26 Mar


Mrs. Weirs stepped out into the road, the yellow uniform of a lollipop lady stretched taut like  sail cloth across her ample bosom. The job didn’t pay much but at least it got her out of the house. There was only so much she could do for her ex-miner husband coughing up his life in the back bedroom at home. Twenty-two years down the pit at Selby and all they had to show for it was a council house on Viking Close and a second-hand Ford Escort she couldn’t drive.

Back in the day Bert had been as strong as an ox, the very image of vitality, before years of coal dust slowly slicked his lungs, turning him into an old man before her eyes. He was only sixty-two but you’d probably give him twenty years on top of that if you met him for the first time. Haggard and ashen-skinned he rasped his days through a plastic tube whilst petrified in front of a television set.

It was no way for a working man to end his days – they wouldn’t allow a dog to suffer the way they did poor old Bert. It would be deemed inhumane, there’d be all kinds of palaver over abuse , animal cruelty and the like – they’d probably even make the local papers. But supposedly human life was precious; to end it with dignity was tantamount to murder. After dealing with the dirty nappys, assisted baths and feeding tubes, her time on the streets was golden. As time went by it was amazing what became more important, especially when realizing that her own accumulated materialism was worthless; life’s penury making even the smallest things precious – things that someone with money and position would consider normal, run of the mill, mundane.

Twice a day she’d walk down to the zebra crossing outside the primary school, carrying her thermos of hot tea and her sandwich box. She liked to get there early, as being the lollipop lady in Stanton Bridge held a certain cache – akin to being a local celebrity. People would wave and smile, accost her in the village shop, offer to buy her a drink on the rare occasion that she could find a baby sitter for her husband. If she didn’t get to the school early she’d spend her time chatting and waving and hers was a life or death business. Ever since the young Evans boy had been run down by one of the potato trucks she’d taken her traffic duties extremely seriously.

She’d made her first lollipop board herself with the help of a DIY savvy neighbor who was handy with a hammer and a bag of nails. The morning she’d stepped off the pavement and into the road had scared her nearly as much as the unsuspecting commuters encountering her for the first time – workers speeding from the sleepy dormitory village of Stanton Bridge to high rise office buildings in downtown York. She recalled how dressed in a white plastic Macintosh and holding her make shift warning sign she’d ventured into the road. The first few vehicles had been the worst; staring death in the face as the cars racing towards her had screeched to a halt at the very last second. She’d barely escaped injury herself however as word spread about the village people soon got the message.

It had been the new constable who had accosted her first, Mr. Warwick – nice man. A policeman from the city adapting to village life, trying to accustom himself to the spring and neap of rural life rather than the tsunami of the city. He’d called her out of the road. It’d been hard to refuse but reluctantly she’d moved to the pavement – the pressed blues of his police uniform exuding the necessary authority.

“Now then missus, what’s going on ere? You’re gonna  get yourself killed woman if you stand out there with those idiots racing past!”         

She’d explained the situation and watched as he licked his pencil – strange habit – and wrote down the details.

“Makes sense to me luv. Sounds like the council need to get their affairs in order and sort this situation out. Leave it to me and I’ll have a word.”

As soon as Warwick disappeared she was back in the road, waving down cars, absorbing the abuse of irate drivers, allowing the gestures and insults to roll off her back. Hard to believe when she looked back. Now she was treated like royalty; a regular rock star, including groupies.

Warwick had been true to his word and phoned a journalist he knew at the Pickerington Times; a smart young man with whom he’d dealings with in the past. The journalist  turned up on the third day and was waiting at the school before Betty arrived. Nice young man who’d written down her details and promised to take the matter further. He told her to watch for the press the next day – he thought she’d be happy with what she read.

Within the week Betty had been splashed over every tabloid in the country forcing the local council to take action. The zebra crossing had been painted, the Belisha beacons placed and the necessary signage and railings fitted. Betty had won.

She’d neatly glued all the press cuttings into her scrap book.  The photograph of the visit to Buckingham Palace  hung above the mantle  in the front parlor next to the picture of her and Bert on their wedding day. It was the medal and her meeting with the Queen that gave her the energy  to confront the village traffic and climb out of bed each morning.

Now dressed in appropriate weatherproof gear, officially badged and hatted and carrying a regulation size stop-board, she strode  into the road.

Bert would be proud.


2 Responses to “LOLLIPOP”

  1. Deanna Schrayer March 31, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    I kept waiting for her to be run down by a madman, but am so glad she wasn’t. Nice story Colin!

    • Colin James I-10 Blog March 31, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

      Thanks Deanna. Ive been away from the flash for a while as I’ve been getting my book together which hopefully should be available this month. Take care and thanks for reading.

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