Wednesday, 27 November 2013

First Prize Winning Story in Greenacre Writers Short Story competition 2013

Flapjack by Sal Page

 17th July

7.46pm - 3 eggs.

I’m waiting. They usually come in sixes. Or twelves. Jade’s upstairs. Hopefully got her earphones in. So hot. I hate summer. The kids stay out longer, which means we’re both stuck in here. I hate having to keep windows shut, draw curtains and sit in with the television on. I’ve turned the volume right up, a sitcom with canned laughter.

8.02pm – 3 more eggs.
I heard them splat against the window. The yolks and whites will be running down the glass. Not a very interesting book I’m writing. Eggs, eggs, flour, tinned tomatoes and spaghetti. Eggs, beans, eggs and more eggs. Just write down what they say and do. Keep a record of dates and times. That’s what I was told. I’m glad these notebooks were ‘buy one get one free’ so I can write more in this second one. 
   Jade was going through the bathroom cabinet before. I asked her what she was looking for. She said ‘nothing’ and started tidying it away. She said she was sorting the cupboard out. Very suspicious. She doesn’t even tidy her own room without prompting. I’ll make her favourite omelette tonight. Cheese and mushroom. 

8.56pm ‘We’re gonna get you, ya fucking fat bitches’ More eggs and something heavy hit the window. Don’t know what it is.

That was loud. Don’t think the window broke this time. At least the car they set fire to has gone this week.
   I asked Jade did she want something putting on the shopping list but she just shrugged. I heard the pring of her phone. I’m glad she’s in touch with her mates in the holidays though she doesn’t go out much. I asked if she was going to look at her message. She just said ‘later’ and went back upstairs. She spends a lot more time in her room here but she’ll be fourteen next year. Won’t want to hang out with me at all soon.

9.02pm - Tinned spaghetti thrown at the front door and living room window. I looked out, tried to not let them see me. They shouted ‘Fat Cow’ when they saw me at the window. Then ‘Fucking Fat Bitches’, over and over.

Nothing’s been the same since we had to move. This wouldn’t have happened in Greenacres. There were more places for kids to go round there. That bastard, Dave. I can understand him leaving me but what about her? She’s his daughter and he can’t even phone or send something for her birthday.

9.20pm - They’re in the garden of the empty house. Four of them, two Hegleys, two others. The one with the red jacket.

9.32pm - More pasta and eggs, thrown at the kitchen window. I shut the blind. Shouting but I couldn’t hear what. Loud music on TV.

I’m sure they make the adverts louder. I didn’t want to hear what they were shouting but I’m supposed to write it down.

10.22pm – Tomatoes and cakes. Two of them came through the gate and squashed cakes into the letterbox. ‘Fucking fat bitches’ a few times through the letterbox. 

They could see me standing in the hall. Cake is a new one. I watched it land on the mat. I wanted to do something but didn’t know what. I’ve been told not to speak to them again. Just supposed to stay indoors and write it down.
   It’s three weeks since I went out and told them to leave us alone. They just laughed. I wish I hadn’t said anything. Got worse since. They started throwing the tins. That’s when I called the police. Two days peace we had till they came back.
   I’m sure Dave’s Mum knows his new number. She doesn’t care about her grand daughter. Makes me think of me and Gran and all the times I stayed with her. I wish Jade could’ve had that. It’s been horrible for her recently, starting senior school and having to move to a new one after one term. 
   I’m in bed now. Jade was still on her laptop when I looked in. I told her to switch off and get some sleep.

18th July

8.14pm – They’re out there again, arrived later tonight. Messing about in next door’s garden, pretending to fight with the planks from the fence. Three Hegleys this time, the older brother too. And the one with the red jacket and the little blond one. They were shouting and laughing but I don’t think it was directed at us.

Jade went out early. She was gone all morning. When she came back she said she’d been shopping. I could see from the bags she’d been to Superdrug and Wilkies. I told her I could’ve got whatever she needed from Asda. Your shampoo was on offer, she said. I asked if she wanted the money. She just shrugged and went upstairs. 
   She only came down when I called her for tea. Spaghetti Bolognese. I make it from scratch with carrots and mushrooms, a glug of red wine and lots of garlic. Most people these days buy a jar and just add to the meat but that’s not the same. Jade likes it with lots of cheese melted on top. It seemed to cheer her up. Me too. Even scooping spaghetti and tomatoes up from the doorstep and scraping it off the windows doesn’t put me off.

8.36pm – Eggs – 6 all at once.

I notice they’ve left the box in our hedge.
   We stay in more now. When going out involves getting past at least three boys calling names after you down the street and everyone staring, you tend to do that. Did the supermarket shop at one in the morning last week. I waited till they left, then went out and got a taxi. Bought anything that was on offer and lots of basics and tinned stuff. Not much left of this month’s money but we’re well stocked up.

8.55pm - 9.04pm – Flour, more eggs and beans.

