I was given the title, The Lottery and to my surprise I managed to write three short stories on the subject. Two of them are just below and the third called Coming Up To Scratch can be found if you scroll down a little bit further.
The Lottery Ticket. I was shocked by the misery, the angst and destruction that my presence had caused. I thought that I was supposed to bring joy and happiness, but I soon discovered that I was wrong! It hadn’t started out that way. I remember clearly the anticipation, the stillness and the hint of disbelief. The growing excitement; nerves jangling, hearts racing, breaths gasping as realisation began to set in. The sheer joy, full of laughter and hugging and tears and bouncing around was intoxicating. I felt proud. I was responsible for this moment. This initial response was followed by a powerful emotion of hushed whispers and telephone conversations. An air of unease hung unseen with heart stopping, breath holding unheard of expectation which was followed by an explosive release of relief. Shouting and shock vied for attention between high pitched squeals of pure orgasmic delight. Half uttered phrases dominated the room; ‘We could…or we could…’ ‘Oh no! Let’s…’ Plans easily made in a moment to be changed just as quickly in another moment. But who cared? Not I! I was just so happy for everyone. Then came the clinking of glasses and speeches where sweet compliments rang true as they filtered across the room. Eventually tiredness overcame strong emotions and quiet descended. I was the star. I was cossetted; kept close, encased in clear plastic and slid under a soft pillow for safe keeping. Restless sleep; tossing and turning with dreams full of dreams ensued until daybreak brought an unnatural disquiet. The questions, the inquiry led to anxiety and shortness of temper until the doorbell rang heralding in a handshake; a signature and then finally, the hesitant acceptance that it was all sorted, it was real; which obviously to my delight, resulted in the indulgence of euphoria in immense proportions.
This lasted for quite some time but soon the celebration gave way to thoughtful thinking. An agreement by all to take things slowly; to keep quiet about their good fortune. To take time to chill and relax and enjoy the moment; time to grasp their new reality. As for me, I was special, revered; hung high on a pedestal for all to admire. I was sheathed in a golden circle; constantly caressed or kissed; petted like a good luck charm. However, for a short time, I was left alone, and the house was quiet, dark and empty but soon the sun shone again as they returned brown and bronzed and full of tales and plans. Soon there came hustle and bustle with doors banging, furniture scraping with good natured banter as I was packed away ready for new adventures of travelling; unravelling in a new place all shiny and bright and white. There was singing and music playing yet somehow, I didn’t seem to fit in the same exalted place. I was pondered upon and switched and replaced until I was found a space far away from the centre of activities; a nice quiet background kind of place where I could be forgotten. I heard telephones ringing, TV’s blaring and computer games tinging. It seemed oh so joyful again until it wasn’t! First it was the parties and laughter; raucous and forced. Then came the indistinct chatter, uneasy mutterings, low bickering followed by days of distant voices edged with ice or raised in heat and anger. There was sobbing and shouting and long periods of a sad silence that was tense, unnerving. The cold dank atmosphere became filled with hurtful sentences; lashing across the spaces whilst angry voices vomited out nastiness and hate.
Curses, recriminations amidst cars leaving and not returning. Unfriendly numbing shock as cheques and balances broke as excess ran rife. Hearts once so loving turned to stone until there was nothing left. All the joy and happiness had disappeared; squandered and destroyed. A final glass smashing that tore into souls full of regret and remorse crushed, squashed and crumpled. I was discarded; tossed away due to their pitiless darkness of despair. A poignant reminder of what could have been. What a waste!
Sue Westcott (C.) 2021
EVERYTHING I'VE EVER WANTED!
Now that everything had been decided, Hilda relaxed in her chair and poured herself a cup of tea. John had nodded his head in agreement and drained his large mug and then with a loving pat on her shoulder, left to go back to potting about in his shed.
“I’ll just finish the plant holder for Roy,” he said as he left the small, cosy living room. “Won’t be long.”
Hilda sighed. She loved to sit here in the afternoons, come rain or shine; spring through to winter watching time pass slowly by. She always enjoyed watching John, in his element, either tending his beloved tomato plants, mowing his lawn or simply using his skilful hands to create small pieces of garden furniture from recycled wood.
She listened to his happy whistling and glanced down at the piece of paper that was still nestled in her lap. “Such a small piece of paper,” she thought. “Such a gigantic change.”
She looked around the room of their two up-two down terraced house that had been their home for nigh on fifty years. They had worked hard to buy the house all those years ago and she could still feel the joy that they had felt when they had taken possession of the keys and walked hand in hand over the threshold. John’s promise to carry her next time they entered, had tears filling up her soft brown eyes. Wiping them away, she remembered how they had scrimped and saved to buy furniture often using old discarded and broken pieces. But with John’s talent, they had been remade or restored into lovely pieces, tenderly polished over the years that they now glowed in the summer sunlight.
John had been a carpenter and after his discharge from the army he had set up his own restoration and bespoke furniture business. Proudly Hilda thought back to the tiny garage which used to house his tools and how he had kept the roof over their heads through many a lean time.
They hadn’t been blessed with children, but Hilda had worked at the village school as a cook. She had enjoyed the interaction she’d had with the children as they ate her food. She sipped her tea. The two of them had had a good life and their small run- around car had been their delight.
She remembered days out and weeks away and it had been a lifeline after her accident. Hilda had hated being inside so much during her recovery that John had taken early retirement and sold their small business. He had taken out the back seats of the car and built a ramp so that he could wheel her easily into the back. How she enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of the places they visited. Hilda’s particular favourites were the trips to the seaside where they had hired a caravan or cottage. They’d had so much fun.
A draught from John opening the back door rustled the piece of paper lying on her knee. Placing the cup of tea back on its saucer, Hilda picked up the ticket and looked at the winning numbers. 3 7 11 23 32 44.
How excited they had been when they had bought the ticket. Hilda had been sorting through some old handbags ready to give to the church bazaar and her squeal of delight at her good fortune when she had found the £1 coin was heartfelt. John had laughed at her gaiety.
“What shall we do with it?” Hilda had asked. John shook his head. “I know, “ said Hilda. “Let’s treat ourselves next time we go into the village.” John had nodded his agreement but had been surprised by Hilda’s choice of treat. “Let’s buy one of those new -fangled lottery tickets.” She suggested.
Never having money to squander on non-essentials was a way of life for them, so to spend the money gambling and at their time of life had them both laughing with glee. The next time that they went shopping Hilda bought their first and only ticket. They had come home tickled pink with their first flutter.
Hilda watched John enter the living room; she noticed that he had taken off his gardening shoes and most probably had left them in the kitchen. Naughty man! His big toe peeped through a hole in one of his socks and Hilda smiled again. After all these years, he had never changed. She was lucky to have such a wonderful man as her husband; he had kept his vows all these years. She was as happy now as she had been when she had married him. She lifted the ticket. “Are you sure?” she asked. John nodded. “I have everything that I’ve ever wanted right here! Are you?” Hilda tore the ticket into tiny pieces. “Yes!” she replied.
Sue Westcott (C.) 2020
The two stories below have a similar theme- careers.
Sitting on the dock of the bay.
