Not enough points

I’d forgotten all about this short story that I wrote a few weeks ago, using this prompt from the Writers Digest website: Write a short story, of 700 words or fewer, that begins with the following line of dialogue: “You don’t have enough points, sir.”

         “You don’t have enough points, sir.” I apologized to the small boy who had tried to buy a bottle of cheap perfume with the points on a store loyalty card. He looked around ten years old and I couldn’t help being reminded of Oliver Twist, by the boy’s skinny frame, tatty old clothes and timid expression. 
        “You need 480 points to buy this, but you only have 120.” I explained sympathetically.
        “That’s ok,” the boy replied, looking disappointedly at the floor. “I guess I’ll just leave it then.” He took back the card with a small hand, left the perfume bottle at the counter and reluctantly trudged out of the shop.
        The shop was quiet, so my boss agreed to let me take my break. I needed to go to the bank, which was only across the street, so I stepped out of the pleasantly warm shop into the freezing February air, without going first to get my jacket. I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of the small boy crying on the doorstep. My heart filled with pity and I gently approached him. 
        “What’s wrong?” I asked.
        He looked at me with his large, brown eyes and replied that he had wanted to buy the perfume for his mother.
        “That’s alright,” I replied soothingly. “You can come back another time, when you have more money.” 
        “But my mum is really sick and may die soon!” he wailed mournfully. “That’s her favourite perfume and I know it will cheer her up.”
          I froze on the spot, shivering with the cold and shock of the child’s sorrowful tale. I wanted to do something to help him, and not knowing what words of condolence to give, decided to hasten back into the shop, to retrieve the perfume and some sweets and toys to cheer the boy up. I knew the small treats would be nothing compared to the loss of a parent, but I had to do something. 
          The boy smiled weakly and thanked me, wiping his tears on his ragged sleeve and clutching the bag of gifts tightly. I hurried over to the bank, knowing that my gesture had been feeble, but unsure of what else I could do for the poor child. 
By the time I returned to the shop, the boy had already left the doorstep. I resumed my shift, using my card to pay for the items I had given to the boy. I was happy to have done a good deed, the child had deserved some cheering up, and it had only cost me a few pounds.
        At the end of my shift, I was surprised to see a large group of ten or eleven year olds, gathered around a bench at the very end of the high street. These kids seemed to be haggling over prices with one particular child, as if at a market stall. When I came closer to the group, I realized that the child at the centre of all of this activity was the same boy from the shop that morning. To my dismay, he was selling the items that I had given him, along with a vast quantity of other toys, snacks and inexpensive jewelry, that he had undoubtedly collected from other unsuspecting shop workers that day.
        “I thought that perfume was for your mother!” I exclaimed.
        “Oh, she got better, so I decided she didn’t need it after all!” he replied mischievously, as he stuffed his wares into a large bag and sprinted away with his companions, before I had a chance to do or say anything else.
        Unbelievable! So it had turned out that I had not done a good deed at all that day. I had merely been conned by the next Artful Dodger and assisted him in this small business venture. I wasn’t sure whether to be annoyed or amused. But then the thought came to me, that even Donald Trump had to start somewhere! Perhaps this kid would also become a multi-millionaire one day, and have me to thank for the beginning of his career. I laughed at this thought and continued to walk home.

Tanzanian Mystery 

This is my fiftieth post on WordPress! During my blogging time so far, I’ve had 836 views, 420 visitors, 334 likes and 87 comments -thank you everyone for your support and encouragement! 😀

So I thought I’d share something special for such a momentous occasion as this! For several months now I’ve been writing a mystery novel, it will hopefully be finished soon(ish). Here is a short extract from the story, let me know what you think! 

Tanzanian Mystery

Chapter 1 – New Beginnings 

      Mary wasn’t entirely happy with the way her life was going. After graduating from university with a Science degree, she had been unable to find a graduate job, and was now stuck in a small, rather rainy town in the north of England, working for a company that manufactured gardening equipment. She had the important, yet tedious task of testing that the products were assembled correctly, before they were dispatched to various retail outlets and was sure that some of her colleagues deliberately assembled the odd spade or rake incorrectly, just to annoy her.

      To make matters worse, her housemates were less than ideal. Mary shared a house with three other women in their twenties, who were pleasant enough, but they did not share her ideas about cleanliness. In fact, Mary would often return from a long, tiring day at work, to find the house strewn with magazines, books, items of clothing and the debris of her housemates’ attempts at cooking. Dirty plates and cups were frequently left piled on every available surface in the kitchen and lounge, sauce and drinks were spilled on the floor, walls and counters, and pans were left on the stove, usually containing the remnants of someone’s stodgy, greasy culinary creation. Mary wondered how three people managed to make such a mess. Her own area of the kitchen was always kept meticulously clean and neatly ordered. She alone saw the importance of washing her plates, pans and cutlery after she had finished using them. She had her own set of everything, which her housemates were forbidden from using. 

      “You ruin your own things, I’m not letting you spoil mine too!” she frequently told them.

      However, on one fateful Wednesday in February, Mary returned from work to find that one of her housemates had used her favourite pan to cook cabbage, fragments of which were of course left to stick to the sides of the pan. It had begun to smell and, to her horror, Mary saw that the culprit had also stirred the soggy mess with a metal spoon, which had scratched the surface of the pan. 

