘That’s all right then. How was the procession?’
‘Much the same as last year. Nearly everyone came out. Didn’t you want to?’
She leaned on the worktop, her slim fingers winding themselves nervously round and round each other.
‘No, Leyli, I didn’t want to see those poor people this year. It hurts too much.’
I didn’t understand that. They were just freaks, after all.
‘Can I go up later?’
‘Yes.’ But the reply was absent-minded, as if she had not really heard or understood the question.
I climbed the stairs to our room and lay on the top bunk, feeling the warm breeze move over me from the open window. It gave an illusion of coolness.
A year had gone, in the merest hint of time. A whole twelve months had disappeared. Once again old Mr Silverman had timed his visit to catch the end of the summer holidays, when people were bored stiff with the town and each other. He came as a welcome diversion.
It always seemed to me that the show and the swallows came together. There would be one or two of the tiny darting birds flying with the sparrows and starlings that normally lived in our part of town. Dad would stand in the doorway, shading his eyes with a broad hand.
‘Swallows, Leyli, for sure. You can’t mistake that tail.’
Then the freak show would arrive in town.
End-of-summer ghosts. Swallows and freak shows.
What a mixture.

EXTRACT FOR
Then Came The Liars, Then Came The Fools

(Dorothy Davies)


Chapter 1

Dark was the night - dark is the night - dark as the night. That’s it. Dark as the night. The meaning of my name. But the night isn’t dark. It’s a sort of dark blue silk scattered with Mother’s teardrops.
I swear I didn’t mean it. It was a real accident. Sometimes it all gets away from me.
I didn’t mean it.
But I can’t tell anyone, can I? They wouldn’t believe me. They’d call me mad, and look somewhere else for an explanation.
The room is strangely silent. I ought to sleep; it’s been a long, long day. But sleep won’t come. Only memories. And as Nanny Jayston said, they tend to walk a little hard sometimes.
Don’t think about it.
Think about today. The nice bits of today.


