As with all my scripts, most locations are real and come ready mapped © evvy
Mabel Shakeshaft viewed her face in the mirror and where she saw nowt special, imaginatives may have noticed ears modelled on the delicate labyrinths of faerest faeries and a nose in fair harmony—except for that knobbly bit on the end, which tugged it to one side as if a buzzy-bug was stuck therein and fairly trying to exit stage left.
Years ago her dad, who delivered a fine line in airy-fairy nonsense, told Mabel her knobbly nose was a test-prototype, designed by a muddled magician for poking into keyholes and sniffing around corners. But before the magic circle could put the nose into production, the magician-in-chief pointed out that the modifications were practical for little more than what a nose already did, unless they fashioned a key on the end of it. The design was shelved and her nose remains a one-off to this day.
By contrast, her eyes were big and blue and welcoming, like cool pools on a hot summer’s day. Once, when caught by her own reflection, Mabel thought the cool pools tried to entice her in to the mirror, only to impale her on the sharp end of a useless keyhole poker.
Mmm. Her nose might serve better as a fake shark’s fin, to keep unwelcome fools from diving in to the shallows and depths of cool pools.
Mabel’s pools were hedged by dark, bushy brows that would’ve been good only for plucking for flightier girlies in their quest for ‘likes’. Yet they would’ve bid handsomely to own her curly lashes, which were just long enough to be fashionably fake.
She brushed long, unruly weeds into something of their original unruly shape, which helped settle the ill mood in her reflection. Mabel had just spent an hour ranting around the school football pitch, trying to marshal a bunch of reluctant girls into a football team—with a defence, a midfield and an attack—and the competitive spirit in the mirror confirmed her failure (they’d lost 7-1).
Would she have been as determined never to play for the team again, if at that moment she knew she wouldn’t? Mabel stuffed school clothes into her back-pack before bidding team mates the gruff farewell that was her last.
Grandma Shakeshaft drove an old blue van that had belonged to her late husband and on Fridays she went into the centre of Bulton, to pick up bits, bobs and other bargains. On her way out of a busy supermarket, she stopped beside large automatic doors to let a cluster of shoppers shove in from a downpour.
‘If this global raining keeps up, we’ll need old Noah to build us another ark’, chirped one of the ladies as she shook water from her umbrella.
Responding to intensified drizzle, Edith Shakeshaft put down her shopping bag, pulled rain cap from pocket and shaped it around her newly permed-and-set white cotton top. Her ‘pensioner’s special’ hair-do had cost £7-50, so she didn’t want it ruined. When she’d fortified her investment, Grandma Shakeshaft stepped towards the rain.
‘Gerrout the road!’.
A scarpering shoplifter shoulder-charged Edith out of his path.
Thud! Edith’s head bounced off the sharp edge of the door surround and she dropped in the doorway like a rag doll. Adding woe to injury, the pursuing security guard couldn’t halt his forward momentum—attempting to hurdle clear of her slumped form, he knee-capped Granny full on the temple which fully flattened her to the floor.
Concerned hands helped Granny into a sitting position. Seeing blood, one lady knelt down, gently took off Edith’s rain cap and inspected the source. She was joined by a girl from checkouts with a packet of antiseptic wipes and together they cleaned the wound.
‘It doesn’t look too bad. Probably won’t even need stitches,’ Granny was informed by a relieved checkout girl.
Granny was neither relieved nor informed. Just confused.
The security man was secretly glad of an excuse not to go galloping down Lancashire Lane in pursuit of younger legs and lungs.
‘I’m sorry about that, love. I was going at such a pace I couldn’t stop myself. Are you okay?’, he asked.
Granny slowly shifted eyes towards him.
‘Oh…kay? I’m…’, and this was the best reply she was able to find, to this and all further questions, including who she was and where she was from.
Mabel had lived with her grandma since Social Services took her from an alcoholic mother at the age of three. As her dad was in prison and not due out any time soon, Mabel’s paternal Gran and Grandad lovingly embraced the child’s upbringing, but Grandad died just as Mabel was becoming familiar with the old sailor’s gentle nature and his incessant night-time cough.
Mabel’s mother would turn up periodically and make tearful (drunken) doorstep resolutions to change ‘for the sake of my baby girl’. But, apart from a two week stretch of sobriety when in hospital, and a run of five consecutive visits to Alcoholics Anonymous when she came out, these tearful sound bytes were the pinnacle of her mother’s resolve.
In the main, Mabel’s mother did what she’d done habitually since her troubled youth, which was ‘drink with the best of ’em’. Not even the mother-child bond could wrench her from the addiction and the way of life it fostered. But the pain of deserting her child would not be buried, and the more addicted to drink she became, the greater were the lies she plied both herself and others with, in vain attempts to blot the indelible.
Normally, Mabel walked home from school with three kids from her estate. But her neighbours had been dropped from St. Teresa’s Junior Girls team (for being too aggressive), so today she trudged alone in muddy football kit, scoring goals aplenty with cans and stones and to the roar of an imaginary crowd.
Outside their home, Mabel noticed a naked patch of tarmac where Gran’s blue van usually rested.
‘You home Gran?’ she shouted through opened door. No answer.
