A Story by Elinor


The Ferry Docks were bustling with people returning to London and those making the journey to France. Business men strode through each port, their stances authoritative, faces too the ground as they wanted nothing to do with anyone who received less than 15,000 a year. Heiresses and prestigious gentry glided over the mottled, sea-sprayed stones, and a band of gypsies lounged in one of the darker corners of the dock, a wild array of scarves in their collection, pyrite jewelry dangling from whatever areas they could pierce or encompass. Everyone else was waiting in some sort of line, constantly checking pocket watches or adjusting the tight fitting bowler caps on their heads. Among these lines was a young couple, Mr. and Mrs. Scott Beauchamp. The man would check his wrist watch every now and then, really to make sure than it was still there and not to check the time. It had been a gift from a great aunt whose face had evaded his memory entirely, but it would have been a shame to lose the antique heirloom to the swift, grubby hands of a pickpocket.

Scott Beauchamp was a shortish American with round spectacles and hair that always seemed to be gelled back. His suit, while it fit him perfectly, was well worn, nearing shabby, and his shoes shone almost as brightly as his stiffened hair.

As Mr. Beauchamp stepped up to the customs desk, he smiled at the clerk who only returned the friendly gesture with a weary look. His eyes, as dull as the docks around them, swept over Mr. Beauchamp, judging the younger man’s character with a single glance.

“What’s in the suitcase?” The clerk asked, his voice raspy and carrying the tone of someone who clearly didn’t wish to be working.

“Just my clothing and a few books.” He ended the sentence with another smile, although this one was more forced. The clerk only motioned for him to open the case which Mr. Beauchamp thought was completely unnecessary, but he followed the instruction to avoid straining the older man’s nerves.

The clothes weren’t a problem, but as the clerk skimmed the pages of Mr. Beauchamp’s most beloved novels, the bitterness in his eyes turning into a sort of disgust. Mr. Beauchamp nervously played with the tattered hem of his suit jacket, shifting from one foot to another as the older man continued riffling through his luggage.

“This is dirt.” The clerk muttered, just loud enough for Mr. Beauchamp to hear.

“I beg your pardon?” Was all the younger man could say.

“All of these monstrosities of novels and memoir, they’re all dirt. Vulgar, obscene, ungodly dirt.” Mr. Beauchamp was dumbfounded by the amount of loathing in the other man’s tone, causing him to be rendered speechless as the clerk continued digging and through his case. He finally came across a stack of papers that meant the world to the young Mr. Beauchamp. His work from the past three years lived on those pages which were now being examined by someone who clearly didn’t appreciate any sort of modern literature.

“Those are my memoirs.” Mr. Beauchamp finally managed to say. “I was writing about my time in Paris, and l’amour if you will. And there are a few sections on how progressive and revolutionary these times are, it’s really amazing how much the world has changed since the war-”

“This is dirt.” The clerk said, interrupting the perturbed American.

“You haven’t read it, how could you possibly know-”

“I know dirt when I see it, and it’s all over these pages.”

At this point the young Beauchamp was quite agitated, and wanted nothing more than to leave the customs desk and return home.

“I’m going to have to confiscate this.” The clerk said, a faint, but cruel smile forming on his chapped lips. He no doubt believed Mr. Beauchamp to be a writer of novel ideas that only seemed to come from the minds of young men who had been too young to truly remember the great war to end all wars.

The American could hardly find the words to protest, but he finally regained his composure and mustered up the sternest voice he possibly could.

“Now listen, I’ve spent the past three years working on that manuscript, and I’ve been promised the opportunity to have it published. I can’t show up to the publishers without my book.” The clerk, being taller than Mr. Beauchamp, looked down his nose at the young writer.

“Nothing is promised boy. Not a single moment of your life is promised.”

“But you don’t understand, my entire career depends on this book. I’m a writer you see, if I don’t have any material to publish I’ll be out of a job.” The clerk’s glare remained, and the manuscript was not returned to Mr. Beauchamp who was growing more and more desperate as each second ticked by.

“If you want to be a writer, then spend your time writing real literature, not the dirt that you young people are constantly consuming for whatever reason. Your entire generation is obsessed with getting your hands dirty. You’re always writing about your affairs in the evenings, all that partying and what not. And if you’re not writing that, you’re writing about how you’re going to change the world by eliminating the church and all of the modesty this damned planet has left. It’s books like these that send people straight down to the devil himself. I’m doing you a favor by getting rid of this filth.” Mr. Beauchamp opened his mouth to once again try to persuade the older man to give his precious book back, but before he could utter a single word his wife, Theda Beauchamp, appeared next to him.

Theda Beauchamp contrasted her husband greatly. She was used to a life of luxury, and she still seemed to believe that she had the same status in society her parents once provided for her despite not marrying into what would be deemed as an acceptable family. Marrying a no-name writer from Brooklyn dissolved her good breeding, and all of her friends had shunned her from society. The worst part was that she was no longer invited to the extravagant parties she had once lived for. Of course, she still received the support of her parents’ money, and she continued to dress like the socialite she was bred to be; styling her hair to fit the latest fashion and buying the most exquisite Parisian clothing. Her head was always held high, and there was this constant air of superiority around her that only come with money. Theda was the sort of person who, when looking at a picture, instead of admiring the photograph, would admire her own reflection.

“Darling,” She had one of those voices that seemed to grow higher in pitch with every syllable, “what’s taking so long? Grab your case so we can be on our way. I do wish to return home soon. Miss Frank, oh you remember Miss Frank, don’t you darling? She’s invited us over for tea with the Rodens, but such affairs always turn out to be quite the social events. And I’ve heard that old Mr. What's his name will be there. You know, the one with the funny hats and lots of money.” As Mrs. Beauchamp continued to babble on about the latest news in society, her husband turned back to the clerk who was now shutting the younger man’s suitcase, leaving the manuscript on his desk.

“It’s my job to make sure dirt like this doesn’t get into this already corrupted country.” The clerk says, returning the suitcase to the devastated writer. Mr. Beauchamp wanted most ardently to continue his argument, but words wouldn’t form on his tongue. At least, no words that could convince the stubborn, close-minded clerk. He was uncommonly passive for a writer, always putting others first and leaving his own feelings behind.

“Let’s go darling, we mustn’t be late for tea.” Mrs. Beauchamp took her husband by the arm as he cast one more mournful look at his beloved pages. “All right.” Was all he said as he followed her away from the docks, and away from his hard work that had all turned to dirt.

© 2016 Elinor

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Added on December 30, 2016
Last Updated on December 30, 2016
Tags: fiction, clerk, wealthy, paris, london, ferry, short story, book, writer, 1920s, dirt




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