Tracey walked down the narrow street towards the bay. She hunched her shoulders and wrapped her woollen scarf tightly around her neck. Wisps of russet hair flapped and tugged loose from her pony tail as she hit the cross winds, which whipped up fine grains of sand from the curved sea shore. She quickly crossed the main road, which ran parallel to the sweeping sand blown bay of Bayside, the small fishing village where she had grown up. Her footsteps tapped a steady beat as she made her way to her all-time favourite place; the end of the wooden dock, which jutted out proudly into the icy waters of the North Sea. As she sat down on one of the large mooring hooks memories overwhelmed her. ********** As soon as Tracey heard the slam of the front door and the raised voices, she ran downstairs, plucked her coat from the banister post and ran out of the house. Her parent’s arguing had intensified over the past few weeks and Tracey, aged 10½, hated the atmosphere in the house when her Ma and Da started fighting. So, she made her way as usual down the cobbled street and soon reached her haven; the dock that looked out over the sea. She sat down, scrawny legs dangling over the edge and watched the tide roll away.
The grey sea pounded the sandy bay leaving rippled ridges of wet sand behind. It surged towards the horizon dragging Tracey’s gaze and dreams with it. Tracey relaxed in its soothing rhythm. She often sat here and wondered where the waves came from; which distant land had they left to journey to her small coastal village. She wanted so much to escape; to sail away from the anger and the rows. A fortnight later, Da packed a bag, tousled her chestnut hair and whispered, “I’m sorry love but I can’t live here anymore.” He picked up his bag and closed the front door behind him. It would be ten years or more before she would see him again.
As the door banged shut, Ma erupted from the living room, hurling abuse and insults; she staggered, and a glass shattered against the hall wall startling a transfixed Tracey who suddenly realised what was happening. She bolted out of the house and raced down the street but her Da was long gone. It was much quieter in the house after Da had left but the house still wasn’t a happy one. Ma didn’t cope very well so spent most of her days drinking and watching daytime TV. The only sounds were her angry curses when her vodka bottles were empty.
Tracey looked after herself as well as watching over her Ma. She was still fascinated by the sea so much so that she spent a great deal of time in the library, borrowing books about different countries. She soaked up knowledge about people; their cultures and customs, which were so alien from her life in Bayside.
Ma’s drinking deteriorated over the next few months and at the beginning of a new term at the local High school, Tracey arrived home to find that the house was empty. Tracey didn’t panic as Ma often disappeared for a couple of days; drinking with her so called buddies. When it was three days since she last saw Ma, Tracey finally called at her Nan’s and told her that Ma was missing. Tracey never saw her Ma again. ********** The cold breeze interrupted Tracey’s thoughts. She stood and wandered back along the jetty towards the harbour. There were two ships anchored just off shore; they were too big to tie up alongside the dock. The grey waters continued to pound the bay just as they had done all those years ago. Tracey glanced at a worn and torn poster hanging on the harbour wall. It showed a palm tree vista and Tracey was once again whisked back eight years in the past when she was 16.
“Nan! Nan! I’ve passed!” shouted Tracey excitedly. Tracey who was tall and willowy for her age, was swept into a fierce hug. “Well done sweetheart.” Nan brushed away the strands of Tracey’s glossy, soft waves of auburn hair and patted her lovingly on the back.
Tracey had moved in with her Nan after Ma had gone missing. It transpired that Ma hadn’t been paying their rent and the landlord had threatened her with the police if she didn’t pay up the backlog. Ma had just upped and left leaving Tracey to fend for herself.
Tracey’s life changed for the better. Staying with Nan was a revelation. She was given hot meals and clean clothes; a packed lunch every day plus hugs and kisses regularly. She was surprised that she didn’t miss her parents; in fact, she was deliriously happy, living with such a caring grandmother.
Over the teenage years Tracey flourished and she was encouraged to work hard at her school work. Nan was interested to hear about Tracey’s love for distant places and the two of them often discussed which countries that they would like to visit. Every day, on her way home, Tracey spent half an hour or so sitting on the dock overlooking the bay and dreamt of journeying across the oceans.
Passing her exams was the first step to achieving her goal. Tracey planned to attend sixth form college and then after A levels go to university, studying for a geography degree. With good qualifications, she would be able to get a job in the travel industry and travel the world. In fact, the plan took an unexpected turn. At the end of the first year at sixth form, a recruitment drive for the armed forces arrived at college to give talks to students about careers in the army, air force and navy. Tracey had been intrigued by the naval presentation; impressed with their uniforms and inspired by the sailors who had given the presentation.
With Nan’s approval Tracey joined the navy on her 18th birthday. **********
.Tracey turned to walk back to her Nan’s house. She had been a sailor now for over ten years, serving on HMS Endeavour. She had indeed travelled the world, learning skills as a communications officer. She had visited many of the places that she use to dream about all those years ago; when sitting on the dock by the bay. Tracey heard her name being called and saw her eighty-year-old birthday girl waving from the front door of her cottage.
“Hurry up Tracey! We don’t want to be late for my surprise birthday party; now do we!” With a loving smile, Tracey joined her Nan. She had been granted leave to attend her Nan’s celebration then in two days’ time she would set sail again for pastures new. She couldn’t wait!
Sue Westcott (C.) 2020
FACT OR FICTION - YOU DECIDE! As I sit in business class on my way home from Milan, I look in my diary. I have two days free before my next big show. I use my laptop to book a day at my favourite spa; Cleopatra’s of Knightsbridge and arrange lunch at the Ivy for the following day with two of my closest friends.
Then it is back to work. I have to attend at least two new runway shows this week at London Fashion Week plus my favourite designer’s show; Stella McCartney- I just love her stuff and so too do my customers. I have two up-and-coming young designers straight out of college to view, who are holding their shows at the Fashion Fringe Festival. I am sure, with my expertise, I will be able to buy from them at discount prices, as I know my boss wants to branch out from the norm to something ‘out of the box’ Susan! My glass of champagne arrives, and I sit and reflect on the past twenty or so years. Wow! What a roller coaster ride it has been. Who would have thought that at sixteen years of age attending only two career meetings at Grammar school that I would be here now; jet setting across the world, attending fashion shows and buying garments for the rich and famous! I remember clearly my first choice; the teaching presentation; the one that I had decided was for me. I had always liked the idea of working with children and the pathway at school had steered me in that direction but then I entered the next room, where an attractive woman stood; dressed in a two piece, well cut suit and silk blouse. Her makeup was expertly applied, and her chestnut hair was piled up high in a chic bun. She looked so totally at ease and sophisticated that I felt my legs tremble. I was in awe and as I sat down to listen to her career pitch, I was transfixed for the next hour.
The steward interrupts my thoughts with my smoked salmon and caviar snack and as I settle down to nibble this delicious treat, I think back to that first meeting. The woman, whose name was Paula Hampson, was a fashion buyer for Kendal’s, the large department store, in the centre of Manchester. She talked about her job; it seemed fabulous- travelling around Europe looking at a variety of fashion designers and buying their garments to sell in the store. She explained the process and career pathway, that I would follow, if I took up this fantastic opportunity. I would need at least 5 O- levels, including English and Mathematics. I could join a basic programme at sixteen or the more advanced pathway after A levels. Then after an interview and good references from school I would start my journey into the world of fashion. First, I would work on the shop floor learning how to sell clothes as well as finding out all about how they were made and who made them. Then after a year or two, I would transfer downstairs and learn all about the warehousing, where the stock was stored. I would learn how the clothes were organised and distributed. I would attend college on a day release programme, which would teach me the business end of the industry and to my sixteen year- old delight, I would also learn how to gift wrap parcels and presents correctly! Again, another two years would pass and then I would move back onto the shop floor and follow a mentor, who was a buyer and I would be his or her assistant I would observe and learn the tricks of the trade and if successful I would then become an assistant buyer. This would entail me, possibly travelling with my mentor and being given some solitary purchasing trips. Finally, all being well and if positions were available, I would move up the ladder to become a buyer in my own right!
