Here you can find examples of some of my short stories, many of which are featured in ‘Mr Pinkerton’ an anthology of twenty four stories.
Hope you like…!
Always the Bridesmaid.
My mother’s jaw dropped in horror! “But Jayne, this will be the third time you’ve been a bridesmaid and you know what they say, never the bride and all that!” Mum means well but you can’t turn down attending your best friend at her wedding just because of some ancient superstition, can you? Anyway, I don’t subscribe to such ideas, touch wood.
“Make sure you catch the bouquet…” Mum went on and on.
“Mum! That’s so old fashioned, and what makes you think I want to be the next one to be married? Twenty eight’s hardly on the shelf, is it?” I challenged her, only to receive one of those knowing looks and a wry smile. I knew when to concede to my mother’s wisdom and quickly changed the subject.
The wedding merry-go-round had begun with a vengeance and I found myself being dragged round every bridal shop in the city. But Rachel’s enthusiasm was infectious and I had to admit that I enjoyed our first few shopping trips, until about the fifth consecutive weekend. Yes, I was delighted for my friend, she and Gareth were so obviously made for each other, but I had other things to do during my precious weekend hours… well, I had been promising myself I’d re-grout the bathroom tiles for ages, and my library books were well overdue! Rachel had to understand that I had a life of my own. Each time she tried on a wedding dress she preened and sighed in front of the mirror,
“Do you think Gareth will like me in this one?” she enquired for the twenty something time. Perhaps here I should confess to feeling just a teeny bit jealous of my best friend. Rachel is as near perfect a specimen as anyone could wish to be; a consummate size ten, with obedient tresses of naturally blonde hair which framed her exquisite heart shaped face and set off her strikingly blue eyes. She would have looked incredible wearing a sack! What made me even more covetous was that her personality was every bit as beautiful as she was. Everyone loved her and deservedly so, she was the full package.
This being my third time as a bridesmaid, I was becoming something of an expert. The hen night was child’s play. No, literally, it was! With my considerable experience of organising such events, I had encountered many of the pitfalls that can happen when giggling girls and alcohol are mixed in large quantities. Rachel wasn’t into that kind of night out and begged me to stick to innocent fun with nothing embarrassing, so in my wisdom, I hired a rather large bouncy castle and then struggled to find an indoor venue to accommodate it! The local community centre eventually fitted the bill and we were all set, a couple of hours behaving like children, then a quiet meal at Rachel’s favourite Indian, simple, innocent fun. What could possibly go wrong?
The A&E department of the general hospital was extremely busy that Saturday night. Obviously if I had known that the bride-to-be was going to break her leg slipping off the bouncy castle, I would have chosen a quieter night. There were also as many alcohol fumes in the waiting area as there would have been had we settled on a night out clubbing, but Rachel was extremely gracious about it all and lay patiently on the hospital trolley, trying hard not to wince with pain. I think perhaps I was suffering more than she was. I certainly felt guilty knowing that her dream of walking down the aisle would never happen; a wheelchair takes some of the romance out of a wedding. Then I would have to face her parents, they had trusted me to look after Rachel and I had assured them that I would, and Gareth too. What he was going to say was best not to think about.
At least there was a week to become accustomed to the plaster cast before the wedding. The father of the bride would just have to push his daughter down the aisle and for some of the photographs we planned to prop Rachel up or at least disguise the chair with the voluminous fabric of the dress and sensitive angles and posing; the photographer seemed to relish the challenge. Gareth took care of the necessary changes to the honeymoon plans and the hotel happily changed their room to a ground floor suite.
On the plus side, Rachel had an unexpected full week off work before the wedding, which she actually needed to adjust to her newly limited mobility. I of course tried my best to be useful, and not only from a sense of guilt; I really wanted my friend to enjoy her day. On the Monday evening before the wedding, I arrived at Rachel’s house to help her decide the final seating plan for the reception, always a tricky business. She was playing around with place cards when I arrived and seemed to have most of the plan complete.
“There are just a few problems to iron out” she told me, “Mainly where to seat Uncle Harry.”
“Why?” I asked, “Is he difficult to get on with, halitosis, b.o. or two heads?”
“Oh no, nothing like that.” Rachel chuckled, “It’s just that he’s so painfully shy, we need to sit him with someone who’ll bring him out of his shell. He’s never married and has no one to bring to the wedding. Perhaps I’ll just put him with Aunt Gladys’s family, they’re a lively bunch!”
We soon had the seating plan all sorted out and I was all for opening a celebratory bottle of plonk when Rachel went all serious on me.
“Jayne, could I ask a big favour of you?”
She had me there didn’t she? How could I refuse her anything while I still felt terrible about the hen party?
