Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Lightbulbs: A Drabble

She wasn't a Betty. Or a Betsy. Not even a Milly, a Molly or a Mandy. Certainly not a Mary or a Charlotte.

Catherine was too pretentious and Elizabeth, too grand.

No, she was just Terry.

This is all learned the third time I met her. Directly, anyway. Though even as I say third time, it might have been the first, for all the two of us knew in the moment. It wasn't until later that I connected the other signposts together.

Either way, it held more weight than our first meeting. Now that one was more of a "pass the salt please" situation, let alone an afternoon's tittle tattle over tea or a duel of wits over drinks. It was born from the stupidity the human race descends into after months of grey lightbulbs suddenly getting switched over to halogen golden. Like flies to flame humanity descended outdoors. Coupled with the usual insanity around working hours, well, I found myself playing human Tetris as I navigated my way through a station and dive-bombed, Olympic style, through the closing doors of the train I needed.

The trials weren't over. Once on, I was still in such fast forward motion I tripped a pair of home-painted converse and slipped into the crack between a six foot five business man with discreet dreadlocks and a gaggle of Spanish girls in heels, only to nearly fall in the lap of an older lady with Einstein hair and a pink jumper with cherries all over it.

I apologised profusely and managed to gather my bearings.

"Up 'n at 'em dear. Don't want to miss your stop."

I apologised again. Righted myself properly and promptly buried my nose in my phone. Three stops later the lady was off and three more stops later the train was less like a can of beans but I was off anyway and back into fresh air and sunshine. I forgot the encounter.

The second time I met her I dropped the three avocadoes I was analysing. You can never tell with avocadoes. Ripe or not to be ripe. That is the ridiculous question and I spend more than enough time as it is, agonising over purchases at the supermarket.

I was bent down, mortified, when a weathered hand dropped into my vision and passed me one avocado.

"Perfect that'un."


"Is. See?" She knocked it with a fist. I winced, practically feeling the avocado squish. "You can always tell the squidgy ones. Bad for business having avocadoes. Don't want a squidgy business."

"Of course."

The old lady eyed me down, "work hard. Help's always wanted. Somewhere. And people always talk. Somewhere."  

"Thanks." I nodded and scarpered off toward the cheeses, even though I had no intention of getting any.

The third time my car had broken down near a canal. I plonked next to it to wait. On the bend of the water's edge was a boat called "Dances with Bears." I idly picked at the grass around my crossed legs and wondered if it was inspired by the film Dances with Wolves, when the boat began to move.


Inch by inch it chugged ahead. A man and woman of around fifty popped out of either side of the boat and jumped up onto the bank.

They began pulling at the levers to set the lock so the boat could move down to the next level as it slipped forward, nose close to the gate. At the back wheel was an old lady of nearly ninety, with Einstein hair and a pink, cherry decorated jumper.

I was nearly at the point of connecting the dots when a furry missile bowled me over. Stick in a drooling mouth, I realised a second later it was only a dog.

"June! Sit!" The old lady, who was presently waiting on the lock to fill with water, commanded.

The dog sat. Panting.

"She's missing a lightbulb today. Land-sick." The lady shouted over to me. I shuffled up from my position on the grass, just to be in polite talking distance.

"It's fine." I said.

The old lady harumphed. "Not on my watch. Been waiting years to command my own ship. A dog's not ruining it."

"Don't mind." I said.

"I don't need help. I said. I don't need help. I'm going to do this." The old lady ranted on, not quite noticing I was standing nearby. Helpless under her tirade.

"Your generation doesn't do anything. We did it all. All. Least my son's generation knew to listen. They had a lightbulb on somewhere." Her rant was cut short by a shout from the couple.

"Terry move 'er in!" They called. "We're ready!"

"Ah. Good timing. Have a lightbulb on me. Buy yourself a boat with lightbulbs." Words passed on, she turned her attention down the narrow strip of the lock and canal. "Come on girl. Let's do this." Inch by inch, the long boat slipped deftly between the narrow sides of the lock bridge and walls.

I cheered with the couple who watched from the other end of the lock.

"Happy trekking," Terry waved. "Places to be and all that."  She whistled with her fingers between her teeth.

"Get on ye runt!" She shouted at her dog. "This bear waits for no creature."

Inspired by the luck of catching a boat moving through a lock on a canal in Wales and my favourite spoken word poet, Shane Koyczan, who grew up not far from my little hometown. Below you'll find the specific poem if your curious. Formally it's known as "Help Wanted" but in the spoke word circles it's got the nickname of "Grandma's Got Her Game On."


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