Saturday, 4 July 2009

MULTIPLY Writing Prompt #22: Independence

It was one of those hot sultry days in midsummer. “Sour cucumber time”, she thought, adopting an term she remembered from her school days. It was basically a German expression, but she thought when translated into the English language it expressed exactly how it was. Nothing happening, and if something did, then you really had to pull yourself together to react. Sally brushed a curl of her black hair back to its rightful position. In this heat even the dreaded curls would curl more, one of those things she probably inherited from her father; “probably” because she never actually knew him. Now that would make a story for the newspaper where she worked as journalist for local affairs. Those headlines might wake the town up in the sleepy days of summer. Based on a DNA analysis the father of our star reporter, Sally Bridger, has been found. His body was discovered in a long forgotten coal mine. She had only known her mother who had died some years ago with cancer. Her father was a chance meeting on a moonlit night, so her mother would tell her and thus Sally grew up without a father, but a wonderful mother who had been disowned by her family for the shame she had brought on them.

“No, no, definitely not” she thought, “That sort of excitement does not happen, not to me and a father who does not even know he is a father is the last thing I need at the moment. The only excitement around here is trying to swot that dammed fly that keeps buzzing around the last dregs of my coffee” and then she was suddenly startled by her telephone which began to ring.

“At last” she thought, but her hopes were soon destroyed when she noticed it was an internal call, probably from her boss telling her to call up the weather station and asked if a storm might be approaching. Such were the boring stories on a typical summer day in a newspaper office.

“Sally Bridger”

“Sally, I have a story for you.”

“Tom what sort of a story would you have. I thought you had nothing better to do than see if anything criminal had happened in town.”

“Yes, well I was listening to the police radio and they just brought news of a corpse they have discovered.”

“Tom, murder is not my business, give that to one of the chief editors. I only do local stuff, and I am too hot and bothered to jump into the middle of a full scale homicide at the moment.”

She put the telephone back on the hook. She was just about to wipe some beads of perspiration from the end of her nose when the telephone rang again.

“Tom please just leave me alone, I am glad when the afternoon is over and I can go home and take a cold shower.”

“Well here is the cold shower. Jeff said you should immediately go and see what this corpse is all about.”

“Ok, if Jeff said so, then I don’t have a choice, do I?” Jeff being the editor responsible for the news of the day, she knew she would have to start moving.

She again replaced the telephone and dragged herself to her feet, deciding that if she wanted to keep her job she should see what Jeff wanted from her. She knocked at his office door and entered. She hated his office. Jeff was a chain smoker and took absolutely no consideration whether others smoked or not and this combined with the heat of the day did not exactly improve her temper.

“Sally, I have work for you. Tom told me a corpse has been discovered in an apartment down by the park on Oak Avenue. The police are investigating and it would be a good idea if a member of our staff would take a look. Might develop into a good story.”

“OK, Jeff, shall I take a photographer with me?

“No, definitely not, we don’t want our public shocked with photos of a decaying corpse for breakfast tomorrow morning, just see if you can make a story for us; not too spectacular, just something to fill up the third page.”

She left the office just a little bit angry. “Third page, just third page, and I have to drive down town in a car on roads melting under temperatures of 30° centigrade for the third page. At least I had air conditioning in the office.”

However, work was work, and so she climbed into the car and drove off. At least she was bound for a quiet part of town and the trees from the park cast some shade on the buildings on Oak Avenue. She was thinking it being strange that a corpse had been found in a building in one of the better parts of town. Usually they were drugged up victims of the underworld found somewhere in a cellar, with no name or history. Just another unwanted person that no-one cared for.

She arrived at Oak Avenue and saw the police car and a van for the transportation of deceased persons. She entered the building, and began to climb the stairs. There were many apartments and it seemed the neighbours had nothing better to do than stand at their doorways and keep an eye on the scene of the crime. Eventually she reached an apartment on the top floor where the police were gathered at the entrance.

“Now that is all we need, Sally Bridger from the local Telegraph” spoke Inspector Holmes.

“It’s my job Sherlock” Sally said.

“Ok, now don’t be cheeky, otherwise I will call the Daily Post and then your story won’t be so exclusive any more. By the way, my first name is Sam.”

“Well it’s not my fault if your police greeting card says Detective S. Holmes. Can you give me some information on the corpse Sherlock, sorry Sam?”

Sally knew Sam Holmes quite well; he was always present when she was called out on police business for the newspaper. They were both in the same situation. She was left with the news on page three and he seemed to be eternally taking care of the corpses that were nothing special.”

“The victim is Miss Joan Carpenter, now aged 90 years old and she seems to have died five years ago, but nobody noticed.”

“What! Are you having me on. Tell me more.”

“That’s all there is to say; just someone that knew no-body. She was wealthy, never been married and owned the apartment where she lived. Her electricity and water bills were paid automatically from her bank account promptly once a month. If you want to know more, ask the neighbours. They are just waiting to have a mention in the newspaper. Start with the family downstairs.”

