1950 All Dora Judd ever told anyone about that night three weeks before Christmas was that she won the painting in a raffle. She remembered being out in the back garden, as lights from the Cowley Car Plant spilled across the darkening sky, smoking her last cigarette, thinking there must be more to life. Back inside, her husband said, Bloody move it, will you, and she said, Give it a rest, Len, and she began to undo her housedress as she made her way upstairs. In the bedroom, she looked at herself sideways in the mirror, her hands feeling for the progression of her pregnancy, this new life she knew was a son. She sat down at her dressing table and rested her chin on her hands. She thought her eyes looked tired, her skin dry. She painted her lips red and the color instantly lifted her face. It did little for her mood, however. The moment she walked through the door of the Community Center, she knew it had been a mistake to come. The room was smoky and festive drinkers jostled as they tried to get to the bar. She followed her husband through the crowds and the intermittent wafts of perfume and hair oil, bodies and beer. She wasn't up for socializing with him anymore, not the way he behaved with his friends, making a point of looking at every pretty thing that passed, making sure she was watching. She stood off to the side holding a glass of warm orange juice that was beginning to make her feel sick. Thank God Mrs. Powys made a beeline for her, clutching a book of raffle tickets. Top prize was a bottle of Scotch whisky, said Mrs. Powys, as she took Dora over to the table where the prizes were laid out. Then we have a radio, a voucher for a haircut and set at Audrey's Coiffure, a tin of Quality Street sweets, a pewter hip flask, and lastly--and she leaned forward for this confidence--a midsize oil painting of very little worth. Albeit a fine copy of a European work of art, she added with a wink. Dora had seen the original on a school trip to London at the National Gallery's Pimlico site. Fifteen years old she'd been, full of the contradictions of that age. But when she had entered the gallery room, the storm shutters around her heart flew open and she knew immediately that this was the life she wanted: Freedom. Possibility. Beauty . There were other paintings in the room, too, she remembered--van Gogh's Chair and Seurat's Bathers at Asnières --but it was as if she had fallen under this particular painting's spell, and whatever had transfixed her then, and drawn her into the inescapable confines of its frame, was exactly what was pleading with her now. Mrs. Judd? said Mrs. Powys. Mrs. Judd? repeated Mrs. Powys. Can I tempt you to a ticket, then? What? A raffle ticket? Oh, yes. Of course. The lights flickered on and off and a man tapped a spoon against a glass. The room quietened as Mrs. Powys made a great show of reaching into the cardboard box and pulling out the first winning ticket. Number seventeen, she said, grandly. Dora was too distracted by the feelings of nausea to hear Mrs. Powys, and it was only when the woman next to her nudged her and said, It's you! that Dora realized she had won. She held up her ticket and said, I'm seventeen! and Mrs. Powys shouted, It's Mrs. Judd! Mrs. Judd is our first winner! and led her over to the table to take her pick of the prizes. Leonard shouted out for her to choose the whisky. Mrs. Judd? said Mrs. Powys, quietly. But Dora said nothing, she stared at the table. Get the whisky, Leonard shouted again. The whisky! And slowly, in unison, the men's voices chanted, Whisky! Whisky! Whisky! Mrs. Judd? said Mrs. Powys. Will it be the whisky? And Dora turned and faced her husband and said, No, I don't like whisky. I choose the painting instead. It was her first ever act of defiance. Like cutting off an ear. And she made it in public. She and Len left shortly after. They sat separately on the bus journey home, her up, him down. When they got off, he stormed ahead of her, and she fell back into the peace of her star-aligned night. The front door was ajar when she arrived and the house was dark, no noise from upstairs. She went quietly into the back room and turned on the light. It was a drab room, furnished by one pay packet, his. Two armchairs were set by the hearth and a large dining table that had witnessed little conversation over the years blocked the way to the kitchen. There was nothing on those brown walls except a mirror, and Dora knew she should hang the painting in the shadow of the dresser away from his sight, but she couldn't help herself, not that night. And she knew if she didn't do it then, she never would. She went to the kitchen and opened his toolbox. She took out a hammer and a nail and came back to the