A Commonplace

What is a commonplace?

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30/9/2017

Sat, 5 Jul 2014 10:33:36

My Attempt At Microfiction - Soft-Boiled

Soft-Boiled

The greyish light woke him. He hadn't drawn the curtains. Another dullish day. He pulled on his clothes - the ones from the night before. His favourite cords. The checked shirt. The t-shirt he slept in. Coffee. He needed coffee. Out of the front door the smell of the sea hit him. It took him only a few minutes to make onto the front. That wind in his hair. A gentle, constant breeze from the south west - did that mean it was a sou'westerly? He'd never been quite sure.

Gayle serving. Hair blue today. "The usual?" Yes. Good to be a regular. He loved this place. Loved the rumble of it when it was busy, that rattling from the kitchen when it wasn't. Had no idea how they managed to produce such an excellent, mood.

She would have been a looker - maybe even a stunner if she'd "kept herself up, made an effort." As his mum would say. Her clothes weren't dirty exactly, but they were worn. Jeans worn soft. Top of indiscriminate colour. Hair, shapeless. Piercing blue eyes. Mid-twenties, but a lot had obviously happened.

"You're Ken aren't you?"

He felt like he'd been caught. Mid-fantasy.

"Er, yes."

"I'm Jackie."

"Oh hi Jackie."

They paused. She stood awkwardly. Bent over, looking uncomfortable her left arm, away from him flapping with - she looked embarrassed. What was this about?

"Won't you sit down." If only to relieve you from standing in that position.

"Oh? Yes, yes, thank you. They said you'd be here - they gave a good description."

"They?"

"Some people I know - I can't really remember... Kaz. Kaz was one of them."

A vague impression of a girl he sometimes saw in the Green Grinder flashed across his mind. Bright orange hair, shapeless knitted jumpers DM's, that seemed to fit. He gave a brief, upward nod of recognition.

"She said - you help people. Solve mysteries."

Oh fuck.

"It's my gran see? She's gone. Disappeared?"

Christ, yes, sometimes there's an interesting case, but then is it worth it, having to bat away all the dross?

"Well. I'm not really sure that... I mean maybe the social services..."

"No, it's nothing like that. Trust me. She's not dotty or anything. And she ain't committed suicide neither. There's something else going on. Something fishy."

She grabbed hold of his hand -the free one not still hanging onto a coffee cup - and tilted her head, trying to, he thought, flutter her eyelashes. The effect was very disturbing, so much so that he found himself pulling his hand away.

"Now she was sulky. Police don't want to know, but they - well Kaz - said you might be interested. I mean I don't want you to do it for free, I've got money and stuff." Looking up now. The blue eyes again. "Though Kaz said you probably wouldn't take it..."

Looking at her now, directly.

"I mean - she ain't answering her phone, nor nothing. And that's not like her. So we're. Well it's me really. I'm worried and Kaz said..."

Thanks Kaz.

"Go and give Gayle two quid and tell her to bring me another espresso. That's my fee. Take it or leave it. If my terms are acceptable then you can come back and tell me all about it."

"She was there Tuesday 'cos me and Terry went to see her - she cooks us tea on Tuesday. Then we normally go round Saturday night - before we go out out. Just to sit with her and watch XFactor"

How lovely.

"She was where?"

"Her house. It's on the front. It's a big old house. Too big for her now. But she don't want to leave 'cos she lived there with granddad. She'd never leave that house. She loves it."

Well, she has.

"Can you get me in there?"

"Course we can. I got keys."

Up a steep set of stairs to the living room and the kitchen - someone else had a flat on the ground floor. That had him panting slightly - and might be a bit of a challenge for her - how old was she? Only in her mid-sixties. Only recently retired. May she could run up them.

Jackie took him straight to the kitchen. She'd been doing some detective work of her own.

"See these tomatoes?" she said, opening the fridge.

"They aren't passed their sell-by date yet. So she must have bought them Thursday or Friday. 'Cos tomatoes don't last. I know. I work in Sainsbury's. So she was expecting to stay. She wasn't planning on running of or anything. Not nor topping herself. And if she was going to top herself, or if she did have a heart attack or something? Then why would she take the dog?"

The whole place immaculately clean - furnishings a little old-fashioned. Floreat mid-1980's. Heroines maybe Thatcher and maybe even Nancy Reagan. Mainly copies of country life in the magazine rack. With one notable exception. What the hell happened to this family? Best probably not to ask. A clock on the mantel piece. One single business card behind it. E. Goldfarb. Estate Agent.

"What did you say?"

"What?"

"What did you say just then?"

"Why did she take the dog?"

"The dog's gone?"

"Yes."

He sat down in the big leather chair that wasn't pointed at the TV on the wall (a very up to date, LCD number) but was pointed instead out to sea. The channel, gunmetal grey today but still beautiful if you were a connoisseur of such things. As he considered himself, and rather suspected she did. He was surprise to find it reclined, Lay-Zee-Boy style. He put out his hand to steady himself and rattled a cordless phone on an occasional table and a magazine, actually a brochure. There was still just enough charge in the phone to squeeze out a last-number redial and to have the necessary brief conversation.

"Gran! What are you like!"

"I don't see what all the fuss is about! I don't have to tell you where I'm going!"

"But we was worried!"

"Yes, I suppose you were. I know. I should have texted you. But when I got the idea, when it hit me that the house had sold and I could actually afford one of these cruises. I just got seized with this urge to go and go now. And I was worried if I let anyone know, they'd somehow talk me out of it. It was all I could do to get Benjy in at the kennels and then straight off to Gatwick. And then you had ME worried - it coming over the ships tannoy that there's a radio phone call for me from my granddaughter. You don't want to know what I imagined had gone wrong. And how did you find me?"

"It's this bloke Kaz knows from the caff - he solves mysteries. Doesn't look like much."

Thanks.

"But once we got him in your house, it didn't take him three minutes to figure it out and ring the kennels. I wouldn't have had time to boil an egg."