by Roger Noons
a glass of cola
Johnny had acquired two plain gold bands but decided she deserved something special. Something unusual, so continued to keep an eye open. At the supermarket, carrying customers purchases to their cars, on to buses or into waiting taxis meant he saw many left hands. He also learned addresses or at least an idea of where a customer lived. At the first opportunity, he scribbled down the information in his notebook.
Two weeks after beginning his search, he saw just the thing. While awaiting a taxi the tall, middle-aged, blonde absent-mindedly turned her wedding ring around her finger. Just before he closed the door after lifting her bags into the rear compartment, he heard her announce, ‘24 Poplar Avenue, please.’
Johnny regularly walked Oscar, a Westie owned by his next door neighbour. Wherever he went, he was met with smiles, young women in particular fawned over the dog. It was two days later that Oscar and he turned the corner into Poplar Avenue, the dog salivating when he became aware of a tree every few yards along the route.
He appeared to be preoccupied watching the dog, but as they neared Number 19, he tugged the lead and they crossed the road. He couldn’t believe his luck when as they arrived alongside the driveway of Number 24, the woman was just behind the low hedge that separated a flower bed and the footpath. She was dead heading roses.
She paused, looked in his direction and frowned. ‘Ah, you’re the lad from Reynolds?’
Beaming, he nodded. ‘That’s me. How are you?’
‘All right, thank you. Just cutting off these flowers that are past it.’ She noticed the dog. ‘He’s a nice little chap. Your’s is he?’
Johnny nodded. ‘He’s called Oscar.’
When she crouched to introduce herself and stroke Oscar, Johnny noticed her ring finger was without jewellery. He waited until she stood up before he said, ‘He could do with a drink of water Missus, if you wouldn’t mind?’
‘I’ll … actually, if you go down the side there, the second door leads into the kitchen. You’ll find a bowl on the drainer, help yourself. Once I’ve finished this, I’ll come and get you a drink.’
He nodded again and strolled along the path. He had to pull Oscar who had sniffed something interesting beneath a bush.
As soon as he entered, he saw the woman’s rings on the tiled sill behind the taps. He sneaked a look back; she was still busy, so he snatched the gold ring and pushed it into his pocket. He had just filled a bowl with water and set it down, when she arrived at the door.
‘You found what you wanted then?’
He froze when he saw her looking at the remaining two rings. Cheeks burning he stared at his trainers, afraid to speak.
‘Is he house trained?’ she asked, nodding towards Oscar who was lapping water. After Johnny mumbled yes, she added, ‘Take him through there, I’ll bring us a drink.’
Two minutes later she walked in carrying two glasses of cola. He took a glass but was afraid to drink in case he had an accident. She took a sip and put down the glass.
‘Why do you want the ring? You look too young to be getting married.’
Head still down, he shook it.
‘If you don’t have a reason, tell me why I shouldn’t ring the police?’
Oscar had settled and was arranging himself for a nap. Johnny murmured, ‘For my Mum.’
‘Is she not married?’
‘Dad walked out—’
‘And took her wedding ring?’
‘No, he went last year. Three weeks ago she was mugged. Her bag was snatched and her rings were in it. She works at a meat packers and has to take them off in the factory.’
‘So you want her to have a wedding ring and presumably cannot afford to buy one on what they pay you at the supermarket?’
He nodded again.
‘Drink your coke,’ she directed. While he was doing so, she asked, ‘How many hours a week do you do at Reynolds?’
‘Five afternoons, two ’til six.’
She waited while he drank half the contents of the glass. ‘You can have the ring … but you will come here, without the dog, each morning and carry out any jobs I give you.’
She nodded. ‘I shall keep a record and when you’ve done fifty hours, I’ll consider the debt paid. How does that sound?’
‘Great, I promise you, I’ll do it.’
He nodded, finished his drink and grinned.
As soon as he had returned Oscar to the dog’s owner, Johnny took out his notebook. He’d kept careful records, so was able to put each of the plain rings into an envelope and add the address. He would wait until it was dark before he returned the jewellery.
‘You look happier this morning Eunice?’
‘You know I had my bag stolen? Well my Johnny’s bought me a lovely ring. Cost him every penny he had in the Post Office. It’s beautiful, but I haven’t the heart to tell him it’s only gold plated.’
About the author
Roger has had more than 150 stories featured on Café Lit. His Slimline Tales was published by Chapeltown Books in 2018.