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How could these be developed into a 2000 word story?
We were sitting opposite each other at a table in the window. Outside the dirty brown layers of the Humber mud shifted lethargically under an unhealthy grey sky. A scruffy trawler edging its way home followed by the usual cloud of sea gulls circling and screaming in the wind. Their voices an appropriate background for out meeting, our last meeting though we did not know it at the time. She always insisted on meeting in these empty out of the way places. I do not know how she found them, perhaps there is a guide book to the forlorn pubs of England. I had come 30 miles to meet her and she must have travelled the same distance. The place was nearly empty only a couple of people at the bar. Two men both in casual clothes and the obligatory climate resisting leather jacket, a pint in front of each of them. In the far corner another couple, man and woman. Both in casual clothes and looking as though they were regulars. The last of a dying breed perhaps? We ordered meals from the menu. Safest to have fish and chips here we both thought, they must live on them. I went to the bar and ordered and got myself another pint and a glass of wine, a large one, Pinot Grigio. We sat quietly not knowing what to say. Commenting on the weather and the boats, as though we had only recently met rather than having known each other for years. I had been with the group for about fifteen years and she about ten, we had both done well to survive so long. Though I would not say we had prospered greatly if fish and chips by the Humber was the best we could do. But then there are worse, when they came the fish overlapped the plate, a beautiful crisp golden yellow, the chips were perfect and the mushy peas super. It was a perfect meal, almost magically the Humber had begun to look golden too. We began to talk after the waitress had left, we did not have too much time. I had to give her the background and the details she needed as well as the new passport and visa, she had all the clothing she needed from previous visits. . We finished in time to get back to our offices before close. As we left we kissed as usual and said our goodbyes. So we were not seen together outside the pub she drove away first. We were careful. But not careful enough, that was the last I ever saw of her. When ever I think of her now even though the years have passed I still think of that golden fish in that lovely pub by the river.
How can this be developed further?
Factories and workshops sat side by side amid the sea of terraced streets in the small provincial town where Thomas lived. The only relief was the occasional corner shop or public house. You saw Thomas’s house as soon as you turned the corner It was next to his workshop but what caught your eye was the car parked in front of the house. It was pre war, by far the oldest car in sight. It was dull black and towered above all the others: a model that had not been made for at least twenty years. The large hinges on the sides of the hood, a feature from the days when chauffeurs sat in the open, were more rust than chrome. The bumper, held on by string, rested on the road and only one of the doors had no rust and that was a different colour. We had been friends since school days but I had not seen him for a long time. When I visited him he took me into the house for a beer. He hadn’t changed, if anything, he had become worse since his wife had left him. The house was the most untidy place you have ever seen. He cleared a space, on threadbare chairs, for us to sit down, He moved a couple of heavy boxes, a kettle and a couple of plates from the propped up table. It was obvious that he never spent a penny on himself if he could avoid it. Over the beer he asked if I would like to see his paintings and he opened up the workshop for me. Having seen his home I had images of somewhere more shambolic than my garden shed but no, on the left were shelves neatly full of his paints, brushes and canvases all in their named places. The right hand wall was covered in framed canvases and in the middle of the spotless floor were his easel and painting chair. The workshop was immaculate, everything was of the very best quality, no expense at all had been spared and there were no boxes, kettles, plates or anything else just lying around. . You could see from the paintings on the wall that he was a very, very talented indeed. He told me that the last had sold for several hundreds of pounds all of which he spent on paint, canvas and bigger skylights. Although I protested, halfheartedly I must admit, he gave me one of his latest paintings. He had not changed since we left school, he always spent as little as possible on himself but everything on his work and was generosity personified with his friends.