“After the reception could you look after Uncle Harry for me? He’s such a dear and he’s on his own and… well you know, he’s so shy and everything, and you don’t have a partner for the evening reception do you? I wouldn’t ask, but he’s my favourite uncle and I haven’t seen him for ages. I need to know someone’s looking out for him.”
Great, I thought, just what I need, to be lumbered with a shy morose uncle! But of course, I smiled and agreed happily, just hoping he wasn’t the sort to get drunk and maudlin at family weddings.
All things considered, the week went pretty smoothly and eventually the big day arrived. I stayed overnight at Rachel’s house then we began the big day with a trip to the hairdressers. A little pampering was just the thing we needed to steady the nerves, then we returned, coiffed and manicured to perfection. Well, Rachel looked perfect even with the plaster cast. I, as usual, felt like plain Jayne in comparison, but I managed to stifle my own feelings to concentrate on the bride.
The sun shone, the service was meaningful and enough tears were shed to comply with tradition. Gareth looked extremely handsome in his tuxedo and Rachel, as ever, was stunning. The photographer did a really good job with the photos, positioning the happy couple in some quite romantic poses, you know the sort, he looking lovingly down as she gazed up into his eyes. It almost brought me to tears. And the reception certainly lived up to expectations. It was a fantastic country hotel, oozing with charm and character. Tea and sarnies would have been romantic in that setting, but the meal was out of this world. Three courses of pure ambrosia, I had to restrain myself from finishing off the bride’s untouched meal. (Could that be why she is so thin and I’m so…well, curvy?)
I was slightly distracted during the meal by table 3, where Aunt Gladys and her family sat with Uncle Harry. I recognised Gladys from some photos at Rachel’s house and also because she is the image of Rachel’s mum. Her family were all grown up and although I couldn’t remember their names, it didn’t matter, all I was interested in was Uncle Harry, I needed to know what to expect. As I looked around the table, I could identify Gladys’s two daughters, a giggly pair dressed in overkill, and her son, looking slightly embarrassed at his sisters’ behaviour. Uncle Harry sat opposite Gladys, slurping up his raspberry pavlova and cream as if he had been starved for a week, although he looked far from starved! To say he was portly would be kind, with a red bulbous nose which suggested he enjoyed his drink as well as his food. The lack of hair on his head was made up for in the bushy moustache which danced on his top lip as his jaws worked on his food. What had I let myself in for? Rachel had really dropped me in it; taking advantage of the guilt trip I was on to lumber me with the uncle from hell. Still, I owed her, I would do my duty.
The speeches were over and the cake ceremoniously carved up and passed round. The guests were beginning to relax after the delicious food and drink and alas, it was time for me to fulfil my promise. The hotel staff were busily clearing the tables, making ready for the evening buffet and disco when I spotted Uncle Harry sitting alone at the side of the room. I breathed deeply pulling myself up to my full 5’ 3’’height and marched over. Fixing a smile on my face, I offered my hand to Harry.
“Hi, you must be Rachel’s uncle, I’m Jayne…” I was about to ask how he was enjoying the wedding, when he opened his mouth and let out the most revolting belch, I had to resist the urge to turn and run, I did owe my friend.
“Better out than in, that. Aye lass, I’m Rachel’s uncle and I was hoping to have a little chat with the prettiest bridesmaid I’ve ever seen!”
Yuk, gross… did I really have to talk to this man? Then I looked across at Rachel in her wheelchair, wistfully watching as her guests began to dance. Not for her the pleasure of leading the dancing with her new husband. Okay, it was only for a few hours so I obediently sat beside that hulk of a man as he patted the empty seat next to him.
It only took about two minutes of Uncle Harry’s company for me to work out why he wasn’t married, but what I couldn’t for the life of me grasp was why Rachel had said he was her favourite uncle, but then she did say she hadn’t seen him for ages. Harry had two pints of beer on the table in front of him. As he downed the first, in one gulp, I glanced again at Rachel. She smiled and gave me a little wave; I bravely smiled back, trying to look as if I was having fun. It was going to be a long night.
I caught Rachel looking at me a few times in the next twenty minutes or so and she seemed as if something was bothering her. She must be feeling awful being an observer to the dancing at her own wedding. When Harry excused himself to go back to the bar, I moved over to talk to her.
“Are you okay?” I asked, praying that nothing was wrong.
“Yes, but I hoped you’d be giving some of your attention to Uncle Harry.” Rachel looked disappointed.
“I am” I replied, “He’s only gone to get another drink.”
“Oh no.” Rachel began to shake with laughter, “That’s not Harry, that’s Uncle Jim, Gladys’s husband. That’s Harry over there.” She pointed to the young man sitting in the far corner, studying the flowers on the wallpaper, the young man I had mistakenly thought to be Gladys’s son.
“But he’s not much older than you. How can he be your uncle?”
