Of A Cotton
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.