Welcome to Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group and the third story on this blog. This 3,100-word piece is by literary author, poet, interviewee and first contributor to ‘Novel Nights In‘ Rose Mary Boehm.
Please do comment in the section below telling us what you liked about this story and, what if anything, the author could do to improve upon it. Thank you – it’s very much appreciated!
I do have some feedback but I’ve just included it (below the story) as links to the scans of my handwritten-notes so I can let others comment here without being influenced by me. 🙂
Mrs Boffa moves slowly. An old black overcoat barely protects her squat, heavy body from the worst of the London winter. Sharp air uses the high buildings packed tightly on either side of the street as a wind tunnel. Around her head and ears she wears a woollen scarf, old-pink roses woven into its light grey fabric. She bends forward to protect her face from the pain.
Seen from the side she looks as wide as from either back or front. Her legs are screwed badly into wide hips, coming together in a V-shape; her feet are struggling to keep the weight from defeating them. The fake-fur lining of her dark-brown, rubber-soled slippers give some comfort to her ankles, while heavy brown stockings wrinkle generously around her legs.
From her bare and swollen hands extend sausage-like appendages. Years of abuse in hot and cold water make them almost unrecognisable as fingers. Now they are also blue from the cold. One hand holds a plastic handbag, black and shiny, full of her most important possessions, the other tries to find warmth in one of her coat pockets, pulling the shabby fabric tight.
She tries to remember the heat of Egypt. Oh, if only she could step out of her tormented old body – even for a brief spell – to feel (and hate) again that implacable, unremitting African mid-day sun, wishing only for cold.
“Oh, Mrs Boffa,” they say, “tell us about Egypt.” “Tell us again about when you were rich.”
She knows they don’t believe a word. They are teasing her. But neither can they be sure. And she can’t resist the temptation. So again she throws her pearls before the eager swine. They are impressed by her English, her Greek, her Italian, her French and her Arabic. Quite a conundrum for them. How can a cleaning lady be more educated than her employers?
“Oh, Mrs Boffa…”
They never call her by her first name, Adela. It’s as though they know, see her guilt and don’t want to become too friendly. They can’t know. Or can they? There never was a moment when it occurred to Adela Boffa that this omission may be a sign of respect.