After, a lengthy six to eight years of training I would reach the pinnacle position of Head Buyer. In that time, Miss Hampson promised that I would become independent, self-reliant, confident and decisive. I would know how to dress appropriately for many different social occasions as well be able to converse with many people from all walks of life. If I had the inclination, I could also take a night school class to learn a foreign language, preferably French. I would earn an excellent salary and meet interesting and exciting new people. Miss Hampson had finished her presentation with the words, “Are there any questions?” Timidly, I raised my hand and asked, “Where do I sign up?” I laugh at the thought of my young, naïve self; yet I had followed through and after sitting my A levels I did join the Kendal scheme and now after all that hard work, here I am, exactly where she said I would be!
The voice over the tannoy announced our arrival at Gatwick. I emailed my limousine driver to pick me up and to drop me off at the Ritz - Carlton hotel where I have a suite booked. I have a dinner reservation that evening and I need to freshen up first. As I walk through the airport, I notice a commotion taking place near one of the baggage carousels. A small group of teenagers, in full school uniform, are messing about -shouting and jostling each other and their harried, embarrassed teacher is trying desperately to keep them under control. I sigh and think, “There but for the grace of God, go I!” And with a shake of my head, I smile, a satisfied smile and hurry to meet my driver.
Sue Westcott (C.) 2020
I was given the challenge to write a story using only 99 words. So I did two! Ha! Ha!
I stood alone on the hill top where we first met. “The view’s fantastic!” I said. He smiled, “It sure is!” I blushed. I could see the church where we were married and the village green where our children played. I watched the procession make its way up the steep slope and the muffled tears echoed. Words were muttered; shrugs, hugs and love were shared. The grey mist swirled; the last speckle of dust sparkled in the evening glow. The bright light waited. “The view’s fantastic!” I smiled as I whispered goodbye.
Thief! The hole had been dug perfectly. All that was needed now was stealth. With panting breath, he crept along the pathway; pebble eyes darting left and right. Ears twitching; alert for sounds that indicated they were back. Moving silently, he reached the treasure. Lifting it gently, he struggled back; he was surprised by how heavy it was. Staggering to the hole, he heard the brakes of the car and the engine shutting down. Panicking, he dropped the leg; desperately pushing it into the hole but to no avail. He trembled at the words, “Hambleton! Where’s our Sunday lunch?”
Sue Westcott (C.) 2020
I've never bought a scratch card but I do know that they are very popular. When is was given the title ,The Lottery' I actually wrote three different stories. This is one of them.
COMING UP TO SCRATCH!
Irene wasn’t religious. Hell no! Irene had always edged her bets when the Big G was involved; “I mean you never know do you?” she would say. But since Myrtle’s death, Irene had accompanied Harry regularly every week.
This was just to let everyone know in the congregation and therefore the village that although she was considered by many to be a little rough around the edges, she was really the salt of the earth and deep down an all- round good soul. Usually she dozed during the service, mouthed the hymns whilst Harry belted out his baritone voice with gusto. Today she was day dreaming of the lottery win. Clutching the lottery tickets in her hands, she thought, ‘An estimated £2 million. Wow! Mind-blowing!!
Her knees began to shake with supressed excitement. She’d even treat good old Harry from the winnings, which would shut up lots of uneasy, unwanted speculation. Suddenly, Harry nudged her. The collection plate was upon them!
Irene fiddled around in her handbag; she had rushed out so quickly this morning that she’d forgotten her purse, which to be truthful, after all she was in the house of the Lord, wasn’t exactly flush. She’d had her usual Saturday expenses; two bottles of gin, her cigarettes plus an afternoon at bingo, not to mention the scratch cards she’d bought on her way home.
“I’ve left my purse at home.” she whispered, hoping that Harry would donate for her, as he had done many times before. “Not to worry.” he laughed softly and before she could do or say anything Harry had snatched the two lottery tickets from her clenched hands and placed them on the golden plate! Which then proceeded to sail on by!
Irene gasped in horror. Her breathing faltered, and she was sure that she was having a heart attack. Her face blanched and sweat poured out of every orifice. “NO-ooo!” reverberated around her brain. A silent, slow motion stretch of her arm failed as she tried to grab the plate back. Harry’s mischievous chuckle blotted out any further remonstration. “That’ll be a nice surprise for them.” he giggled. Throwing Harry, a look of pure venom, Irene fell back onto the pew stunned! All of her dreams, hopes, plans had been spirited away. She looked up to the heavens and railed against her bad luck. The service finally came to an end but only when Harry nudged her again did Irene emerge from her catatonic state.
Then, as if a bolt of heavenly light descended, enlightenment beckoned. She’d be able to retrieve the tickets that afternoon. No problem. She’d call at the priest’s home and offer some cash explaining that it had been a mistake. Yes, that would do the trick. A heartfelt apology and a simple explanation and all would be well again. Standing up, her shark smile resurfaced. Irene Denholm wasn’t done in yet! But she hadn’t reckoned with dear, kind- hearted honest Harry, beloved of everyone that he came into contact with.
He was standing in line waiting to shake father Michael’s hand when she heard him speak. Irene clenched her fists and bit back the angry retort that threatened to erupt. “So, you see Father, we’ll call round to collect the tickets and exchange them with a donation!”
“Hurray!” thought Irene. “The old codger finally came through!” But divine intervention brought her up sharply.
Father Michael laughed. “Oh, don’t you worry about that Harry.” he said. “It’s not the first time that this has happened and most probably won’t be the last.” He chuckled, and Irene was sure that he winked! Winked! He found this hilarious did he! She fumed silently by Harry’s side as Father Michael continued.
“Father John collects all the tickets from the masses held during the week and goes through them. It's a novel way of giving," he said "but in these modern times, the church has to accept whatever gift their parishioners donate. You’ve no need to come back!” And with that, he turned to Mr and Mrs Jenkins who were standing next in line.
Irene’s hot fury evaporated into a cold hunger for what might have been. She looked up at the sky. “I hope you’re bloody well happy!” she whispered in a tight -lipped prayer. “You’ll get your new roof, now won’t you?" But before she could think any more unholy thoughts, Harry interrupted her.
“I don’t know about you but I’m feeling really good.” he said. “Do you fancy a roast dinner at the Rose and Crown? My treat!” he invited.
Irene nodded. “Sure.” she said, “Why not?”
Her fingers had discovered a forgotten £1 coin in her pocket. “I just need to nip into the newsagents first.” she said.
Sue Westcott (C.) 2020
I belong to a writing group and I set a class work for the group with the title, Daisy May. This was my contribution.
“Daisy-Mae Reynolds! Get down from there this instant!” Mama’s voice boomed across the cottage garden. “I don’t know what you think you are doing? And in your Sunday dress as well!” She tutted, turned around and stomped back into the kitchen. Daisy-Mae scrambled down from the tree as quickly as she could. As she stumbled back to the cottage, Mama stormed back to the door; arms folded across her ample chest.
“Just look at the state of you!” she fumed. “And we’ve got church in half an hour!”
Daisy-Mae looked down at her shiny Peggy- shoes, which were now covered in scuff marks. One of her bright white socks, bleached every Monday morning washday, gathered in a loose bunch at her ankle, whilst the other stayed upright, with streaks of tree residue trapped in its diamond pattern.
Her white dress, which had been covered with beautiful yellow flowers, was smeared from collar to hem with greasy brown stains from her contact with the tree bark and as for her face, it had dark, dirty smudges all over it. The yellow ribbon, which Mama had previously, lovingly tied in a huge bow at the back of her long, golden hair, hung forlornly on the tree branch, where Daisy-Mae had recently perched. It swayed like a brilliant yellow banner in the light warm breeze.
