Monday, 15 April 2013

The Girl With the Collecting Tin

OK, let's get started.  This one's based on two characters from The Larks, though the names have been changed to protect the equally fictitious. It's a little story about government budgets...

It’s warm by the living-room range.  It’s been an odd sort of evening: Hattie went to answer the door and returned with a girl holding a collecting tin.  The girl looked a bit lost; I mean, there she is, confronted with me, sitting in this chair among my cushions, with a big blanket pin holding up the leg of my trousers.  Not her fault; she meant well.

I felt a bit uncomfortable myself.  Hattie had been getting me to try the wooden leg again.  It hurt like buggery, so I gave up as usual, but it was still propped up by the hearth.  Somehow I didn’t want the girl with the collecting tin to see it, all straps and laces, with the padding showing at the top like soiled underwear.  She was flustered and said she was sorry, but… and then she didn’t seem to be able to think what she was sorry for.  Sorry that I left so much of me behind in Ypres I suppose.

Hattie offered her a cup of tea and fussed with the kettle while the girl with the collecting tin perched on the edge of the sofa.  She said that she was collecting for some charity or other to help people like me. 

“Who?” I said, “Methodists?”  Hattie shushed me quick enough.  Apparently I put people on edge.  That must be difficult for them.

“No,” said the girl with the collecting tin, “People with…”  and she pointed vaguely towards the empty trouser leg.

“Oh, blanket pins,” says I,  That’s good, they’re a terrible price.”

“Gerald, that’s enough.”  Hattie was pouring boiling water into that cottage-shaped teapot.  She smiled at the girl with the collecting tin.  “I’m sorry, he gets a bit touchy sometimes.”

It’s warm by the living-room range.  I’ll think about getting over to the camp bed under the window in a bit.  The girl left with a few coppers in her collecting tin and then Hattie went to bed in a huff.  Couldn’t understand me, she said.  All I did was ask the girl why she had to go from house to house, begging for money for injured servicemen, when the government should be stumping up.  She said they couldn’t afford it.

And I said that they always seemed to be able to afford a bloody war.


Sabrina Ferguson said...

Great vignette. "Stumping up" near the end made me snort though... unintentional pun?

Jem Shaw said...

Damn, Didn't spot that one!