HANNAH BAGNALL

Short Story Writer

Tag: writer

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 We Did Not Like

We have things in our house that my husband does not like and that I do not like. We have things in our house that my husband does not like but I do like. We have things in our house that I do not like but my husband does like. We also have things in our house that neither one of us likes nor dislikes. We have things in our house that my husband especially does not like and that I do not like but I can live with and we have things in our house that I especially do not like and my husband does not like much but he can tolerate.

When we first moved into our house we decided that neither of us would live with things that we did not like. Our dislike for some of our things was clear to us and it was obvious that we could not begin in our new home with things that were not liked. These things that we did not like were conspicuous in our new home. They were stored in a spare room all together. We agreed that we would find things to replace the things that we did not like with things that we both liked. We were happy to compromise on the things that we liked but the other did not like so that we could both like the things in our new house.

After a few weeks it did not matter quite as much that there were things in our new house that either one of us or both of us did not like. Gradually some of the things we did not like were brought back into use because we had not replaced them before we needed them. We argued when perhaps the other person decided that they did not mind one of the things that we had both decided we did not like and they hung it on the wall because the wall was too bare. Over time we were each less willing to compromise on the things we did like but that the other did not like until it became easier to simply not think about the things we did not like and they became as invisible to us as the things that we did like.

Cilla When she was Alive

 

If Sylvia had to choose to be anyone she would choose to be Cilla Black. When Cilla Black was alive. Sylvia is not so down on herself that she would choose to be someone else when they were dead. If she was choosing to be someone else even though they were dead, she definitely wouldn’t choose to be Cilla Black. She would choose Aretha Franklin or Dusty Springfield because even when they’re dead they’re still more alive than Sylvia has ever felt. Being them when they were alive would be too much living for Sylvia but she thought she could manage being Cilla Black on a good day even when Cilla Black was alive.

 

Worthing Walking Club

Someone was saying that they had walked down the same road last time hadn’t they and the person next to them agreed that yes they had walked down the same road the last time. The first person thought that she must have been right and was pleased with her correct observation. That van wasn’t there last time though, another person joined in, and those people hadn’t sold their house the last time either it was remembered by someone further back. Another person was sure that that house wasn’t that shade of yellow the last time they came but they were assured that it was because another person recalled having a conversation about whether it would be described as buttercup yellow or buttermilk yellow. Buttermilk was decided upon as they remembered. It was far too mellow to be considered buttercup. Something else must be different about it then, that person insisted. They didn’t know what, but something had changed.

The person at the front of the walking group was wearing a high visibility waistcoat. Everyone walked in twos behind the person wearing the high visibility waistcoat so that they stayed safe and so that nobody would get lost. Their leader stopped to cross the road and everyone queued behind.

They had crossed in that exact same spot last time, the first person pointed out and everyone was cheered to remember doing exactly the same thing as they had done before. That was right. They remembered standing in that exact same spot. One person was missing this time and there were two new members and so not everyone was walking with the exact same person and so it was also a little different. While they waited, they attempted to place who was standing with whom and in what order compared to last time. Then they could really measure just how similar or just how different this walk was from the last. Their heads bobbed around as they each counted and checked their position in relation to the other people around them and they judged by some innate feeling whether they were further forward in the group or further back than before. They leaned their heads away from their neighbours as they looked at them and tried to overlay this new picture on their memory of the last time to see how well the two matched. The new people even looked around as if trying to help.

It turned out that mostly the group had fallen into the same formation except for the few minor differences that couldn’t be helped because of the members that were missing and because of the new members. The new members searched around themselves for excuses but the road had cleared and the group could now cross.