DIVINE INTERVENTION short story *IN MEMORIAM*

14 Feb

 

 

Roger stopped the car and turned off the engine. There were only four collections due today. He should be finished by ten giving him more than enough time to skip home and grab some lunch. 

He looked through the rain drizzled windscreen at the houses and yards spaced along each side of the road, the wet morning dripping off the unexceptional, overgrown, suburban landscape. He noticed the hedges and trees that needed clipping back, understanding the obvious neglect of front yard husbandry – to be honest who was going to go outside in this weather and take care of their garden? If it wasn’t for the fact that he needed the money he too would be warm at home, lost in a book or vegged out in front of the telly. Arsenal were playing today, he’d get to see the pre-match highlights, listen to the banter of bitter ex-footballers; loved his football did Rog! 

He took a final drag on his cigarette, crushed it out, zipped up his jacket and stepped out of the car. Fumbling with his keys he felt the chill of the April morning and wished that it was June already. Him and the Mrs. had booked a couple of weeks in the Canary Islands. One of those all-inclusive breaks where you could eat and drink as much as you liked at no extra cost. He licked his lips at thought of endless sangria and bottomless kebabs.

Glancing up at the grey sky he tried to catch a glimpse of the sun, seeing nothing but watery remembrances of better days skulking behind steel colored clouds. Only a few more months and he would be on the beach, toes in the sand, beer in hand, living the life.

Despite the cold he felt prospective inner warmth, the glow of expectation and the tingle of excitement. He turned from the car and walked down the street, looking up at the house numbers as he went. 

Number 26, Sebastopol Terrace, Mrs. Patel; sounded a bit foreign! 

She was one of the lucky individuals who would get to enjoy his company today. 

His job with the insurance firm brought him into contact with all manner of people, taking him all over the city. Although everything was slowly being computerized there were still customers, especially the older folk, who preferred to pay their premiums in cash. Theirs was a monthly remittance and, although not a lot of money, worth the collection. When you calculated that he saw perhaps ten to twenty people a day, with an average payment of five pounds, then the money soon added up. The Super had told him that his was the most important job of all, as without the money there really wouldn’t be a business. This made the handfuls of hot change, crumpled banknotes and promises of tomorrow all the more worthwhile. 

Just one short year ago Roger had been a retiring serviceman after spending half a life time in the R.A.F. He’d joined as a boy soldier, escaping from an electrician’s apprenticeship in the hope of greener pastures and bluer skies. Looking back it probably wasn’t the wisest thing to have done. He blamed his older brother who’d done the same thing. 

Joining up a couple of years before him, Derek had sent postcards from places like Singapore and Hong Kong. Fantastic faraway lands where possibilities were endless. His brother had spun tales of good times, great food, perfect beaches and the local girls. 

Oh, those local girls! 

After joining he was immediately posted to not-so-sunny Scotland, a classic case of being careful for what you wished. Wind-swept moorland rather than sun-kissed palms. 

Leaving the service had been hard. Twenty three years of institutionalization had taken its toll. Supplied with accommodation, food, money and a secure work environment, the outside world seemed, by comparison, empty and harsh. Sure, they’d prepared him for civilian life, given him the mandatory courses, but with no safety net, no recourse and no choice, they had finally cast him loose with even fewer guarantees! 

He had quickly found work as a salesman in the newly expanding telemarketing industry selling New-World-Wines. The idea was that you sat behind a desk and called up unsuspecting winos. 

“Hello is this Mrs. George?”

“Yes.”

“Would you like to buy some wine?”

“No.” 

Such was the depth of conversation Roger was participating in. Clearly the killer instinct of telephonic marketing was a branch of sales he wasn’t cut out for. Not taking rejection well, and loathing the hate emanating from silent telephones he moved on to Insurance sales, and so into collections. 

Of course, he could cajole a lonely pensioner into a necessary policy, however why would he? Bullying old ladies and scaring old men into believing that their families would be responsible for their debt was child’s play. 

In the beginning he had followed the company line pursuing ever increasing sales goals. Policy after policy was signed, sealed, and delivered – but at what cost? Profit at the price of sleepless nights, bad conscious, and feelings of remorse. The collections were much better. He he had an honest face, so he was told, which the clients trusted. 

He pushed open the iron gate, walked up the path, and rang the bell. The garden was neat and tidy and virtually weeds free. No sign of dogs; he hated dogs, didn’t like cats much either. He could hear the bell ringing deep inside the house. Eventually, after what seemed an eternity, he heard shuffling, a rustling of papers and the scrape of furniture on wooden floors. The clientele were not particularly quick but there again he wasn’t exactly in a rush. Mrs. Patel opened the door. 

“Hello Roger.”

“Morning Doris, how are you?”

“Oh, you know. Well as can be expected I suppose.” 

Roger was dreading the conversation; he knew that this polite interlude was leading to a climax he didn’t want to confront – the part where he asked her for money and where she told him she had none. 

This would be the fifth time now and without the requisite funds he would have to strike her off. He knew how important the life policy was to her; Mrs. Patel had a granddaughter with a young baby. Given her health issues, her age, the fact that she probably didn’t have too much more of her mortal coil to shuffle, she was no doubt hoping that she could at least leave something for her.  

“Have you come for the money Roger?” 

He smiled, opened his heart, and then his mouth. 

“Oh, no,” he said,” I was just in the neighborhood and thought I’d pop round and check on you.” 

The conversation continued. Details of her granddaughter, his sons, the bin collections on Thursday, her arthritis and his tricky knee. Did he know that TESCO had raised the price of milk by sixpence? 

The door closed and Roger made his way back down the path. Stopping at the gate, he pulled the ledger out of his satchel and opened it up to the policies paid page. Licked his pencil – strange habit – found the entry for Mrs. P. and ticked the appropriate box. 

Paid! 

Reaching into his pocket he pulled out his wallet, found a five pound note and deposited it into the brown envelope with the rest of the morning’s takings. That was the third old lady this week he’d anonymously subsidized. At this rate of financial extension he was going to have to find himself another job. 

The perfunctory angel made his way up the hill, got back in the car, turned on the radio, and drove away. 

Mrs.P’s daughter would be round that afternoon. She’d enjoy that he thought.

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2 Responses to “DIVINE INTERVENTION short story *IN MEMORIAM*”

  1. flyingscribbler March 7, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    I’m so glad he turned out to be an angel. You laid out a few red herrings along the way, playing on all sorts of prejudices. Good work.
    I think when you talk about his “Mrs”, it would read better as “Missis” or “Missus”. Just a small point.

    • Colin James I-10 Blog March 7, 2011 at 11:58 am #

      Tough one that mate.
      I know when you see it written back in the UK we do it all ways.
      Just don’t want to confuse the Americans……you know how they are 🙂

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