Throwing open the light blue shutters, Martha felt the sun flash on her pale face. She didn’t blink, but stared, wide-eyed at the bright sunlight, not minding the glare. Perhaps it was because she felt that she had just emerged from a dark time.
Walking away from the window, she stroked her thinning blonde hair as she entered her kitchen and poured herself a glass of orange juice. Sipping it, she smiled as a happy song came to her mind. She hummed as she pulled a large box out of the cupboard. Inside was a rainbow of paints. She picked red, orange and purple, leaving the dark ones behind. For each colour she got a ramekin and into it squirted a dollop. It was a whim – following an idea in her head; wanting to seize the day. She continued to sing while she did this – a happy song.
Next she took out a piece of white card and cut it into a circle. After laying some newspaper down, she looked between the circle and the paints biting her lower lip.
“Red.” Taking her paintbrush she dipped it in the red and drew a curve from the center to the outer edge. Purple followed orange, and then more red, until a beautiful pattern was painted. She left the paint to dry and decided to take a walk around her new village.
The streets were beautifully cobbled. Everybody was walking at a relaxed pace. Unlike the city she had lived in before, it seemed that here everything could wait – there was always time for a chat.
The occasional horse and trap trundled by and she loved the noise it made as it went past. She came to the grocer’s a little way up the hill. His stall was an old-fashioned carriage and was propped up on two barrels where the horse would have been hitched.
That had been the reason she had chosen to live here – it was famous for its traditionalism. It wasn’t that the people where unaware of the twenty-first century, but rather they preferred the past.
Martha bought some carrots and coriander to make soup, then went on up the hill to the bakery. The smell of bread wafted down the street, coupled with the aroma of coffee and sizzling bacon from a café. It was as if she had had her meal already.
Her artwork was still not dry when she returned, so she chopped the carrots and coriander and set the soup cooking.
When her painted circle was just about dry, she rummaged around and found a drawing pin. She pushed it through the center into a lump of putty so that the circle would spin. She looked down at it and began to see shapes emerging – a snake chasing another snake. Then she heard a fizzing sound. Looking around in confusion, she realised it was her soup boiling over. She wiped down the cooker top and served herself a bowl of the orange soup along with a generous slice of crusty white bread.
Dipping the bread into the soup she lazily spun the disk again. This time however, she did not see snakes, but instead the letter ‘C’. She spun it again and stared to make sure. It was definitely a ‘C.’ As she stared for a third time her bread glooped into the soup.
After clearing away her bowl she returned to the table and cut another four circles and painted each one a different way.
The next morning she leapt out of bed like an excited child. She couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen and check on her art work. Moving quickly she set each disc up like the first and spun them all together. They spelled ‘C.H.O.C.O.’
“Choco?” she said to herself. On a hunch she made another four discs. This time she did not wait for them to dry. She spun them, causing some of the paint to splatter, and saw the word Chocolate appeared.
Chocolate was her Achilles heel. She always kept some in the house. She took a few squares from the fridge and placed one of them on her tongue. The chocolate melted in her mouth and was wonderfully creamy. She was lost in a beautiful world that she thought only existed in commercials – when suddenly there was a knock at the door.
Rushing back to reality she got up and opened it. At the door was Jane, a friend of hers since her first day of school. It was at Jane’s suggestion that Martha moved here.
Jane wore a flowery dress of reds and whites. She looked far younger than Martha despite them both being middle-aged. Martha had forgotten her friend was coming and hastily welcomed her in. She lead Jane into the living room, boiled the kettle and placed two slices of cake on plates.
“How is everything?” Jane asked.
“Fine.” Martha placed the tray on the table. “Forgetting the bad, remembering good times.”
“This town is wonderful for that – quiet and serene – the perfect place to forget that troubles exist.” She sipped her tea.
“Exactly,” Martha took a bite of cake. “Let me show you something.” She pointed into the other room where the disc were drying. Jane followed her carrying the plate with her cake on.
“These are very interesting!” Jane looked down at the discs.
Jane gave her friend a curious look as she spun the discs. She watched them for a few moments. “Brother!” she exclaimed.
“Yes,” Jane said. “It says ‘brother’.”
Martha looked down at the nine discs. They no longer spelled ‘chocolate.’ The word ‘brother’ was now clearly visible, flanked by a coloured disc on each side.
Jane walked away from the table her hand over her mouth. “Me and my brother haven’t been speaking. I took exception to his new girlfriend. Maybe I should call him.” Suddenly her voice lost its uncertainty and with conviction she said. “I’m going to call him. See you in church tomorrow,” and without another word she left, leaving Martha flabbergasted.
That evening just as Martha was making for bed the phone rang. She picked it – it was Jane. “Thank you.”