So Sally went down the stairs to the apartment below. There was a lady standing at the door on her own. Sally thought to herself, “on her own, because there was no room left to stand next to her.” She had never seen a woman with so many chins. She was small and had folded her arms over her apron. Sally knew the sort, just waiting to be asked something.

“Do you mind if I ask a few questions?”

“Of course not, are you from the local newspaper?”


“Oh, that’s lovely, my name is Mrs. Gallow, with a “w” at the end. I was the one who called the police.”


“Something seemed wrong. Since the heat wave, every time I left my place there was a funny smell around from the top floor. Well I mean it has been there for a few years, but it is really now quite strong. I knocked on Mrs. Carpenter’s door but no-one answered. I then started thinking it was funny actually, but I hadn’t seen her, you know Mrs. Carpenter, for some time, so I decided to call the police. You know we all have bought apartments here, no riff-raff, so you have to organise things yourself.”

“Oh, I see, so you waited five years until you decided to do something.”

“Now, just a minute, I mind my own business. I am not one of those prying busybodies, and I was just doing my duty like any citizen would.”

Sally decided to ask a few more neighbours, but the story seemed to be the same. Mrs. Carpenter was a wealthy independent lady. She had very little to do with her neighbours and liked to keep herself to herself.

She left the building with mixed feelings. Could something like that happen in this day and time? It seemed so. Could it happen to me, or anyone I know? She remembered when her mother died, She was not completely alone at the funeral, another lady was there who had laid a wreath on the coffin saying “Goodbye daughter”. She suddenly realised that perhaps she too was not so alone in the world, so this other lady at the funeral must be her grandmother.

Sally returned to the office and wrote her story for the newspaper, dropping it into Jeff’s office on the way home. When she arrived home, the story of Mrs. Carpenter was still in her mind. “This should not happen, a woman lying undiscovered for five years because she was proud to be independent. No, this is wrong. Was my mother like that, I think so. She gave me a good education, looked after me, and never refused my wishes. She loved me, but then she also had someone that loved her. Who was the strange lady at the funeral? No, this is silly, why do I start thinking about things like this; must be the hot weather.”

That night Sally did not sleep so well. Thoughts went through her head and the next morning before making breakfast she opened the suitcase where her mother kept all the private papers she had. Sally had never really gone through the documents because she felt she was prying into her mother’s private life. Her mother never said very much about her origins, although she knew she came from somewhere north of the town where she lived. What was the name of the place? Grangeville; yes that was it. So she went through the documents looking for something with the name Grangeville and an unopened letter fell into her hands, the sender being a Mrs. Bridger, address 3 Ceder Walk, Grangeville. She read the letter

“Dear Sandra (Sally’s mother’s name)

Please forgive me for the harsh words spoken on our last meeting. When you told me that you were expecting a child it was at first a shock. My sister also had an illegitimate child and I remember how she had been treated. She left our family and we never heard from her again. I don’t want this to happen to us. Please come home again and bring your daughter with you. There will always be room for you and your daughter with me.

Please forgive the stupid angry words I spoke when I told you to leave and please come back again.

With all my love

You ever loving mother.

Sally saw the date on the letter and realised it was at the time when her mother had discovered she had cancer and knowing her mother realised that she just could not burden her family with such a responsibility. No, her own mother was so independent that she would have refused any help.

Sally drank a cup of strong coffee after reading the letter. She jumped into her car, and drove non-stop for two hours to Grangeville It was a small town and she asked at the local post office where Ceder Walk was. She arrived at house No. 3, her heart beating in her mouth. She was all the more astonished to find the door being opened by a woman of her own age, one child hanging on her dress and another on the way.

“Sorry to bother you, but I am looking for a Mrs. Bridger. I believe she lives here.”

“Oh no, not any more, we bought the house from Mrs. Bridger a few years ago. She was a widow, her husband died some years ago, and she decided to retire to the old people’s home in Grangeville. I still see her from time to time when she takes a walk.”

“Thank you very much. Where can I find the home?”

“It is not very far, just drive to the end of this road and turn right . It is three streets down, a very large house standing in a park.”

“Thank you very much” answered Sally.

“Do you know Mrs. Bridger” asked the lady at the house.

“Oh yes, she is my grandmother.”

and Sally drove to the senior home.

Her heart was beating in her mouth when she entered the reception and asked if a Mrs. Bridger was one of the residents.

“Yes, dear” the receptionist answered “do you know her?”.

“She is my grandmother.”

“Then you must be Sally” was the answer “Mrs. Bridger will be so happy to see you. She is sitting on the bench under the large oak tree in the garden.”

When Sally heard those last words, her eyes filled with tears as she walked towards her grandmother.

For more entries, click here

No comments:

Post a Comment