Reg’s Dlog (Well, what else would you call a dog’s blog?)
Okay, people, enough of the gloomy stuff! I don’t know what’s happened to the Old Girl of late but I think finally, she’s sorting herself out and is getting back to her usual annoying self. So, after the last few rather sombre posts, I’m going to lift your spirits – well at least I hope I’m going to lift your spirits because I’m going to post one of the Old Girl’s stories. She assures me it’s not as cheerless as her last few posts and as I still haven’t quite mastered the art of reading, I’ll have to take her word for it.
I would have posted one of my own stories but I don’t seem to have finished anything yet. Recently, I’ve been writing a short tale about a very handsome detective called Rog, who looks quite a bit like me. He will solve a seemingly impossible crime – when I’ve thought up the crime and decided how to solve it. It may take a while. So, in the meantime, if you enjoyed any of the Old Girl’s NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH triptych stories, this one follows on. I’m not sure that the stories now shouldn’t be called a quadtych, because there are four of them, although I have no idea if there is such a word. If you know, please write to me. Anyway, this story was written in response to three picture prompts which I can’t post because I don’t have the copyright but I’ll describe them to you: a rather cross old lady who looks like she’s just smelt something nasty, a box of tissues and a beautiful holiday resort. If you want to meet Gladys and Elsie, there’s a story here and if you want to meet Minnie and Percy Pegwell, you can find them here and just for the sake of completeness, here‘s the third story in the triptych.
Too Good to be True
A “Neighbourhood Watch” Tale
By Dawn Knox
Word Count = 1,968
Monday 01 February, 9.05am
Gladys Winterbottom’s ancient, mobile phone emitted a tinny rendition of “God Save the Queen”, slid across the shiny kitchen worktop as it vibrated and shuddered to a halt in a blob of jam.
‘Hello! Hello!’ Gladys yelled, randomly stabbing at buttons until the ring-tone stopped, ‘Gladys Winterbottom here, who is it?’ she shouted, holding the phone upside down to her ear.
‘If you’d just check your screen, dear, you’d know it was me… Elsie,’ said the voice on the other end.
‘I don’t happen to have my glasses on,’ said Gladys, taking them off and putting them behind the bread bin.
‘Well, I’ve told you before, you need to get rid of that old phone. It’s only large enough for pixie fingers to work. You need to get one of these modern phones like I’ve got.’
‘I’m not sure I’d be able to learn how to use a bright phone, Elsie.’
‘Undoubtedly it’s smart but are you implying I’m not?’
‘No, Gladys, I was just saying they’re smart phones, not bright phones.’
‘Did you telephone me just to be picky, Elsie?’
‘No, dear, I phoned you to tell you I’ve had some really good news! I’ve won a holiday in Spain! It’s the first prize. And the funny thing is, I don’t even remember entering the competition.’
‘Oh, I expect you loaded down some sort of competition app on your smart phone.’
‘You don’t sound very pleased for me.’
‘Yes, of course I am. But I hope you’re up to date on your jabs. I’ve heard they’ve just had an outbreak of rabid malarial trenchfoot fever. Apparently people are going down like flies. Still, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, someone’s knocking at the door.’
Monday 01 February, 9.10am
Elsie Scrivener’s phone lit up and displayed Gladys’ name accompanied by a jazz interpretation of “Chopsticks”.
She picked the phone up gingerly and stared anxiously at the screen.
‘Do I slide that green thing or stab it?’ she said aloud, doing both.
‘Hello! Gladys are you there?’
‘Of course I’m here. I thought your bright phone told you who was calling.’
‘Smart phone. Yes, it does but I wasn’t sure if you were still there.’
‘Of course I’m still here. Who do you think you’re talking to? Anyway, now we’ve established who’s who, guess what?’
‘The postman just knocked at the door and I’ve won a holiday to Spain too!’
‘Really? Well, that’s amazing! Why did the postman have to knock? My letter went through the letter box, dear.’
‘He was delivering a parcel, so he gave me the letter at the same time.’
‘I thought you never used mail order.’
‘Who said it was mail order? It might have been a present.’
‘Well, was it?’
‘No. It was actually for Mr. Johnson, if you must know. But I’m pretty certain it’s a present for me.’
