Whose holiday is it?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Two types of holiday, one paves the way for the other.

 

WHOSE HOLIDAY IS IT?

 

Richard Locke arranged his holiday for the first fortnight in October. He had chosen a late date in order to avoid the families with screaming children and hysterical parents. As he was a single man, no one was interested in him. Now that he had passed sixty, he was free to do what he liked when he liked, he was no longer beholden to anyone else. At the onset of being elderly the lack of attention from women had made him feel abandoned and all forgotten about. He had made overtures to the ladies he met at bingo, his local, and the library, but they were always met with cold rejection. In other words, he was unwanted by everyone. The problem was that he was bald, and women don’t go for men who wear a wig. It made no difference that he was quite good looking and wasn’t all wrinkled up, the lack of hair was the main stumbling block in his romantic life. When he was young Richard had been the envy of many for his abundant head of red curly hair. Time was, when he was asked by friends and girlfriends alike, what colour hair rinse he used. By his fiftieth birthday, there was no longer any hair to comb, and least of all - to colour. The loss of hair is a worse than dramatic occurrence for every man, but for women even worse. Richard’s last wife said she got fed up with staring at his shiny bald pate every morning on waking up, and had gone off with the window cleaner. Richard hadn’t known they had one.

The holiday had been booked, and Richard was busy organising his daily life with the idea that he wouldn’t need to buy too much food, only enough to leave in the fridge and freezer, and make sure the doors and windows were securely locked. He went to a shopping centre and wandered from shop to shop purchasing new underwear, swimming trunks, shorts, flipflops, beach towels, and T-shirts. He put out his long trousers and zipper-jacket for the two flights. Richard also packed shower gel, deodorant, and talcum powder. The toilet water would be acquired on the flight, or in the duty-free at the airport, or at the resort itself. As the last few days passed by, he eliminated tasks to do. On the penultimate day before the flight, he went to the local pub and started up a conversation with the barman, “I shan’t be here for two weeks, as tomorrow I’m going to the Canary Islands. I’ve been looking forward to it for ages, and now I feel quite excited to be going somewhere warm.”

“Good for you, Richard. We had our holiday in July, and now it seems ages ago. I’d prefer to be in your shoes and go later on in the year.”

“You’re better off than I am. You have a wife to keep you company, while I have to rely on who I meet when away.”

The barman laughed, and replied, “A lot of men would love that. A holiday romance is not so bad. At least you’re not tied to someone who keeps moaning their feet hurt, and the sun burns, and they feel like throwing up.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” Richard said finishing up his beer. “See you when I get back. ‘Bye.” He opened the door and left the cosy pub and walked home.

He never saw a man who had been standing near him at the bar, and had overheard every word of the conversation between the barman and Richard. The man paid up, and left, and keeping Richard in sight, but not too close, followed him home. The man noted down the address of Richard’s house, and then made a couple of phone calls.

 

Richard left his home the next day bright and early, and went to the pick up point for the minibus that would take him and his fellow travellers to the airport. He didn’t see anyone on the journey that he fancied, and thought he might do better once he was settled in his hotel and was wearing his new beach clothes. Richard had been going to the Canaries for a few years, due to its free and lively atmosphere. Life consisted mainly of sunbathing, aperitifs, lunch, and more drink, a nap, and then more beach activity, and then, before dinner, cocktails. That was Richard’s idea of a perfect holiday. As soon as he was established in his room, Richard had a quick shower and changed his clothes. Once dressed, in shorts in spite of his white legs that hadn’t seen the sun since a year ago, he felt in holiday mood. He grabbed his beach bag and, trying not to appear in too much of a hurry, he went down in the elevator to the ground floor, where he could appraise the hotel guests better and suss things out.

 

Pearce was the man who had overheard Richard’s conversation in the pub, informing everyone within hearing that he was off on his holiday to the Canary Islands for two weeks. Pearce went back to the squat he and his two friends were occupying at that time while looking for a better one. “Hi, you two, get your gear together, we’ve just got ourselves a bargain of a house for the next two weeks,” was the way Pearce greeted his mates.

“Is it very far to go?” Martin asked, who was the least lively of the trio.

“It’s far enough for us not to be recognized by anyone in the street. It’s in a nice neighbourhood. Now, come on, let’s get lively,” Pearce urged his two companions of the road.

