Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featuring a short story ... IRENE by ZELDA JONES

Like many authors, I like to take the opportunity to promote unpublished writers whenever I can. Writers who with a little encouragement could take that nerve wracking step and go public with their work.

I’m always delighted to read new work that shows a great deal of natural story-telling ability.  Such as the following Short Story … IRENE By ZELDA JONES.


If there was one word in the universe that could be used to describe Irene Meadowbanks perfectly, it would have to be meticulous. Irene's approach to everything in her world, including herself, was meticulous.

Irene lived in a simple, nondescript apartment on the fourth floor at 555 Dominion Drive, Dalloway. From the gleaming white front doorstep to the very farthest reaches of the dwelling, every single surface was pristine and orderly. Not one thing was out of place.  Now, most people hide some sort of disarray behind their various cupboard doors, drawers and underneath beds and stair wells. Not so Irene. Behind every single cupboard door, and within every single drawer, order thrived. Objects were stacked and displayed according to colour, use, and height. Even her underwear was folded into neat little squares; somewhat resembling handkerchiefs. A person could safely eat their dinner from the sparkling kitchen floor, and well as the polished floor boards under the bed.

In each room, there was a box of neatly arranged index cards; detailing the contents of each cupboard and drawer therein; right down to the last cotton bud. Irene did not own a pet. After all, pets were unpredictable, made messes, and demanded attention. Daily, Irene hunted and captured dust bunnies. And trapped them in the garbage bin. One week, her tally had been twenty five. Twenty five! She felt like a champion!

Her daily routine did not vary. She was up at 6 every morning. She went for a brisk 30 minute jog, then had a cup of English Breakfast tea and jam on toast. A quick ten minute shower would follow. She would then put on her "corporate uniform" of a starched and ironed tweedy skirt and jacket, with a crisp white shirt. Her mousy brown hair would go up in a tight bun, with not one hair out of place. She would apply just the barest hint of 
Make-up; a thin layer of foundation, followed by some pale pink lipstick. She then put on her thick black rimmed glasses; which she thought made her look sophisticated. Then she was off to work in her little blue volkswagon.

One might be forgiven for assuming that Irene was middle aged. She was in fact, just 25 years old. Yet, she had always been a very serious and meticulous person. Even as a child, she had always been happy to pack up her toys, and to keep her bedroom in ship shape order. Controlling her environment gave her great satisfaction.

Irene worked in the finance department of Murgatroyd and sons, haberdashers since 1885. She drew great comfort from working with numbers; as numbers were familiar and predictable to her. Her desk was like a shrine to austerity. All papers, forms and other forms of stationary were all nestled neatly in their respective pigeon holes. Her pencils were always sharpened to an exact point, and stood next to each other like straight-backed soldiers.

Irene thrived on strict routine. The only break to her day to day routine was being invited to her neighbour, Millie's flat once a week for a cuppa and a sample of Millie's delectable baking skills. As well as being a superb baker, Millie was also an artist. She actually made a fairly decent living from her paintings. She baked for relaxation, and loved to share her mouth-watering cookies, cakes, slices and pies. Her flat was a mish mash of comfy controlled chaos. Somehow it worked for her. It was an expression of who Millie was.

One Tuesday night, Irene came home to find an interesting looking pink cardboard box, with the word "ENJOY!" written on top, sitting outside her front door. She noticed that Millie's flat was quiet, so she assumed that the box was from her. She carefully carried the box inside, and set it tenderly on the kitchen bench. She then set about making herself a cup of tea; white, with a flattened teaspoon of sugar in it. Then, opening the box, she was assailed by the most heavenly aroma; a mixture of vanilla, caramel, toasted almonds, and something else which she couldn't quite place. Inside the box, sat the most gorgeous little caramel tarts; each enclosed in its own little pink patty pan case. There was also a bottle of thick vanilla custard, and some bottles of food colouring. Irene couldn't work out what these were for, so she put them in her fridge; meaning to hand them back to Millie later on. 

Sitting down at the table with a sigh of relief, Irene sipped her tea thoughtfully, while tucking into the delectable looking little tarts. Mmmm, they tasted heavenly; like nothing that Irene had ever tasted before. Before she knew it, she had scoffed four of them. Licking her lips contentedly, and feeling a bit like Winnie the Pooh after gorging himself on the finest honey, she slowly made her way to the couch; thinking that she would have a little nap before dinner …

Irene had the weirdest dream. She dreamed that she was covered in pink, blue and purple custard, and that she was a large snake, slithering through some thick grass on a warm, sun freckled day. As she slithered around, she became a glowing, phosphorescent rainbow snake. Then, there was a vast, black nothing …

Irene awoke to darkness. It seemed like the day had, for once, gone on without her. Switching on the light, she was assailed by a scene of complete and utter chaos. Her lounge room looked like a bomb had hit it. She blinked her eyes open and shut a few times with confusion. Whaaa? Had she been burgled? Had the burglar perhaps hit her over the head? Explaining last night's and today's lost hours. 

Then she looked over at the phone. The answering machine was blinking with 20 new messages. This was unheard of in Irene's well-structured life. She usually managed to answer her phone the moment it rang. As she listened to each message, her eyes widened with shock. Each message said basically the same thing: that they just loved the pics of her artwork which Irene had posted on her facebook wall. With trembling hands, Irene fired up her lap top, and signed into facebook. There, in technicolor, was at least a dozen pics of Irene dancing and rolling around like a sensuous snake on her prized rug, in pink, blue and purple custard. Plus, there were a couple of pics of the rug on its own; actually resembling a Pro Hart masterpiece. 

Just then, there was a knock on the door. Millie was standing there, looking a little sheepish. She took one look at Irene, and gulped. "Oh dear … um ... er ...  I think I might have accidentally left a box on your doorstep that was meant for someone else." Irene also gulped. "Oh my, I'm so sorry, Millie. Who were they meant for?" Millie, by now fully taking in Irene's comical state of disarray, and trying to keep a straight face, stammered, "Jjjjungle Jjjjim from flat 10." Irene, her hair sticking out every which way in dried custard dreadlocks, meekly asked, "Do you think you could make me some too the next time you bake a batch? I seem to have developed a creative bent from eating them." 

That was it; Millie just could not keep a straight face any longer. Loud, hearty laughter bellowed from her mouth, as she grabbed Irene in a dried custard embrace. Irene started guffawing like a manic donkey. Tears of merriment streamed from her eyes. They were unaware of Jungle Jim filming the lot on his iphone, or of his intentions to load the film clip to youtube at the first opportunity.

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