Friday, 17 December 2010

Betty and Alfred

This one was a bit persistent. Not taking no for an answer. After an all to brief gap the knocking started again. Betty sat in her small living room and waited where she could never be seen. The front curtains were drawn. Those curtains were always drawn. No one was looking in, ever. She was out, at the shops, or at least that was her excuse. It was one of the usual women, dressed in black, name tag, bossy, always knew best, annoyingly well meaning.

The knocking stopped. Maybe it'd given up and gone, good riddance. But no such luck.  Betty could hear that woman on its mobile, calling the office, complaining, always complaining. Not that Betty could make out what was being said. Her hearing was getting bad these days. That was alright, she wasn't interested in anything they could say.

The annoyance outside continued its incessant chatter. Would it never shut up. Betty had been sitting there far too long, needed to stretch, her old frame could not take confinement. She stood and edged towards the living room door. Maybe, at last, that bossy woman was gone. She pushed the door slowly ajar and peeked through the crack between the door and its frame. The letter box clanked open.

“Betty, you alright?” the woman shouted.

Betty could just see two beady eyes peering through. Above the intrusive eyes and the spray on suntan was a wisp of obviously fake blonde hair. No woman in their mid-forties had hair that blonde. Unnatural.

“Do you want to see my ID?” and the letterbox became dark with something unreadable. “I'm from Social Services.”

Well, that was precisely why Betty did not want to talk. They wanted her to move into some horrible retirement home. Somewhere she could be looked after. Somewhere that would not tolerate nuisance neighbour behaviour. Betty blamed all those vindictive rumours on the equally elderly lady next door. Really she didn't need looking after, she just wanted to be left alone. They'd forced her to move into this council bungalow years ago and she didn't want to move again. She gotten used to it here.

More knocking and the shadow over the front door disappeared. She might have heard the crunching of the gravel on her pathway. Maybe not, her hearing was none to good these days. She sat down again and waited. It was best to be careful.

Only last month another equally annoying and bossy woman had visited her. Alas that one had barged in and complained about, “how can you live like this,” and, “this all needs cleaning,” and, “have you considered this, that, and the other.”

Well no she hadn't and no she wouldn't. She could manage. Betty just wanted to scream at this one to leave her alone. Then the female annoyance had taken exception to the sofa, all for some reason Betty never really understood nor wanted to. The next day a newish-old one arrived. The old-old one was thrown out. It was still upside down in her front garden waiting to be collected. She hadn't asked for any of this or wanted it.

These visits were becoming more frequent and that was an ominous sign. But the latest female pestilence was safely gone. Betty had escaped at least for another day. She could have the joy of making all the noise she wanted, at least temporarily. Inching towards the kitchen she put the kettle on. Tea, fortunately some things never changed.

With the commotion over Alfred showed himself, just as he always did, having jumped onto the windowsill. Betty opened the window, he poked his head in, scanned the kitchen for intruders, jumped down and casually strolled over to a shaft of sunlight. He flopped on the floor in front of her and stared. That tabby wasn't afraid of anything. And neither was she.

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