JUST FOR FUN
Laura didn’t know where the idea had come from. Perhaps it was Mickey’s death, who had died in hospital after an operation. And without telling us. I can no longer stroll through the park with him, nor listen to music on old records that are now considered collectors items. Amongst all their friends, Mickey was the only one (apart from her) who was still interested in life. How many times had it occurred to them to buy toffees and other forbidden pleasures. Naturally, false teeth with toffees presented problems, however, the idea was to go back to the irresponsible years of life before the arrival of sadness, work, and all the other things that make up the human life.
Laura thought that life was like a kaleidoscope, the picture always changing and as soon as you find one you like, the colours change once again, always in movement, the same as life itself. Nothing stays still, it has to move, and life is just like that, nothing is still; life is neither good nor bad all the time, there are nuances in all the colours. The only thing that Laura asked from life was to die in her own bed. Seeing that the rest of her friends at Mickey’s funeral at the cemetery were not up to doing anything nor going anywhere, Laura went home.
While she was crossing the park observing the teenagers and the children, she didn’t feel envious only an interest, almost a curiosity, wondering how the lives of those young people so full of life would turn out. Laura wasn’t nostalgic, that was a waste of time, she usually said in reply to the question if her life was better then than it was now. In the living-room where she lived alone in a small flat, Laura sat down in an armchair, and with the television control in her hand she switched it on. She liked television very much, especially anything to do with the police and detectives. She and Mickey had bet many times on who the murderer or the criminal was. Who am I going to bet with now?
The day’s most interesting news was a bank robbery. According to the reporter the thieves had fled with a fantastic booty. It’s like the cinema. The planning must be very difficult so that everything goes off as planned. Even though Laura didn’t switch off the television until the usual time, that evening she paid little attention to any of the programmes. She remembered the conversations she had had with Mickey about robberies, theft, and other crimes. Once Mickey said laughing, “What do you think about you and me carrying out a little job?”
Of course not, Laura had said emphatically, and Mickey had said, “It’s only a joke. But do you know what, Laura, before I die, I’d like to feel the excitement and emotion of something other than just being a fat, ugly, old man on his way to the cemetery. I know it’s an impossible dream but it would be fantastic to feel young and alive once more before I leave this life. Of course with such a worn out old body the police would have no difficulty in catching me, I don’t know what tricks they have up their sleeves nowadays. Nevertheless, the idea’s very attractive to me, even though it would be impossible to actually do it.”
Laura had touched him on the back of his hand to show she understood . They never spoke about it again. Now without her best friend, and running out of time herself, Laura once again thought about Mickey’s idea, and about he who was dead and without the possibility of trying something exciting and emotional. But, she thought, I am alive and in Mickey’s name I’m going to do something.
The following day she made plans. First she had to choose a site, secondly find out when the best opportunity would be, and thirdly that any economic benefit from the robbery was not to be used.
The morning was cold with a blue sky. The ice on the pavements made the walk to the shops somewhat dangerous for Laura but she had other things to worry about. So as not to stay shut up in her flat, every day Laura went shopping to get only what was the most necessary in the nearest shops. When she was interested in something like the latest fashion, although she knew beforehand she wasn’t going to buy anything, she boarded a bus to go to the city centre. That morning she slowly walked to the bus stop. It didn’t take long in coming. Any doubts she might have had disappeared once she was inside and seated, to be replaced by anxiety on beginning the task in hand.
Mickey, if you can see me you’ll remember it was your idea. I hope it’s up to your level of imagination. Laura thought to herself.
Thinking of her dead friend didn’t upset Laura: loneliness yes, sadness no. She knew she would soon be with him and the separation from him would only last a moment, and this was comforting.
There were many shops in the city centre. Department stores, sports shops, book shops, lingerie shops, jewellery shops, glassware, china stores, furniture shops. She didn’t even entertain a bank as a possibility. She entered a gift shop to see what they had to offer.
“Good morning, madam.”
“May I have a look round, please?”
