When my wife, died loneliness set in and the days stretched endlessly before me. It was not easy getting old, but I decided to write my memoirs before it was too late. Apart from the odd touch of arthritis I was in good health for my age, but recently had tended to forget things. Merely the act of writing everything down helped, and the paper served as a reminder on the bad days.
She was a good girl, young Kelly, not like some of her generation who thought they knew it all. I first met her at the supermarket in town. It wasn’t one of those Superstore places, but more like the old corner shops of my youth, with two check-outs and time to chat.
‘What beautiful writing,’ she remarked, when she noticed me consulting my list. ‘I love technology, but it would be a shame to lose the traditional way of doing things. Some of my old schoolfriends couldn’t even add two and three without using one of these,’ she said, pointing to the modern, button-filled till.
‘That will be £14.78 please. Are you paying by cash or card?’
‘Cash please, er Kelly,’ I replied, glancing at her name tag. ‘I haven’t seen you in here before.’
‘I only started this week, but it’s good. The couple who own the shop are nice, and it’s much better than where I worked before. I was like a robot there, press the buttons, take the money, and “Have a nice day.” All so false, not like talking to proper people. Would it be rude of me to ask your name?’
‘Not at all. I’ll even wear a name tag like yours, if you like. It might be a good idea, in case I forget it. Oh, sorry, I nearly did. It’s John Frost, but obviously everyone calls me Jack.’
‘Lovely to meet you, Jack. Hope to see you again soon.’
It was Kelly who told me about the ‘drop-in’ centre where she helped out on Wednesdays, her day off from the shop. We became friends, and after a bit of badgering I agreed to go one afternoon when they had a famous local author as a guest speaker.
‘See, I told you it wasn’t all demented old ladies sitting in the corner knitting,’ she told me once he had finished his talk.
‘You’re getting too bossy by half, young lady,’ I teased. ‘He was interesting though. I’ve often wondered about writing a book.’
‘You should do. You’re a great story-teller. I love hearing your yarns, you really make them come alive. Tell you what. You write some out and I’ll type them up for you.’
That’s how it started. I was shy at first, but Kelly was full of praise, and every Wednesday she would visit to collect my latest offering, and return the pages from the previous week. Not only was she good company, but writing helped to fill the lonely hours when I couldn’t sleep, and gave me a sense of purpose. She arranged for me to be a guest at the drop-in centre, where I read out some of my stories to the other visitors. It went down very well.
It was about eighteen months after we first met that she organised a party for my birthday. My present from her was a beautiful bound copy of my memoirs, complete with photo illustrations.
‘So that’s why you were so keen on rummaging through my old albums,’ I smiled, overcome with emotion that she had gone to so much trouble. ‘You’ll be insisting I learn how to use the computer and the scanning thing next.’
‘Why not,’ she replied. ‘It will be useful for when you write your next book, but I still want to be involved as your editor and publicity manager. Oh, I forgot. There was one other thing. This contract needs your signature. It’s an agreement with a major publisher for a three-book deal. They suggested an advance of £5,000 but I did a bit of arm twisting, and wangled another 50%.’
‘£5,000? I can’t afford that.’ There was no way I could risk nearly all my savings, just to see my book in print.
‘No, you daft ‘appeth. They pay you! I’ve had the contract checked out, and it’s all legit. Mind you, I do expect something when you get your first royalty cheque. You can treat me to a slap-up meal to celebrate.’
It’s cost me a few meals since then, and I’ve learnt a lot about the publishing world after that momentous occasion nearly six years ago. Kelly is on a regular salary since my book became the number one best seller. She’s become the granddaughter I never had, and she nags me if there’s a deadline to meet and I’m falling behind. I even use a computer now, but still prefer to write the old-fashioned way.
Sometimes I read those early stories, and think back to the times that inspired them. It’s odd how my memory has improved as the years have gone by, which reminds me- she’ll be here soon, so I’d better get this finished.
Thanks for listening.
© Voinks January 2018
If you enjoy my short stories, you might like to check out my published books.