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Climbing Boy's Lament, AKA, Can't Eat Dictionaries

Friday 5th July, Story #187/366

By L.C. SchäferPublished 17 days ago 3 min read
Climbing Boy's Lament, AKA, Can't Eat Dictionaries
Photo by Uwe Conrad on Unsplash

Claustrophobia is a big word for a little boy. Even bigger for one who can't read, like Tommy. Grimy streets are heartless, and you can't eat dictionaries.

Tommy was small for his years, and skinny. This made him good for the job. He tried his best, no matter how much the sooty bricks pressed in on him, squeezing courage from his thin chest.

Twin fears haunt him: narrow chimneys that laugh and suffocate him, and the wide open spaces yawning at him at the edge of rooftops, threatening to gobble him up and smash him into cobblestones.

Guts churning, Tommy gulps his fear down. He can't afford to lose breakfast.

His master gave him somewhere to sleep, where the bigger boys couldn't get at him. Clothes too, a wash once weekly. He doesn't feed Tommy much, though. Tommy is one of his best sweeps because he's so undergrown and scrawny.

Now, he's shucked his ragged clothes. Not long ago, he could scamper up and down the flues. But despite the skimpy meals, Tommy grew.

At last, his nightmare came true. He couldn't move. Not forward, nor back. Squashed in an impossible position, knees jammed under chin. Breath shallower, hardly enough of it to call for help. Can they even hear me? The sobs come. He knows he's going to die, and of course he doesn't want to. He's still a little boy after all.

He can hear them, trying to reach him with ropes, but he can't make out the words. Everything is going fuzzy.

"Mama," it comes out as a whisper, on the end of a breath. The air is thick and dusty. Even if he could suck it in without coughing, his lungs can't expand.

Those moments drag out a long time, his terror, the taste of ash and soot. The distant sounds of people out there, his own weak cries. The aches of his body. A hundred years, two hundred...

Brandon, there's definitely something in that chimney. An animal or bird. I know you're happy with the gas fire, but if we don't sort it out it'll be like when that pigeon fell down the chimney at the last place. Remember the smell when it died?

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Word count excluding note: 366

Submitted on Friday 5th July at 22.20

*Quick Author's Note*

First, and most importantly: thank you so much for reading my story! The ha'penny that Vocal will toss in my hat for your eyeballs landing on this humble piece will be well-spent.

If you enjoyed this one, the very best compliment you can give me is to share it, or read another!

A Year of Stories: I'm writing a story every day this year. This one continues my 186 day streak since 1st January.

Please do consider lending your support to the other creators who are also on this madcap "a story every day" adventure. They are putting out excellent content every day!
Rachel Deeming
Gerard DiLeo

Please do leave me a comment: I reciprocate as many as I can. Leaving a comment makes that easier.

The story behind the story: "Climbing boys" were a real thing in Victorian England. We'd got more coal fires, but also few fireplaces per home due to a tax. The people living in huge houses got around this by having interconnected flues. But oh, shit - this meant there were spaces that needed sweeping that no adult could rach.

Young children did the job, because they fit better. But it was dangerous. Some did get stuck. Some died.

Thank you!

Thank you again, most sincerely. Especially if you are one of the wonderful people who has been staunchly reading these daily scribbles since the start of the year. I see you, and appreciate you very much indeed! 😁

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About the Creator

L.C. Schäfer

Book-baby is available on Kindle Unlimited

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Sometimes writes under S.E.Holz

"I've read books. Well. Chewed books."

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Comments (8)

  • Cathy holmes16 days ago

    Holy shit! That gave me the creeps. Just last week, I got stuck in an elevator for an hour and I think my claustrophobia amplified ten fold.

  • A wonderful story with a tragic ending! Terrific!

  • The Dani Writer16 days ago

    My word, that was gripping!

  • Harbor Benassa16 days ago

    The scariest thing about this story is that it's believable

  • Hannah Moore17 days ago

    Absolutely fucking hated this. Can't breath big enough, even now. Terrifying.

  • John Cox17 days ago

    You write ‘oh my God not that,’ better than anybody, LC!

  • D.K. Shepard17 days ago

    What a terrifying and tragic end for anyone but especially a child! Great writing, L.C.!

  • Sometimes the most horrifying things are those that are True.

L.C. SchäferWritten by L.C. Schäfer

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