Laura didn’t pay too much interest in the things on sale, but in the shop assistant. The phone rang and the girl answered it, “Hello, Jade gift store.” It wasn’t a customer. “Oh, it’s you, well there’s an old lady here and that’s all, so you can talk.”
The young woman had forgotten about Laura and put all her attention and concentration on the voice at the other end of the line.
There’s no point in robbing here if she doesn’t take any notice of me, so I’ll rub her off the list. “Good morning.” But the girl didn’t hear Laura’s words nor the opening and shutting of the door.
The shoe shop was more promising. Inside there were samples of all the models in a variety of astonishing colours. It was a bad time of day, nobody buys shoes first thing in the morning but in the afternoon. Which shoes, now those green ones aren’t bad, but no, I want to take what I like. Why do I have to steal things that don’t please me? “No thank you, I don’t want to try on anything. I was just looking. Good morning.” She answered the shop assistant’s question if she wanted help or to try on some shoes. One more crossed off the list. Where can I sit down and have something? I know, in the cafeteria in the department store.
Laura sat down at a table, grateful for the warmth of the place, the coffee and the cakes. She wasn’t in a hurry.
I’ve got all the time I want, well not so much, but there’s time enough left. It’s strange how people walk around touching things, trying on hats, gloves, sweaters. They don’t appear to be alive but sleepwalking.
From the cafeteria Laura could see the counters, through the enormous glass windows.
This has possibilities, I’m going to try my luck.
Laura didn’t take long in finding the opportunity and the place.
As it is the first time it must be something easy. The headscarves were of all types and colours. Laura went around looking and touching them.
This one will serve me well.
Laura kept the scarf in her hand and slowly made her way to the exit door.
Until now everything’s going well, too well. This doesn’t count.
Next to the entrance there was stood a guard with a phone. Feeling disappointed and disillusioned Laura approached him, “This is too easy.” And handed the scarf to the astonished guard, who didn’t know what to make of the situation.
Laura rubbed the name of the store off the list.
It’s already late and I’m tired, besides it’s colder now. The guard’s face! He didn’t know what to do! And laughing to herself in silence Laura went to the bus stop.
During the following two days she only left the flat to get bread, milk and the newspaper. It was snowing too heavily for older people to be able to go out, but in the park there were children playing with snowballs and making snowmen. It was too cold even for the young ones and when the winter sun lit up the park for a few minutes in the afternoon, through the naked black trees you could see it was empty. These moments were Laura’s worst, she remembered Mickey continually and seeing the park dressed in winter she felt like crying in her loneliness.
I can’t think like this, or I shan’t carry out my promise. I have to visit other places.
The next time I’m going to try the part of the centre farthest away and see if it turns out with a better result.
The days at home were not for leisure but for preparation. Now that she had some idea Laura knew more or less what she was looking for. The television was a source of information for the elderly lady. Bank robberies on the rise, burglaries, armed groups entering shops. Indeed crimes were the order of the day. So robbery was not strange, it was the most normal and common thing.
The first day’s adventure had tired her out, the two days of rest had done her good.
The fourth day it was no longer snowing. The depth of the snow was such that for pedestrians it was difficult to get about. The few days at home and Laura had all her nerves on edge. Laura got up on the fifth day. There was still snow on the pavements, but it was no longer falling as it had been two days before. The cold was as intense as ever.
This time I’m determined I shan’t fail again.
Laura stayed on the bus till the last stop.
Reminding herself of the small shops although she hadn’t noted any down. This time she decided to be guided by her intuition. The list failed me because I didn’t use my own eyes. Good, there are more people here.
For the occasion Laura carried a shopping bag. Although in this case it was more of a robbery bag.
Let’s go round and see the possibilities.
Laura went from shop to shop carefully looking in the windows and the interiors. She decided on a shop dealing in photographic equipment, then she thought it might be better to have something to strengthen her before the job. All this emotion makes me hungry. I’m going to look for a cafeteria.
A short distance from the chosen shop Laura found a self-service. She got in the queue behind two men.
“Good morning, inspector. Are you expecting a big job?”
“We’re always expecting big. In this district there have been too many robberies lately.”
