Liz Taylor

Going out to top up the bird seed, Liz spots Dezzy hunkered by his frozen pond. Takes her a couple of seconds to spot what’s wrong with this picture – a jump back in time. What’s the man doing there? Forgotten he sold his house?

Interfering old buzzard. He could never leave anything alone, once he’d spotted a fault.

Liz, you got a blocked gutter there.

Liz, that back door jamming again?


However much you told him not to bother, he’d wear you down in the end. March round with the appropriate tools. Every job slow and determined, the end result checked and re-checked.

Funny, but Liz can remember him as a bad lad. Smashing street lights with well-aimed bits of brick. His dad was a drinker; Liz’s mum said Dezzy would go the same way. She was wrong, though. He got a job at the car plant; stuck to it. Had some pretty girlfriends, but didn’t stick with any of them. Hard to see why. Like he didn’t want to be nobody’s property.

Liz would have had him. Not for keeping, necessarily: just the having. She used to imagine that. She’d watch him in the garden, all them years back. Embarrassing to think: watching from her bedroom window, knowing it was ridiculous, but storing up the sight of him, all the same. Storing him up for night-time, when she could be whoever she wanted. Not Limpy Liz from next door.

(Elizabeth Taylor, her real name. What a joke.)

She watches now, sly. Waits till he’s melted his little hole – for the frogs, she understands – then calls, ‘All right, there, Dez?’

The look on his face. Hah! The guilty man’s tread.

‘Is this Alzheimer’s starting, Dez? Only I thought you’d moved house.’

He’s usually good for a joke, but seems troubled now. Knows he shouldn’t have interfered. She can’t resist one more little nip. ‘I should think they’d be back soon, Tim and Sophie. They only went to order some wood for their floor.’

‘Then I’ll be on my way.’

How cold and old he looks. Moving house was bad for Desmond. He should have stayed where he belonged, like her. Who cares if the upkeep’s a struggle? Liz can live with the odd choked gutter, the troublesome back door.

‘Letting your garden go, ent they, Dez? They don’t have the time, that’s the trouble. Or they don’t choose to make it.’

She’s winning him back. They make their way down their gardens: an old man you wouldn’t recognize as the muscular young one; an old woman whose limp might have been recent, if you didn’t know she’d had polio. 
The only two residents here since the houses were first built. The only ones without loft conversions, ground-floor extensions, utility rooms, en-suites. To the younger ones they must look nearly prehistoric; like tortoises with weathered shells.

She opens the back gate and lets him in.




Comments

  1. A riveting, whole story. The dialogue is spare but powerful, revealing. And the plot line––very universal, filling generation gaps and crossing over geographical lines. Well done!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! I'm glad you liked it. It's good that it reads as a whole story. It's actually the second of three linked flash fictions. The first part, called The Frogs, can be read at www.theshortstory.co.uk via the short fiction page. Thanks again for your kind comments.

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  2. These characters deserve a whole novel but this compelling story is complete on its own.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you very much - I'm glad you liked it.

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