General Fiction posted September 26, 2022 Chapters:  ...47 48 -49- 50... 

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The ladies are trying to find English-speakers

A chapter in the book The Tor

Communication Problems

by Liz O'Neill

The ladies are resistant about walking the steep railess staircase to the top of the Glastonbury Tor. In asking for alternate directions for a walking path they attempt to ask nearby groups.

Madeline is the narrator.

Cordelia was the dishwasher and invited her to accompany her to England.

Somara was the bookkeeper for the Monastery.

Cyndy was the shepherd for four sheep.

Jill tended to the hens and chickens and the flower gardens.

Caren was a potter for the monastery in a separate building.

Mary Jo was in charge of the appearance of the chapel.

Karin was a counselor to the distressed brothers, but was exposed and expelled for deceiving authorities.



The ladies are finished with their therapy interactions with each other, guided by Karin, who is a psychiatrist. Mary Jo made one of the best suggestions regarding our dilemma. “Maybe we can find someone around here who can tell us if there is another way up to the top besides those treacherous steps.”  


We all thought that Mary Jo was the clearest thinking and best informed of us on this topic of how to get to the top. As I have fantasized before in similar situations, I hoped for a helicopter to come to our rescue. It could nicely lift us up there in a minute or so. 

This long stone staircase journey looked like we might make it by close of day. The going up would be bad enough, but the descending, with no rail, makes me worry we might just pitch forward.

As always, no large capacitied helicopter was coming for us, nor even a tiny one for me. I coached myself that I needed to get a grip and focus. 

I could finally think logically. “Let’s do what Mary Jo has suggested. Everyone fan out, find us a way up there. We can meet back here to compare notes.


As I approached a group, I lost my courage as I overheard their discussion. The taller woman said, “Musimy wejÅ?Ä? po dÅ?ugich schodach.”  

She was answered by her laughing friend. “CieszÄ? siÄ?, że zjadÅ?em dobre Å?niadanie.” 

My first thought was to run the other way, but we were on a mission. I went up to them and just bit the bullet and outrightly asked the question. “Is there another way up besides the stairs?” I motioned to the stairs and gestured going up steps, then walking on a level path. 

Needless to say, they looked at me strangely. They probably thought I was a mime looking for money, waiting for me to hold up the money-collection cup.

They shrugged and in unison said, “Bez angielskiego, no English.”

I nodded and said, “Gracias.”  Ooof, that went well. Not!

The next group spoke English. They were about to ask me the same question about a safer approach.

I was growing increasingly deflated. I just hoped the others had better luck and moped my way back to the meeting spot, to see some were already seated on the grass beneath the tree.       

The grumbling that was going on did not fill me with hope. It did not.

As I neared the group, Jill looked up at me and said, “Doesn’t anyone speak English here? We’re in England for gods’ sakes.”

“Those who spoke English were seeking the same path as we are, if one even exists.” Karin shook her head in disappointment.

I remembered my friend and my nightmare in Mexico. “This difficulty with language inconsistency reminds me of our trip to Mexico several years ago. 

“I guess I made an assumption. We know what happens with that situation. I make an axx of you and me.  I thought the people in the resort would speak English. But, then it occurred to me that the staff members in our Holiday Inn don’t learn different languages to kowtow to the guests.

“There was one fellow who spoke English well. He was quite remarkable, speaking Mayan in the home, Spanish at work, and fluent English for the likes of us. There was another one who was fun. He’d greet me with ‘Ola’ pronounced o-luh. When I greeted him with the pronunciation of ‘O-law,’ he joked with me. ‘O-luh, o-luh, coco cola.’

“Now wouldn’t you think, in an airport, someone would be able to comprehend and/or speak English?”

Several responded with similar phrases. “Well, of course.” “I would hope so.” “They should in an airport.”

I once again remembered the incredible tension we experienced. “Nope, not one English-speaking person. We needed information for when our plane was boarding. There was some written message flashing on a screen that we were delayed. That was the end of it, as we watched the cameras picking up people boarding a plane. 

“Was it ours, no way to know. When we asked about our plane, no one understood our dilemma or our English. Another plane was boarding. The tension within us was growing.

Finally, after an hour, there was an announcement, that we were to go down some stairs to board our plane. When we got down there, we met a stressed English-speaking woman who claimed she’d been waiting for two hours, that the plane was delayed all of that time.”  

After I finished rambling, Cyndy posed a comical question. “There are so many different nationalities and languages, could that be like the ‘Tower of Babel?'” She pointed up to the looming tower at the top. 

“Who knows, Cyndy might be right. We know so little about this place. There are many myths about this tor and its surrounding areas.” Evelyn looked toward Mary Jo for more insight. 

Mary Jo, who seemed to be the only studied person here, filled us in with what she remembered she’d read. “That actually is a cathedral steeple from years ago.

"I guess there was a St. Michael Church and several houses and buildings. At some point they were all destroyed and the only thing left is that steeple."

My bitterness returned. “I wonder if that was before or after the gallows  were constructed for the leaders of ou…the monastery. I almost said our monastery.” I felt flustered.

Jill reminded us. “We were there in the past. That was our monastery, as horrible as many aspects of it were, I guess it was home, and we were sheltered and fed. We were the reason Abbot Richard did not want to close the monastery. He felt responsible for us.” 

Evelyn added reality to that situation. “We’d definitely have nowhere to go, with no backstory of who we’d been before the monastery.”

Somara summed it up. “I guess we should thank the Abbot wherever and whomever he is today.”

Cordelia, the inner dowser, grew pensive. “I think maybe we should walk around the left side of this massive hill. I’m getting a sense our answer may be in that direction.”

I observed that old hesitation as we thought of standing. I noted everyone moving their bodies in different manners, as if shaking off pain-filled shudders, medieval nightmare memories.

In preparation for the speculative trek, a few of us scanned the ground for the semblance of a walking stick. Cordelia encouraged everyone. “If we ever find the steep upward walking path, we may be glad we took the time to select a suitable stick.”


Post Number 200
A Milestone Post

Here is a link that contains images of the dreaded staircase.
Images of the Tor. Look at how tall it is & those steps with no railing:

Buildings before ruins
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