There once lived a woman who was filthy rich and lived in a grand house in the forest of suburbia. She had everything she thought her heart desired. The finest clothes in the latest fashions, her digits dripped with jewels – even her little toes showed off splendour. And her hair, oh! Her luxuriously long hair danced around her shoulders like a fluffle of wild rabbit kits in spring.
Every evening, she dined on delicious food and overpriced wine usually and ashamedly polishing off the entire bottle herself. Her house was beautiful, her garden exemplary and the envy of all who gazed upon it (she imagined).
In addition to these perceived virtues, the filthy rich woman was extremely knowledgeable. Some would go as far as saying ‘she knows everything’ and at one time, she would share knowledge widely.
This was in the past, however, because despite wealth and self-appointed oracle status, she had no one to share it with. No partner, no family (there was a cousin in Kidderminster, but the less said about her, the better). This filthy rich woman had no friends. You could say… she is alone…
Today of all days, she had a problem. The supermarket had run out of her favourite things. And toilet roll! There was absolutely no toilet roll on the shelves… She sighed, fastened the seatbelt of her hugely expensive car and drove to the next shop. As the wind and rain lashed against her windscreen, she drove round and round the island. Further and further away from her palatial home. In every supermarket the same story, queues, no loo roll and shelves bereft of her favourites. It was alright for her though, she was safe in her car, apart from when she had to queue – this would never do. She had not seen the news, on account of already knowing everything but in the third car park, the radio played in her car. Soon her head filled with doom. She was consumed with anxiety, how was she to get through the next few months of her life without her favourite things? She sighed and made her way to the final supermarket, a place she would never normally frequent.
‘A pound?’ she gasped at the trolley’s security tag.
‘Yeah, so no one’ll nick them and push them into the River Irwell,’ a voice said from the side. Ignoring the drenched commentator, the filthy rich woman returned to her car. She rummaged around in the centre console for coins. Fifty p? Twopence? No, ahh you will have to do! Between her forefinger and thumb, the woman held a shiny patterned token. A pretend pound gifted to her during a time she was not as lonely. The commentator admired her as she freed a trolley and at last, entered the supermarket in search of her favourite things.
Although waiting in line outside had been tolerable, the items on sale were not. What did this filthy rich woman need with bulk buy tinned soup? And the toilet roll was only available in a multipack! Her very favourite dish for a Wednesday of spinach and ricotta cannelloni suddenly became tinned spaghetti hoops… on toast… white toast… Her Thursday fillet steak, now a tin of spam (they had sold out of frozen burgers and corned beef). Sushi platter Saturday became pot noodles (sold in bulk). Smoked salmon Sunday brunch? A tin of sardines would have to suffice (on yet more toast). And of course, they did not sell Champagne.
Somewhat satisfied with her haul, the filthy rich woman paid and made her way towards the exit.
‘Can I take your trolley back for the pound, Sweet?’ the same voice from the side reached out to her. She was about to ignore him, but as she looked upwards, she noticed his face almost meeting hers.
‘Keep your distance!’ she snapped ‘Haven’t you seen the news? TWO METRES APART!’
‘Seen the news?’ he took a swig from what appeared to be the world’s cheapest lager. ‘No, sorry Sweet, I lost the remote for my fifty-two-inch widescreen.’
She did not bat an eyelid at his quip. ‘Well, there is a global pandemic – we must all keep our distance… and self isolate! I shall have to put my life on hold!’
‘Poor you,’ the voice said.
‘Offer still stands… can I take your trolley back for the pound?’
‘Oh, oh… no, it’s one of those tokens… it’s my magic pound,’ the woman had no idea why she had been so forthcoming, perhaps it had been his charm offensive.
‘Magic?’ he laughed, showing a full set of fillings. ‘What’s magic about it?’