3. My legs are bored they do not want to walk any more (Overheard from a four year old)
Reading under the bedclothes by the light of a torch. I suppose most kids do it but each of us thought that we were unique and that somehow we were breaking the rules. Though we knew it wasn’t a strict rule for in my house we never got told off for reading. The house was full of books but these were adult books of no interest at all. What I and all the others in the class wanted were stories of spies, wars, heroes rebels all the things we would love to do and all the people we would like to be ourselves. My favourites were the comics, magic they were. Every week a new set of stories in which our heroes triumph again and the baddies are vanished. They never seem to learn but we were always the good guys and we always won. In the comics one of my favourites was Wilson of the Wizard, the marvellous cricketer who appeared from the Yorkshire moors to rescue England from defeat by the hated Australians. But best of all was Roy of the Rovers, the footballing hero. He could play in any position and could score superb goals that left the crowd stunned with his brilliance or save certain goals when he was the substitute goalkeeper. I was Wilson in the summer but in the winter I was Roy, Roy of the Rovers
5. THE INTERVIEW
It was in London at their corporate HQ my first interview for years. I had just well, six weeks ago, been made redundant after twenty years. Twenty years no interview and now I was competing for a job a job based in London that would mean commuting weekly from home in York or moving house family and children What a mess, this was no happy outcome for anyone, if I did not get the job the future looked bleak a few savings would not last. If I got the job how could we move the children from school and friends and my wife from friends and family? I would never hear the last of it. Did I really want the job? Perhaps not, I could not attend and lie about it, but word would get back to Pat some time. I could just blow it, make a mess of the interview I might do that anyway. Choices. If they offered it I could turn it down that would share the responsibility if I discussed it with Pat. But perhaps she would be happy with me commuting and out of the way all week. The secretary came out Mr’ Roberts she asked. Me. I stood and followed her. There they sat three of them A hanging jury grim pretend smiles to put me at ease. I knew all the tricks I had interviewed many in my time. Don’t fidget hold hands face up palms open smile occasionally only, no jokes pause as though thinking some times. It all went like clockwork we will be in touch in a few days the Chairman said. So I had not blown it. They offered the job, commuted weekly; Pat left me after six months.
6. OLD FLAME
Jim, my new man, was taking me to the pictures that Friday night and, of course, he couldn’t go without his Friday pint. So we nipped into the Stagecoach, not a pub I had ever been to before but right near the cinema. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him, Don, over dressed and bold as brass standing at the bar, master of all he surveyed, boasting to his cronies just like the old days when we all used to go to the Feathers after work. That was when we were an item before he disappeared from his job and from me, just left, gone without a word. Now he was back in town. Revenge would be cold but it would be slow and sweet. Good job that I was in my finest for my new man. The bar was crowded but I knew Don had seen me before he turned away. I could still turn heads when I needed to. Let him sweat a bit; let him think that I haven’t seen him. With our drinks on wet beer mats at the far end of the bar we were out of sight. I drank my wine slowly until I was ready. I gave him time enough to sweat but not enough to escape. Then the revenge began.
‘Come on Jim, time to go’
We walked slowly towards the door. Don was keeping his eyes averted but I knew he was watching me in the mirror above the bar. Just as we passed him I turned and said
’ Don, it is Don isn’t it’
He turned as though someone had stuck a needle in him, though I doubted it had pricked his conscience: his skin was far too thick for that. God, I was enjoying this: the look on his face.
‘Gloria nice to see you again after all this time, how long is it, a year?
However long it is not long enough
‘Two actually, since you left. How’s the new job?’ Won’t you introduce me to your friends?
In front of his colleagues that will add a little extra spice.
That’s the last thing I wanted to do.
‘We are the after work group from Frogatt and Jones the accountants. This is Tom, Susie, Tim, Dave and Belinda.’
How do I keep this short and get rid of her?
‘Just like the old days but what are Frogatts doing in this backwater?’
Let’s make sure I don’t lose him again.
‘Here as part of the national audit of Government spending, we are the top team’ he said playing to the audience. He just could not stop himself.
‘Sorry we just lost touch’ I said ‘You left so quickly’.
That’s a nice tactful way of saying it, use the rapier and keep the heavy fire for later.
‘They wanted me straight away, no time to say proper goodbyes, I would have come back but we were straight out on the road with an audit,’
I need to change the subject’
‘A new man I see ‘
‘Yes we’ve been together for a while.’
A white lie, he’s not changing the subject that easily.
‘We found a few things left in your desk when we were tidying up.’
There that’s the first shot, see how that goes.
