GERALDINE AND THE MERRY WIDOW
by Mick Shawyer
Modern life wearied Geraldine Golightly. The body-count mounting while politicians dithered over another virus that aspirin couldn’t fix. Insisting masks should be worn. Only that morning Jimmy Tubes the plumber arrived at the door wearing a Halloween mask and frightening her half to death. Never mind the leak under the sink, could he do CPR?
Next Door Lindsay had followed him in. ‘Gerr please could you lend me some sugar? I’m right out.’
Poor Lindsay. Widowed eighteen months earlier, her husband Cecil cycling home from the pub and wobbling side to side as he wailed about Roxanne and red lights. His wobbling became more erratic with each elongated wail and a brewery lorry was unable to avoid the cyclist.
His widow had taken to engaging with any male that passed within a hundred yards. The word in the village- lock up your husband, Lindsay’s on the prowl, accompanied by straight lips and disapproving shakes of the head.
The river-keeper, Tommy McTaggart, had never been the same after encountering Lindsay on a sunny afternoon. A quiet section of the river and a scantily clad Lindsay sunbathing alongside a picnic hamper. Wine and glasses set on the grass and an inviting space on the tartan rug. He’d jumped so quickly, the brace of trout dangling from his hand flew in the air and flopped on Lindsay’s midriff. Their screams alerted Maisie in the corner shop and she called Conrad, the village constable. He rushed to the riverside, blowing his whistle and shouting, ‘Stop thief!’
Lindsay, pelting in the opposite direction, knocked him sideways and the constable sploshed in the river. On his back, arms and legs spread-eagled. A family of ducks concealed in the reeds took off, squawking and skittering as they flapped. The constable’s hat floating as he disappeared from sight.
A moment later he burst from the water, coughing and spluttering. Weeds dangled from his head like a Marty Feldman hair-do. He was face to face with Tommy. The riverkeeper had a trout in one hand and scanned the river in search of the second. He looked at the constable suspiciously, ‘You seen my trout?’
Conrad shook his head distractedly. Something was wriggling in his ear.
Lindsay abandoned fantasies of liaisons by the river. Tommy took to whistling loudly whenever he patrolled the riverbank and Conrad the constable pulled a sickie, not returning to work until he was transferred.
‘Good morning Lindsay. Sugar? ‘I thought you were cutting down?’
Lindsay fumbled with a mask, hooking the elastic over one ear and pulling it awkwardly on the other. ‘I am, just half a cup.’
In a pig’s ear ‘half a cup. She’s on the hunt and Geraldine’s radar switched to full alert. The new vicar was coming for a “Meet and Greet” coffee at eleven. She looked at the see-all-say-nothing wall clock, a couple of minutes before ten. She’d need to get a wriggle on.
Jimmy Tubes disappeared headfirst under the sink, shuffling bleach and fabric softener out of the way and Lindsay crept closer. Her whispered, ‘I love his macho tool belt,’ drawing a sharp rebuke from Geraldine. ‘Social distancing, Lindsay. Social distancing please.’
Lindsay tiptoed backwards when Jimmy reversed from under the sink. ‘Need a couple of bits Missus, from the van. Won’t be a jiffy.’
‘I can get them if you want.’ The widow’s voice took on a husky note, ‘You know, like a plumber’s mate.’
‘That’s okay love.’ Jimmy smiled, ‘Gotta know which bits fit together, I need a male-to-female connector.’
‘Bit stuffy in here,’ announced Geraldine and she pulled at the neck of her blouse before pushing the door open. Lindsay quick-stepped to the kitchen window. Jimmy was outside, grinning as he opened the van doors. ‘Yum-yum,’ she mouthed.’ He can be my jiffy anytime.’
‘Lindsay! That’s quite enough. Good God woman this house is haunted, your ancestors are watching.’ And mine. Geraldine imagined an acidic comment from her dearly departed Aunt Florrie.
Begone she thought, stepping towards her neighbour. Bag of sugar in one hand and crowding the widow towards the door.
‘I don’t need all that.’ Lindsay wondering how she could avoid being ousted.
Take it, we’ve got plenty.’
The widow lunged for a kitchen stool but Geraldine was ready. She’d been expecting some sort of delaying tactic by the widow and reached into a tall cupboard, extracting a broom and using it to encourage Lindsay on her way.
Her blood ran cold. One encounter with Lindsay and the vicar would forget all about garden parties and sermons.
Jimmy’s jiggling posterior poked from the van while he rummaged and Lindsay staggered, hands outstretched, moving in for a grab. I can help him find a male-to-female connector.
Geraldine had exchanged the sweeping brush for a yard broom, the bristles jabbing the wayward widow back on course. ‘Close the gate behind you Lindsay, the dogs are getting amorous of late. I don’t want them thinking it’s okay to wander around looking for easy company.’
With a flamboyant flutter of baggy lips, Denver the donkey shook his head and uttered a loud heehaw. Hooves stamping and ears flapping while he eyeballed the recalcitrant widow.
The sibling pair of Jack Russell terriers, Eric and Ernie took their cue, yapping nineteen to the dozen and Geraldine smiled. Her four-legged security team were ganging up. Intruders might try their luck with the dogs but no one messed with Denver.
Jimmy Tubes backed from the van, his hands full of plumbing bits. ‘I’ll fit a stopcock on the downstairs lav Missus, I’ve got a new one in the van, picked it up this morning.’
The gate was half-open and Lindsay stumbled, trying for a u-turn. Geraldine re-directing her with the broom and kicking the gate closed. ‘Shoo. Go on. Take a cold shower.’
She turned to the plumber, ‘Thank you, my husband will be pleased. Cup of Earl Grey Mr. Tubes?’
Mick Shawyer is a writer from the UK who specializes in the short story. His work has been published by the Secret Attic bookshop in chapbook anthologies, Neurological Magazine, Apricot Press, Shorts Magazine and Revolutionary Press. An avid fisherman and ex-footballer who shamelessly enjoys fresh cream doughnuts.
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