Got to draw the curtains now. I have to crawl on the floor, slowly reach up and hope they don’t notice. Just went and made coffee. Jade’s taken the Jaffa Cakes upstairs again. She was rooting through the junk drawer in the kitchen after tea. What’s she looking for? She received a lot of texts tonight. She never looks happy to get them though. Don’t think she even bothers replying. 
   She was on her laptop most of the evening. I wish she’d stay down here with me. She used to sit downstairs more at the old place. Showed me all the stuff she looked up online for that North Pole project she did before Christmas. She showed me the forum where she was talking about Hollyoaks with someone in Dundee and the photo she put on Facebook. It’s the one Dave took of her in the New Forest last summer. A boiling hot, two-ice-cream day. Her face is all red from sunburn but she looks really happy. She’s wearing that orange tie-dye top. She’s outgrown that now.
   Jade thinks it’s her they’re shouting at. I keep telling her it’s me but we know it’s both of us. I once asked if anyone ever said anything at school and she said no straight away. Maybe it’s different these days. Well, bullying’s talked about more now. That’s the impression I get from television. 
   I went into Jade’s room just now. She slammed the laptop shut. I asked if she was all right. She said ‘fine’ and hugged me goodnight. I thought she’d stopped doing that. I suggested we go out tomorrow. Get the train into town. Go shopping. Put it on the credit card. Treat ourselves for the holidays. Go to the Italian for pizza and a sundae. Even though it isn’t Sunday I said, like we always say. She just shrugged and gave a little half-smile. I said ‘we’ll see in the morning’.

10.03pm - 12 Eggs. Laughing. Usual names - Fat bitches, fat cow, fat pigs, sometimes with ‘fucking’ in front, sometimes without. Went on until …

10.12pm – The older brother turned up in a car, they all piled in and left.

You’d think they could find something better to do. And why is it always animals? Is it such an insult? I like animals. People say ‘chicken’, ‘what a bunch of sheep’ and ‘rat’ as well.
   They’ve probably gone up to Asda to nick some more supplies. Mr. Mistry told me he won’t let them in his shop anymore. I hate having to go out early to clean up. I scoop the food up with the dustpan. The smell of raw eggs and spaghetti mixed together makes me feel sick. I knock it into doubled-up carrier bags and tie them tightly. Bits of shell get stuck in the bristles and I have to wash the brush and pan. Then I fill a bucket with hot water, mop the step, wipe the windows down and polish them. That’s my morning routine these days. Before Jade gets up and before the people next door the other side see.
   I’ve had this idea. Give them a taste of their own medicine. I would get a load of syrup and warm it gently. Not so hot it’ll burn, just enough to make it runny. There’d be buckets of it on the windowsill in my bedroom. I’d take one bucket of the syrup outside earlier, pour a layer on the path and flowerbed. I’d get boxes and boxes of porridge oats and cheap rice krispies and a few pots of those horrible sticky clown’s-nose cherries. Jade loves those. I’d have them ready on the bed behind me. Then I’d wait till they arrive. I’d have to get them to come near the house. I’d pull back the curtains and put the light on. That would make them come over. 
   I’d be ready, waiting for the right moment before opening the window. Their laughter, swearing and jeering stirring up my stomach, spurring me on. As fast as I could, I’d pour the syrup over them. They’d probably start to run away, feet getting stuck on the path. Then I’d get the catapult I’d constructed earlier. I’m not sure how I’d do that. Perhaps I borrowed Jade’s laptop and googled catapults. I’d fill the big plastic bowl with the oats and krispies and fire them out of the window to land on their heads. They’d stick to the syrup in their hair. Then, I’m sure they’d be out of the gate by now, hopefully there’d be enough time to send the clown’s noses after the rest.
   Then it would be me laughing at them. At the window, just laughing at them with helmets of that sticky, oaty, crispy mess setting on their heads. I’d still be laughing later, thinking of all the other kids laughing and then their families laughing when they get home. Imagine having to wash that out! They’d be picking off cherries and pulling clumps of hair-flapjack off their heads. They’d be trying to shower it off with the hot water melting the syrup and soggy cherry porridge collecting in the plughole. They’d have to scoop it out or it would clog up the drains. Hope their dads give them a slap instead of giving me dirty looks whenever I try to suggest they speak to their sons about how rude they are to my daughter.

Of course I wouldn’t do this. The police community support officer would have something to say. Just keep a record, she says. Dates and times. Yes, it’d be me in trouble and I’m sure no one would even notice me saying ‘They started it.’ A childish thing to say, I know. But they did.
   They’ve not been back yet. It’s gone 11 now. I’ve just called Jade to see if she wants a drink. No answer.
   She’s probably listening to her music. I’ll read her my flapjack idea tomorrow.
   I’m quite proud of it. Bet it’ll make her laugh.

Sal has a Creative Writing MA from Lancaster University, won the Calderdale Short Story Prize in 2011 and has stories published in various places, both online and in print, such as Jawbreakers, Greenacre Writers Anthology Volume 1, Stories for Homes and The Pygmy Giant. She’s been placed in several competitions and short listed in many more. She is writing her second novel, Curls, while looking for an agent for her first novel Queen of the World.

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