‘Nothing much, I shouldn’t think, just get rid of it after all this time.’
Bitch. She has found something, I should have been more careful.
‘I thought you might want to have a look through, there was no address to forward it to so we kept it at the office’
That’s the first broadside; now think what I might have.
‘Oh that’s ok I can’t think I will need any of it.’
She’s got something; I hope it is not what I think.
I’ll have a look through and be in touch if any of it looks useful’
And I’m sure some of it will
‘Here’s my card, we must keep in touch.’
Keep in touch I think not. The witch has something nasty in mind.
‘Thanks for the card: Managing Auditor that sounds important. Nice to see you Don I am sure we will meet again.’
Leave when you are winning, I am certain we won’t lose touch again. I can see us meeting often and a very troubled future ahead for him.
‘Come on Jim the picture will be starting; lets get the pick and mix’.
7. HANDSOME HULK
I married too young and to the wrong man. It is easy to see that now but at the time, it was a different matter. I lived in one of those West Midlands towns where everyone has the same speech impediment and you can’t tell one persons voice from another. For all my sixteen years I had lived in the same house in the same street with the same neighbours. Ours was a middle house in a terraced street which led down hill from the group of shops on the main road. Every Saturday it was my job to fetch the vegetables from Jones, the greengrocer, and the meat from Crichalls, the butchers. A bit of a pain but not half as bad as it sounds, for though he never said much, I fancied James, the boy in the butchers. He was big, blond, blue eyed and had a lovely shaped bottom. He could have been a founder member of the Aryan master race. I was in love but even when I gave him the goo goo eyes he just gave me sausages. Never said a word to me but I lived in hope, perhaps next Saturday would be different. I left School as soon as I was sixteen, couldn’t get out quick enough. Not everyone did but I got a job straight away as the junior on the cosmetics counter in Debenhams What perks there were too, all the make up I wanted, free, and the girls were happy to show me how to use it. I suppose I did bathe in the perfume and put the make up on with a trowel to start with. But that quickly wore off, particularly as every time I came home from work our Dad would say there’s that funny smell again what is it Mom is it next doors cat. So much for parental encouragement. First Saturday after I started at Debenhams I went, in full attack make up, to collect the meat before going to work. He spoke to me this time ‘Hello’ not an original start but my legs wobbled: this was a major advance. Even better his eyes never left me all the time I was in the shop and what a romantic he even tied the sausages up with a bow. I don’t think that my feet touched the floor even once on the way to work. This went on for a couple of weeks and we never got much past hello though the bow on the sausages was getting bigger. I talked to the girls on the perfume counters about it, well that’s all we talked about really, boys. I needed a breakthrough and the chance came at the end of the month when I got my first ever pay slip and news that I had been promoted to Second Deputy Estee Lauder Girl at Debenhams. A proud moment, the start of a high flying career perhaps but more importantly more money; I could buy those gorgeous high heeled shoes that I craved. Saturday again, off to the butchers in full gear wobbling on the heels. Breathe in, chest out, big smile, step into the Butchers; wallop flat on my face, bloody heels. There I was lying flat on the floor surrounded by the flat shoes of the old dowdies queuing for their turn to be served by wonder boy. I could see the sneers and read their thoughts, ‘trollop’ they were all thinking, as though they had never done anything like that. But it worked; James was around the counter as fast as a ferret up a drain pipe, had me in his arms saying more than all the previous weeks put together. The only words I took in were ‘call for you tonight’ and he gave me a bow on the lamb chops and extra links of sausage. What a man. I felt as though I should bow to the dowdies and get a round of applause before I left. Our short courtship had begun.