Lance, who was the youngest, was a bit of a baby. He was twenty-eight years old and was always combing his hair, which was lovely and dark. Any woman would have been keen to have Lance as a boyfriend, until she discovered he lived by his wits. He and Martin at times would set up a card game as if they were strangers, and then the unsuspecting public would fall for the scam. The three were not bad people, they just didn’t like the words: ‘work’ and ‘timetable’. The weak sun that had shown its face for a few hours was going down behind a biscuit factory, when they left their squat to go more upmarket. Pearce had inherited an old but reliable car from a previous partner on the road, who had managed to marry a widow and help her run a boarding house on the coast. He had told Pearce that his lady-friend had her late husband’s car, and therefore he had no more need for his old one. Pearce had spent money on the car and it looked rather splendid. He always said a good old car gave the owner more class than a cheap new one. It seemed he was right as the old car impressed those who met them at different venues. The few possessions they had between them were carefully stowed away inside the large boot. Pearce had a few ideas in his head about the house they were going to occupy for the next two weeks. He rather fancied waking up in a clean, dry bed, and having breakfast in a decent kitchen. Martin sat thinking and wondering about the new place. He didn’t mind being a squatter if the squat was good. Sometimes, others would turn up when Pearce, Martin, and Lance were nicely installed, and give them grief, and at times carry out violent acts. Lance sincerely hoped that, for once in his indolent life, they would be all right for a reasonable time at least. Two weeks didn’t sound like much to him, but then beggars can’t be choosers.

 

Richard remembered that wearing a wig in the Canaries was not a good idea at all due to the heat. He packed the wig away in his suitcase and went out walking along the hot promenade that had stalls of touristy objects lining the route. A stand of Panama hats attracted Richard but, as usual, he wasn’t sure of colour or size, so he hesitated, trying on one after another, till the stall holder looked on the point of boiling over.

When asked for fifteen euros, Richard nearly went apoplectic, “Isn’t that a bit steep for a piece of straw?”

“No, Sir, this isn’t just any old straw, this is Canary Island straw.  Do you want it or not?”

“I’ll take it,” and Richard paid up rather reluctantly, put the Panama on his head, and his sunglasses on his nose, and felt that he fitted in rather nicely. The stall holder picked up his waste bin that was full of labels from his goods, that stated they had been made in the Philippines, China, Thailand, anywhere but the Canaries, and emptied it into the rubbish container.

 

The English pubs, where the visitor had no problems in being understood, were beginning to open. Richard wanted a drink and he entered the darkest, dimmest-lit pub he had ever encountered. The bar was tended by a rather large female of indeterminate age. Her hair was blonde and in tight curls, and was also stiff with hair mousse and hair spray. When she leaned on the bar her gigantic assets were fully displayed. She smelled of an expensive eau-de-parfum.  Richard gazed around the dismal place and discerned his countrymen in different stages of inebriation. It was still early, and he left.

The sky was now a lovely shade of indigo, and he went walking along the promenade. The restaurants were opening up, and one of them appealed to Richard, as he had been there once before. He sat down at a small table on the terrace, and a waiter came with a menu and asked him what he would like to drink. Richard ordered a campari and soda, and then his dinner accompanied by a sparkling wine. He felt at last as if he were on holiday, away from all the everyday boredom.

 

The squatters arrived at Richard’s, and were ready for anything. A new lock and keys had been bought in order to prevent any unwelcome visitors. Pearce chose to sleep in Richard’s room, the other two tossed a coin for the others. The three settled down for the night, to eat dinner, and then they all had a very hot shower, dressed themselves in Richard’s pyjamas, and put the washing machine on while they watched television. The house was so clean that they were of the opinion it wouldn’t need much cleaning. They weren’t quite sure where to park Pearce’s car, so they parked it down the road for the night and would see about it the very next day. For the first time in months they felt clean, and enjoyed the scents of shower gel and toilet water, as well as shaving soap. They luxuriated in the cosy home that Richard had made for himself. Before going to bed they put in the new lock. That night, just after midnight, the trio went up to their new beds feeling safe and secure for the first time in ages.

 

Richard’s days were taken up with the idea of sunbathing, preferably by the hotel swimming pool, which was the most stunning shade of turquoise, having a light lunch at a small bar or restaurant, and then a nap after lunch. The swimming pool appeared idyllic, surrounded as it was by tall palm trees and ornamental gardens. Sun-beds were set out in rows around the pool. The first morning after his arrival, Richard managed to get to the swimming pool early enough to bag a sun-bed and have a quiet swim before the rest of the guests got down there. Richard got back to his sun-bed, where he had deposited his towel, sunglasses, and a small bag with his flip-flops, only to find an overweight and overbearing Brit, saying as he neared, “This is my place. Go and find your own.”

Richard, unaccustomed to rough talk, said, “The sun-beds are for everyone who is staying at the hotel. How can you claim this one is yours? Have you paid rent on it or something?”

From his supine position on the bed, the other replied, “Are you trying to be funny, Mate? I arrived here two days ago. First come first served.”

