I’d known Maureen years ago. I saw her again in Tesco’s. “Con!” I said, realising afterwards that that was not her name, which popped up, and I addressed her by it next time. (‘Con’ was an ‘n’ short of her surname though.)

There came a buzz on the entryphone: Maureen. She had a cup of tea and two glasses of wine. She’d seen the empty flat downstairs and wanted it. She said she’d buy the book, “How much did it cost?” She didn’t use the internet so couldn’t buy it for herself from Amazon. ( )

She had a form to fill in for being housed by the council but hadn’t got round to filling it in …in three years. My advice was to the point.

She visited again; tea, drink, and wasn’t buying the book. She didn’t read. She had books given her in a cupboard. She’d had a reply from the council and has more than enough points to be housed but could amplify her chances with a medical report. My advice was to the point but do I want Maureen downstairs of me? What in any case is the likelihood of that?

A man buzzed me to be let in; he said he was to do with the painters, who’d finished. I let him in, then thought to check. As I went into the stairwell he was about to climb the stairs to the floor above. He said he recognised me, not so much the face as the voice. He looked recognisable too and it was by the face I said he was. He pinned down where he’d recognised me by asking had I lived here when the standpipe was installed. He would answer any questions I had later, he said, going upstairs, adding he was younger then. I didn’t say he was still desirable since the ‘still’ would confirm the self-deprecation he was less so by being older in the face. I don’t think I’ve ever had an erection from talking and bemusedly wondered if he’d knock at my door, like John had, because I was quite likely in the circumstances to be unfaithful. He didn’t. It was of no consequence like the last time when I’d shouted “Kitten!” on the cat and seen this naked back below me arched over a hole like a cat a mousehole. The men insinuated I was calling on him who they called Kitten or so they said.

Next morning he was looking up as he came to clean up a spill of paint and I waved. Going to vote, I stopped to find out he’d studied genetics. Then. I asked, What are you doing this for? He liked working with he men. He’d read A Brief History of Time and gave me his name and an email address to contact him with links to my story. The address didn’t work. I wasn’t having an erection either.

My friend Kate didn’t respond till I sent her the rave review: She emailed she’d read my story from which I did not infer she’d buy the book it was in. She called in proposing to give me her painting of blue horses and a meal to which I might bring the book the story was in. I said part of it was for the reader to come upon the story after reading what came before, as the reviewer had, and experienced something of the effect I’d been after. I asked did she want me to accompany her next day on the jaunt up town to buy tickets for the opera and ballet. She did. For herself she bought an additonal ticket reduced to £90 and a voucher for a glass of champagne. This did not pass without comment she yet grudged £12 to buy the book my short story was in.

When we got back I dished up cold smoked fish and courgettes with samphire. The meal with her was arranged to which I took a bottle of champagne. While we went through my and her champagne she said she would buy the book, the reason given that of helping Quentin, the publisher, out.

If it takes all that to have a friend buy the book my short story is in,…?

John has asked for the book to read my story. He’s taking advantage of being in prison not to have to buy it.

Greg visited, asking to see what the book looked like. Obviously he hasn’t bought it as he said he would.

He visited again. I said I’d sold a copy to Diana. He said he wanted to buy one. ‘You’ve bought a book on Jerusalem but not the one my short story’s in?’ I didn’t say. I didn’t offer to sell him the replacement for the one sold to Diana either. He’s perfectly capable of ordering from Amazon if he wants to.


About johnbrucecairns

I'm a retired history teacher who's written for most of his life with a book readied for publication.
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