Trying my hand at a slightly different writing style this week as my year-long short story challenge rolls on.
Here for the first time? I’m trying my hand at a short story writing challenge, one per week for a year.
If you want to catch up, you can read every short story here.
This isn’t my first short story rodeo. It’s a repeat of a challenge I did a few years back which led to an entire collection of short stories, which you can buy as an eBook:
Want something notably different and considerably longer? There’s also my B-movie novel, Sharksplosion. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d think a book with that title might be like.
Enough of the eBook plugging, Alex.
Well, I made it here to London, at last!
The flight over was terrible, frankly.
The airline sat me next to this incredibly noisy woman who snored within seconds of falling asleep every single time, which meant I didn’t really get much sleep.
The inflight movie was fine the first time, but it was the only movie they had, and it got dull quick.
I mean, it was a super cheap flight, and I shouldn’t complain, but it just seemed to take forever.
Remember that time we drove over to Perth in your Dad’s old ute? Like that… but somehow even less exciting.
But eventually it was over, and we landed in cold, dull Heathrow. Steven was there to meet me from the plane, and I’ll be staying at his place for a while, sleeping on his sofa.
The envelope should have my return address on it, but just in case, for now, I’m at
12 Coleherne Road
London SW10 9BW
Aren’t British postcodes weird? Hope to hear from you soon!
Sorry for the slow reply — it’s been a bit hectic here of late, thanks to the terrible weather we’ve been having.
I should have expected that, moving to the UK. But while we joke about whinging poms, nobody ever really talks about just how grim and wet it can be.
Last Tuesday night there was an incredible storm, more rain than I think I’ve ever seen in my life, and at about 3am, I was asleep on the sofa in the living room when the ceiling partially caved in.
Steven’s room was flooded instantly. Thankfully he was OK — just shocked and a little damp — and we could get most of his stuff out of the room safely.
But it means that we’ve had to move on, because the landlord’s got to arrange fixing up the roof and recarpeting and repainting and a bunch of other stuff too.
The landlord’s a weird guy, from one of those strange little European countries, I think, and he asked me if I knew any tradespeople who could do the work.
I instantly thought of your dad, and joked that I did, but he was halfway around the planet. I don’t think the landlord saw the funny side of that.
Anyway, right now Steven and I are basically camping out on sleeping bags in the kitchen of one of his work friends for a few days. He’s called Trevor — seems a little odd, but beggars can’t be choosers, you know?
I won’t trouble you with the address — it’s in Acton, bit further out — because I don’t think we’ll be here all that long.
I’ll send this airmail, just so you don’t send any replies to the old place, and let you know as soon as I can where we end up. It’s certainly never dull here — not like back home!
I’ve got to go, as I need to start chasing down some work to keep me in money. Everything is so expensive here!
I hope you get this letter after the last one I sent, otherwise it’s not going to make a whole lot of sense.
But I ended up moving out of Trevor’s place pretty quickly. Trevor was Steven’s work friend, I think I mentioned that in the last letter.
Turns out Trevor was a total sleaze. Kept peering down my top, “accidentally” walking in on me while I was showering — you know the type.
I told Steven, and he confronted him about it… and we were out that day. Trevor tried to claim that I’d led him on, invited him into the bathroom for a look, total lying scumbag.
Steven said he understood, but it’s apparently caused some ructions at his workplace too, so he’s not too happy with me right now. As if it was my fault his work “friend” was a pervert!
Luckily, I managed to get some work, with accommodation thrown in, working at a local pub. Yeah, I know, Aussie Girl comes to london, ends up as a barmaid, it’s a bit of a cliche, isn’t it?
The good thing is that the pub has a spare room that it used to rent out, and the pub manager — Kylie, really nice lady, short and incredibly strong — said that I could move in there as long as I was happy to work most nights.
There’s only a few of us here, it’s a small and old place, mostly just me and Kylie behind the bar and this huge bloke, Simon who does the bouncing and helps with the cleaning after hours.
Long days for sure, but at least there’s a roof over my head for now, and I can save up a bit to get somewhere a bit nicer a few months down the track.
But for now, if you want to send me a reply, address it to:
The Lamb & Flag
73 Churchfield Road
London W3 6AX
London postcodes continue to baffle me.
It was such a lovely surprise to get your letter today! Thanks so much for filling me in on what the old gang has been up to!
I’m not at all surprised that Rebecca is pregnant — or that, as you say, she’s not exactly sure who the father might be. I remember what she was like, always hanging off the arm of a different boy every night.
Sad to hear about Derek. Hopefully he’ll recover soon. My cousin Simon — I don’t think you ever met him, they live over near Dubbo — had the same thing happen to him, and it only took him a couple of months before he was back on his feet.
I got a real surprise the other night, because Mum rang the pub.
Really, she did! Must have been the middle of the night, and it must have cost her a fortune, but it was so nice to hear her voice after all these months.
We didn’t talk for long, because she didn’t know that I was just about getting ready for the evening rush, and it was going to cost so much, but it was lovely anyway.
She’s doing fine, still working at the hospital, and apparently Dad’s had an offer to sell the business, which will be good for him and Mum. They deserve a nest egg for all the hard work they’ve put in over the years.
But you probably know all that anyway. For all I know, Dad might have sold and you’d hear about it down at the club ages before this letter actually reaches you.
The work here is mostly fine, but a little dull, and it doesn’t afford me much time to get out and see the sights or explore Europe like I’d planned.
Still, that also means I’m not spending anywhere near as much as I used to, and it’s a little cheaper here anyway, because the supermarkets aren’t quite as fancy as they were at the old place.