The show arrived in town this morning. Jess and I went to watch the freaks stumbling along on the ends of their chains, creating clouds of fine dust that made me sneeze. I stood in the sunshine, hair sticky on my neck, sensing a dampness under my arms, knowing if I moved I’d leave a perfect footprint in the dust.
‘Why chains?’
I must have asked aloud, because Mr Keith, white hair, red face and huge belly, leaned over my shoulder and whispered, ‘So they don’t escape, Mary.’
My name isn’t Mary. I’d told Mr Keith that a million times, but he never took any notice. Mrs Keith gave a funny little snort from the other side of me, and I looked round.
‘Ignore him, Leila. He calls all the girls Mary and all the boys Charlie. Always has done, always will, as far as I can tell.’
Mrs Keith had told me that a million times, too. She was small, white-haired and plump, a Mr Keith condensed without his softness. I liked Mr Keith, even if he did call me Mary, because he always had time for me.
I wondered, for the merest flicker of a moment, what chaos it would cause if the freaks did escape. I pictured the confusion, and then gloried in the noise and colour of the procession. It was a lovely summer day. The sky was clear washed blue, and trees stood proud with light behind every leaf. The ground was warm under my toes. The colours on the high-sided carts parading before me shrieked like badly processed film. That wasn’t my phrase, you understand - I read it somewhere. It suited the day.
The noise was overwhelming. Carts creaked and wheezed their way through the dust, accompanied by the regular clopping of hoofs as the horses strained against their large collars. The freaks walking alongside the carts or following behind jabbered senselessly to each other, and the neighbours, most of us from the two Rows, called out, adding to the cacophonous parade.
I sneaked a quick look round to see who had come to watch. Janny Jenkins from next door, hair done in tight curls, with her two grandchildren. With Jess, they were leaping up and down, creating their own dust storms in their excitement. I couldn’t see Mr Jenkins anywhere. I guessed he was still in the garden; old, frail, skeletal fingers turning over the pages of yet another book. John Mallory was there, leaning up against the wall as if supporting it. His wife Meg had her hands wrapped in her apron as if she were cold. She was serious, surveying the walking disasters. Marie Sands was waving frantically to her husband who stood on the opposite side of the road, chatting to Mr Green from the other Row. I wondered if Tam had his plastic bucket with him. He never seemed to move without that plastic bucket. Scary Josie Page was there, dark and gloomy as always, but her ancient mother hadn’t made it to the street. Josie would go back and shout the news to her when the procession had gone, no doubt. Angela from the second end house was there, holding on to her two girls as if afraid they would run away, while looking on the verge of running herself.
Many of the residents from the other Row were out; Miss Holloway was among them, so big, so heavy she almost qualified for a place in the freak show herself. She looked at me, her eyes cold and sharp, and I turned away. I had the feeling Miss Holloway knew more about me than she was letting on, and I didn’t like it. If she wasn’t careful I’d do something about putting her in the show.
And then, in a moment of spite, I visualized her sitting in solitary splendour in a lantern-lit tent, and stifled a giggle. Neighbours looked at me, astonished, for the freak passing before us was nothing to laugh at. A young girl, with stumps for arms, and a distorted face. Not so distorted that you looked twice, until she opened her mouth, showing a gaping cavern of nothing, no teeth, no tongue, nothing. Jess screamed and grabbed me, and I put my hands on her thin shoulders, feeling her body tremble.
‘It’s all right,’ I told her, and it was. The freak had moved on and there were only the carts to look at, each with its own highly individual design painted on the side. The huge covers gave no hint of what was inside.
I felt suddenly sorry for the freaks. There was no freedom for them, jerked along on their chains, kept moving at the speed old Mr Silverman set. They seemed tired, as far as you can say a freak feels anything. There was a certain dragging of the feet, leaving long gouges in the dust which the carts rolled over. It talked of tiredness, but Dad always said as soon as you start feeling sorry for someone, common sense goes out the window. Dad was always right, so I hardened up, thought how much better off than us they really were. They didn’t have to work or go foraging. They just sat around and looked awful. True, the ones who could walk had to walk while the others rode, concealed from our eyes until we were ready to pay for a view of them. But honestly, one chemical plant blows up, one travelling freak show comes into being. They were set for life. Jess soon got over being scared, and jumped up and down again with Bryan and Fiona. Jess’s blonde curls tumbled as she jumped. People looked at her with soft smiles. I felt proud for a moment, as if she really was part of the family, as if she really belonged.
The procession passed, trekking on to the top field, where old Mr Silverman would get the tents set up. If we were lucky, we’d have money to pay to duck under greasy canvas sheets and see the freaks in all their glory, surrounded by lanterns casting hideous shadows, and be frightened to death. It was a good feeling to hold on to in the middle of the night, when shadows became monsters, and you were scared, yet safe. Just like standing watching the procession surrounded by neighbours, people you knew and trusted. Scared, yet safe.
When everyone began to move away, I squeezed past Angela and her girls to go and tell Mother all about it. Lisa and Dawn trailed after me.
‘Ley, coming to see them set up the tents?’
‘Not this time.’ Had I ever considered them fit to play with, to talk to? Sometimes they seemed like very young children to me. Especially now, with the secret I had to hold on to.
‘Don’t go alone, will you, girls?’ Angela’s hectoring voice followed me down the alleyway as I rushed for home.
‘Where’s Jess?’ Mother looked tired, dark rings round her normally lively eyes.
‘With Bryan and Fiona.’
‘That’s all right then. How was the procession?’
‘Much the same as last year. Nearly everyone came out. Didn’t you want to?’
She leaned on the worktop, her slim fingers winding themselves nervously round and round each other.
‘No, Leyli, I didn’t want to see those poor people this year. It hurts too much.’
I didn’t understand that. They were just freaks, after all.
‘Can I go up later?’
‘Yes.’ But the reply was absent-minded, as if she had not really heard or understood the question.
I climbed the stairs to our room and lay on the top bunk, feeling the warm breeze move over me from the open window. It gave an illusion of coolness.
A year had gone, in the merest hint of time. A whole twelve months had disappeared. Once again old Mr Silverman had timed his visit to catch the end of the summer holidays, when people were bored stiff with the town and each other. He came as a welcome diversion.
It always seemed to me that the show and the swallows came together. There would be one or two of the tiny darting birds flying with the sparrows and starlings that normally lived in our part of town. Dad would stand in the doorway, shading his eyes with a broad hand.
‘Swallows, Leyli, for sure. You can’t mistake that tail.’
Then the freak show would arrive in town.
End-of-summer ghosts. Swallows and freak shows.
What a mixture.