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The Scrivener: Have A Lovely Day

…'Oh, Mrs Lee, I wonder if I could impose on you?' The vicar smiled charmingly. 'We need someone to take a meal round to Mr Standish. Would you mind very much?' Penelope wondered, briefly, how she could fit in yet another social duty….

After her husband Kenneth has left in his Mercedes for the office, Penelope Lee fills her time with social work. Then Kenneth starts arriving home late…

Brian Barratt tells a subtle tale of lives drifting in opposite directions. For more of Brian’s stories and articles please click on The Scrivener in the menu on this page.

And do visit Brian’s Web site The Brain Rummager www.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas/

Penelope Lee carefully studied herself in the mirror. She adjusted a stray hair or two, added just a touch more eyeshadow, and felt ready for the day. One must look one's best.

Kenneth had already left for the office, early as usual. 'Have a lovely day, darling,' he called, as he closed the door of the Mercedes. She waved goodbye, drew her housecoat a little closer, glanced round to make sure the neighbours were not watching, and went back indoors.

Now that the children had grown up and lived away from home, she had time for herself. So much to do! But there was just enough time for another cup of coffee after she had added the finishing touches to her make up and chosen the right frock from her extensive wardrobe.

'It's so good of you to help us out.' Joan Hamilton greeted her warmly when she arrived at the Tuesday morning working bee. 'Perhaps you'd like to put these leaflets into their envelopes?'

'I'm afraid I can't stay long this morning. I promised Janice that I'd meet her for a coffee.' Joan smiled understandingly. She knew that Penelope had a very full diary, fitting in so many appointments.

On Thursday morning, it was the bring and buy at St Andrew's. She took along a couple of her old frocks, although she was loath to part with them, and one of Kenneth's slightly worn business suits. In return, she bought a floral china teapot, which she would promptly throw out when she went home.
'Oh, Mrs Lee, I wonder if I could impose on you?' The vicar smiled charmingly. 'We need someone to take a meal round to Mr Standish. Would you mind very much?' Penelope wondered, briefly, how she could fit in yet another social duty.

Mr Standish had been added to the meals on wheels roster when someone discovered that he had difficulty getting out. Not a great deal was known about him. He was the sort of person nobody noticed, because he kept himself to himself
'Of course I'll do it,' Penelope responded. 'One must do one's bit!' Deep inside, however, she asked herself how many more duties she could manage. Now she was being asked to visit a total stranger, probably an old man, disabled and incontinent.
The vicar helped her to load the box, containing the meal, into the Honda. She carefully spread a blanket on the back seat in case the soup happened to splash the upholstery. He helped her to find the address in her street directory — it was in an area one did not normally visit. The sort of street one tended to drive straight through.

'Did you have a lovely day, darling?' Kenneth asked breezily, when he arrived home from the office that evening, late as usual. She could not help noticing that his hair was slightly ruffled. Not the sort of image he liked to present at his board meetings, but perhaps the Mercedes window had been open while he was driving.

She gave him a perfunctory peck on the cheek, and wondered which after shave he had used. It was not the one she bought for him last week 'Oh, I kept myself busy, darling. And you?'
'It was reasonable. Actually, it was hectic. Had another boring meeting this evening. Sorry I'm so late.' They had their usual drinks before the dinner Penelope had prepared after calling on Mr Standish.

It had turned out that Mr Standish was not as decrepit as she had feared. In fact, he was a couple of years younger than her. When he answered the door, she hardly noticed that he was in a wheelchair. There was something about his rugged, tanned face that attracted her immediate interest. The wrinkles were not due to old age but were obviously signs of an outdoor active life.

'Come in, come in,' he invited. 'It's so good of you to call. You're not the usual servant, are you?' There was no hint of insult or condescension in his voice. He was genuinely welcoming. His words expressed so much more than, 'Did you have a lovely day, darling?'

Penelope managed to fit weekday meal calls to David Standish into her busy social routine. At the Tuesday working bees, Joan Hamilton noticed that she seemed to be more preoccupied than usual. But it was to Janice that Penelope revealed, over a cup of coffee, that she was rather concerned about Kenneth. She was beginning to have suspicions about his late evening board meetings, but immersed herself more fully into social work to take her mind off her concern.

'I wonder if you would mind,' she asked the vicar, 'but perhaps Mr Standish could have a little more variety in his meals?'
The vicar looked doubtful. 'Well, I'm not sure that our budget would stretch to that sort of thing. We have to treat everyone equally, after all.'

'Oh, no, I don't mean to impose on you. I'll cook for David myself!'

The vicar beamed. 'Are you quite sure? That's awfully good of you, Mrs Lee.'

Her busy round of social activity continued. As soon as the Mercedes had purred out of the drive each morning, Penelope, not worrying about the state of her housecoat, hurried to prepare a special meal. She hastily spread the blanket on the back seat of the Honda, not bothering too much if there was a tiny splash. There really wasn't time to worry about such trivial matters. So much to do, so many appointments, and a gift to buy.

Kenneth's birthday, which was always an occasion for a family get together, was on Saturday. The children arrived during the afternoon, as they usually did. 'Where's Mum?' his daughter asked.

'Out delivering meals. She does it at weekends, too. She'll be home later'

In a house in a street that Kenneth always drove straight through, David gently teased Penny's hair, stroked her cheek, and unwrapped the gift. 'I'm having a lovely day,' she murmured.

© Copyright Brian Barratt 2007


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