Daisy-Mae looked up at Mama, who was now tapping her left foot in a fast -staccato rhythm. “And what have you got there?” she demanded.
Daisy-Mae held out a tiny bundle of fur. “It’s a kitten, Mama,” she whispered reverently. The tiny black fur-ball stirred in her hands, revealing a cute, white button nose that peeked through Daisy-Mae’s curled fingers.
“You got into this mess because of this scrap?” thundered Mama, who then stomped back into the kitchen, muttering under her breath about dire warnings and consequences.
Daisy -Mae nervously followed; taking care not to drop her precious bundle. Mama picked up a knife and continued to chop furiously, the Sunday lunch vegetables. She didn’t look at Daisy-Mae but indicated with the knife towards the fire-grate.
“You’d better it down over there,” she suggested, and an easing calmness could be heard in her voice. “I’ve got some chicken pieces here.” Mama took a plate from her third best crockery set and placed the chicken on it. As she turned, she saw her youngest daughter sitting crossed legged on her newly cleaned, pristine floor, stroking the kitten. Her love for the tiny creature shone in her eyes.
A huge sigh later and Mama said, “You’d best get some water for the little scrap; not milk though; milk’s not good for cats.” As Daisy-Mae stood, Mama could see the thoughts flitter through her daughter’s mind and she braced herself. “Mama, can I keep him?” she pleaded. “Please! I’ll help look after him. I promise. Oh, please Mama! Look, he’s all alone and frightened. “ Daisy-Mae cast up her tear-filled eyes. “He likes being here and look he likes chicken!” Mama Reynolds didn’t know where this tomboy-of-a-girl had come from. She hadn’t expected her hoyden ways. Giving birth to a daughter, after three boisterous boys had come as a shock. All thoughts of princesses and tea parties had been blown away, as Daisy-Mae began to experience so many scrapes and tribulations, that Mama couldn’t keep up with them. However, what she did know was her daughter’s generous spirit, relentless loyalty and gentle kindness and Mama’s heart melted. “What you gonna’ call him?” she asked quietly; giving in gracefully as always.S Daisy- Mae beamed. “But Mama, you already know; you named him yourself!” Mama looked puzzled. Daisy-Mae placed the water bowl next to the little black kitten. “He’s called Scrap!” she said. Sue Westcott (C.) 2020
I love to people watch and one summer holiday in Ibiza, I kept seeing this young girl, always on her own. I also saw a group of young adults partying one night at the hotel disco and eventually I put the two of them together in this story.
Her name was Sarah and I felt sorry for her. Although she was included in the group's tomfoolery, she was an isolate. They laughed and joked, and she joined in enthusiastically, trying to be one of them but she didn't know that it was at her expense. She didn't appear very bright, a cruel observation you may think, but true.
Sarah was pale; contrasting sharply with the others who had sun tanned a golden brown in the hot sun. They ordered drinks, beers for the guys and wine for the girls and she paid generously; trying to buy their acceptance.
One of the guys spilt his drink deliberately and another drank it down so quickly that by the time Sarah had finished paying; they both needed refilling.
They showed that her weakness was there for them to exploit, whilst all the time, their greedy minds were thanking her profusely and much too loudly; drawing the attention of everyone around to her predicament. Her blush betrayed her innocence and insecurity in their laughter and I ached for her.
I was reminded of the British fetish of, 'no cruelty to dumb animals,' but I thought that it was a pity it didn't extend to young naïve girls.
The group moved as one to go swimming. Sarah followed hesitantly; eyes searching anxiously for some sign that she had committed an offence. She relaxed a little when one of the guys beckoned her into the water. She smiled a welcome but did not see the contempt in his face and the amusement of the rest of the group. I did and my body burned with indignation and anger on her behalf.
Once in the sea, the group swam lazily together and as she entered the water, Sarah became immediately vulnerable. The guys splashed, ducked, groped and jumped on her, all in the name of fun of course. Everyone could see that they were enjoying themselves. It was all part of the afternoon's sport and Sarah seemed exhilarated by the attention. She responded in kind, trying to be brash and hard against the onslaught. She tried to show indifference when, in the name of play, a rock hit her. It must have stung but Sarah laughed it off nervously.
I watched her trying valiantly to appear happy and cool with the situation but her eyes, the windows to her soul told another story. As her false, tinkling laughter floated loud and clear across the beach, the next rock plopped dangerously in front of her face and I could see that she was crying inside.
I turned away and my heart wept.
The next time that I saw Sarah was in the disco that night.
At first, I didn’t recognise her. It was the sound of her voice, deep and slow which caught my attention. She was wearing smart white skinny jeans, white blouse and a black fitted waistcoat. Her hair was soft and naturally wavy, whereas previously it had been scraped back off her face in a ponytail. Her make- up was expertly finished and I was surprised. She was pretty! The group were with her and a celebration was taking place. I think that two of the group had become engaged. The gang had had taken over the centre of the dance floor forming a large circle. One by one they entered the middle and danced then left the space for someone else to take a turn.
Sarah was smiling and clapping along with the others. Her eyes were shining with joy yet the light inside them soon disappeared. For when it was her turn to dance in the centre, the group broke up, leaving her standing alone. One by one she entreated the guys to stay and dance with her; desperately trying not to show her hurt. Eventually one agreed. I heard her say shyly, “Thanks Dave” and the relief in her voice was palpable.
He grasped her arm linking then together and began to spin her round and round, faster and faster. I could tell that Sarah wasn’t enjoying it by the grimace that flittered across her features. The others were though; tremendously, whooping and calling, “Go to it Sarah!” Sarah was laughing herself yet once more I looked at her eyes and they were dead with bewilderment as if they were asking her, “Why aren’t I enjoying this? I should be enjoying this!”
But I think deep down she must have by now realised why.
I wanted to drag her away from the group but knew that I couldn’t. No matter how painful an experience it was; it was something she had to learn herself.
The dance floor became crowded again as a popular hit was played and Sarah was swallowed up. I left soon after not knowing that Sarah’s lesson was nearing completion.
The next day dawned bright; hot and sunny. The group congregated in their same spot on the beach. All of them were looking tired and hung over. Sarah wasn’t with them. I eavesdropped shamelessly on the group’s conversation, my ears pricking up as soon as I heard Sarah’s name. Snatched sentences like, “You should’ve have seen her....” and fell flat on her back...” plus “ruined wet clothes... and finally, “what a scream!”
I felt sickened as my imagination took flight. Vague memories hovered on my consciousness. A sense of déjà vu flooded my body and I shuddered inside. I turned away and caught sight of Sarah sitting in the shade and far away from the group, who were sitting near the sea.
She looked ghostly white and my heart went out to her. I saw raw emotions, which I instantly recognised of; pain, awareness, understanding and betrayal. Yes, Sarah had finally woken up to the fact that the group’s acceptance of her had been a lie. Her interaction with them had been a cruel and vile joke. She had learnt the hard, bitter truth.
She saw me looking at her and I’m ashamed to say that I looked away first. The group’s laughter beside me seemed hollow so I packed up and left the beach. Sarah’s sad and lonely figure etched on my mind forever. You may wonder how I could empathise so clearly with this young girl; that’s easy you see I too learnt from experience
Sue Westcott(C.) 2020
The challenge in this piece of writing was a time one. I had 10 minutes!
They had to drag him away kicking and screaming.