wall. A few gentle taps and the nail moved softly and easily into the plaster. She stood back. The painting was as conspicuous as a newly installed window, but one that looked out onto a life of color and imagination, far away from the gray factory dawn and in stark contrast to the brown curtains and brown carpet, both chosen by a man to hide the dirt. It would be as if the sun itself rose every morning on that wall, showering the silence of their mealtimes with the shifting emotion of light. The door exploded and nearly came off its hinges. Leonard Judd made a lunge for the painting, and as quickly as she had ever moved in her life, Dora stood in front of it, raised the hammer, and said, Do it and I'll kill you. If not now, then when you sleep. This painting is me. You don't touch it, you respect it. Tonight I'll move into the spare room. And tomorrow you'll buy yourself another hammer. All for a painting of sunflowers. Ellis 1996 In the front bedroom, propped up among the books, is a color photograph of three people, a woman and two men. They are tightly framed, their arms around one another, and the world beyond is out of focus, and the world on either side excluded. They look happy, they really do. Not just because they are smiling but because there is something in their eyes, an ease, a joy, something they share. It was taken in spring or summer, you can tell by the clothes they are wearing (T-shirts, pale colors, that sort of thing), and, of course, because of the light. One of the men from the photograph, the one in the middle with scruffy dark hair and kind eyes, is asleep in that room. His name is Ellis. Ellis Judd. The photograph, there among the books, is barely noticeable, unless you know where to find it, and because Ellis no longer has any desire to read, there is little compulsion for him to move toward the photograph, and for him to pick it up and to reminisce about the day, that spring or summer day, on which it was taken. The alarm clock went off at five in the afternoon as it always did. Ellis opened his eyes and turned instinctively to the pillow next to him. Through the window dusk had fallen. It was February still, the shortest month, which never seemed to end. He got up and turned off the alarm. He continued across the landing to the bathroom and stood over the toilet bowl. He leaned a hand against the wall and began to empty his bladder. He didn't need to lean against the wall anymore but it was the unconscious act of a man who had once needed support. He turned the shower on and waited until the water began to steam. Washed and dressed, he went downstairs and checked the time. The clock was an hour fast because he had forgotten to put it back last October. However, he knew that in a month the clocks would go forward and the problem would right itself. The phone rang as it always did, and he picked it up and said, Carol. Yes, I'm all right. OK then. You, too. He lit the stove and brought two eggs to the boil. Eggs were something he liked. His father did, too. Eggs were where they came together in agreement and reconciliation. He wheeled his bike out into the freezing night and cycled down Divinity Road. At Cowley Road he waited for a break in the traffic heading east. He had done this journey thousands of times and could close his mind and ride at one with the black tide. He turned into the sprawling lights of the Car Plant and headed over to the Paint Shop. He was forty-five years old, and every night he wondered where the years had gone. The stink of white spirit caught in his throat as he walked across the line. He nodded to men he had once socialized with, and in the Tinny Bay, he opened his locker and took out a bag of tools. Garvy's tools. Every one of them handmade, designed to get behind a dent and to knock it out. People reckoned he was so skilled at it he could take the cleft out of a chin without the face knowing. Garvy had taught him everything. First day with him, Garvy picked up a file and struck a discarded door panel and told him to get the dent out. Keep your hand flat, he'd said. Like this. Learn to feel the dent. Look with your hands, not your eyes. Move across it gently. Feel it. Stroke it. Gently now. Find the pimple. And he stood back, all downward mouth and critical eye. Ellis picked up the dolly, placed it behind the dent and began to tap above with the spoon. He was a natural. Listen to the sound! Garvy'd shouted. Get used to the sound. The ringing lets you know if you've spotted it right. And when Ellis had finished, he stood up pleased with himself because the panel was as smooth as if it had just been pressed. Garvy said, Reckon it's out, do you? And Ellis said, Course I do. And Garvy closed his eyes and