HANNAH BAGNALL

Short Story Writer

Tag: Short Stories

The Lodger

She used every pot and pan in the kitchen when she cooked. Jeanie hated it.  There were always vegetable cuttings on the floor. They stuck to Jeanie’s feet. Jeanie would walk around the kitchen collecting potato peel and onion skin. She would have to brush it off into the bin and then sweep the floor before she could start cooking her own dinner. Jeanie regretted getting a lodger. The lodger also left splashes of water and tea all the way up the stairs and sometimes even on the wall from when she took a drink up to her room. She was always carrying too many things in her hands to be careful. There were often teabags left on the side of the sink, curled into a ball on a spoon.  When the lodger had come to look around the house, she was light and she spoke easily and she made Jeanie feel light and easy. Jeanie had not thought about the other things that come along with being light and easy.

          Jeanie would scrape out the pots and pans and wash them up and the more she scrubbed the more she felt that she was right and the lodger was wrong. To make her point, Jeanie would also clean all of the kitchen tops and the cupboard fronts. She went to a lot of trouble. On a day that she was feeling particularly right, she would wash the walls of the kitchen and polish the kettle. There were times when the lodger would come into the kitchen when Jeanie was clearing up after her and Jeanie would wash faster and rub harder. The lodger would offer to make Jeanie a cup of tea and insist that she was going to do the cleaning up later. The lodger did not seem embarrassed. Jeanie would say to herself that she had seen the lodger’s way of washing up and no thank you she would rather do it herself. The lodger’s way of washing up was to fill the sink with water, put all of her pots and pans and utensils in the water and leave it there for the next day or even the day after the next day. By then the water was cold and greasy and Jeanie had to empty it all and wash everything with especially hot water and lots of washing up liquid to make sure it was clean.

          Although Jeanie criticised the lodger inside her head, she never criticised her out loud. She smiled at the lodger and accepted her offer of a cup of tea even though she did not drink tea after five o’clock on any day of the week, not even on weekends. Jeanie would ask her how her day was and the lodger would jump up and sit on the kitchen top while she talked. She would swing her legs and clap her feet together and jump down when the kettle had boiled. Her movements were light and easy. Jeanie noticed that her movements were also quite wasteful, whereas Jeanie’s movements were very direct. Jeanie did not sway as she walked as the lodger did and she did not use her hands as she talked. Jeanie kept her limbs neatly tucked against her body.  The lodger took long, cat-like stretches as she yawned or stood stretching one leg at a time behind her back as she spoke or she would dance her way out of the kitchen when she could simply have walked. The lodger took up a lot of space with her body and with her light and easy talking.

Even though Jeanie was in the right about a lot of things, especially things to do with being tidy, she felt small around the lodger. She realised that if they were two characters in a film, everyone would like the lodger. They would think the lodger was fun and it wouldn’t matter how messy and wasteful she was. If anything, that would make her even more charming. That is how it works in fiction and it often works that way in real life too. Jeanie knew that in a film she would be the rigid and difficult one. People would sigh or laugh at her or even pity her and wonder why she couldn’t be more like the lodger. They would not imagine how she was cornered into her way of being by the way the lodger had of being light and easy.

The Things She had Lost

Quite honestly she’d lost count of the things she had lost – there had been that many. She took a moment to think and she shuffled back in her chair. Let’s see, there had been that pink sundress. Did the younger woman remember? It came with its own bag. The crinkly one. The younger woman was sorry she didn’t remember. She had worn it that time to Shelly’s party  when Robert had said that thing to Julie and Julie had gotten upset. Well anyway, she had lost that and the bag that had come with it somewhere , she had no idea where, and it was a shame because it was one of her favourites and she had lost stranger things than that, she had lost a bottle of Lea and Perrin’s sauce.

Yes, that was right. She had gone to use some in a recipe because she liked to use it in some things even though people thought it was strange but they had to agree that it did add a little something even if they weren’t quite sure what it was, it did add a little something. When she looked in her cupboard, it wasn’t there and she hadn’t remembered running out because that is something she would remember because as she said she liked to use it in things that you wouldn’t usually expect.

When she came to think of it she had lost other food things – one time she had lost some white icing for a Christmas cake. She had bought it specially and when she came to make the cake for Christmas and everybody always said how much they loved her Christmas cake so she made it every year because you have to don’t you. So everyone was expecting this cake and there it was, the icing was gone and she couldn’t believe when she saw that it was gone and she remembered at the time thinking how that was funny. She’d lost count of the things she’d lost and they were all an absolute mystery as things that you lose always are, aren’t they.