Breakfast was as usual-arguing about the brownness of the toast; moaning about the lack of thick cut marmalade. First, there was a kiss goodbye. Then he was going his way and she hers-never to be seen together again.
They were to be separated, by an exploding megaton bomb, which had created a cataclysmic black hole in their lives. The destruction was total; the area annihilated and the despair was tangible as survivors ploughed through dust and rubble searching frantically for loved ones.
She’d walked and so was closer; had felt the full force of the explosion blast her body into oblivion. Tiny pieces of clothing, hair and skin were left to litter the streets. She wouldn’t have felt a thing; just heard the whoosh of the drop and in her slight hesitation had received the enormous shock wave as it cascaded across the street.
He’d been luckier I suppose. The car had taken him further away but still he felt the bomb’s impact. He rolled with the car over and over; head cocooned in the airbag and with help from passing strangers heaved himself upright into the barren wasteland that was his home.
He ran; no he stumbled, disorientated then gaining momentum as adrenalin kicked in. Feeling no pain or sense of his surroundings, he raced towards the debris.
With torn bleeding hands he searched; climbing rocky hills of fallen masonry; scratched away at splintered doorways and pulled huge panes of glass to find her.
His beloved. His best friend. His wife. Then as he saw the ragged remnants of the flowery raincoat, newly purchased, he flung himself forward; his primeval howl ricocheted across the devastation. Passersby had to drag him away kicking and screaming.
Sue Westcott(C.) 2017
I wrote this as a homework piece given at one of my writing workshops. I'm sure that many mothers out there will empathise with Cass, my main character, however I didn't want it to be a story, full of just doom and gloom- hence my ending!
Shed A Tear.
Cass stood at the gate and acknowledged the casual salute, the cheery wave and then the slamming of doors as she watched the light of her world drive away. A solitary teardrop slid down her cheek and as the car disappeared into the distance memories rushed back flooding her injured senses.
Was it not so long ago when tears of unashamed joy cascaded as she found out to her delight that she was pregnant after so many barren years? A complicated birth followed by a torrential flood of relief washed her face as she successfully delivered a baby girl. Then came the happy tears; at the first smile, the first step and the wonder of her baby growing up.
Cass sighed and turned to walk back up the drive to the house. Without realising it her steps gravitated upstairs into Clare’s bedroom and as she sat and gazed at the blue walls she could still see the faint smudges of a mural of the solar system complete with nine planets that Clare had painted when she was only ten years old.
A slight hiccup as she wiped her face and Cass glimpsed the photo frame outlines which once housed Clare’s certificates of achievements as she made her way through school, college and finally university. The graduation photograph still remained- a parting gift and another tissue was needed. ‘A physics degree no less,’ Cass thought proudly. ‘Who would have thought it?’
Sporadic visits had followed and over the next four years money or lack of it, washing especially the cleaning of it, food and refuge all vied for her attention- distracting at times but always greeted with a loving smile and a warm welcome.
Feeling better Cass stood and walked over to the window; once more gazing at the road still seeing in her mind’s eye the car imprint as Clare had been driven away.
Was it only six months ago when she had arrived home one weekend with a guest? As Clare had flung her arms around her, Cass had felt her moist cheeks next to hers and then she had whispered, “This is the one!” And what a one he was! 6ft 4ins of muscle-bound rugby hulk- a sports and fitness instructor with tattoos covering both his arms! Not at all what Cass had imagined for her baby girl. A torrent of sleeplessness had flooded her nights and thought provoking; soul searching discussions with Robert had ensued. He had held her close and soothed her in his embrace as she had sobbed out her anguish and worry.
However, whatever her misgivings, Josh was indeed the one and Cass had never seen Clare so happy and content. Yet the next few months had been fraught and a rueful smile flitted across her face. Plans were made, changed, argued about and copious tissue boxes had been consigned to the dust as they had navigated the wedding.
Silent tears of joy had greeted Clare as she entered the church as both Cass and Robert couldn’t contain them as she had walked happily towards her new life.
Party poppers, disco music and brightly coloured balloons festooned the celebration and Josh had cornered Cass in the reception area. Enveloped in a huge hug he had whispered, “Don’t worry Mama Cass, I’ll take good care of her for you!”
Eyes leaking once more, Cass smiled her appreciation at his thoughtfulness. And now, in the calming of the aftermath, Cass shrugged the cold off her shoulders as she left the room, closing the door behind her. She gulped once more and took a deep breath just as the front door crashed open and her two beautiful, boisterous twin boys bounced into the hall.
“Mum!” they bellowed. "Where are you?”
As Cass walked down the stairs she was greeted with two bunches of daffodils- still with their £1 price tags attached,
“We bought you these!” said Ben. “Thought they’d cheer you up!” said Sam. As they scampered into the kitchen searching for food, Cass buried her face into the flowers' golden glow and shed a tear for the delight that was still yet to come.
Sue Westcott (C.) 2017
15th May 2016. This piece was written with the idea that the weather played a significant part in the writing. Hopefully I achieved it.
Wednesday Dear Diary, I don’t think that I can take another grey, dismal day, which is cold and wet and miserable. I can’t stand to see everywhere I look soulless and empty. Gusts of freezing wind turned my body and soul into a cold nothingness as I made my way to work.
And when I got there the same old repetition form filling and requisitions. I was driven to distraction by the persistent rain that lashed down pitter - patter in an annoying staccato rhythm on my office window.
I don’t think that I can last another day in my dead end job; being the old ‘gal’ in the corner cubicle who’s been here for years and years. I hate it that no one speaks to me for days on end, unless they want details or information about a case that they working on. And still it rained.
I crunch numbers for faceless insurance quotes; where I am consistently being overlooked year after year for promotion because I am competent not outstanding. And the rain continues to fall and streaks of greasy raindrops disappear down the window pane just like the best years of my life, which have past me by.
On the way home the sleeting rain penetrated my clothes and I wanted so badly to have thrown my chair out of the window and pounded the glass with my fists until it broke just like me and I wanted so very much to have had the guts to jump and fly through that hailstorm and embrace whatever came next but as usual the coward that I am didn’t do anything at all. I just packed my things away and joined the endless commuter hordes home.
I don’t think that I can take another grey dismal day. I really don’t!
Thursday Dear Diary, A pinpoint prick of white light pierced my eyes this morning waking me up. There was gap in my curtains and this thin streak of gold persisted in teasing me out of bed. I stretched for the first time in a long while and as I opened the curtains the flash of yellow whipped across my face.
The sky believe it or not was blue. I’d forgotten what a beautiful colour blue can be especially with the glorious sun settled in its centre. It was still cold out so the sunshine was as cheat; it’s supposed to warm you up but the smiles on people’s face as I boarded the train into the city more than made up for it.
I made it to work on time for a change as there were no delays due to floods on the line or blown down cables or leaves being trapped in the tracks. Halleluiah!
Mr Johnson, my supervisor, actually greeted me by name today and Janice who sits across from me and is twenty years my junior offered me coffee and biscuits.
The glare from the sun annoyed me as I tried to see the figures on my computer screen but I didn’t close my blinds. Not today when the sun was out shining and my heart smiled.
I didn’t feel like jumping today. I’ll give tomorrow another go.
Friday Dear Diary, I woke up to another grey and dismal day. And I laughed!
Sue Westcott(C.) 2016
26th April 2016. A change today- just an account of an incident long forgotten and then remembered. It is still so clear in my mind I don't think I'll ever forget it.
A True Account.
Have you ever stopped a robbery? Well I have. It happened many years ago when I Lived in Leeds. I was waiting for my fiancée in the downstairs music department of Schofield’s (The Kendal’s of Leeds).
