Every Penny Counts

by Cath Barton

It was still raining. It always rained in Wales. That’s what English people liked to say, usually followed by “ha! ha!” As if it didn’t rain in England. And anyway, it didn’t always rain in Wales. Though it had done at St Fagan’s, every time she’d been there.

They had taken refuge on plastic seats under an awning erected for the following weekend’s Food Festival. Thank goodness they wouldn’t be here then. Soggy sausages in the rain. Ugh. Amidst crowds of people with screaming kids. No kids at all here today, thank God for small mercies. The schools had only just gone back, and it was a mite too soon for any outings.

So it was just the two of them, Roger and Myra, traipsing round together, getting muddy feet and bad tempers. If only the dog hadn’t died. He’d always been a moderating influence, old Samson, but as bad luck would have it he’d keeled over two days before the holiday and was now chasing cats up in heaven. Dog heaven, where the streets are lined with bones. Dear old Samson, she did miss his damp nose nuzzling her hand. She thought Roger missed him too, though no way would she get him to admit it. Sodding stiff upper lip.

A man was approaching twirling a big black and white umbrella and whistling tunelessly. Probably a coach driver. “He’s probably a coach driver,” said Roger.

“I expect you’re right.” Why did they have nothing to say to one another anymore? Time was…

“Shall we go and have a cup of tea?” Myra asked him.

“What for? We had one an hour ago. We’re not made of money.”

She never used to think of Roger as mean. Maybe he hadn’t been, in the old days. But now he counted every penny. “Every penny counts,” he’d say.

“Not to youngsters it doesn’t,” she’d reply, to rile him. “They throw pennies away.”

“If I ever caught one doing that I’d tan him.”

It was, of course, all talk. Roger was scared of teenagers. Just as well they didn’t have any kids of their own, or they’d be running rings round them and life would be Even Worse.

So they sat there, under the awning, not talking. A few bedraggled people trickled past. The rain continued to fall.

Eventually closing time came. They zipped up their coats, put up their hoods and toiled off towards the exit.

“Why didn’t I take that Mark from the off-licence up on his offer?” thought Myra. But she hadn’t and now it was too late. She’d just have to stick out the remainder of a wet week in Wales with Roger, with him counting the pennies and her counting the hours.

Cath Barton lives in Wales, where it does rain a fair bit. But definitely not always.

*The Pygmy Giant is celebrating National Short Story Week – more tomorrow!*

  1. #1 by S de Assaf on November 23, 2010 - 8:09 am

    Lovely story, really enjoyed it, so much told in a few carefully chosen words. Almost felt the rain trickling down the back of my neck!

  2. #2 by Sandra Davies on November 23, 2010 - 8:40 am

    Doomed, doomed!! – this sounded like a long-married couple to begin with, too-long and jaded, but then the mention of Mark at the off-licence changed the emphasis (unless he’s a recently-emerged possibility) ‘Traipsed’ is a good evocative word, and ‘toiled’ and ‘bedraggled’, and the final sentence sounds like hell!

  3. #3 by Leah on November 23, 2010 - 1:43 pm

    Could feel the damp and quiet dread. Glad I wasn’t there…..

  4. #4 by Jennifer walmsley on November 23, 2010 - 4:25 pm

    Good story about a couple growing apart. It seemed the dog kept her going. I love visiting St Fagan’s so this had a particular appeal for me. Imagine the couple to be in their late fifties/early sixties. I can see them and feel for her.

    So poignant at the end, him counting the pennies, her counting the hours. What a waste of life for her!!

  5. #5 by Judy Adamson on November 28, 2010 - 1:34 pm

    You’ve described a scenario that would surely ring bells with a lot of people if they read your story, Cath. Him counting the pennies and her counting the hours is a clever kind of paradox when they’re both wasting their lives!

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