Photo Source: PxHere
“Help! Murder!” Margaret boomed.
The supermarket tills stopped beeping. An eerie silence descended.
One face peeked around a display cabinet full of cut-price biscuits. The deputy manager’s lips protruded like a gasping goldfish.
“You took your time,” Margaret declared, “I could’ve been hacked to pieces right here. How would that look in your staff magazine? Never mind, false alarm. Go back to sleep.”
Margaret passed through the automatic doors. Outside, she grasped the handle of a shopping trolley filled with bulging bin liners. She ignored the store window covered with colourful posters advertising bargains. Her stomach still rumbled, but she had no money.
In a fire exit alcove, she noticed pieces of cardboard and sleeping bags used by rough sleepers. Nothing worth having there, she thought.
Margaret was wrapped in shirts, jumpers and a grey coat over a long black skirt. Her hand, in a fingerless blue mitten, reached up to push away the khaki hat flopping around her unwashed face.
From dawn to dusk, through England’s suburbs, she searched.
Margaret shuffled into a pedestrianised shopping centre.
Two teenage boys were sitting on a bench, finishing coffees. One bowled his cup like a cricket ball, which bounced off her leg.
“Don’t do that, I mean no harm,” Margaret complained.
“You should be locked up,” one boy retorted.
“No, I shouldn’t. That’s how Hitler started.”
The boys laughed.
“Don’t laugh at me. I can still do everything I could do when I was twenty-one.”
Margaret squatted on her haunches then sprang up, curling her arm overhead with a balletic flourish.
From her trolley, she extracted a bottle and took a swig, as a middle-aged couple approached.
“Look, Gerald. Where did she get the money from? That’s what I’d like to know.”
“It’s communion wine. I need it more than they do,” Margaret countered.
“Gerald, she must have stolen that bottle. From a church! Should we call the police?”
“No, leave her alone. She’ll find a warm place to sleep it off.”
Two uniformed figures appeared in the distance. That was Margaret’s cue to leave.
Taking the road leading out of town, Margaret passed a hospital. Two nurses were leaving.
“Afternoon, girls. Has this place got a mortuary?”
Wide-eyed, the nurses looked at each other.
“Huh! Not exactly optimists, are they?” Margaret scoffed.
“Go in, if you’re feeling poorly. They’ll look after you.”
The nurses walked away, giggling.
Margaret continued walking for another twenty minutes, until she came to a familiar street sign.
She wheeled her trolley up a sloping driveway and stopped at the side-door of a large bungalow.
Margaret removed her hat and coat and dropped them onto the trolley. In her trouser pocket, she found a key and looked in both directions. No one was around.
She opened the door, stood on the mat and removed her boots. Throbbing pain emanated from toes and ankles as the warmth of the interior enveloped her like a sauna. She grabbed a tissue and hobbled into the living room, just as the phone rang.
Without hesitation, she picked up the receiver.
“Who’s that? If you’re from the government, I’ve never been to Moscow, I swear. You’ve got the wrong woman.”
“What? Oh, wait a minute. Mags, have you been out tormenting the public again?”
Margaret reverted to her natural, lower voice.
“What if I have? You know me, I swear by The Method. Seriously though, Dina, I’ve had a great time. It’ll be ever so useful at rehearsals tomorrow.”
“You’re a true marvel, Mags. But I wish you’d take a phone with you.”
“No, that wouldn’t be in character.”
“Okay, you win. I’ve ordered a car to take you to the studio in the morning. It will pick you up at ten. Hope that’s not too early?”
Tim Dadswell lives in Norfolk, England. He has had work published in and by Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Literary Hatchet, and Cocktails with Miss Austen. He won second prize in a Brilliant Flash Fiction contest and was a runner-up in a Writers’ Forum flash fiction competition.
You can check out his Amazon page here.