“He’s mum’s youngest brother, an afterthought as far as my grandparents were concerned. Did you really think I’d ask my best friend to babysit someone like Uncle Jim?”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I should have known it wasn’t in her nature to play a trick like that. Rachel took me over and introduced me to Harry. He was, thankfully, the complete opposite of Jim and as Rachel excused herself to return to her new husband, I sat beside Harry and the evening just got better and better. Underneath his shyness I found a kind, sensitive and interesting man. He loved his niece as I did, but we found we had much more in common. He was also rather gorgeous; I don’t know why he hadn’t been snapped up by some lucky girl.
I could hardly believe it was midnight, the evening had flown by in Harry’s company, and I was beginning to wish it would never end. It was time for the bride and groom to say goodbye to their guests and head off to an unknown destination. As Harry and I made our way to Rachel to wish her well, there was a flurry of activity and a rush of female guests heading towards the bride.
‘Oh no’ I thought, ‘she’s going to throw her bouquet.’ I turned to move away from the throng, determined not to even attempt to catch it, mainly for fear of living with my mother if I did. She would be unbearable. I smiled at Harry as I turned, but his attention was distracted and before I could drag him away, Harry had caught the bouquet. A cheer went up, and his face turned crimson. In his embarrassment, he quickly passed the flowers to me.
When I eventually managed to see Rachel, she had a wicked grin on her face.
“What do you think of Uncle Harry?” It was only then that I realised I had been set up, but I didn’t care in the slightest. I bent down to kiss my friend and said a quiet thank you.
“I can certainly see why he’s your favourite uncle.” I whispered.
Irene’s hand dithered over the plate of biscuits in front of her, finally deciding on a half coated chocolate digestive.
“It’s apathy!” Maureen declared, helping herself to two biscuits.
“Everyone wants the benefits of living in a nice place like this, but no one is prepared to accept any of the responsibilities.” She again droned on about her favourite subject while Irene sipped the tea, feigning interest in what she had heard at least a dozen times before.
“I’m quite happy to continue as secretary of the residents’ committee for another year, but we really must have a new chairman. I can’t keep on doing both jobs.”
Irene nodded in agreement, hoping Maureen wasn’t expecting her to volunteer for the role, heaven forbid. She hated anything to do with committees and found it difficult enough to choose what to have for her next meal.
“Why, I think I could even nominate Mr. Pinkerton here and no one would be any the wiser!” Maureen broke one of her biscuits in half, passing some to her beloved Pug. Irene giggled at the thought,
“Why don’t you?” she asked, suddenly more animated than she had been in weeks.
“You could nominate him and I’ll second the proposal.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Maureen thought her friend had finally flipped, “He’s a dog!”
“Exactly.” Irene grinned, “But who would know?”
Maureen began to digest her friend’s suggestion and a slow smile crept across her face.
“You’re right, most of them don’t know who lives in the flat next door, let alone who has a pet. It would show them all up for what they are,” she mused, “and we could have a bit of fun at their expense.”
Over a second cup of tea plans were made and anyone looking in on the scene would have wondered why two sixty-something women were giggling like school girls, decorum abandoned in their enthusiasm for a project to make a point to their neighbours.
Maureen gave a loud exaggerated cough to bring the meeting to order and then began.
“The main item on the agenda today is to elect a new chairman, a position which has been vacant since Mr. Goodbody sadly passed on. Nominations will be accepted during the next two weeks, when I suggest we re-convene to vote for a new leader.” She looked at Irene and winked before continuing,
“I have one nomination to start the ball rolling. Mr Pinkerton at flat number 27 is happy to stand for election and I believe Irene here has agreed to second the motion.” Maureen gazed around the room to see if anyone would connect the name to her flat number or her dog. The only noise was Irene, covering her face and clearing her throat in an attempt to stifle a giggle.
“Mr Pinkerton sends his apologies, he had wished to be here, but is otherwise tied up. Are there any other nominations?” The silence made her want to giggle, “Well in that case I suggest we attend to the next item on the agenda and discuss further nominations at the next meeting.”
Maureen and Irene decided to treat themselves to lunch in town. It was an early celebration of what they were sure would be a victory for Mr. Pinkerton. They laughed at the absurdity of the whole situation and anticipated their fellow residents’ reactions when they realised what their indifference had brought upon them.
At the next meeting Maureen again had to make apologies for Mr. Pinkerton’s absence.
“He is sorry he cannot be here today, but I have a list of ideas he has been chewing over recently.”
Neither woman was surprised that there were no other nominations. Irene chuckled and Maureen struggled to keep a straight face as she continued,
“Mr. Pinkerton has a keen nose for property matters. He promises to sniff out any problems before they become major issues.” Maureen was encouraged by the nods and murmurs of approval from her audience.
“He is also very keen to keep up the maintenance of our communal gardens. He obviously derives much pleasure from this area and would like to make it suitable to spend more time in. Oh, and he also has several original ideas on dealing with the problem of the feral cats who seem intent on fouling our garden.”