She porched her footie boots and went to see if Gran was resting her eyes upstairs. Nope. Mabel bounced back down, into the kitchen, opened the fridge and poured some milk. She took out her novel and shifted thoughts between book and tick-tock of hallway clock, as it tippy-toed tirelessly in circles of time.
First, the little finger bypassed her Gran’s home time… and ticked on until it had passed Mabel’s bed time. Only when darkness closed the day did Mabel accept that things were not as they should be. But Mabel had looked into the eye of many a storm and wasn’t afraid of another dark night alone: She would wait one more hour.
The supermarket’s medical team concluded the cut on Gran’s head was not serious and they did stem the flow of blood. More of a worry was the old lady’s awareness, as she didn’t know where she was and still couldn’t tell of her name.
‘I’m Mabel’s Grandma,’ was the only description she gave.
A policewoman now at the scene scanned the old lady’s shopping bag for identification. But the opportunistic thief had snatched Gran’s handbag in passing, and with it went purse, van keys and personals.
The officer called for an ambulance and late Friday afternoon Gran was delivered to Accident and Emergency at Royal Hospital. By 3 am, Friday Night Frenzy had splattered the place with young blood and Gran was still sidelined in a wheelchair awaiting a bed. Fifteen minutes later, Gran picked up her shopping bag and parted a mob of drugged youths and drunken adults who were waiting for staff to tend bloodied fury.
As she stepped hesitantly into this field hospital for domestic and urban battles, Grandma Shakeshaft’s gentle pause to look for the exit infected the frenzy. Babel fell shush, Edith’s ‘pensioner’s special’ drew glazed gazes, and the eyes of a vast minority turned briefly in upon its own condition, before falling away in briefer shame.
A few eyes staggered after Gran’s slight frame, as she set out for the home she instinctively knew existed, though the familiars of which her mind no longer recollected.
Her fluffy head was spotted shuffling out of the doors by hospital staff and a male nurse went to fetch her. Seemingly infected by the unruly A&E mood, Grandma put up a struggle and plainly didn’t want to ‘come back inside’.
Two Friday Night Heroes came to her rescue and a minor scuffle broke out.
Policemen in a Tactical Aid Unit had been watching the incident develop through the windows of their transport, and they reluctantly left the van to attempt the futile task of calming a pack of drunks. As foreseen by the Sergeant, a minor scuffle escalated into a major brawl, and minor cuts turned into two major operations, to rebuild bones shattered with a stiff truncheon and a malignant right boot.
In the melee, Gran made a more successful escape, only to be found wandering the streets by a police patrol car, with the key to her front door poking out from anxious fingers. Gran resisted all attempts to return her to the hospital and by the time she was back in the charge of medical staff, the old lady was agitated and had a mind only for escape.
In light of changed behaviour, she was taken to the secure Z2 ward, which was for old people with Dementia and related mental health problems. Twenty four hours earlier the mere mention of such a place would’ve horrified Gran—how swiftly lives do change.
Mabel shivered awake on the settee, still in football kit and wrapped in grandma’s crocheted shawl. It was now Saturday morning, so Mabel couldn’t go to her teacher for help, and her friend’s parents were not the sort of people to phone the police, even though some were on first name terms with local officers. Anyhow, unless they’d stayed up all night they’d still be asleep, so Mabel decided to knock-on Aunty Doreen’s, next door.
Aunty Doh wasn’t her real aunt, but had earned the title through being Gran’s lifelong neighbour. The old lady was an habitual early riser so there was no chance of spoiling a weekend lie-in.
‘What’s got you up at this hour of a Saturday? Been playing footie all night? Or have you peed the bed?’ teased her unreal aunt.
The girl didn’t smile. Mmm. Doreen led her through to orange juice and toasted crumpets.
‘Edith loves you too much to leave you alone for a minute longer than is a necessity, so there’s a good chance this is serious’, the old lady stated with measured gravity, thus steadying the child against the unknown without fostering fear of it.
‘And if it is, it’s already writ and cannot be unwrit. But let’s be hopeful, eh? We’ll face whatever awaits with as much strength and goodness as we can muster’, advised Aunty Doreen from the privileged perch of her eighty five years.
Although she’d seldom travelled far from the armchair in which she now sat, mileage rarely translates into depth and her life experience transcended mere surface.
Aunty Doreen slippered over to the telephone and called the police. She explained the situation to the relevant officer and was heard giving a detailed description of her neighbour’s probable dress, down to the colour of coat and shopping bag.
Would he please check accidents and incidents involving an elderly woman in the Fernworh and Bulton area?
Yes of course. He’d call back soon.
Aunty slo-mo’d back to her armchair and the two of them sat in wait.
‘We don’t have a name, but we do have a lady fitting your description’, were the encouraging first words of the duty officer when the call finally came. He also said it would do the police a service if someone could go along to the hospital and identify her.
This lazy utterance spun Aunty Doreen into palpitations, imagining her friend now laid cold on a mortuary slab. Aunty Doh’s horror must’ve reverberated the length of the phone line because the policeman quickly added that the lady in question hadn’t died—she’d suffered some form of memory loss, and they were keen to discover who she was.