There I was standing in the corner surrounded by LP’s and 45” records. (Nowadays these are known as Vinyls) when I noticed two young men loitering with intent.
One of them stood near the till and the doorway and the other browsed the LP covers which in those days still contained the actual record inside them. I noticed him because of his coat.
It was a cold day and everyone including myself was wrapped up warm but this young man had his over coat placed over his shoulder so that it dangled down by his side. He kept lifting it and fidgeting with it. Then to my amazement as he lifted the coat once more as if he were rearranging it he slipped a handful of LP records under his arm; beneath his coat.
Shamelessly he continued to browse the record counter as if nothing had happened. I was momentarily stunned. Had I just seen that? Was I mistaken?
I continued to watch him and as he fiddled with his coat one more time I saw the records nestled neatly in a prepared pouch obviously sewn into the lining of his over coat. What should I do?
I made my way towards the payment desk and indicated that I wanted to talk to the assistant. I remember having a record in my hand as a reason for approaching the desk as I was terrified that I would alert the two young shoplifters that they had been discovered.
I whispered to the assistant about what I had seen. She was young maybe seventeen or eighteen years old. She listened as I told her to call security. She nodded and then to my utter amazement, disbelief and shock she pressed the tannoy button and announced to all and sundry that security was needed in the music department.
Needless to say the two young men hotfooted it out if the department store pretty quickly leaving the LP records behind!
Sue Westcott(C.) 2016
The door opened! It gave a little squeak. Who came through the door?
“SHSH!” hissed Manny to his companions standing behind him and he opened the Mouse Hole door. “No more squeaks or squeals”, he told them. “Keep quiet!”
The two recruits for Mouse Patrol trembled in anticipation. Their tiny bodies quivered as they suddenly realised that this was to be their first mission into hostile territory. They struggled to hold back the squeaks that threatened to burst from their mouths. Manny glared at them until their trembling abated and they had themselves under control.
“Now remember,” Manny continued. “When I give you the signal we are going to circle the perimeter. Keep to the shadows and hug close the wall. If you see anything; a movement, a shadow- you freeze. If you hear anything or anyone; you freeze. Got it?”
The two recruits nodded their tiny heads. With quivering whiskers and black eyes bold and bright; they were ready. Manny smiled. “No noise now,” he said as he stepped out into the ROOM. The two recruits followed tentatively; stepping where Manny had stepped. They kept close to the wall as ordered but their eyes darted this way and that taking in the sight of the ROOM.
It was huge. For as far as they could see; there was a wide wooden expanse. The most dangerous place in the Mouse World and it was lit up like a beacon flare. Manny stopped and searched the perimeter. He’d take it slow so that his new members of Mouse Patrol could take it all in. He scuttled past chair legs and then crawled to relative safety under the chest of drawers. Here he rested- the distance that they had already travelled was far beyond that of the Mouse Hole’s living quarters and he knew that his two recruits would be feeling tired and overwhelmed.
Manny stood on his hind legs, nose twitching, whiskers vibrating and ears flapping as he gauged the air temperature and atmosphere of the ROOM before moving on. He was delighted when his sense of smell began to tingle. “Crumbs of goodness,” he thought.
Just beyond the safety of the cupboard’s dark shadow was a pile of confectionary – if his smell detector was correct; and it usually was, sweet cake crumbs had been left carelessly behind. He motioned to his recruits to wait whilst he reconnoitred the surrounding area. He detected nothing out of the ordinary so signalling them forward, the two recruits scuttled after him across the floor towards their tasty treasure...
Each one nibbled the minute pieces of cake, and then Manny indicated that they should continue their journey around the perimeter. They moved as one, leaving the delicious treat behind. Feeling full of energy once again the two young mice became more confident and bolder in their search.
Suddenly Manny froze; the BEAST hole had opened and in crawled the BEAST. It was huge; covered in black and white fur. Its eyes were evil green. Its whiskers were long and delicately sharp. Its teeth were pointed and dangerous. It sauntered across the wooden expanse and settled somewhere in the middle and started to lick its deadly paws.
Manny signalled for his two recruits to retreat closer to the wall and the safety of the shadows but one of them was curious to see the BEAST close. He didn’t respond to the command and was enraptured in a dangerous moment.
As soon as Manny realised that the young mouse was in a mesmerised state he sprang into action. He leapt out from the shadows and raced as fast as he could towards the BEAST. His sudden movement broke the motionless spell and both the Beast and the mouse reacted. First the youngster scampered as if his tail was on fire towards his friend who was hidden under the cupboard,
The BEAST reacted to Manny’s burst of speed and high pitched squeak and left the other mouse until later. The Beast sprang like a wire trap on a mouse killer. He pounced like a cheetah pounces on its prey. Manny, nimble and quick, dodged and squirmed; zigzagging across the floor with the Beast in hot pursuit.
Out of the corner of his eye Manny saw his two recruits scuttling back to the protection of the Mouse Hole. He felt relieved. At least they would be safe. Now all he had to do was get out of here! The Beast’s breath clouded his judgment as death stalked him. The Beast was too close. It was too late!
Suddenly from the direction of the Mouse Hole doorway came a cacophony of squeaks and squeals as hundreds of tiny mice exploded into the room.
The BEAST’S attention was momentarily distracted and Manny was able to escape from its vice like claws. The BEAST ran this way and that chasing the mice, who had retreated as soon as Manny was safe under the cupboard. They huddled in the shadows then in a co-ordinated pattern the led the BEAST a merry dance whilst a group at a time scampered back into the Mouse Hole.
By the time the last of the mice were safely back in the Mouse Hole the Beast was exhausted. He flopped down breathing heavily. His evil stare bewildered at what had happened.
Inside the Mouse Hole, the squeaks and squeals reached such a crescendo, as the mice congratulated each other on a perfectly performed escape plan that Manny’s shout of SHSH could not be heard. Standing upright, as tall as he could make himself, Manny commanded them all to be quiet. The noise subsided.
Many smiled and said, “Who wants to go on the next patrol tomorrow night?” and he opened the inner sanctum door, The squeaks of the excited mice erupted as the scurried through the doorway!
Sue Westcott. (C.) 2016
25th March 2016 50 word short stories. I have attempted these before but often wonder if they read like riddles. I would appreciate any comments or thoughts about them.
50 word story 1. He stumbled towards the wooden frame. Trembling, he tried to unscrew the screw. Tears fell; he tried again. It wouldn’t budge. He tore at the spindle; attacked until the cot disintegrated. Then the floodgates opened. He wept for his wife, forever gone and for his child who would never be! 50 word story. 2. Clutching the blue booties she trembled. The door opened and the cold air hit her like a hammer. Efficiently he was transferred to greedy hands. Her precious bundle slipped out of her grasp. The door closed; tears told of her lies. She still clutched the blue booties and died inside. 50 word story. 3. Bullying sucks! So does being left behind but an encounter with a stranger brought Ella hope, even though it was only for a short time. She enjoyed the glamour; meeting the man of her dreams and she sailed through the problems next day. Hey, if the shoe fits, wear it! 50 word story.4. Ann was distraught as the world that she had breathed for the past three months disintegrated. “Pink and Black!” she cried. Heather, whose day was about to be destroyed said, “It can be fixed.” Sue’s Separates charged another £250 for the pleasure and the special day went without a hitch.
Sue Westcott (C.) 2016
18th March 2016 Not all stories have happy endings.
The Swimming Pool.