 

Richard, highly offended, took his stuff and left the pool area. He was dressed in swimming trunks, flip-flops, and the towel flung around his neck, The Panama was on his head, and his sunglasses protected his eyes from the glare. He strolled along the promenade till he came to a good sunbathing area. People were snorkelling, diving from the rocks, and swimming. He removed his hat, sunglasses, and towel, which he laid on a rock, and asked a female tourist if she would keep an eye on his things while he went in for a swim.

“Very well. I’ll keep an eye out, but be quick, my gentleman friend could turn up soon, and he might be jealous.”

Richard stared at the pink-fleshed, elderly, female figure, whose fat oozed over her miniscule bikini, and the metallic-looking grey curls peeping out from under a large straw hat, and said, “My name’s Richard. I’ll be as quick as I can.”

The botoxed lips painted in blood-red, opened and shut like a fish gasping for air, out of the water, replied, “Hi, Ricky, I’m Samantha. See you in a minute, then.”

Richard swam out as far as he dared. The sea was pretty strong, and he relished the lovely, crispy, white, waves hitting his body. Every so often he glanced over to where he had left his clothes under Samantha’s watchful stare. He saw nothing untoward.

When he was well and truly satisfied with his swim, he went back to the rocks. Samantha was still lying on her sun-bed, but this time on her front. Richard thought her back looked rather red and said, “Thanks for keeping an eye on things for me. I had a really enjoyable swim. I feel like a new man.”

Samantha said nothing. Richard showered the salt water off his body under the fresh water shower on the beach, and got dressed. He tried to rouse her a second time, still no response. He walked up to a first-aid post, and told the young men on duty that there was an unconscious woman lying on a sun-bed near the rocks. Richard didn’t hang about, in case the jealous man-friend turned up, and then what would happen.

 

He felt hungry, the swim had given him an appetite, and seeing a fried-fish bar on the promenade, he went towards it. The fish was delicious, and washed down with a cool beer made a delicious meal. The sound of an ambulance came to his ears but he paid no attention, and when his light lunch was over, he walked slowly back to the hotel.

 

The discovery of Samantha’s unconscious body was on local television, which Richard didn’t see as he was getting ready for his nap. The news item was about how tourists take risks with their health with the excessive sun-tanning. Samantha wasn’t dead, but was badly burned and in hospital on a drip to get liquid into her body. No mention was made of a gentleman friend.

 

Pearce, Martin, and Lance were sitting at the kitchen table, working out how to use the two weeks to the maximum.

“If the weather’s not too bad, we could run down to Brighton and have fish’n’chips, and a drink in one of the pubs on the way down,” Martin offered.

“That sounds OK to me, but we have to work out what to do with the rest of our holiday,” Pearce said.

The squatters raided Richard’s clothes cupboards and saw his clothes that would only fit Pearce. “They’re too out of fashion for my taste, even though they might fit. I prefer clothes that are rather form-fitting than this,” Pearce declared.

“Let’s sell his clothes, and with the money we can perhaps get some new ones,” was Lance’s suggestion.

“We’ll have to go to an out of town thrift store to get rid of them. He won’t be happy if he gets back and sees his stuff in the local one,” Martin added.

They got hold of an old telephone directory and looked in the yellow pages, and found just what they needed twenty miles away.

“How do we get out of here discreetly?” Lance asked.

Pearce had spent a lot of time during the night working it out, and had come to a conclusion. “I came down here in the night, and found the nearest houses are unoccupied right now. This area is full of oldies who take holidays whenever they have a mind to. They are the ones with the freedom to do what they want and like. So we just walk right out of here, and get in the car as if it’s a normal day. Right?”

“Right, Pearce,” the others answered.

Richard’s clothes were all packed up, even his underwear and socks and shoes, and placed in bin bags. The three friends walked calmly out of the house and down the street to where Pearce had parked his car, and got into the vehicle. Apart from them, there was no one else to be seen. The car started up at once, and they went off in the direction of the thrift shop.

Richard’s clothes sold reasonably well, but not as much as they would have liked. They had some benefits money left, and plus the money from the sale of the clothes, it gave them enough to get the few new things they really needed.

The assistant’s face had shown a strange expression at the sight of Richard’s underwear, socks and shoes. When they had left the shop, she slung the underwear in a bin and put price tags on everything else, including the shoes.

Next stop for them was the local shopping centre, where they happily spent their money, and had a slap up lunch in a good restaurant.

The squatters had been on a council list for a flat or a small house for quite some time. One day while occupying Richard’s house, they received news that their wish had been granted, and they would be able to move into their new abode in a couple of weeks’ time. After the sale of Richard’s clothes they turned to his furniture, and electrical goods, and his car, as other sources of unearned income.

 

Richard was getting quite a suntan, something that made him feel proud that at his age he could still cut a dash on the beach and on the dance floor if he wanted to. After the initial difficult days when the women were rather thin on the ground, he at last found someone who was happy to have his company. Her name was Mary, and she was like Richard, single and yearning for someone to dance with. She was very funny, and said to him on their first evening together dancing, “There are three things gentlemen like - food, smoking, and dancing. I’m right, aren’t I?”

