Thursday 20 October 2022

Seaside Card by David Gower, hot chocolate like a French breakfast

 Dust hung in the air as rays of sunlight lit the bedroom. Sunday morning was always slow in the Lewis household. The couple lay in that state somewhere between sleep and bleary-eyed consciousness. A condition best described as each hoping the other would weaken first and get up to make the breakfast. Eventually the need to visit the bathroom broke the stalemate.

               So it was that Mrs Lewis rose from the bed, donned her dressing gown and slippers to make her way to the bathroom and then negotiate the stairs down to the kitchen. Mr Lewis smiled quietly to himself in the knowledge that today his wife had drawn the short straw. He knew that now was the time he could rise from beneath the covers and go downstairs to start the day. It was a slow process. Covers moved back, legs drawn up to swing over the edge of the mattress and feet searching for slippers which he knew were close. Then the push upwards and slow unbending into what passed as upright. A casual observer might have seen a similarity to a Nature film showing a chrysalis shake off its outer casing. Mr Lewis never sprang from the bed nowadays.

               The Lewis kitchen was at the rear of the house. After breakfast that they moved into the hallway towards the lounge. On the doormat lay the Sunday papers with a plain white envelope devoid of any script beneath.

Mrs Lewis picked these up the newspapers continued into the living room. Placing the papers on the coffee table she began to open the envelope.

Assuming the envelope to be the bill from the newsagent Mr Lewis spoke.

‘The nerve of that shop sending the bill this early. They can wait till the end of the month.’ Mr Lewis was a man of routine when it came to bills. Paid in full at the proper time but never, never in advance. He felt himself to be fair but nobody’s fool when it came to money.

Inside the envelope Mrs Lewis had found a greetings card showing a cartoon seaside scene. Beach hut, children making sandcastles, fishing nets, buckets and spades, seagulls, speedboats in the distance, deckchairs and all the traditional elements of a day at the seaside. Who did they know who was on holiday? Since when did the post come on a Sunday morning?

The sender had written a few words which read as follows.

I had such a nice time as we walked along the beach. I hope we do it again soon.

It ended with a few crosses, but no name or initial.

Mr Lewis was an occasional dinghy sailor. He knew the sea could change from calm to stormy but usually gave signs to warn a good mariner. In the case of Mrs Lewis there were no helpful signs. She transitioned from calm to storm in an instant. Her questions came like a hailstorm and stung.

‘Who sent you this card? Where were you? How could you do this to me? Why would you be so hurtful?’ The card flew towards his eye. High emotion aided Mrs Lewis in her aim.

Her outburst took him aback. He had never seen her temper switch so quickly. He read the card for himself. Her accusations had rattled his composure.

‘I know nothing about this. It could just as easily be for you rather than me!’ were his words of defence. Not the wisest choice of words under the circumstances.

His wife grew even more incensed at her husband’s ill-advised words.

‘Me? Me? How could it be for me? Who would send me a card like that?’ her voice climbed ever higher in pitch.

Mr Lewis re-joined ‘Well, how could it be for me? Who do I know that would send that sort of card. I mean. Look at me for pity’s sake.’

He had a point. Neither was in their first flush of youth, and both had been home birds for longer than they cared to remember. The argument reached an uneasy stalemate. Neither one being able to accuse or defend with any real hope of success. The atmosphere at number 16 Victoria Gardens was tense for the rest of the day.

Mr Lewis blessed the day he had bought the shed. It was his refuge in times of stress. His model railway outfit was at least in his control. The trains ran on time, the figures on the platform reflected a world of his choosing. Today he edged the figure of a woman who was not unlike his wife in appearance closer to the platform edge. At every circuit of the slow goods train he moved her just a bit more. It was a symbolic revenge for the awful morning without permanent harm to Mrs Lewis.

Indoors Mrs Lewis banged anything metal in the kitchen imagining it was her husband’s head. What a stupid man he was. Then the cat’s dish in the corner caught her eye. Rather than waste what the cat did not eat she would slip it into her husband’s packed lunch next day.

Further along Victoria Gardens Jeannie Lambert came face to face with Roger. She was surprised to see him as she walked her dog. He had not been in contact since their date and her girlfriends had comforted her in their sisterly way. ‘They only want one thing.’ ‘They are spineless and just disappear.’ ‘You know you can do better.’ They knew such words would help her through feelings of rejection.

Roger was surprised but pleased to see her. He had hoped they would meet again but shyness made asking her difficult. Their date had been awkward, and they found out little about each other apart from basics such as hobbies and addresses. Perhaps they were too old for this sort of thing.

Roger beamed a genuine smile and said ‘How lovely to see you. Are you well?’

Jeannie was polite but cold. ‘Very well. I thought you had just disappeared.’

Flustered Roger replied ‘I came to your house to talk but lost my nerve just outside. The sight of those gnomes guarding the front door in the half-light was quite off putting.’

‘Gnomes? What gnomes? Are you being funny?’

‘The gnomes on the rockery under the window. You can see your house from here.’ He continued ‘Number 16 Victoria Gardens. I put a card through the letter box early this morning.’

‘I live at number 60; you went to the wrong house. Have you got wax in your ears?’

‘I must have misheard. Lucky I booked at the clinic next week,’ was his reply.

Neither ever knew of the effects of Roger’s card on the Lewis household that day. 

About the author

Encouraged by members of my writing group and Cafelit I hope this submission may bring a smile to readers.

Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)

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