‘Oh hahaha,’ she nervously laughed. ‘Nothing, I suppose… just what my… what someone used to call them,’ she rummaged in her pocket. ‘Here,’ she handed over two fifty pence pieces. During this transaction, she remembered the social distancing rule and dropped them on the floor. Her friendly commentator had to scramble around to pick them up. When he looked up, she had gone, driving away in her hugely expensive car.
A few short days later, the filthy rich woman’s consumer hankerings got the better of her. Once again her hugely expensive car backed off the driveway. As she reached the centre of town desolation greeted her, but she was just grateful for the lack of traffic and the calmer weather. After her previous debacle, she headed straight back to the shop that she would not usually be seen dead in, all prepared with her magic pound.
‘You forget something last time, Sweet?’
She nervously giggled an assertion she did not want to speak to the over-familiar commentator hanging around in exactly the same place. She commandeered a trolley (via the magic pound) and noticed someone she did want to speak to…
‘Jane! Jane!’ she shouted after her fellow shopper who was either deaf, in a hurry… or trying to avoid her ‘Jane! Jane, it’s me… Mimi!’ she dropped her waving hand. Jane had literally left her hanging, and this would never do. ‘Really’ Mimi huffed to herself and rattled her trolley inside the shop, desperate to drain her bank balance and ask Jane a load of nosy questions. Poor Jane.
‘Excuse me… Excuse me…’ Mimi tried desperately to pass a family of shoppers dragging bags of frozen chips and sausages from the freezers into their own trolley. I thought people were not supposed to bring their entire family shopping during the pandemic…
‘And I thought people were meant to queue outside and wait until the store was less busy,’ an angry shopper said, after overhearing Mimi’s grumbling. She glanced behind towards the double doors and spied a queue of angry shoppers gesticulating their disgust. She had barged past them and tried to use ‘Jane’ to push in. Mimi decided against apologetically returning outside to join the queue but instead, suddenly found a box of frozen pulled pork very interesting. Then, through the gaps in the condiments on display, Mimi spotted that Jane was already at the till! ‘Jane! Jane!’ once again, Mimi was ignored. ‘Ohhh’ she cried to herself. Deciding against filling her trolley, she dashed towards Jane. But other shoppers were in her way as she weaved through the aisles… Shoppers who were adhering to the social distancing rules. Mimi’s desperation did not go down well, the entire shop (apart from Jane who had done one) laughed when Mimi collided with a tower of egg boxes and crashed to the floor. ‘Ewww. Ewww, sugar! Somebody help me please!’ Mimi rolled around dramatically in a pool of yellow and shell. An overworked shop assistant stifled her giggles as she helped Mimi to her feet. ‘I’m ever so sorry, I will pay for any damage… but really? Stacking boxes of eggs in the way of customers?’ Mimi did not give the shop assistant time to disagree and ran around, grabbing what she could.
By the time Mimi reached the till (while batting off wisecracks made by her counterpart customers about ‘over egg-cited’ and ‘egg on her face’) there was no trace of Jane. Why would she ignore me? Mimi thought to herself. I am filthy rich, and at one time she was a mess! She could hardly do anything without running it past me for advice! And I would be there… always telling her what she should and shouldn’t do. I’m good like that…
‘Did you get everything you needed Mimi?’ the commentator said, rescuing her from her ruminations.
‘What? Yes! Hang on, how did you know my name?’
‘Oh, I always have a little chat with Jane on her way out – a lovely woman. People often take her for a fool, but she isn’t.’
‘So she did see me then?’ Mimi murmured to herself…
‘Pardon? You say summat, Sweet?’
‘Oh, nothing… well, you know my name now so it’s only right that I should know yours,’ said Mimi, deflecting from Jane’s rebuff.
‘My name is Pros.’
‘Oh, short for live long and prosper I suppose?’ Mimi laughed.
‘Something like that,’ Pros rolled his eyes. ‘At least I’m not named after myself ME ME!’
