Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Last night in creative writing we were given a list of titles to pick from and had 45 minutes to write a short story. This is mine.
Shopping with Mary.
‘Milk, tea, bread, eggs. I fancy a nice pork chop for lunch, would you like that love?’ Bill sat at the kitchen table writing the shopping list. Thursday morning the routine is always the same, bus into town, post office to collect pension, do the shopping and then get the bus home to make lunch. Bill pushed his chair back from the table and it squeaked on the faded lino
‘sorry love’ he says, Mary hates that he slides his chair rather than lifting it. He clears the breakfast things from the table and puts them into the sink
‘we can do the dishes later, can’t we princess?’ he says and smiles at Mary. Mary doesn’t say much these days, although she was never much of a one for chatter. That’s why Bill fell in love with her. That friend of hers, Marjorie, was courting his friend Harry and they suggested a double date. Marjorie never stopped talking all evening and when Bill walked Mary home she had said
‘you must think I’m awfully dull compared to Marjorie’ and Bill had confessed that he found Marjorie’s chatter annoying. Mary had smiled then, a beautiful smile that made her eyes twinkle. Six months later they married and had celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary in August.
Bill stood at the sink as he rinsed the tea pot, Mary always liked a cuppa as soon as they got back with the shopping – kettle on even before taking her hat off.
‘looks like a cold one today, dry though, but I’ll make sure to get our gloves’ Bill dries the tea pot and puts it onto the work top next to the tea caddy for later.
He went into the hall and reached their coats down, he picked Marys hat off the shelf above and paused. He looked down at her worn, plum, felt hat and smiled ‘shan’t be needing that today old chap’ he said to himself.
The bus journey into town was uneventful, 15 minutes all told if the traffic was good. Bill and Mary always kept themselves to themselves, not like some of them mind. Some days it was like a trip to the seaside with the laughing and chatting that went on. Today it was quiet though, Mary preferred it that way. She liked to look out of the window and watch the fields roll by. As Autumn had faded into Winter the countryside had been leached of colour, the sky, the fields and the hedgerows blended together in varying shades of grey. Bill hated this time of year, he loved Spring and watching for lambs, green shoots and the first day the sun warmed his face through the window of the bus.
‘roll on Spring’ he said to Mary.
The Post Office was only a short walk from the bus station, uphill, but as Mary liked to point out better to be walking down hill with the shopping than up. She’d always been a half full sort of girl and practical with it.
‘looks like there’s not much of a queue today Mary love, not like last week. Tax disc week, do you remember? Had to stand outside in the cold didn’t we?’ said Bill as he pushed the door open. The queue moved quickly and once Bill had the pension safely in his wallet it was time to do the shopping.
The supermarket stood where the old Fine Fare had been. Bill used to like Fine Fare, for one thing they didn’t move everything around at every whip and flip. He could be in and out in ten minutes on a good day. This place though, bread went from one end of the shop to the other without warning, he spent more time hunting for stuff than actually putting things into the trolley. Sometimes it was enough to make him swear, but only quietly under his breath: Mary didn’t like language.
‘eggs, bread, milk’ Bill read from the list ‘tea, musn’t forget your tea now lovely. And how about a nice bit of batenburg for this afternoon?’ Bill put the tea and cake into the trolley.
‘pork chops! I nearly forgot the pork chops, losing my marbles I reckon.’ Said Bill as he doubled back to pick up a tray of chops.
‘right then girl, I think we are done here, let’s get this lot aid for and get home for a nice cup of tea.’
The bus home was noisy. Young girls with babies and push chairs, some of them didn’t look old enough, and the language! A couple of times Bill heard Mary tut and he wanted to tell the girls that they didn’t ought to use language like that round other people, but he didn’t Mary wouldn’t like a scene.
Bill pushed the door open with the shopping bag and, with a groan, lifted the bags onto the table. He reached over and flicked the kettle on.
‘nice cup of tea before I put the chops on’ he said as he unbuttoned his coat. He went into the hall and hung his coat next to Mary’s. He stopped and ran his hand over the familiar grey wool of Mary’s coat. He resisted the urge to lift the coat down and bury his face in the collar. The last of her perfume was long gone. The wool now smelt old and slightly damp.
Bill walked back into the kitchen and looked at Mary’s chair. Mary’s empty chair. He sighed.
‘pot of tea for one’ he said.