Oct/Nov 2004  •   Spotlight

Writing a Truth

by Pauline Abbott

Gillian lifted the Perspex lid, took out the pen. Held it, blue, smooth, in her hand, ran a finger along the barrel. A notebook, marbled along the edges, thick paper, grey and plain. Retirement gift.

The end of spying and snooping. Surveillance she called it, following shoplifters 'round the six-floored department store. Observing, suspecting, confronting. She'd been good, put her heart into it and won employee of the year seven years on the run; they'd changed the rules after that so she couldn't win again.

She took a chair from the kitchen, put it on the pavement outside the front door. Sat there, pen in hand, notebook on her knee, looking across the road, through the ginnel between the two terrace rows, at the litter on the cobbles, the weeds growing from the bottom of the walls. She didn't notice the way the sun reflected and sparkled on the broken glass, or how the hoverflies darted over the tansies.

She sat there, waiting to write. What, though? Her memoirs? A poem? An important day, this. Surely she had something. Never lost for something to say at work. Gillette they had called her. Sharp.

So she sat, waiting for inspiration. Truth was her thing.

Later she went to the park, sat on a bench. Stared at the ducks, at dogs being walked across the grass. Owners not clearing up their mess. Two children kicking a ball, it banging hard into her legs. Stood up, shouted at them, went home.

Later again, sitting in the living room, pad on her knee, she wrote:

Dear Mr Watkins, Why do you think your wife goes to the corner shop? Do you really need extra milk that often? Look in the toilet cistern. I think that is the usual place to hide bottles. Yours. A well wisher.

Tomorrow she would write to Mrs. Crabtree about Mr. Crabtree's taste in young men. Spread some truth.