‘Why?’ There was a pause, ‘You’ve opened it, haven’t you?’
‘Only a tiny bit. My finger slipped.’
‘So what’s he bought you?’
‘I can’t really say but if I tell you it came from Pervis and Squint…’
‘What? You mean the ladies’ luxury undergarments people?
‘The very same!’
‘Ooh, my word, Gladys!’
‘I know! And they’re the right size too!’
‘I thought you said you’d only opened the box a tiny bit?’
‘I have but they’re not very large garments.’
‘Ooh, I say, Gladys! Well, Mr. Johnson’s a sly dog, isn’t he? Anyway, where are you going in Spain?’
‘My prize is a week in Escombros del Mar, leaving next Monday. And you?’
‘Exactly the same!’
‘Well, what a wonderful coincidence. We’ll be going together!’
‘Actually, I was thinking of asking for the money instead. I’m not sure I fancy going somewhere where’s there’s an outbreak of that terrible disease you told me about.’
‘Oh, don’t worry about that. I’ve just heard everyone’s made a miraculous recovery and it’s all quite safe now.’
Monday 01 February, 9.20am
‘I wish I knew how to change that blasted ring-tone,’ Elsie said aloud, as “Chopsticks” blared out. It was Gladys again.
‘Elsie! You’ll never guess what?’
‘I’ve just been round to deliver Mr. Johnson’s parcel and apparently, he’s won a holiday to the same place in Spain. What do you think of that?’
‘Fancy! So that means the three of us are going? Oh dear, I’m going to feel like a spare part. I think I’m going to phone them now and ask for a cash alternative…’
‘No, Elsie! Mr. Johnson isn’t going. In fact, we’ve had a slight tiff.’
‘Really? What about?’
‘He was most rude! It was quite unnecessary.’
‘What about, dear?’
‘Well, he said I was completely gullible and that no one gives holidays away for free, especially when one hasn’t entered in the first place. But I told him that there are all sorts of bright apps you can get nowadays and actually, yes, you can win holidays because I had the proof in that letter. Oh, and he wasn’t very pleased that the parcel was slightly open. He said it was a gross infringement of his privacy. So I told him not to come grovelling at my door with gifts from, for example, Pervis and Squint, when he wanted to apologise. And he said that pigs would freeze over before he wasted the sort of money Pervis and Squint charged for lacy undergarments, on me. I ask you!’
‘Oh dear, Gladys!’
‘Oh dear indeed! Well, we’ve got plans to make for our trip to Spain. Put the kettle on, I’m coming round.’
Monday 08 February, 3.30pm
‘Never again!’ said Gladys fanning her face with her hat.
‘Don’t be ridiculous, dear, we’ve only just got here. We’ll have to do the return journey in a week’s time.’
‘Nobody told me it would be so hot. Or there’d be so many children. Or that they’d be here.’ Gladys nodded her head in the direction of the front of the coach.
‘It’s Spain, dear. It’s bound to be hot. And the remaining children got off at the hotel where we last stopped, so at least we’ve been spared them. And as for them, well I simply don’t believe it. How could there possibly be so many lucky people in one area of Basilwade?’
‘I know. It defies belief that so many of our neighbours won first prize in the same competition. I’m beginning to smell a rat.’
‘That’s just the remaining odours of so many children, dear.’
‘Do you think they’ll be staying in the same place as us?’ Gladys asked, nodding at the couple in the front.
‘Almost certainly, dear. There are only four of us left on the coach.’
‘Of all the people in the world to be stuck in a hotel with, it had to be Minnie and Percy Pegwell.’
‘I’m sure we’ll manage to get along, dear.’
The coach swerved sharply off the main road into a long drive and drew up near a large sign which said “Bienvenida to Hotel Bella Vista”.
‘Oh, Elsie! Look at that!’
Ahead, a dazzling, white building perched on the top of a cliff, overlooking the bay. Entirely supported by pillars, it rose up out of an enormous swimming pool in which marble dolphins and cherubs frolicked and tall palm trees stood on miniature desert islands.
The driver took their cases out of the coach and put them on the drive.
‘Excusing me, señor and señoras. Please to follow me.’