As Laura heard these words she was more excited than ever.
I mustn’t do anything to disillusion them. The fat one has to be the inspector, he appears to be a hard and pitiless man. That’s good! It’ll be a more interesting challenge.
The two policemen, as was usual for them, looked around the cafeteria. Seeing Laura on her own the inspector said, “ Excuse me, madam.” Laura lifted her head and looked at the inspector straight in the eye, “Yes, what’s the matter?”
“Madam, please be careful with your handbag, there are lots of thieves around.”
“Thanks inspector, I’ll be careful.” Laura launched an ingenuous, innocent gaze at the inspector and went on eating.
The policeman feeling that he had fulfilled part of his daily duty said goodbye to Laura and winked at the cashier before going out into the street.
Laura was in no hurry to finish. Inside the cafeteria it was warm and a wind had started up, later there would be a storm, but just for the moment everything was warm and comfortable.
Now that I have chosen the shop I must take something very ridiculous, not practical, otherwise it’s not what I had agreed with myself.
On getting up from the table she was very careful not to leave anything behind, like her purse or anything that could identify her.
I have to keep cool, as they say in the films.
The wind was an unpleasant surprise after the interior of the cafeteria.
Laura clutching her bag set off in the direction of the shop.
In the window there was a varied selection. Cameras, flashes, tripods, video cameras, telescopes and binoculars. Laura looked at the contents meticulously. With the decision made, she went in. The inside of the shop reflected the contents in greater detail. There were many more models than in the window. “Good morning, madam. How can I help you?”
“Good morning, I’d like to see some cameras, please.”
“Of course. Have you got anything particular in mind?”
“Well,” Laura hesitated. “It’s like this. I want a camera for a grandson, he is very fond of photography, and I’d like to give him something for his birthday.”
I didn’t know I was such a good liar, well, it’s nothing more than a performance and forms part of the job.
The shop assistant got down a couple of cameras from the shelves.
“Do either of these cameras suit your idea?”
“Well, not exactly. Is there anything bigger?”
“Yes, there is. Here you have a bigger camera, and as a present from the company there is a special bag with a place for lenses, films, and so on. Quite frankly, it’s a bargain.”
Laura wasn’t interested. She had a plan and that was the only thing that mattered to her.
“Is that the only one like that?”
“The only what?”
“The only bargain.”
“There are other models. If you’re interested in seeing them I’ll get them out.”
“Thank you very much young man.” The young man got out more and more models until the counter was smothered in them.
“Is there any of these that you like, madam?” Keeping the fixed smile on his face, just in case she was going to buy something expensive.
Laura pretended to be interested in the cameras and raising her head and pointing to the back of the shop with one hand said, “What’s down there?”
“What do you want down there? A tree?”
The shop assistant’s sarcasm had no effect on Laura who said, “That thing.” And she pointed to the very end of the shop with a finger and the shop assistant went off to look in that direction.
Now’s my chance. Slowly Laura put her hand into the part of the shop window nearest to her and took out a portable telescope and put it into her shopping bag. As the young man had his back to her he didn’t see the stratagem. He turned and returned with a video camera.
Laura pretended interest.
“Well, which model have you chosen?”
“None. I think it would be better to think a bit more before spending this kind of money. Thank you very much.”
The young man opened the door and Laura thanked him and left.
The wind was blowing stronger and she found the pavements frozen, slippery and dark. It was four o’clock in the afternoon. Everyone was in a hurry to get home as soon as possible. To be on the safe side Laura had placed her bag under her coat. On the bus she hugged the bag with its precious content close to her as if it were a treasure.
At home, with the curtains drawn and the standard lamp switched on, Laura opened the bag and took out the telescope.
How nice! It must cost a lot of money!
With a soft cloth she cleaned it. Then she put it in the centre of the living-room.
With great satisfaction, Laura sat on the sofa with the remote control in one hand and a glass of sherry (for special occasions) in the other. All in all, the day had been a success, so, raising the glass, “To you, Mickey.”
© Copyright 2016 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.