Sunday, 5 June 2011
The theme of this year's 500-word Commonwealth Short Story Competition was 'Women as Agents of Change'. Here's my entry - since I didn't win!
Angela Downie looked out from the rooftop Widow's Walk and noted one of her residents Ronnie catching the surf already. Not bad for 82, she thought, patting her spaniel Oscar. She went into the sun room where another resident Betty was reading and made herself a cup of tea. Oscar bounded over to Betty for a tummy tickle. After tea, Angela embarked on her morning round of greeting the residents, making sure they and the staff had everything they needed, ending up in everyone's favourite place, the petting zoo at the end of the garden, which never needed the slightest intervention from Angela bar the odd vets' bill as the residents looked after the animals as if they were their own children, even those who had professed to be less than keen when the first goat appeared.
This morning, the female residents were gathered excitedly in the lounge awaiting the makeover lady, prized for her independent make-up, hair and fashion advice. Lois touched her arm 'I wish I'd known all this forty years ago you know.' 'Tell me about it' said Angela. 'I didn't realise I'd been wearing the wrong type of foundation and the wrong bra size for years either. Who needs surgery when you know the tricks of the trade?' 'Well we've got the facelifting exercise lady on Thursday' replied Lois 'Ah, so we have.' said Angela 'I shall look forward to that'.
When she established 'Renaissance', Angela had intended to remain a business auditor, appointing a professional management team to run the community. Instead she quickly found herself becoming so bound up in the lives of the residents and her ambitions for them that she had ended up selling her consultancy to focus full-time on her new genre of elderly living which, whilst unlikely to make her a millionairess, paid for itself by a comfortable margin, and inestimably in job satisfaction.
Those long fruitless years of trying to have children with her former husband seemed so far away now. Irrelevant almost. However it was her elderly father Graham's death in an NHS hospital, following the most horrendous ordeal after a routine hip replacement turned infected which led to Angela deciding that if she could save just one elderly person from a lonely end in an anonymous hospital or care home at the hands of abusive or indifferent staff whose idea of withdrawing treatment included 'food and liquids', then her maternal instincts might still have a role.
A national newspaper invitation to form an active and interested 'family' of older citizens in a former Victorian hotel by the sea for no more than standard care home fees had attracted more interest than she dreamed and it took many months of sifting to establish which applicants were most likely and willing to embrace Angela's ideas for living life to the full to the end. She felt bad about those who hadn't made the final interview, but took the pragmatic view that if the blueprint worked, she would in due course franchise it so that many more had the opportunity.
She smiled as she took a photo of Brian and helped him with his match.com profile. 'Be honest now.' She winked. 'Women can't stand liars. Take it from one who knows'.
She went down to the basement cinema to set up for film night, Oscar trotting behind. Tony Hancock's The Rebel had won the hat pick. Jack and Sylvia waved from the gym 'You've only got two and a half hours until the circle dancing' Angela joked, poking her head round the door. Jack and Sylvia chuckled.
©LS King 2011