I’ve been working for as long as I’ve been walking. Years and years and years. At least five. He thinks that I’m probably about nine – he knew my mother I think – but I’m very small for my age. He’s really pleased about that, I can keep working for longer, no need to train up another new one.
I used to mind not being as big as the other boys. But when I saw what happened to them, how they got stuck and couldn’t move and couldn’t breathe…
I dream about it sometimes. That I’m up there in the dark, flakes of soot falling into my mouth, gasping for air, stuck inside a narrow, twisted chimney.
The days are long and today’s a winter day, my least favourite. The sweep master wakes us all by throwing dirty, cold water over our faces and pushing mugs of stale ale into our hands. This is breakfast. Only in winter though, in summer we clean several chimneys each before we get the ale. I suppose it’s leftover from the stuff he swills down every night.
When I grow up I want to be a sweep master. Everyone else does the work, if you’re a sweep master you just stand there and order everyone around, drink ale all day and night and beat any of the boys whenever you feel like taking your temper out on someone. And you get all the money.
It’s funny, you don’t see many grown up chimney sweeps. I wonder what they all do? I asked my sweep master once and he just laughed and told me not to bother myself about it. So I don’t know why more chimney sweeps don’t grow up to be sweep masters. But that’s what I want to be. When I grow up.