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The Weight

Of A Cotton


Laura Tinney

Isobelle Carmody Award

for Creative Writing


The rain splattered onto the cobbled street, bouncing off the black

bricks and imitating the marching sound of a storming army.

A little girl stood frozen with her brother and mother, in the

undercroft of a doorway, watching the rain fall. Their bare feet and

dirty clothes highlighted their poverty. 
A lambent street lamp lit

their hollowed-out faces and reflected off the pavement, making the

rain shimmer as it fell. It was early in the morning, so early that the

sun had not yet appeared behind the buildings, but already the day

was beginning. People’s chatter and the clip clop and rattle of

carriages could be heard. 

The poverty-stricken trio began to dart through the rain, the

darkness of the morning enveloping them as they wove through

alleyways and streets. As they moved downtown, the ringing of Big

Ben’s bell announced that it was 5am.

The little family turned a corner and suddenly were on a street with

thousands of other people all ready to start a working day. The crowd

buzzed with polite small talk. They were collectively a mob of the

poorest people in London, yet despite the dark rings under their eyes,

the cuts and bruises and missing fingers, the homes they would never

have, they still managed to act with cordiality, for they were survivors.

The rain seemed to have ceased, and the soaking group watched

the doors to the two-storey factories slowly open. This particular

family made their way to the one on the left.

The textile factory stood one street away from the Thames in

downtown London. The stench from the river exacerbated the

already difficult 14-hour work days. It was widely accepted that the

pay in this sort of factory was poor, but the reality for many workers

was that it was their only choice if they wanted to survive. This

particular family had run into unfortunate circumstances when their

father had fled their country home, and the family had decided to

move to London in pursuit of employment. The children had barely

any education; they had only learnt to read from a small Bible their

mother had kept safe.

People began to flood in through high brass doors. A bright

cockney accent caused the young girl to spin around.

“G’morning to ya Cloud.”

The little girl lit up at the sound of her nickname. She had gained

it fromher allocated job at the textilemill. She spent all day collecting

the falling bits of cotton from the ground. She was constantly

surrounded by a sea of white and her purity and goodness earned her

the name Cloud. Her real name, Eleanor, had long been forgotten.