The Unfortunate Woman

This story developed from an exercise in using humour. The writing group I teach, teaches me at the same time. I do the exercises too; 

            ‘Oh, THAT unfortunate woman!’ Mrs Peabody curled her lip when her neighbour mentioned Sally Nichols. ‘She came to see me yesterday. The first thing she did was fall up my front stairs – up, mind you. Her face landed on my doormat. Next thing I knew, she picked herself up and must have caught her shoe somehow so she fell right on top of me. She knocked me flat on my back.’

 ‘Oooo.’ Her neighbour eyed Mrs Peabody’s ample frame and managed to bite back the words that came to mind about ‘soft landings.’

 ‘Yes, she quite knocked the breath out of me. I’d hardly managed to wriggle out from under her when she kneed me in the ribs. I yelled blue murder, I have to admit.’

Her neighbour’s eyebrows rose. She bit her lip to prevent herself from observing aloud that at least Mrs Peabody had got her breath back.

 ‘Er – what did she come to see you about?’ she asked instead.

 ‘A donation – not for a charity either – for herself, although the way she put it, it’s for the neighbourhood.’

‘Eh?’

‘She wants to start a neighbourhood crèche.’

‘Did you give her anything?’

 ‘Well, she helped me up – if you can call it that. The way she wrenched my arm…She wanted to have me sit down in the lounge so she could explain but my precious china’s in there. I thought it best to donate at the door.’

 ‘What – ah, how much did you give her?’ Forewarned was forearmed after all.

 ‘I started at twenty but she made to walk right on ahead of me so I grabbed her arm and made another offer. She stopped moving at fifty.’

 ‘Oh. That was generous.’ Just at that moment the neighbour noticed Sally Nichol’s head bobbing above the hedge and moving in a direct line towards her house. ‘I’d just better check something in the oven.’ She hurried off around the back way and managed to get inside in time to lock the door and draw the blinds.

The ‘unfortunate woman’ did minimal damage, just smashing one small patio ornament before she gave up knocking the paint off the front door. She proceeded to the next property. There she acquired a new fitting to the base of her shoe as she wandered up the driveway.

‘Oh I wondered why I seemed to be limping – I thought it was your sloping path.’ Sally laughed in a carefree sort of way as she tapped the pot plant base off her heel. ‘I came to see you about my crèche.’

 The householder stood in the doorway like a wedge and did not agree that Sally should come in to discuss what she wanted. Sally stood where she was and explained at length, undaunted. The owner peered round her and uttered an exclamation. Her prize begonia lay squashed on the path, its planter base missing and most of its pot interior spilled over the drive. She left her post to remedy the damage. Sally followed doggedly behind, still outlining her splendid plan. As the neighbour sorrowfully picked up the limp begonia, Sally stepped back and dug her heel into another potted plant.

 ‘My fuschia,’ moaned the house owner and then collected herself enough to stop Sally’s monologue. ‘How much do you need to start this crèche did you say?’

 The ‘unfortunate woman’ walked away clutching another fifty dollars.

‘The neighbours are really keen on the idea,’ Sally told her husband that evening. ‘Look they’ve donated me a few hundred towards it already.’

 ‘That’s amazing… Where were you thinking of running this crèche from by the way…?’ Sally’s husband had developed a wary sort of look to his face lately. He also had a weary and furtive manner about him that Sally felt did him no justice at all. She sighed as she looked at him. Such a shame what the years had done to him whereas she had weathered so well. She gave him one of her cheeriest smiles.

‘I thought – the garage. There’s lots of room. I’ll do it up.’

 ‘I’ll move my gear in the weekend,’ her husband said at once. ‘You won’t want my tools in the way.’

  ‘Wonderful, dear! You’re always so obliging. Now did you want a cup of tea?’

  Her husband leapt out of his recliner.

  ‘No – no, you know I always make it. You just relax.’ He eyed the kitchen when he entered. She’d been out most of the day so nothing seemed amiss for a change. As he boiled the kettle a pleasant thought cleared the frown from his face. At last she’d be kept busy out of the house again after her year of damaging retirement. A crèche could be just the thing and the house might stay entire. He would set up his gear in the garden shed instead.

 Sally returned his smile as he brought her the tea.

‘You know, people are so cooperative. Everything always works out for me.’ The ‘unfortunate woman’ stretched out at her ease on the sofa, marvelling at the way the universe always seemed to step aside to accommodate her dreams. ‘It’s all about having that right attitude,’ she concluded.

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