Amidst the squeals and shouts of laughter, her cry for help wasn’t heard. In the turquoise swimming pool, boisterous ball games dandified diving and general good fun frolicking abounded. She cried out, “Help me!” and disappeared under the water causing a minor ripple in the afternoon’s activities. All around people of different ages and nationalities played and enjoyed the holiday sun with a frantic freedom.
She bobbled up again like a balloon; opening her small mouth to utter another cry and as with all balloons once the air had been expelled she soon deflated, vanishing quickly under the ice glass surface.
Youngsters, wearing fluorescent coloured arm bands and responding to hopeful shouts from encouraging parents, jumped into the pool from wet slippery sides. Shrieks of fear and excitement mingled in the air. She surfaced again but only as a last goodbye before her small body finally dropped like a stone to the welcoming depths of the pool.
As the sun began to set over the hotel; casting warm dark shadows and holiday makers made their way inside, happy and satiated with their day in the sun, eagerly awaiting the night’s activities, her body surfaced, floating face down and arms outstretched in front of her as if in supplication to higher form. Then they heard her silent plea for help but it was too late.
This incident actually happened although with a much happier outcome. I saw the girl in distress and jumped into the pool to bring her up. I swam with her to the side of the pool and she climbed out none the worse for her scare.
6th March 2016 A change of direction today. A Strange Encounter- short and sweet!
A Strange Encounter.
The ghost was unexpected!
As Lucy opened the utility room door, arms laden with a dirty washing load, he appeared. His ethereal body looked strange half submerged in the washing machine, half- out, standing at an arm’s length in front of her. Her startled gasp of surprise focused his attention. He stared right through her to some unforgotten memory and then when the stillness became too uncomfortable he moved. He tried to walk towards her but stumbled as if he felt the washing machine block his way.
He wore a long, black frock coat with matching waistcoat and plain white shirt. Grey trousers and black shoes completed his ensemble. He was old, skeletal in fact with wisps of dry parchment strands of hair sticking out around his near bald head.
But what captured Lucy’s attention the most were his eyes. Frightened and troubled; unsure and perplexed. The creases on his lined face puckered as realisation hit him with a gale like force. His body shuddered and he fought wildly against acceptance of his fate.
Lucy put down the washing basket and held out her hands in supplication and welcome. The old man suddenly relaxed and a slight smile appeared. He seemed to settle into the bizarre situation and began to look around the utility room as if searching for something. He peered into the darker corners with a hopeful sigh, but when he didn’t find what he was looking for; he became agitated and struggled in the washing machine’s embrace.
Pleading with her, his eyes terrified and wild; he gestured to Lucy to help him. So, as usual, Lucy closed her eyes and opened her inner consciousness and concentrated until she could detect the portal.A warm, golden light appeared just to the old man’s left and it shimmered and glowed full of welcoming warmth and goodness.
The man hesitantly stepped out, and then as his body moved more easily, he floated with confidence towards the light. Once there his black silhouette bowed a graceful, heartfelt thank you and in the blink of an eye he and the portal vanished!
Lucy felt the familiar freezing shiver as she returned to the real world and with a grin loaded up the washing machine.
Sue Westcott (C.) March 2016
4th March 2016 Sometimes when I write I think of two things that I could describe and hope that my readers can see them both. The obvious is the fish aquarium but do you know what the other scene was, that I watched. There are a few clues in the passage.
Under the bright lights, the shoal darted to and fro; their coloured bodies twisting, turning and swaying to the gentle sounds around. They glimmered and shimmered in the fluorescent glow moving closer together. All of them were the same yet completely different; with their own individuality unquestioned.
As they rocked, their eyes searched constantly for signs of predators and once they were sighted the shoal moved into action. They closed ranks and huddled together forming a tight band with their glistening bodies touching in order to keep the predators at bay. They knew that their dancing display had attracted their attention yet still they continued; defiantly, temptingly and determined to live dangerously.
The predators had been conscious of their prey for some time. Waiting patiently from a distance; they had watched and measuring the time perfectly they advanced. They were a native species; dark, lean and mean. With a menacing purpose they surged forward eager to infiltrate the shoal. They had to disperse its solidarity in order to gain the prize. The predators circled and struck simultaneously on all sides trying to break into the ring.
At once the shoal moved as one, uniformly swaying and denying entrance into their midst. A macabre dance followed. Constantly snapping, jabbing, jostling and bumping from both sides until two of the predators managed to isolate a couple of the shoal members.
Loud screeching and squealing noises emitted from the panic stricken circle. Defensive danger signals were sent out to warn the two individuals to return quickly to the safety of their large numbers. Fortunately the reckless pair heeded the messages and the shoal closed ranks even more tightly than before leaving the predators nonplussed. After a few more abortive attempts to gain access, the predators abandoned the area either to seek pastures new or to retreat intact ready to try another night.
The shoal relaxed; excited and exhilarated by their exotic encounter and continued their ritual dance under the hot flashing lights.
Sue Westcott.(C.) 2016
30th Jan 2016. I like to 'think outside of the box' when I'm given just a title to write about. This was the case for this story. Hopefully I succeeded.
Well hello. How are you? Have you been waiting long? I arrived about an hour ago so I don’t think I’ll be much longer. The queue seems to be moving quite quickly today. Today? Oh yes I was here two days ago and I had to wait for nearly three hours but not to worry I’m use to it. What do you do? Really that seems interesting. Me? Well you may think that my job is boring but I find it rewarding. What do I do? Well, I’m a professional waiter.
You’re raising your eyebrows and frowning. I often get that reaction. What is unusual about that you’re thinking to yourself; being a waiter isn’t unusual or special! You’re thinking serving meals in a restaurant aren’t you. I thought so. You seem perplexed. Not to worry everyone is at first, but please let me explain.
My job is a professional waiter which means that people who live extremely busy lives pay me to wait for them. I wait in queues or lines, if you will, to save them time.
One of my favourite waiting rooms is here at the passport office in Liverpool. I often pass the time imagining all the places I could be visiting if I was getting a new passport for myself. I don’t travel as much as I used to; don’t like travelling on my own any more. Anyway I usually spend two to three days a week at this office and the conversations I’ve had in this waiting room have been illuminating with tales of woe and angst of missed flights and holidays to recollections of happy journeys abroad.
Claire and Joan who work behind the desk are very friendly too as they ply me with tea and biscuits although I do recognise their heartfelt but unwanted sympathy as I sit and wait for others. I must present a sad and lonely figure but hey life goes on even when you think your world has turned upside down. “Don’t feel sorry for me!” I want to shout. “ I’m getting my life back on track.”
Actually my life isn’t as miserable as you are imagining although at certain times of the year, like Christmas and New Year, melancholy does hit me. However I digress; life does have its funny side. Only last week one man made me laugh out loud when he told me the story of how he had dashed out of his house, grabbing the passport from the hall table only to find when he reached the airport that he had grabbed his wife’s by mistake.
What’s funny about that? Well, what made the story funny to me was that he had glanced quickly at the photograph before picking it up but unfortunately he only really saw the long blonde hair which both he and his wife share. It wasn’t until he was booking in that he realised he had the wrong one.
Apparently he paid a visit to the hairdressers as soon he as he arrived home from his trip and hence the new passport. How does it work? Once I’m hired I usually wait until I have about half an hour left then I text or phone my employer to let them know I am nearly at the end of the queue and by the time that they have arrived I’m usually the next to be seen.