Without offering to help carry any cases, he set off over the hotel gardens and through a gap in the fence.
‘Surely he can’t expect us to follow through there!’ said Minnie, ‘look, the way into that hotel, is over that bridge, surely!’
‘Thees way!’ shouted the coach driver through the gap in the fence.
‘I’ve got a very bad feeling about this,’ said Elsie.
Thursday 11 February, 4.15pm
‘Right, everyone,’ said Minnie from the passenger seat in the front of the cab, as it drew up at her house, ‘Let’s get our story straight.’
‘Yes, my love,’ Percy said from the back seat. His leg was pressed against Elsie’s and every so often, his hand brushed hers. Gladys sat rigidly with pursed lips, next to Elsie, with a box of tissues in her stained lap.
‘So, we show everyone the selfies we took in front of the Hotel Bella Vista by the bridge with the swimming pool in the background and tell them we stayed there. Right?’
‘And then, we tell them that we came home early because of a local outbreak of rabid malarial trenchfoot fever. Yes?’
‘No one… and I repeat, no one will mention time share properties. Is that understood?’
‘And we all had a marvellous time. Okay?’
‘It’s all very well for you,’ said Gladys, ‘you’re journey home was relatively uneventful. Just look at me! I really think those aeroplane seats should have warning lights fitted when someone decides to lower the back of their chair. The man in front could have waited until after I’d eaten. A lapful of beef goulash is no joke, I can tell you! And then to add insult to injury, who’d have thought such a tiny baby could project vomit so far? Thank goodness you had a box of tissues, Minnie.’
‘Well, we don’t have to talk about the trip home. Just so long as no one knows we were had by a time share scam. If it gets out at my bridge club, I’ll never live it down.’
‘Technically, we weren’t had because we weren’t tricked into buying one of those dreadful half-built time share apartments,’ said Elsie, ‘or at least, we managed to get the contracts back and tear them up before any damage was done. Just imagine what might have happened if that awful man hadn’t tripped over Percy’s foot and dropped the contracts when he fell into the Hotel Bella Vista’s swimming pool. We’d have been paying off mega-Euros for the rest of our lives for apartments with hot and cold running water… down the walls… and as for the kitchen… well!’
‘I know,’ said Gladys, ‘and what about the electrical supply? I went into the bathroom, turned the light on and the toilet flushed.’
‘You’re lucky your toilet flushed,’ said Minnie, ‘poor Percy was so disturbed by the toilet in our bathroom, he was afraid to use it. In fact, he spent most of his time in the toilet on the aeroplane on the way home. I expect he was catching up.’
Percy cleared his throat in embarrassment and turned puce.
‘Ye-es,’ said Gladys slowly, looking at Elsie, ‘yes, Elsie was doing quite a lot of catching up in the toilet too.’
Elsie jabbed Gladys with her elbow and blushed, ‘Well, all’s well that ends well,’ she said brightly, ‘it might be a good time to pay the driver and take our cases home.’
Thursday 11 February, 5.00pm
Jazzy “Chopsticks” played merrily while Elsie groped in her handbag for the phone. Finally, she found it and stabbed the screen with a swiping motion.
‘Elsie! I just don’t know what to say. Go to your bedroom window immediately and tell me what you see.’
Elsie climbed the stairs and looked out at the garden, ‘What am I looking for?’ she asked.
‘Mr. Johnson’s washing line.’
‘Ohh! I say! There’s ladies’ underwear pegged out on it!’
‘Exactly! I just saw him hanging them on the line. I’m afraid to say, Elsie, that Mr. Johnson is not the gentleman I took him for. Ladies’ underwear indeed!’
‘Well,’ said Elsie, ‘he may have a new lady friend. You can’t assume the undies are his.’
‘In that case, I will have to have words. He never washed my undies when we were together.’
Well, I hope that was a cheery story. Let me know if it wasn’t and I’ll sort the Old Girl out. If you want to read any more of the Old Girl’s stuff, you can get ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’ as an ebook from the Muse it Up Publishing site here and it’s available from other ebook retailers. You can also get it in paperback format from Amazon, here. And if you don’t want to, well, that’s fine by me.