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16 October 2014
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Helen Eccles
Helen Eccles

Helen is a retired librarian. She has one husband, two children and a Dachshund dog. Retirement has given Helen more time to walk her dog, which shows no more enthusiasm for this activity than she does. Helen also has more time for reading, writing, and visiting gardens. She enjoys being a member of a writing group and reading her work to various clubs and societies. She was runner-up in the Spring artsextra short story competition with her story The Man Who Looked Like Dylan Thomas.

A Couple of Day's Digression by Helen Eccles

Monday morning, and there I was wandering lonely as Wordsworth’s cloud. I hate Mondays. I mean the weekend is always a bit of a let down, and it is nearly a week before the next one. As for that cloud, how your man knew it was lonely beats me; I mean when did you ever see the odd cloud moping about the sky on its own? Anyway I wasn’t going to any vales or hills, worse luck. I was going to Primrose street, to my work in the cake shop. No prizes for guessing its name. Yes that’s it, The Primrose Patisserie, which is the little flight of fancy of Mrs Woods the owner. My friend Marilyn, who works with me in the shop, says that selling Paris buns is the nearest old Woody, as she calls her - but not out loud, has ever been to France.

I wasn’t in the best of form this Monday morning. Due mainly as per usual, to the attitude my dear husband Malcolm had adopted, and forcibly expressed towards my English literature night class. He gave me his views in words which would certainly be a novelty item at our class. I call him Mal, but his mother calls him Malcolm, very pointedly, when she’s with us – says it all really doesn’t it? He was, to put it mildly, in a mood about my class because he was asked to stay in one night in the week to look after our Hugh. Hugh is six and frankly would have been better at looking after his Da than the other way around. I digress, as my night class tutor Mr. Bolton often tells me. Actually I’m always doing it. Troublesome thing this digression. I was going to say, now that I think about it, Mal has always been sulky but he’s been much worse for some time now.

Anyway, in I went for my shift in the cake shop, and as soon as I put on my lemon nylon overall embroidered with primroses, which Mrs W describes as ‘so tasteful,’ I landed at the counter. I was then faced with Mrs Purdy, one of our too regular customers, who gave me her usual baleful stare. I had a run in with her the week before, about scones she said were stale and would break your teeth. I took it that she meant hers which would be a miracle as she hasn’t got any. I told her, with a smile through gritted teeth, for the umteenth time in so many years, that they were freshly baked that morning. I looked pleadingly at Marilyn meaning would she please, please serve Mrs P as I was not in the mood to do battle that morning. I thought it was odd, peculiar - you know what I mean, how Marilyn dropped her eyes, and muttered something about going into the storeroom for something. Usually as soon as we see each other it’s a laugh a minute, and we’ve seen each other through the best and worst of times.

Well, Purdy was no better or worse than usual. She said that the buns looked like rubbish, but she would force down a couple of them with her tea. The scones hadn’t improved she noticed, but I could give her a dozen anyway. Her sister, who couldn’t tolerate anything fancy, was visiting her that afternoon, and was very hard to please. Imagine, two of them together, I thought to myself. I saw her off at last, and went in search of Marilyn. She had her hanky up to her face and told me she had hay fever. I laughed at her; I mean, when did she ever have hay fever? More like the remains of Saturday night fever I said. Anyway, I told her she had better get rid of it before Friday night. It was my birthday, and I had planned a surprise party for myself. Well I mean, who else would do it? Mrs Woods had even donated the cake. Mal said the whole thing was a load of rubbish and a waste of money, but I think the big four O is special, if a bit depressing. The party was to be held in a fancy Hotel, and even wee Hugh was going. He had new long trousers and a bow tie, and was tickled pink about his evening out. Marilyn looked at me, and then she said she was sure it would be a great do. I couldn’t make her out; she just wasn’t herself, but I let it go, and we went back to the shop.

By this time, the big fellow Archie who was doing a bit of decorating around the shop, had arrived. We were having pale green emulsion everywhere, and primroses stencilled round the walls. To be truthful, it looked as if somebody had put butter in a sling and let fly, but who am I to criticize? I only work here. I think big Archie fancies Marilyn as he keeps looking back at her, and I’m always afraid he will fall off his ladder. There has been a great bit of banter going on too. I decided to help things along, as he really is a nice bloke, cheerful, pleasant and very good looking. I know he is on his own, and so is she. His wife died a few years ago, and Marilyn’s fellow walked out on her the year before, with a girl who was half his age. That was a time I’ll never forget. I sat up at night with her for weeks. Finally she got her head together, and was back to her old self. There I go again, this digression thing. Wouldn’t Mr Bolton with his slashing red pen have a field day? He is very uptight and precise, and I nearly choked when he said, - “Digression, Mrs Lightbody, is the outward manifestation of a butterfly brain.”
That got me going, old butterfly brain that’s me, light by name and light by nature. I saved that up to tell Mal. He didn’t laugh. Where was I? Oh yes, Marilyn and Archie. Before I went home I asked Archie if he would like to come to my party. Well do you know, he jumped at it, and even offered to bring champagne. I didn’t refuse it I can tell you. I thought Marilyn would be pleased, but she just said that it was great, and she’d see me in the morning.

Well, this has been a day! I still can’t make sense of it. Wee Hugh was staying at my mothers, so after I read the note, I rang her and asked her to keep him there. I told her what was in the note. She didn’t say much, just that my father would be right over to bring me home. I said, no, I wanted to think, and that I would come over on my own. She never liked Mal, and I do remember her calling him a miserable so and so. She’s like me, loves a good laugh and right enough Mal never did see the funny side of things.

I read the note over and over again, and it still didn’t make sense. Mal and Marilyn were going to England together. They had been seeing each other for quite a while now. They were both very sorry for the hurt they were causing, and would be in touch. It seemed to me that I was hurting more about Marilyn than Mal. I rang Mrs Woods at the shop and told her that Marilyn and I wouldn’t be coming into work. I must have told her why, but I don’t remember. As soon as I put the phone down - or did I put it down? I started to cry and I thought that I would never stop. I cried for the loss of a friend, and a marriage which had never been very good, for the betrayal, and the end of a way of life.

I remember a knock at the front door, and when I answered it I was gathered into the arms of, would you believe it - of all people, big Archie! I was crying so much that I could hardly hear him. Then I realized that he was saying that he had envied that toe-rag husband of mine. He knew rightly that Marilyn was nothing but a “fly by night” and nobody’s friend. He was going to take me over to my mother’s, and that he would call again after work. In fact if I would only let him he would always take care of me and Hugh.

I can’t write any more but I have read this bit over and over again very carefully. No digression here Mr. Bolton.

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