More encouraging noises almost persuaded Maureen herself that Mr. Pinkerton would be the ideal candidate for Chairman!
“May I also add that from my personal knowledge of Mr. Pinkerton, he is of impeccable character. By nature he is a genuine, easy going individual, altruistic in giving of his time and attention to others, seeking no material gain; an altogether ideal candidate. Therefore if there are no other nominations, I’m happy to propose that we elect Mr. Pinkerton as chairman of our residents’ committee.”
Irene raised her hand and spoke with confidence,
“I second the motion!”
Almost immediately every hand in the room was raised. Maureen had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing as she and Irene exchanged triumphant looks.
“Irene?” Madam Secretary asked, “Could you pop out to see if Mr. Pinkerton is free to join us now?”
As arranged beforehand, Irene made her way to Maureen’s flat to collect an excited Mr. Pinkerton and take him to meet his very own committee. When they entered the room, Maureen tapped the table with her knuckles and announced.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to introduce you to your newly elected chairman, Mr. Pinkerton!”
It took time for the committee to comprehend what was going on but slowly faces began to smile and laughter broke out as it dawned on them who Mr. Pinkerton was. Irene was delighted that their little plan had worked as she turned and whispered to Maureen, “Do you think they’ve got the point?”
(Truth really is stranger than fiction. This scenario did actually happen in the US a few years ago.)
Gertie the Giddy Goat (A children’s story)
Gertie was a beautiful golden Guernsey goat with a long silky coat, two strong horns, sharp yellow eyes and a long beard, of which she was very proud.
Gertie was a very lucky goat who lived on a farm with Farmer Bacon, Mrs Bacon and their little girl Rosie. She had a warm shed with clean yellow straw for a bed, plenty of hay to eat and a field to skip about in, with sweet juicy grass to nibble. But sometimes Gertie tried to escape from her field! Clever Gertie had learned that if she nudged the latch on the gate it would swing open and she could escape and explore the rest of the farm.
One day, Gertie nudged the gate open and went into Farmer Bacon’s orchard. It was wonderfully full of trees, heavy with crisp juicy red apples. Gertie ate so many she thought she might burst. Farmer Bacon saw the open gate and found Gertie in the orchard.
“Oh Gertie, you are a giddy goat,” he scolded, “You’ll get a tummy ache eating all those apples.” And he took Gertie back to her field.
The next day Gertie escaped again and found her way to Mrs Bacon’s vegetable garden. She crunched all the juicy carrot tops and ate all the green beans growing up their poles. She even munched some of the flowers in the flower bed! When Mrs Bacon found her she was cross.
“Oh Gertie, you are a giddy goat, just look at my garden.”
“Burp.” said Gertie as Mrs Bacon took her back to her field.
Gertie was a good goat for a few days but soon got bored so she nudged the gate open again and skipped off to see what she could find to eat. Gertie knew Farmer Bacon would be cross if she went into his orchard and Mrs Bacon would be cross if she went into the vegetable garden, so Gertie went around the back of the barn to see what she could find there.
It was a windy day and Mrs Bacon had hung her washing out to dry. Gertie thought it might be tasty, so she took a big bite out of Mrs Bacon’s knickers and began to eat them. Farmer Bacon, Mrs Bacon and Rosie all came out to see what she had got up to.
“Oh Gertie, you are a giddy goat.” they all said together and then took her back to her field.
“Perhaps she’s lonely,” said Rosie “and needs a friend.”
“What a good idea.” said Mrs Bacon, “We could move Flopsy’s hutch into her shed.”
So Farmer Bacon moved Flopsy Rabbit’s hutch into Gertie’s shed and built a large run for the rabbit to play in the field. It seemed to work and Gertie and Flopsy became good friends as they nibbled the sweet grass together.
One night, when Gertie and Flopsy had been put in their shed to sleep, Gertie nudged the latch on Flopsy’s hutch and the door flew open. Flopsy jumped out and snuggled down in the yellow straw beside Gertie to keep warm.
In the morning when Rosie came to bring them fresh water, she was surprised to see Flopsy out of her hutch. But she was even more surprised when she looked at Gertie to see that she had lost her lovely long beard!
Rosie ran to fetch Farmer and Mrs Bacon. They all looked at Gertie and wondered what had happened.
“Flopsy was out of her hutch too.” Rosie said.
“Ah, I think I know what has happened.” Mrs Bacon laughed. “Flopsy has nibbled Gertie’s beard off.” And sure enough that was just what had happened. Gertie’s beautiful beard had gone. Flopsy had nibbled it off while the goat was asleep.
“Oh Gertie, you are a giddy goat.” laughed Rosie.
“And now you’ve had a taste of your own medicine.” Farmer and Mrs Bacon laughed too.