Chapter 7: Lodger Wanted.
Mrs Ali from the corner shop had a touch of the entrepreneur about her. This had started when a stray bit of passing trade asked her for a jar of dried coriander. Having no such culinary condiments in stock, she had given her a few sprigs of her own, homegrown, fresh and fragrant. The customer had seemed surprised, yet uncomfortable that there was no charge for this. Her embarrassment had shoed herself out of Mrs Ali’s corner shop, without making any legitimate purchases. This was the last time Mrs Ali gave anything away for free. And now every window in her Victorian terrace on the corner of Curmudgeon Avenue adorned a window box, each with its very own herb farm. Not an inch of that shop went begging, including the left front window. For a small charge, ‘commission’, Mrs Ali allowed her customers to advertise sales or services (nothing salacious of course). Another small charge was levied, should the advertise-ee not have their own little piece of card to create their flyer with. It was free to borrow a pen.
There are two types of people in this world, ones that look at the sky, and ones that look at the street when walking along. Fear of treading in dog poo is a real thing. Edith is the type of person who looks down on the street, so on this day was unable to take note of the sky, on the short journey from her house to Mrs Ali’s corner shop.
‘Hello, Mrs Ali. I’ve come to put a sign in your window’ Edith said, pinching the coins required for this transaction, which Mrs Ali accepted, and why should she not? The notice cards partially obstructed her view onto the street. Being naturally nosy, this was a huge sacrifice. Edith wrote down the advert for the lodger, as Edna had ordered- I mean instructed her.
‘LODGER WANTED Two later-life sisters require a house guest to share their lovely home with. Going rate, amenities included (within reason).
‘There’ Edith said, Edna had suggested adding ‘within reason’ to the notice. She had read all about ne’er-do-wells renting rooms for the cultivation of cannabis farms. This would increase the electricity bill at Curmudgeon Avenue, rather than pay for the roof. Describing themselves as ‘later-life’, Edna thought would attract a desirable class of people. Edith added their telephone number and popped the card in its little plastic sleeve, amongst notices for bicycles and beds for sale, ‘cleaner wanted’ and ‘cleaning service’ cards.
‘Oh, Mrs Ali, I’ve had an idea! These two cards can help each other out!’ Edith loved to meddle and there was always an endless supply of idiots, it seemed who could not manage their own lives. She placed the cards carefully on the counter. ‘He wants a cleaner, and she wants to work as one! They just need to be introduced!’
‘Oh, no… no… no. They already know each other’ Mrs Ali said, shaking her head. Being naturally nosy, she had already dealt with this moment of serendipity. ‘This is the ex-husband’ she said, holding up the ‘cleaning service’ card. ‘And this is the ex-wife’ Mrs Ali put the back of her hand to the side of her mouth ‘slovenly’ she nodded at Edith, who refused to accept this defeat.
‘Well then, they were made for each other! He is clean, and she is… filthy! Opposites, like Jack Spratt and his wife!’
‘Never mind’ Said Edith, returning the cards to their original location, after kissing them both together. ‘Oh, I almost forgot to buy a tin of peas!’ This was day three of Edith’s money-saving menu.
‘Thank you Edith, and don’t forget to renew your fee every month, for the advert!’ Mrs Ali said, making a record in one of her many little notebooks.
When Edith arrived home, it was three twenty in the afternoon, she had not been gone long of course.
‘I’m hungry, what did you buy us for dinner?’ Edna asked. Edith put the tin on the table. ‘Peas! Peas, Edith? A tin of peas! We can’t just have a tin of peas between us for dinner!’ Edna had dismissed her Mancunian accent some years ago and was now posh. Too posh to eat peas for her evening meal. If she was honest, peas were no good for her flatulence problem, Edith should know that! Edna could not stop farting and had a constant battle avoiding wind inducing foods. The other thing that Edna liked to avoid was paying for unnecessary things. Having to pay to put a notice in Mrs Ali’s window? ‘I’m not paying!’ Edna said to herself. She decided to have a word with Mrs Ali, her neighbour.
‘Edith, I’m going to go and have a word with Mrs Ali. Our neighbour. We should not have to pay to have notices in windows, not if we are neighbours!’
‘Oh! It was only pence!’
‘It’s the principle!’ Edna looked at herself in her mirror ‘I just need to put my face on, before I go outside!’
Edna had convinced her sister- and herself that she was of an anxious disposition. Edith initially found this hard to believe, as Edna had always been the bossy one. Too forthright to be anxious. But, being a caring type of soul, Edith believed her. Especially as Edna refused to leave the house without makeup on.
‘It won’t take me two ticks’ Edna said, an hour or two later after she declared she was going out. Edith watched her with her mouth agog, Edna painted on expensive makeup, (bought before the sisters entered into financial difficulty of course). She shaped her face, lashed those eyelashes and plumped those lips. All for the sake of less than a pound. It was almost going dark when Edna ventured down Curmudgeon Avenue to the corner shop. The sky looked like dusk and hazelnut Quality Street. Edith, like a discontinued variety, watched Edna with sturdy strides … Oh!’ Edna looked at the notice in Mrs Ali’s window. ‘There must be some mistake!’ Edna initially blamed Edith, she could never spell… But Edith’s handwriting had been tampered with on the notice and now it was a different type of advert altogether. ‘Lodger wanted’ now read ‘tODGER WANTED!’ Oh! The disgust and dismay! Edna could not remember the last time she wanted a todger! She could not speak for her sister but was confident that Edith would not advertise for such a thing in a corner shop window. Someone had graffiti-ed their notice and sullied their intentions. Edna felt violated and was not about to stand for it.
‘Mrs Ali! Have you seen what has happened to our notice?!’
‘Hello to you too, Edith/Edna!’ Mrs Ali regularly mixed the sisters up, she took the notice from Edna and started reading it. Her eyes bulged at the word ‘todger’ she blushed, briefly and then an amusing, entrepreneurial thought struck her ‘It’s extra for that type of advert!’ She nudged and winked at Edna, who was not amused.
‘More money! I don’t think I should have to pay any money! We are neighbours, and now, someone has tampered with our advert! Did you see who did it?’
‘No, but I did see several men take down your telephone number. Most popular advert of the day, in this popular corner shop!’
Edna stroked the back of her ear with her forefinger. She was not used to compliments, no matter how far-fetched. Her smile turned into the ugly realisation that she was being made fun of. She huffed, re-wrote the advert and hoity-toity-ed her way out of the shop.
‘I’ll give you the next month free!’ Mrs Ali shouted after Edna… but I don’t think you’ll need it! She chuckled to herself.
Copyright Samantha Henthorn 2018.
Happy reading everybody! Samantha xx