Tina Baker

Tina began writing as a young child and loved to create puppet plays which she performed in her front garden in the hope of entertaining passersby.

As an adult she had a variety of jobs including the design and production of technical manuals, assisting an editor in the heady world of publishing occupational health and safety journals and, finally, organising major events.

Later in life she remembered the pleasure of creating stories so she undertook a two year creative writing course, and this encouraged her to write her first novel, which she hopes to be published, one day.


Beneath the Shoal Of Dead Eyed Fish

On rainy mornings, and there are many, Lena can be seen making her way to work at the telephone exchange on the other side of the deep, estuary river. It is always nearly nine o’clock, and she is always nearly late.

For a weekly brown envelope filled with coins she listens to bodiless voices as she stares at an endless board of twisted cords and plugs, and connects and disconnects callers from around the kingdom. She has done it for so long she can do it with both eyes shut.

Lena is as thin as string and if you look closely, beneath her pale blue coat, you will see a small purple bruise where her heart sits beneath. If you look closer still, through her lily-white skin and behind her ivory ribs, you will see her heart beating, but only just.

On her way to work, she passes the old clock tower, and hears its mice begin to scurry. The collective scratching of tiny claws warns her that the hammer is rising, inch by inch, to beat nine hours from the passive, waiting bell.

She’s going to be late.

‘Shoo!’

A flock of birds stand on the path. She moves to the left, then to the right, but each time they block her way. The rain is collecting in the fibres of her coat and her shoulders sag beneath its swelling weight. The birds stare at her with blank eyes, so she steps out into the road and the path of a speeding car.

The driver raises his fist, and his windscreen turns red.

The flock of birds rise into a mass of clapping wings, and Lena lifts her gaze to watch them but the rain pools in her eyes. She blinks, and a cascade of water runs over her cheekbones, down her neck and inside the collar of her coat.

She’s going to be docked. One coin less for each minute lost. She’d better hurry up or she’s going to be late.

Turning the corner into Communication Street, the monolithic building of the telephone exchange looms into view and Lena’s heart sinks two ribs down. The sound of dragging feet reaches her, leather on lino, and the efficient punch of metal through card. She can see the women, one behind the other, eyes front, yapping and snapping at the back of each other’s heads.

Hey, you at the front! Hurry up! She’s going to be late!

Lena crosses the road and a van appears from nowhere. Its wing mirror clips her elbow and flicks her into the path of a double-decker bus. She spins in the road, a swirling vortex of auburn hair and pale blue wool, faster and faster until rising snakes of watery hair spiral from her head. She wobbles then drops, with a splash, to the ground. The front wheels of the bus roll over her chest and she hears the cracking of ribs as she watches the undercarriage glide by. The back wheels follow, and as the chassis
clears her body she stands, wipes an oily streak from her face and carries on her way to work.

One last warning, and then you’re out, they said. She doesn’t want that, what would her old man say? What would he do?

At the stone bridge, which spans the deep estuary river, she slows. Her pale blue coat has absorbed twenty three gallons of rainwater. She stops, exhausted, and leans against the bridge wall to gaze down at the muddy water. Seagulls trail like kites behind a fishing trawler. Deep inside the hold, beneath the slimy shoal of dead eyed fish, one small herring takes its final lonely breath, and as its eyes glaze to a cold stare, Lena climbs up onto the bridge and jumps.

Time to clock off!

On rainy mornings, and there are many, Lena can be seen making her way to work at the telephone exchange on the other side of the deep, estuary river. It is always nearly nine o’clock, and she is always nearly late. For a weekly brown envelope filled with coins, she listens to bodiless voices as she stares at an endless board of twisted cords and plugs, and connects and disconnects callers from all around the kingdom. She has done it for so long, she does it with both eyes shut.