ran his hands across the seam and said, Not out. They used to listen to music back then, but only once Ellis knew the sound that metal made. Garvy liked Abba, he liked the blonde one best, Agnetha someone, but he never told anyone else. Over time, though, Ellis came to realize the man was so lonely and eager for companionship that the process of smoothing out a dent was as if his hands were running across a woman's body. Later in the canteen, the others would stand behind him and pout, run their hands down their make-believe breasts and waists, and they would whisper, Close your eyes, Ellis. Do you feel it, that slight pimple? Can you feel it, Ellis? Can you? It was Garvy, who sent him to the trim shop to ask for a "trim woman," the silly sod, but only the once, mind. And when he retired, Garvy said, Take two things from me, Ellis boy. First--work hard and you'll have a long life here. And second--my tools. Ellis took the tools. Garvy died a year after retiring. This place had been his oxygen. They reckoned he suffocated doing nothing. Ellis? said Billy. What? I said nice night for it, and he closed his locker. Ellis picked up a coarse file and smashed it into a scrap panel. There you go, Billy, he said. Knock it out. It was one in the morning. The canteen was busy and smelled of chips and shepherd's pie and something overcooked and green. The sound of a radio crept out from the kitchen, Oasis, "Wonderwall," and the serving women sang along. Ellis was next in the queue. The light was harsh and he rubbed his eyes and Janice looked at him concerned. But then he said, Pie and chips, Janice, please. And she said, Pie and chips it is then. There we go, my love. Gentlemen's portions, too. Thanks. Night, my love. He walked over to the table in the far corner and pulled out a chair. Do you mind, Glynn? he said. Glynn looked up. Be my guest, he said. You all right there, Ellis mate? Fine, he said, and he began to roll a cigarette. What's the book? he asked. Harold Robbins. If I don't cover the front of it, you know what this lot are like. They'll make it smutty. Any good? Brilliant, said Glynn. Nothing predictable. The twists, the violence. Racy cars, racy women. Look. That's the photograph of the author. Look at him. Look at his style . That is my kind of man. What's your kind of man? You a bit of a nelly, Glynn? said Billy, pulling up a chair. In this context, my kind of man means the kind I'd hang out with. Not us then? I'd rather chew my hand off. No offense, Ellis. None taken. I was a bit like him in the seventies, style-wise, that is. You remember, Ellis? A bit Saturday Night Fever , were you? said Billy. I'm not listening to you. White suit, gold chains? Not listening. All right, all right. Truce? said Billy. Glynn reached across for the ketchup. But, said Billy. But what? said Glynn. I bet you could tell by the way you used your walk that you were a woman's man with no time to talk. What's he going on about? said Glynn. No idea, said Ellis quietly, and he pushed his plate away. Out into the night, he lit his cigarette. The temperature had dropped and he looked up and thought that snow was threatening. He said to Billy, You shouldn't wind Glynn up like that. Billy said, He's asking for it. No one's asking for it. And cut out the nelly shit. Look, said Billy. Ursa Major. Can you see it? The Great Bear. Did you hear me? said Ellis. Look--down, down, down, up. Across. Down. And up, up. You see? Did you hear me I said? Yes, I heard you. They walked back toward the Paint Shop. But did you see it? said Billy. Oh Jesus, said Ellis. The horn blared out and the assembly line slowed and the men busied themselves in handover and departure. It was seven in the morning and the morning was dark. Ellis wondered when he'd last seen the sun. He felt restless after shift, and when he felt like that he never went home straightaway because the loneliness would pounce. Sometimes, he cycled up to Shotover Woods, or out to Waterperry, just him filling the hours with the dull burn of miles in his calves. He'd watch the morning lighten against the trees and listen to birdsong to soothe his ears after the clash of industry. He tried not to think too much about things, out there in nature, and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. When it didn't, he cycled back thinking his life was far from how he had intended it to be. Thanks! ___________________________________ RRD Allentown Composition 700 Nestle Way #200 | Breinigsville, PA 18031 Office: 610.391.4658 | Fax: 610.391.3980 Office Hours: M-F 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM email@example.com Excerpted from Tin Man: A Novel by Sarah Winman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.