‘No, it’s MIMI, just Mimi, not short for anything.’ Mimi arranged a bag for life in the driver’s seat of her hugely expensive car to protect it from her egg covered backside. ‘Here,’ she reached into her centre console for a few small coins. ‘Be a dear and take my trolley back for me would you and return the magic pound to me…’
Pros did as he was told, but before returning the magic pound, he shined it against his sleeve. ‘Bye-bye now, Mimi, be sure to let me know when the pandemic ends.’
‘Yes, I cannot wait until it’s all over and then I can go back to normal!’ Mimi laughed and jumped into her car, not realising what she had said.
The following few weeks saw terrible things happening in the world, death, global fear and widespread pandemonium. Strangely, Mimi started watching the news again. It turned out that she did not know everything. She returned to the same supermarket several times, and what began as a passing comment became something she was now looking forward to.
‘Hello, Mimi are you alright there, Sweet?’ Pros would always say when she arrived. And Mimi now felt it was time to start sharing her knowledge.
‘You know what you should do,’ Mimi began. But the look that Pros gave her, the raised eyebrow and the slightly squarer shoulders almost made Mimi relent. But no, it was in her nature to dole out unwanted advice. ‘What you should do is… if you still cannot find your TV remote…’ But Mimi’s words drowned in laughter.
‘I was joking, Sweet! I don’t have a fifty-two-inch widescreen television! I’m on the streets… Mimi’ Pros laughed, he thought better of teasing her with ‘Dickhead’ her type never got the humour and she always gave him a few coins (not the magic one obviously).
Although she was used to being alone, during the lockdown, the only person Mimi ever spoke to had been Pros.
‘Aright there Sweet?’ the familiar welcome of her homeless friend greeted her. ‘Still no end to the pandemic?’
‘No… no,’ Mimi smoothed down her hair.
‘As soon as I find a cure for Coronavirus I will let you know, Mimi,’ Pros winked, and Mimi blushed. ‘I could do with a Corona right now,’ Pros grinned and instead, sipped his can of the world’s cheapest lager. Mimi fluttered a giggle.
Winter now long gone, spring was finally turning into summer, and everyone on the island had adapted to these strange times. Mimi had become quite creative with her appearance, no trips to the hairdresser or beauty salon had taken their toll. Obviously, Mimi still thought of herself as beautiful. However, she was starting to change in her attitude. Although Jane did not accept her friend request on Facebook, Mimi accepted this and secretly wished her well. Today, Mimi was very pleased with herself, she had bought a present for Pros and was excited to deliver it to him. Something not quite materialistic, but expensive all the same. Although romance often includes adventures with unlikely events, Mimi had been realistic with her gift idea. She pulled up into the car park and gave her magic pound a rub for good luck. Checking herself out in the mirror (yes, still gorgeous) Mimi stepped out of her car.
But where was Pros? Mimi’s face fell as it appeared he had been replaced by another man dressed in similar clothes and drinking the same world’s cheapest lager…
‘You OK there, Love? Any chance I can have your pound from the trolley on your way out?’
‘Oh… it’s a…’ Mimi’s face fell.
‘Is it a magic pound? Prospero told me to look out for you.’
‘Did he?’ Mimi brightened, feeling foolish with a case of slightly more expensive Mexican lager held tightly to her bosom. She considered handing it over, she couldn’t very well take it into the shop with her. ‘Where is Pros?’ she said, deciding booze would be a reward for information.
‘Oh, he’s gone fruit picking in the countryside. Does it every year, casting his friendship and wisdom amongst the other pickers.’
© Samantha Henthorn 2020.
Inspired by the news, fairy tales, Shakespeare, things I don’t miss. Hoping this story is going to be the start of something bigger – who knows?
I am the author of the Curmudgeon Avenue Series. I also wrote a short story collection three years ago called Quirky Tales to Make Your Day. Here is the link in pink for my Amazon page
Stay safe and happy reading, Samantha xx