Tea for two

By Chris Clark

“Fred, your tea’s nearly ready.”

Even before I retired, I would always potter about down there, amongst the coffee jars stuffed with never-know-when-you-might-them-bits-n-bobs. Orphaned screws and rusty nails; redundant flat pack fittings and patchwork plant pots that sat patiently waiting for new tenants. Jack and Sally’s bikes are hung up, the tyres flat; the last gasp of air long since left home. A wooden saw perches above the wonky door – Maggie had it made for me for when I retired.

“You may as well move in down there,” she said as she handed it to me. The words “Fred’s Shed” had been carved into it.

“Fred, your tea is on the table and getting cold!”

I had my shed; Maggie had her knitting. I’d never known anyone knit so much. Even my mother with five backs to clothe never knit as much as Maggie. Constantly, click click bloody click, Emmerdale, Coronation St, Eastenders, they all came and went but the clicking never stopped.

Betty’s daughter’s friend’s sister’s brother’s cousin has just had a baby, and up start the knitting needles. Before you could say knit one, pearl one, another proud parent would be pushing a pair of Maggie’s booties around town.

“Fred, will you come in from that BLOODY shed?”

She tried to teach me one Sunday afternoon, I don’t know why, I think I must have had a few too many down the Legion.

“Loop this here.”

“Slide this round here.”

“Take that needle over this one.”

“And don’t forget to count your stitches.”

It was too much for my factory fingers to remember. Same with the time she persuaded to go salsa dancing. I couldn’t show my face down the Legion for weeks. Even now, when I ask for my rum they say, “Are you sure it’s not a rum-ba you’re after, Fred?”

“Fred, it’s John West and chips, come on, it’s getting cold, love.”

I could never resist that half-pleading voice, it made her sound so vulnerable, made me want to wrap her in my arms and keep her safe. Saturday tea was always tinned salmon and crinkle cut chips.

Jack and Sally had left to sit down with their own Jack and Sallys a long time ago, yet Maggie always kept four place mats set out. The place mats from our first family holiday to Blackpool, identical sepia-tinged scenes of Blackpool Tower.

Sitting down to the John West and chips, it was the Tower my plate masked that punctured my stomach. It had been three years to the day since Maggie’s clicking needles had been laid to rest. Three years since my family of four, that became two for tea, had now become a meal for one.

Chris Clark has never had any of his writing published before and still dreams of saving the winning penalty for Man Utd in the F.A Cup final. He’s never had a Blue Peter Badge or a drawing exhibited in Tony Harts Gallery. He loves Clarks desert boots, Vespa Scooters, wheat-beer, brick red coloured cups of tea, and his wife’s Sunday Dinners.

  1. #1 by Rebecca Stonehill on April 2, 2009 - 8:15 am

    This was great Chris, I’m surprised you’ve never had any of your work published before. A deceptively simple tale with a great deal packed in to few words. There were some great turns of phrase eg oprhaned screws and some great detail which make it stand out eg tinned salmon and crinkle cut chips, not just chips!
    A suggestion – the first sentence of the final para I found confusing and had to re-read a few times before I got what you meant. Perhaps it’s just me, but that halted the flow for me.

  2. #2 by Catherine Cable on April 2, 2009 - 12:38 pm

    Fantastic Chris.

    Well done matey. It is a brilliant story – well deserving of publishing.

  3. #3 by Matt |Clark on April 5, 2009 - 8:16 am

    Excellent first time story Chris.
    Funny and sad, yet very true to life. Look forward to the next offering……….

  4. #4 by nicola clark on April 6, 2009 - 11:08 pm

    All i can say is amazing and this is just the start for you chris i am so proud of you .

  5. #5 by Amanda Clark on April 8, 2009 - 7:45 pm

    Crinkle cut chips. Grandma B’s were the best! x

    Well done Bud, a touching tale. x

  6. #6 by chris. on April 19, 2009 - 10:07 pm

    cheers family x

  7. #7 by Mark Brown on April 21, 2009 - 12:48 pm

    Really enjoyed that Chris, a slice of humanity, makes me think of our own mortality or more to the point the mortality of Loved one’s, the way we keep things around that remind us of people gone by, habits we form and rituals we practice to keep more than just a memory alive.
    Looking forward to more Leyland Penmanship.

  8. #8 by Lisa Grant on April 21, 2009 - 1:53 pm

    Wonderful short story, very haunting with a rhythym that captures you and draws you in. The ending’s twist of tense was surprising and poignant. Very well written insight into one man’s very human path of life…complete with the grumbles but also the deep love of a life shared. You packed alot of information into this short…I wish you all the luck in your writings and look forward to reading more.

  9. #9 by jacqueline thomson on April 21, 2009 - 2:17 pm

    Was asked to read this by my big mate mark. The story is lovely and provoked thought. It reminds us that time dosent stand still and that as much as we try to hold onto time it goes. We all have keepsakes that helps us hold that time even if just for a split second to reminise. you have a lovely way of expressing your story and could identify with everything you wrote.
    Time is precious…..grab it , live it and enjoy it.


  10. #10 by chris. on April 22, 2009 - 8:20 pm

    Well as i have always told you, you have a great talent and i am so proud of my wonderful hubby and that everyone else can finally have the chance to see it!! Now we all wait to see your next fantastic piece of writing… All my love your wife xxxx

  11. #11 by cb on April 24, 2009 - 9:51 am

    nice little story that, very very illustrative – love the shed especially. Remember sheds like that growing up, mine is only a 6 x 4 but has many of those features you so evocatively describe.

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