ANOTHER VICTIM OF AUSTERITY

This was written in response to an exercise set by a member of a writers group I belong to. I confess I am not usually that asiduous in completing these types of tasks as I probably should be as I have quite a lot of my own ideas awating attention. Julie has brought such a fresh approach to the group with her writing however, that I wanted to do this. I also felt it I was worth an attempt because it seemed so simple at first, and yet the more I thought about it the more perspectives it offered.

The brief was to write a short piece about a crime connected with something in the room we meet in. Here’s my attempt.

 

‘Hello Delyth, what you doing?’

‘Trying to move these shelves a bit.’

‘Why’s that then?’

‘We’re going to have to clear this room before the redesign.’

‘I know that, but that’s not for weeks yet.’

‘Pinner wants the shelves out before then.’

‘They haven’t moved for years – aren’t they screwed in or something?’ Bob said.

‘No.’

‘Well, don’t you need a note or something to start doing that?’

‘Are you going to stand there criticising or are you going to help?’

Bob stood in the doorway and watched as Delyth, a small bird like woman with grey hair and over large glasses, tugged ineffectually at the edge of a bookcase full of children’s stories.

‘I don’t think I should Delyth. Not with my back.’ he wandered into the room a little despite himself. ‘You know what Pinner said, we aren’t covered for that sort of thing anymore. If you need to move anything bigger than a chair you need to get a qualified kinetic handler in.’

‘Stuff Pinner. I only need it moved a few inches.’

Bob considered this. It seemed a bit unreasonable to phone someone to book a mover to come round to shift a set of shelves a couple of inches, and then presumably put them back. But his sciatica had only just subsided after the last bout of agony, and he didn’t want to tweak the nerve again. Then a thought occurred to him.

‘Why do you just want to move it a few inches if you’re getting ready for the redesign?’

Delyth gave up her fruitless assault on the shelves.

‘I… never mind.’ She started pulling books off the shelves and stacking them on the table. ‘Give me a hand with these then. They aren’t heavy enough to damage your back, and they’re smaller than a chair.’

Bob conceded the point and shuffled round the table. He began to follow Delyth’s lead, taking small groups of books from the shelves and placing them neatly on the table.

‘What are we doing?’ he asked.

‘Moving books.’

‘But why?’

‘To make the book case lighter, then I can move it.’ Delyth said through gritted teeth.

The logic was impeccable but didn’t explain why Delyth suddenly wanted to move the shelves a couple of inches. He moved a set of Harry Potters in Welsh and felt the need to clarify.

‘But if he’s arranged to move them out before the move, why are we doing this now?’

‘There we are.’ Delyth ignored the question. ‘That’ll be a lot lighter.’

Bob pushed at the shelving. ‘Yeah, it is.’

‘You can go then if you like. I can manage now.’ Delyth said turning and managing a smile at Bob. ‘Thanks’.

‘No. It’s okay Delyth. I’ll help.’

And with that he took one end of the shelving and waited while Delyth stood there hands on hips.

‘Come on Delyth, before Pinner comes and fires us both for breaking health and safety orders.’

Delyth’s smile returned

‘Couldn’t have that could we.’ she said.

They lifted and slid the shelves forward.

‘That’ll do thanks Bob. You can go now.’

Bob stood up.

‘I’ll help put the books back will I?’ he said.

‘No need. Off you go.’

Bob shrugged and as he did so bumped the shelving with his shoulder. There was a thump as something hit the floor and then another.

‘What was that?’ he said.

‘Just a book. Off you go Bob.’

But Bob was already behind the shelving.

‘There’s something down here. Two. Two packages. Looks like they were sellotaped to the back of the shelves. Thin but wide and long mind.’

‘Bob…’

‘Don’t worry Delyth I can get them.’

With that Bob dragged the packages out from behind the shelving.

‘This one’s weird. Actually they’re both weird.’ And with that Bob ripped open the brown wrapping paper.

Delyth hadn’t wanted to hurt Bob, but hitting him with a copy of “Harri Potter y Maen ar Athronydd” seemed a decent way for him to go. She picked up the two packages and the £50 notes that had fluttered loose from the one he had ripped open, before pushing the shelving over to make sure the sharp heavy edge hit him neatly on the neck with a satisfying crunch. She scattered the books from the table about his body before putting the packages in her large shopping bag. She walked out of the room and wondered whether she should ring to tell Pinner there had been an accident before she left on her half day. Best not. He’d like the ‘I told you’ so moment of discovery. Not to mention filling in the health and safety forms.

Besides she needed to put the £100,000 somewhere safe from Council cuts.

 

You can find this and other pieces of flash fiction here

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