“Your, um, magic discs!” she said in a smiley voice. “When I got home I rang my brother. We talked for about two hours. We were able to mend some fences. So I say again, thank you.”
They chatted for a while, then just as they were about to say goodnight Jane remembered something. “You should bring those discs to the fête – they would make an interesting stall. Anyway goodnight for now.”
Reverend Bullock always spoke in such a booming voice that it was often speculated that if he stood in the church and gave his sermon, everyone in the village would hear it anyway. No-one had ever had the courage to not attend to test that theory however.
To many in the congregation the actual words became a blur, as the Reverend was said to denounce everything – even such things as charity work, as he said the motivation was often wrong, coming from a desire to feel good about oneself rather than wishing to help those in need.
“For ever and ever!” He boomed the end of the Lord’s Prayer and the congregation dutifully responded, “Amen.”
Only when he stepped down from the pulpit and entered the vestry, did the first murmurs of conversation begin. They were not however, about the sermon. Just before people started to file out of the church Mark made his way to the front.
“Ladies and gentlemen.” There was silence. Mark spoke softly and yet commanded respect – a trait stemming from his days as a teacher. “Tomorrow is the village fête. Maggie will of course be bringing her cake stall again, and Jack shall be there with his tombola, and of course many others besides – but I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise. If anyone else has any ideas for a stall please approach me. It’s not too late.” Mark was the opposite of the Reverend. He always tried to think the best of people and never wanted to enter into any sort of conflict, even when he was clearly in the right. He accompanied Martha and Jane back to Martha’s home having been intrigued by their suggestion.
Entering the flat they showed him the discs. “Interesting…”
Martha spun them and told Mark to look closely. They could almost see the moment when the word was seen by Mark. “Bunting!” he looked at each of them grinning. “I forgot the bunting! How did you know?”
“Didn’t,” Martha said. “It’s different for each person.”
The fête was set up on the village green with the twenty or so stall holders arriving early. At one end of the field Harry was losing a battle with a Hi-Fi system. The colourful bunting flapped gently in the breeze as people began to arrive.
Martha’s stall, being the new one, attracted a lot of attention. Maggie left her stall in the care of one of her army of grandchildren and came over. She put some coins into the box at the side and Martha spun the discs.
The old lady looked at them closely, and squinted. “Emily!” she smiled. “That’s my youngest, and why . . . it’s her birthday tomorrow and I’d completely forgotten! Thank you, thank you!”
Throughout the day others came and each saw something different in the discs. ‘Stove’ reminded Lee that he had left the oven on and he rushed home; ‘Plug’ told Harry that he had forgotten to plug the system in; and ‘Rose’ encouraged Jim to buy flowers for his wife.
The Reverend arrived at the village green around midday. He held his head up perusing the stalls, glancing at the pots of money, calculating how much they had raised for the church. He looked like a plantation owner inspecting his slaves. As was usual, he went to each stall and bought something.
He was chewing a cake as he came to Martha’s store. “What’s this then?” he asked.
“A message,” Martha said. “Spin these discs and it will remind you of something important that you’ve forgotten.”
He looked between Martha and the discs.
His face fell and he frowned, “evil,” Bullock intoned. “You presume to reach into peoples’ minds! Witchcraft!”
“Witchcraft?” Martha repeated, raising her eyebrows.
Bullock stopped. He looked like he wanted to turn over the table and destroy the stall, but his rationale would not let him use violence. “You should be ashamed.”
Many of the other villagers had noticed this rant. Bullock was, so it seemed, incapable of a whisper.
“What is the problem Reverend?” Mark asked, coming over arm in arm with Kate, the village postmistress.
“This woman . . .” Bullock pointed a fat finger at Martha, “. . . is practising witchcraft”.
“No she isn’t.” Mark just managed to suppress his laugh. “I spun the discs and they said ‘Kate’.”
“And then,” Kate grinned, kissing Mark on the cheek, “he finally plucked up the courage to ask me out.”
“Are you suggesting that we burn her at the stake?” Mark did not give the Reverend time enough to answer. “Try it!”
Mark’s soft voice was more commanding than any of the sermons of Bullock’s. Frowning with every muscle in his face the Reverend looked back at them. Tentatively Martha set the discs spinning.
“Relax!” he boomed, reading. “Relax,” he said calmly.
One by one the muscles in Bullock’s face relaxed. Even his well-developed scowl seemed to be gone. Then he walked away from the stall almost in a daze. He walked to the music stand, stepped onto the podium, and turned up the volume. The music blared out, and he started to move to it. He was awkward at first, but then more muscles began to move, and suddenly he was loose and relaxed. Others started to join him and soon the entire village was dancing.