It really was a short courtship, three months and we were married and living above the butchers shop where James now had his name above the door, well not quite his name but ‘and Son’ was nearly as good. My parents thought it great, me off their hands and them getting best cuts of meat at knock down prices. James’ parents thought it was great now he would carry on the business and was settled down with a high flier in the world of perfume retailing, for by this time I was First Deputy Estee Lauder Girl, principally due to the pregnancy of the previous holder of the post, but a step up is a step up. It did not take long to find out that I had married too soon: about six months when the first flush of married life had worn off. James might be a big handsome hulk but he had all the charisma of a house brick. He hadn’t much more conversation than discussion about the different cuts of meat you could get and while that might be interesting once it had certainly paled after six months. He was also a saver; he wouldn’t spend money unless he was forced to. We pooled our joint salaries, I kept some for housekeeping and he put the rest away for a rainy day. Never mind that after a few years we had enough not only to float Noah’s Ark but enough to build the thing in the first place. We never did have children and when our parents died there was nothing for my parents to leave to me but James inherited the butchers business and I was now the Estee Lauder Girl so we were comfortably off but still he wouldn’t spend. The only money I could get my hands on was some of what I earned myself. But didn’t we have such good times discussing the qualities of sausage meat.
All our family played football: mostly in the non league clubs. But the genes must have passed me by for I only ever made it to the local park on Sunday mornings. We did have one good, very good footballer in the family, Uncle Tom. He was getting on now; but he had played for Blackpool in the days of the First Division. Forty or fifty years ago Blackpool was a big team with some English Internationals including the most famous of them all Stanley Matthews. On his seventy fifth birthday we decided to take Tom to see Blackpool, who were having a season in the sun of the Premier League. We had seats in the main stand looking down on the centre circle. When Blackpool kicked off the ball went straight to the right wing.
Tom said. ‘That’s the way, to Matthews on the wing then across and I was there waiting. I wasn’t big but I could jump. I headed it straight onto the crossbar.’
He came over to me and said. ‘Good try, next time I’ll send it lower and he did.’
Tom leapt up, arms high in the air, shouting goal. We looked at him, so did everyone else in the crowd. He was looking at the opposite end. We were watching today’s game but he was playing one from forty years ago. The crowd started smiling at him, obviously thinking he had lost it. But we knew he was the man who was playing with Matthews.
9. THE PYRAMIDS
We could see the five pyramids pointing towards the sky, and the sky was a clear blue, not a cloud to be seen, only the dazzling sun sending brilliant rays of sunshine onto the dry golden sand that clung onto those great pyramids of old.
About hundred meters away we noticed there were tourists already there, lying down in the baking sand, and with their masters were the legendry camels of the Middle East.
We arrived, and we all got out of the vehicle feeling hot and exited about it all. There were about thirty people and there we all were, heads held high, staring up, looking as though we had stiff necks, staring up at this fantastic ancient building! - And what a sight. The atmosphere was sort of uncanny, a silence that I’ve never experienced before, and I’m convinced everybody else felt the same. You could see it in their faces, their eyes fixed and their mouths wide open as they observed one of the seven wonders of the Earth.
And, after awhile I’m sure they all felt like me, as though we were thousands of years in the past, and your thoughts were of how on earth did they manage to build a fantastic building like this without any mechanical machines? Can you imagine thousands of men pulling those big huge stones, placing them accurately in line and square, not one out of position? And you wonder why on earth did they need to build these gigantic tombs that took twenty years or more to complete. We know it was something to do with their beliefs on the afterlife, but why did they have to go to this incredible task just to bury some king. Why not just bury him?
We must have been standing there for at least ten minutes with our minds in a different world, another time, and in a funny sort of way you felt you were not welcome here. It was all kind of spooky. Were we trespassing on sacred ground? And was spirits of the pharaohs going to descend down and swallow us up, or were we cursed to die!
Thinking about all this I suddenly turned my head, and I don’t know why, I turned towards where the camels were laying, and at that moment they unexpectedly shot up onto their feet and tugged at their master’s hold! And then, quick as a flash, all eyes were now focused in that direction. It all happened so quickly. The next thing was this frightening, almighty roar that echoed from the sky! Gosh! It was loud! And then, all heads instinctively looked up. The next second, this supersonic jet went flying by at incredible speed. And then, it was quiet again. Wow! – It was scary!
It’s a amazing, five seconds ago, we were thousands of years in the past, and then, this noisy monster flying past, brought us back to reality, to the fact we were at the bottom of this pyramid, in the twenty-first century, waiting for something to beam us up and take us to an everlasting peace!