Ower Brian only sez to me this morning, “It’s about time yow thought about retiring. Yow aye gerrin’ any younger!” He’s a cheeky dog.
Doh worry, Mrs Baggot. I saw your face then. I told him straight, “No way, Bri, I’ll keep gooin’ til I drop. What I do, it’s special!” He laughed then and said summat about the permin’ solution havin’ gone to my head and curled my brain. He might have a point. What do you think, Cheryl, eh?
“Special!” he said. “That bunch of owd biddies am special alright. There ain’t ne’rn a one of ‘em younger than eighty.” He’s right, I suppose. Elsie Maybury was 102 last Tuesday. She bought a cake in for us and we cracked open the sherry. Day we, Cheryl? Pass us that brush off there would you, Mrs Kayhill?
Cheryl, check if Mrs Johnson wants a cuppa. ‘Er will do of course, milky, two sugars.’
Our Brian doh mean nothing with his banter. I might be a tu’penny, ha’penny hairdresser, a back street beautician but when my ladies come through that door like it’s a hedge and they’ve opted to tackle it backwards there’s work to be done. Every week some of ‘em, every other most of ‘em. Regular days, same times, windblown and tattered. We sort it out on our little conveyor belt.
“You alright under that dryer, Mrs Oakley?” Can’t hear me, bless her, but ‘er’s waving so that’s fine.
As I was sayin’, the conveyor belt…in they come, gown on, sit down, cup of tae, hair wash, hair towelled, rollers in – they almost know where to go themselves those rollers – then I put my ladies under the dryer with a magazine, ready for another cuppa, a bickie and a doze.
When they’m done, I tease out those curls, pimp that hair up so their soft pink scalps am almost hidden. It’s all candyfloss. Halos of white hair. Like elderly angels, they am. Beautiful.
They come to that desk to pay, straight-backed as though they can look the world in the eye again and then comes my favourite bit when they wordlessly drop a coin into my overall pocket like a secret. Surreptitiously, like they’m paying for summat extra, summat special. Which of course they are.
Then they leave with a chiffon scarf tied loosely over their bouffant hair. So loosely it almost floats. And if it’s rainy, over the top of that a rain hat. Job done.
You off now, Mrs Buchannon? Tarra a bit. Oh look, er’s left it behind. Mrs Buchannon, Mrs Buchannon! You’ve forgotten your stick again. Never mind, eh? Cheryl, there’s a love, put it over there with the others that’ve been left. That’s it, in the corner next to the walkin’ frames.
(Shortlisted for the Bare Fiction Flash Fiction Prize 2014)
Writing the Future
“Janus, the cat is dead.” She looks at me like it is my fault. I stand in the doorway and I shrug. “I merely predicted it; I didn’t wish it.”
I raise the key to signify that the conversation is over, that I am intending to enter my study and begin my work.
The tock, tock, tock of the clocks is leaden. I can almost see the shower of sparks as each second is struck. There are over a hundred clocks in this room. The room where I write the future.
The book is opened with due ceremony. The silk ribbon marks the page. Thud. A bird hits the window pane and falls. Dead as a stone. I take up my pen and tick off the death of my wife’s cat then run my finger down the list and find the reference to the tom tit. Tick.
Now I think. Wait for the thoughts to come. I fill out some of the January events. Five chains of well-known shops calling in receivers. I write in an assassination attempt for February 13th. I turn to June and I write in a change of government.
The clocks measure out the seconds, the minutes, the hours as I continue my work.
I see that you are sceptical. Perhaps you find it hard to believe that a man like me can write the future.
The clocks strike twelve. Another couple of entries before lunch. I flick forward the pages of the book again. I find the date and I write that you will read this. I flick forward again. I make another entry. This entry is also about you.
This afternoon perhaps I will go for a stroll. As they say in the old country ‘Carpe Diem’ – seize the day, my friend. Seize the day.
Winner of the Write the Future Competition (Waterstones)
Previously published in Wolverhampton Write Now