      “This is the last straw!” Mary thought to herself. Then aloud she screeched, “Who did this to my pan?”

      Her three housemates ran into the kitchen, evidently expecting that some kind of serious disaster had taken place. They were relieved and amused at the sight of Mary, glowing red with rage and waving her pan at them furiously. 

      “Oh, all my pans were dirty, so I used yours, I thought you wouldn’t mind.” replied Jemima innocently.

      “Mind! Of course I mind!” shouted Mary, seizing Jemima’s favourite mug and smashing it on the floor in retaliation. “I’ve had it with you three!” she continued to yell, “I’m fed up with cleaning up after you every day and I specifically told you to not use my stuff.” She paused for breath, before adding, “That’s it, I’m leaving to find somewhere clean to live!” 

      And with that, Mary strode out of the kitchen and up to her room, slamming the door behind her. Her three housemates were left in the kitchen looking horrified. This was so unlike Mary, she was usually so calm and quiet, none of them had ever seen her shout like that. Rosie went outside her bedroom door to tell her how sorry they were, while Lucy comforted Jemima, who was sobbing over her broken mug. Mary ignored Rosie’s pleas of apology and furiously packed a bag with a few belongings, locked her bedroom door, put on her boots, scarf and jacket, and stormed out of the house, banging the front door behind her loudly. 

      Mary’s anger subsided a little after marching down the street for a few minutes. She paused to think about where she should go, realising that she didn’t have anyone to stay with. Her parents, school and university friends all lived too far away, and she definitely didn’t want to stay with any of her colleagues from Green-Fingered Garden Supplies. Mary became aware of groups of pedestrians who were beginning to watch her with curiosity. She overheard a little girl asking her mum if she was lost, so decided to keep walking, too embarrassed now to answer any questions about what she was doing. As she walked, she noticed an estate agent’s across the street and rushed there to ask if they had any houses or flats available to rent.

      The estate agent was sitting calmly at his desk, looking mildly amused as Mary rushed frantically into the shop, swinging her bags and looking quite dishevelled. He was dressed smartly in a blue pinstriped suit, had bleached blonde hair and had an unnatural-looking tan. His teeth appeared particularly white, in contrast to his orange face as he smiled at her in a polite greeting. 

      “Welcome to Evans Estate Agents. My name is Mr. Evans, the proprietor of this establishment. How can I help you madam?” he said warmly.

      Mary told him that she urgently needed to rent a house or flat within a ten to fifteen minutes walk of the High Street. She informed Mr. Evans that she was still saving up for a car, loathed public transport and insisted on being able to walk to work. 

      “Well madam,” the agent replied, after checking his computer database, “The only property we have to let in that area of town is on Vine Street. It’s only a ten minute walk away from the centre of town.”

      “I’ll take it!” exclaimed Mary excitedly.

      “But you haven’t even viewed the property yet…” the man began to protest.

      “It doesn’t matter,” Mary replied hastily, pulling her bank card from her purse, eager to pay the deposit and first month’s rent. 

       The estate agent agreed hesitantly and began to print out and fill in the necessary contracts and paperwork.  

      “I’ll drive you to the place now,” he offered, “I was about to leave the office, as it’s nearly closing time, so I think I’ll continue home after dropping you off.”

      Mary nodded her agreement, as Mr. Evans put on his jacket, picked up his briefcase, turned on the alarm, locked the office and led the way to his car which was parked at the back. He drove a shiny, blue Porsche, and Mary wondered at the amount of money he evidently made in this line of business. 

      She felt too shy to speak much during the journey, although Mr. Evans evidently didn’t mind her silence, and seized his opportunity to ramble at her about the amount of traffic that evening, the weather and at how his favourite football team were doing in the league. Mary simply nodded or shook her head in reply, feeling quite dizzy from the events of that evening. 

      The estate agent turned the corner onto Vine Street, stopping in front of a house which Mary looked at with dread, hoping with all of her might that this was not the house she had just signed a contract for. 

      “Here we are!” exclaimed Mr. Evans cheerfully. “Number 11 Vine Street.”

      Mary got out of the agent’s Porsche and stood at the house’s front gate in disbelief. The house looked horrible. It was lopsided, the brickwork was crumbling and cracked, tiles were missing from the roof, the windows were filthy, the front garden looked like an overgrown jungle and the fence was rotten. Mary looked longingly at the neat, well-cared for houses either side of the property, but Mr. Evans beckoned to her and led her past the rotten gate, along the path to the front door, swiping with his umbrella at the long grass, brambles and stinging nettles that blocked their path.

      Inside the house was not much better. The first thing that Mary noticed was a diabolical smell of old cigarettes, mould and damp. The walls in the small entrance hall were brown, the wallpaper was peeling off, the carpets were filthy and the furniture was old and tatty.

      “Well, I hope you enjoy living here,” said Mr. Evans jovially, giving Mary the keys and trying to shake her hand enthusiastically.

      “Wait,” she protested feebly, “I’ve changed my mind!”
To be continued…

© Cassie Borodenko. Aspiring author. 2016