Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Love at the Bookshop

A few months ago, one of the very interesting morning programmes on RTE One radio had a competition to write a Mills and Boon story. The prize was the chance to meet a Mills and Boon editor who would more than likely tell you that your stuff was rubbish.
Notwithstanding this, I decided to turn my not very considerable talents to the art of writing romantic fiction and submitted the following piece, which I am sure will reduce most women to quivering wrecks. Get your hankies out, girls, you’re going to need them.

There’d been a special offer on the spaghetti hoops in Tesco and as Brad exited the store he couldn’t help thinking that the plastic bag he’d bought to carry the tin had wiped out the money he had saved in the first place. “Drat!” he said – or words to that effect – causing an elderly woman to go careering into the line of trolleys, which in turn rolled into the car park, making an oil tanker jack-knife and overturn.
Brad ignored the screams and the 200 foot plume of smoke that rose into the stratosphere like a giant mushroom cloud and marched off along the pedestrian pathway. “If Kylie had been here, she’d have warned me of that,” he thought, swinging the bag idly and accidentally shattering the plate glass of Boots window. “She always knew about bargains.”
He passed Fothergill’s. “Purveyors of fine food,” he read absent-mindedly, as he headed on towards Ladbroke’s (Purveyors of Fine Betting Slips) and Roselawn Hardware (Purveyors of Fine Bathroom Tap Washers.)
As he passed the Roselawn Bookshop, he glanced inside and stopped. Sure it looked like the same bookstore but it was under new management “for the summer months only.” Same as Kylie, he thought. Under new management.
Soon the brightly coloured shelves festooned with a vast array of novellas, poetry anthologies and paperbacks would be a gloomy shell. Dust would cover the fixtures and the floor and grinning spiders would abseil delightedly from the light bulb.
This was where he had first set eyes on Kylie, he remembered. They had both reached for the same Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat book and their eyes had met. After a short tussle, she had wrestled the book from his grasp and ran to the counter to pay. He had executed a full-length rugby tackle on her and the book flew out of her grasp. Turning round she clicked a flick-knife and held the blade at his throat and he knew in that instant that he loved her.
Her eyes were like lucent rockpools, even as far as the tiny shrimps darting here and there among the seaweed. Her cheeks were ruby red like the Manchester United home jersey from the late nineties and her full pouting lips seemed to quiver like a blancmange on a rollercoaster. As they locked in a passionate embrace, he reached down and grabbed the book and placed it on the counter with a €5 note.
All had gone well at first. He had moved into her tiny basement flat on the Clonsilla Road and had shared her bed for three months until she found out. He used to wave her goodbye as she went out to work in the evenings, selling all-night home insurance along the Quays. Idly he used to wonder why she would return home in the early hours with her hair dishevelled and her clothing in disarray. “All part of the home insurance business, sweetie,” she would say, placing her fat finger on his lips and standing on his foot.
They used to go for walks in the park and he cut their initials in the bark of a tree until the knife slipped and he lacerated her cheek. Hand in hand, they would skip through the long grass and deer excrement while up above the birds twittered in the trees annoyingly. Nothing it seemed could ever go wrong with their love. It was a match made in heaven.
It was when he came home one afternoon and found her naked beneath the local rugby team that he began to suspect something was wrong. He had believed her explanation that they were simply “looking for a shinpad” but he noticed how she crossed her fingers as she said it. Occasionally he would wake up in the night and think there was a third person in the bed until a big gruff voice assured him he was only dreaming.
Matters came to a head when he started receiving letters addressed to “Mr and Mrs Cohen.” She denied it at first, vehemently and passionately, but after five seconds, she admitted that yes, she was indeed Mr. and Mrs. Cohen.
It was like a bomb had hit him and in fact a piece of shrapnel did penetrate his right buttock. It was not the fact that she was an elderly Jewish couple – it was the fact that she had lied to him. This was what hurt him the most, apart from the shrapnel. He had always been open and honest with her about everything, except maybe the incident with the liquorice allsorts.
That was three months ago and he still found her smiling face haunting his every waking moment. Even now, as he gazed into the plate glass window of the bookshop, he fancied he saw her beautiful reflection, all gappy and gummy with a Woodbine hanging out of the corner of her mouth. In a sudden fit of rage, he drew back his fist and slammed it through the glass. “Get away from me!” he yelled as the blood spurted triumphantly from his main artery.
“Why?” said a voice behind him and he swung around to find himself staring into that familiar face with its four inch scar down the side of her nose.
For a minute, neither of them spoke, though Brad involuntarily broke into a few bars of “Dancing on the Ceiling” by Lionel Richie. Then they rushed into each others arms in a hot passionate embrace that had all the tramps in the neighbourhood coming around to warm their hands.
“Oh Brad,” she whispered, as she came up for air. “Let us never part again. Let us be always as one, entwined together in the great embrace of love.”
“Oh, Mr. and Mrs. Cohen,” he managed to reply weakly. As the last pint of his blood splashed gaily onto the window of the boutique next door, he vaguely wondered if a second can of spaghetti hoops would have made the trip to Tesco’s worthwhile.

Well I guarantee there isn’t a dry eye, or indeed a dry pair of trousers in the house after that. The only problem is that the competition finished three months ago and I still haven’t heard anything from the judging panel. Still there’s plenty of time yet. I expect the contract’s in the post.

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