What was my favourite waiting job? I’m often asked that. Let me think. I don’t really have a favourite although one I enjoyed was at a hospital in Yorkshire. My employer was a millionaire, a CEO of a large manufacturing company and entrepreneur who didn’t believe in private medical practices so when he was diagnosed with a liver complaint he hired me to sit in the waiting room for him until his appointment time. When I asked him why he didn’t go for private treatment his broad Yorkshire accent stated quite clearly that he had paid his bloody National Insurance as much as the next man and he was just entitled to use the NHS as anyone else. “Why spend my brass when I don’t have too!”
He was such a nice man and he paid well.
How much am I paid? I knew you’d ask that- people always do. It often depends on the type of waiting and how long it is likely to be but usually I charge £10 an hour for my time which isn’t a lot I know but there are perks to my job which outweigh the monetary compensation. I mean it helps to get me out of the house more regularly. My family have been worried about me now for about two years, since being alone was beginning to depress me; the days seemed so long and the hours dragged by. It’s amazing how much noise two people make rather than one.
But I can tell you, doing this job has been a godsend. I get to read free magazines as many waiting rooms have a good selection to choose from. On my pension I’m lucky to afford a newspaper once a week. And these waiting rooms have a good selection to choose from. It’s amazing how much I’ve learnt; how many interesting facts and pieces of trivia I’ve picked up that I’ve become quite a good catch at the local pub quiz night which I started attending a couple of months ago.
I’ve read such a variety of magazines from ‘Country Life,’ ‘Women’s Weekly’ to ‘Auto Car and Fly Fishing’ and now know at least twenty different ways to cook a chicken. Yes you may laugh but it is true. Listen to me wool-gathering again. I use to do that more often but these regular outings are helping me to focus my mind and I feel that now I’m finally putting my life back together.
Do I enjoy it? Well of course do. I find it fun and the most exciting part of my job is meeting new and interesting people. You can’t begin to imagine the diverse people I’ve met from countries as far away as Australia, and Korea to America and Hong Kong and I've even begun to pick up a few eastern European phrases such as, ‘Hello!' or 'How are you?' and 'Goodbye!'. At the last count I know how to say these phrases in five different ways. Not bad for someone who left school without qualifications!
The stories I’ve heard have been heart-warming and heartbreaking; they’ve made me smile, frown and shed a tear. They have whipped up my anger and made me realise just how lucky I am in the life that I lead.
Sorry what did you say? Oh yes the queue is moving and look here is my employer. Well it has been nice chatting to you. Have a lovely day. Bye Claire Bye Jean. I’ll be seeing you again on Friday.
Sue Westcott(C.) Jan 2016
28th Jan 2016. I recently had to submit a story to my writing group for inclusion in our annual publication; 'Through the Gateway'. I was delighted to have one of my short stories accepted. Story - What a laugh!
Adam never listened! He didn’t need to. He knew everything all ready. Even at the tender age of 10 years, he knew all that he wanted to know!
For instance, he knew that if you put your foot out ever so slightly when lining up someone always fell over it. What a laugh! He knew that if he poked someone enough times, they would eventually shout out and get into trouble for making a noise. He also knew that no-one would ever tell on him. Oh NO! Never would they do that!
In lessons Adam knew that he could tune out the teacher’s voice quite easily. Blah! Blah! All he had to do is think about his play station games or what he was going to do to the nerds in his class. Yes easy. He knew that if he wrote down a few words he would have at least tried. Adam knew lots of things. Why should he listen to anyone?
At 13 he knew everything there was to know about high school. How you could go into school each morning for register; get his mark and then bunk off for the rest of the day. What a laugh!
Junior school had been left behind and in high school copying had served him well that and threats. GCSE’s weren’t that important. Why did he have to listen to teacher’s going on about punctuation, algebra and World War 1? He didn’t need this information. He knew what he was going to do when he left school. He was going to work with his Uncle Billy on a building site. "You can make a lot of money working on a building site; lots of different angles to play!”
Actually the building site was a bit boring at times. Adam didn’t listen to any of the workers who said that he could go to training college and learn how to lay bricks properly and gain a craft. He didn’t listen to the older men talking about a trade. He didn’t need to as he knew everything there was to know about working on a building site; such as if you meet a mate in the pub and he says he could do with some copper piping or some electrical wire.
.Adam knew where it was kept and that it was easy to put some in his bag and get extra money for it. What a laugh! He didn’t listen to his uncle who told him to be careful because if he got caught he could be arrested by the police for theft. Adam didn’t listen when the boss fired him. He didn’t need a job. All he had to do was creep in at night and start his own recycling business. He didn’t listen when he was in the pub one night trying to off load some gear and one of the men told him that he was under arrest for selling stolen goods.
He didn’t listen when his solicitor told him that he would be better off pleading guilty and taking a fine. Oh No not Adam. Adam knew everything there was to know about the law. Innocent until proven guilty that was him! He’d watched lots of TV police shows so knew everything about court cases. What a laugh!
He didn’t listen to the prosecution or the witnesses. His didn’t listen to anyone until reality hit him; finally words permeated his brain, crashed through his didn’t care attitude, obliterated his arrogance as the judge pronounced, “Guilty! You are sentenced to 5 years in prison!”
Adam listened then, but it was too late! What a laugh!
Sue Westcott.(C.) Oct 2015
26th Jan 2016. I based this story on three news reports found in a local paper. The phrase,' by unknown means' captured my interest and this was the result.
Unknown Means smiled. He had had a good month. First there had been the reprisal break in at Summerhill Road. Magnus O’Brian would regret double crossing him.
As Unknown Means remembered the evening, forcing the downstairs window open and slipping the Molotov cocktail inside, his heart beat faster and the smile widened across his face.
The resulting fire had overwhelmed the building and Magnus and his family had suffered greatly; just as Unknown Means had suffered when Magnus had reneged on a drugs deal which had left Unknown not only out of pocket but more importantly embarrassed in front of one the young upstart gangster boys who had crossed over the river from the City to do the deal.
This insult from Magnus had to be countered and a message sent to all his associates no one messes with Unknown Means! As these negative thoughts caught him Unknown Means began to sweat profusely and he could feel one of his fits coming on.
He bit down hard on his bottom lip until blood appeared and calmed himself down by wiping away the grey spittle on his chin and unclenching his gnarled weary hands he relaxed back into his chair breathing deeply to get his body back into control and his mind focused.
His rheumy eyes noticed the report on the October break in. His smile reappeared and slide across his tense features. Settling down again he was really pleased with this job- no sign of a break in - made it perfect.
The owner of Auton Croft had pissed him off only two days before. She had driven her 'poncey' BMW into the supermarket car park; taken his parking spot and had given him the finger when he had protested.
Unknown Means didn’t take kindly to this level of disrespect and had plotted his revenge as he had followed her home. He’d sent an assistant in disguise as a gasman to retrieve imprints of her house keys and an old friend had copied them for him.
The £5000 cash has been an added bonus after he had ransacked the modern 'poxy' interior. Serve her right Cheeky bitch! The smile which had threatened to disappear resurfaced as he thought about the money. It would come in handy with the run up to Christmas after all he had four grandchildren to buy for. This thought made him chuckle. “Buy for!”
The last time Unknown Means had bought anything was many years in the past, long before he had realised that a life of crime, carefully planned and executed did actually pay.
This philosophy was reinforced by his latest deal. The oil fuel which he had siphoned off only a few nights ago was sitting in his warehouse by the docks waiting for the buyer to collect.100% profit for an hour’s work. A good result for minimum effort!
Unknown Means opened up his Twitter account, with the hash tag,” Grumpy Grandpa Joe" to write up his daily Tweet. This time it would be about the lawless and criminal society in which we lived.