Got to get on — Kylie tells me that there’s a delivery from the brewery to handle.
Not that I’m lifting kegs or anything, but she likes me to do the paperwork to make sure they’re not stuffing around with the orders or anything.
Kylie’s your lady if there’s a keg needs lifting, but she’s always behind on the paperwork and hates being ripped off.
I must tell you about what happened the other night here at the pub.
It was a pretty boring Wednesday night, because they always are mid-week. The pub quiz brings in a few regulars on Tuesday night, but Wednesdays are just regular nights, usually pretty quiet.
Anyway, we’d had the evening dinner rush over and done with, and Kylie was in the back loading the dishwasher while I was running the bar.
The regulars are dead easy to handle, nearly always a half pint of the same bitter every single time. I swear, we probably sell more bitter here than anything else a dozen times over.
They always try to get me to “try a pint, love”, but I can’t stand the stuff.
Anyway, there I was, tending bar, and a group of business types came in. Nothing special, I thought, until I realised something.
Steven’s old work “friend” Trevor was amongst them. He looked a little different, having shaved off his beard, but it was definitely him.
Steven told me that he’d left the place they were both working together under quite the scandal.
Turns out I wasn’t the only one he was perving on, and after a few of the ladies in the office complained about him, they found a camera in his desk drawer and a photo album he had of shots taken in the ladies’ bathroom.
Some men are just disgusting!
Anyway, there he was, in the creepy flesh, at my workplace for once. Made my back shiver, just seeing him.
Anyway, I went and told Kylie, because I was really worried that he might start something.
A man like that with a few beers in him, you never know, and I’d mentioned him before to Kylie.
She said to keep an eye on him, but if anything happened to use the silent buzzer under the counter to call for her right away.
One of the other business types with Trevor, total Kensington sleaze type too, you really do learn to spot them, came up and ordered from me, which was a relief.
Five shots and five beers, and they were the fastest and worst pints I’ve ever poured here, let me tell you, because my nerves were jangling.
Jangling so much that I may have “accidentally” poured a little of the pickled egg juice into one of the pints.
Who knows how these things happen?
I was praying that Trevor would end up with that pint, somehow.
He only bloody well did!
Took a big greedy gulp and then spat it out across the face of two of his work colleagues, who did not look happy. The others all started laughing at him, telling him he couldn’t hold his beer.
He went red in the face and shouted that it was a bad pint, must be the pub’s fault. They all sipped at theirs, said theirs were fine.
So of course Trevor grabbed what was left of his pint, came up to the bar, and that’s when he spotted me.
I’d already thumped the silent buzzer a couple of times by then.
“You!” he said. “You… whore! You did something to my pint! I DEMAND to speak to the manager!”
I played innocent, like I didn’t recognise him.
“Oh, I’m sorry sir, the manager you say? Here she comes.”
Kylie comes out, looks at me, looks at Trevor.
“Yes, sir, what seems to be the problem.”
“You’re the manager? No, I didn’t want another barmaid, I wanted the manager, love. THE MANAGER.” said Trevor
“I am the manager, sir. Please lower your voice. Now, what is the problem, exactly?” said Kylie.
“The problem? THE PROBLEM??” Trevor shouted.
“The problem is that this slut of a bartender of yours has poisoned my pint. She’s got it in for me ever since I wouldn’t sleep with her, because she’s basically a whore, and…”
“Sir, I’ll thank you not to refer to my staff in that way. Now, as to the pint, could you pass it here please?”
Trevor hands the pint over, and Kylie peers into it.
I’m nervous now, because Kylie knows her beers.
I’m sure she can see that there’s something not right about it.
“Just got to hold it up to the light, sir. I’m sure you know that’s a good way to check that the barrel hasn’t gone.”
Trevor nodded, and Kylie turned around to the lights above the pub optics.
Trevor of course hasn’t changed, and I could see his eyes track up and down Kylie’s body. Total perve.
Kylie peered at the pint, and then winked at me, so that Trevor couldn’t see.
“Looks perfectly fine to me, sir. Are you sure you haven’t had too many today?”
“Perfectly fine? PERFECTLY FINE? IT’S TOTALLY OFF! ARE YOU SOME KIND OF IDIOT? TAKE A TASTE AND YOU’LL SEE — YOU’LL SEE!”
“Sir, you’re disturbing my other patrons” said Kylie. “But certainly, I’ll see if there’s anything wrong with it, if you’ll permit me a sip.”
So she takes a sip, and totally without blinking or giving the game away, she finishes and tells him “That pint is fine, sir. I think you’ve had too many today.”
“WHAT? THIS IS BLOODY OUTRAGEOUS! YOU’RE BOTH JUST A PAIR OF BLOODY INCOMPETENT WHORES!”
“Right, that’s it. Simon, can you chuck this one out… You’re barred! Don’t come back!”
Simon’s not a small bloke, and Trevor sees him coming and let me tell you, he gets to running, his tiny tail between his legs.
Trevor’s friends — maybe his new workplace, no idea — finished their pints sharpish and left quietly.
I was dreading what might happen after last orders, because I knew that Kylie knew that pint wasn’t right.
So we finished up, and while I was cleaning up, she came over to me to have a chat.
“So, Hannah, about that pint…” she said.
This was it, I figured. Out on my arse, another job lost and a place to live, right in the middle of winter.
“Next time you’re going to spoil a pint, don’t use the pickle egg juice. Use the little bottle of contact lens cleaner I keep under the bar.
Spoils the taste just the same, but also gives them the running shits for about three days afterwards.”
I love this job.