Richard said, “I don’t smoke, but I do like dancing if I can.”

The two spent their evenings dancing as if they were in a competition. Richard enjoyed himself very much, and for a few evenings managed to keep things cool, until Mary asked him about where he lived, and if he had a house or a flat. Richard didn’t care for the tone of her voice, and told a blatant lie, “I live in a council flat. It has every mod-con, and the rent is cheap. That’s how I can come away for this holiday.”

Mary was shell-shocked, “I’d never have thought of you as a council tenant. You look like a man of means.”

“I am, but not very many,” Richard said gleefully.

That was the last evening Richard saw Mary on the dance floor. He had found her out with a stupid lie, but he wasn’t sorry. For the rest of the holiday, Richard spent his time in the evenings in pubs, and dancing in different spots.

 

One evening he saw Samantha. She was sitting at the bar of a pub, nursing a large drink in her hands. Now she was no longer pink, but her skin had become a pale gold. Her bust was more out of her dress than in it. Richard went over to her. “How are you? The last time I saw you, I thought you were dead.”

“So, were you the one who told the life guards?”

“Yes, it was. I wondered what had become of you. Where’s the gentleman friend?”

“He never existed. I thought him up just in case you tried accosting me.”

“I don’t usually accost women. Like to dance?”

“Yes, I’d love to. When I was in hospital I was so sore all over, dancing seemed like something far off.”

“Are you here alone?” Richard asked, he was beginning to like Samantha.

“Yes, nobody had any money and I felt I needed a holiday. And you?”

“I’m here alone, and I live alone. My ex-wife ran off with the window-cleaner.”

“Was he good looking?”

“Who?

“The window cleaner.”

“I didn’t know we had one. How about that?”

Richard and Samantha laughed at that, and spent the rest of the evening gliding around the shiny dance floor.

 

Meanwhile, back at Richard’s house, the house guests were watching the calendar. There were only a few days left before they would have to find another squat. They all knew it would be more than hard to find another one as good as Richard’s house. The washing machine was in continuous use, and they all had innumerable showers and baths.

They had put in, ages ago, for a council flat as a trio, thinking it would be quicker than if they all went separately. As luck would have it, they were informed that there was one available for them.

“We must make a list of priorities we need for furnishing our new pad, and if we choose carefully this house might provide all that,” Pearce said one evening, when they had just finished off one of Richard’s frozen ice-cream cakes after a frozen dinner.

Lance was helping himself to another slice of the cake and thinking, “What if we sell the electrical goods and the car, we’ll get some extra money out of this. What do you say?”

The others stared and Martin smiled, and said, “That’s a fab idea, Lance, let’s do it!”

Pearce agreed, and said, “We’ll have to do it right as there’s still food in the freezer and it would be a pity to lose it.”

“Can’t we take the freezer with us to the flat, after all, we’ll be needing one, won’t we?” Martin suggested.

“Yes, of course, you’re right. The rest of the stuff we’ll be able to get on credit with our benefits. The fridge here is not good enough for our new place, so we’ll sell it off cheap.”

The removals took place without any trouble, as the surrounding houses were still showing few signs of life, and there seemed to be nobody to sneak on them. The council authority invited them to see the flat, and they went over to see it, three days before the fortnight was up. A lady saw the homeless young men and felt sorry for them, and said they could have the keys. That very same night when the entire world was asleep, they did a midnight-flit and moved the furniture, the freezer, and the vacuum cleaner that was brand new and bought by Richard in the summer sales, to their new abode. The fridge and other sundries were sold off on e-bay.  The car went to an ex-squatter mate.

The next flat was comprised of four bedrooms, a large kitchen, a bathroom, and a cloakroom. The next couple of days saw them buying new stuff for their new abode.

“The only problem is, as I see it, we’ll be hassled for jobs. This time we’ll have to pay rent.”

“They give job seekers an allowance and other benefits, so it’s not to be worried about paying rent, they’ll pay it for us,” Martin added.

Lance smiled, and said, “This is the best squat we’ve had so far.”

They all sat back on Richard’s sofa and toasted themselves with Richard’s supermarket champagne.

 

Richard spent the second week of his holiday enjoying himself enormously. He was at the beach during the day, and was dancing at night. He was also getting a suntan, and felt happy. Samantha wasn’t really his type, but she was better than nothing, and he appreciated her attentions to him. She had no idea where he lived and he had no intentions of telling her. He had the superstition that women were only after one thing from men, and it wasn’t sex, or them - but a house and money. And having been burnt once, he wasn’t keen on repeating the experiment.

The night before his return flight home, he laid out his long trousers and zipper cotton jacket. The next morning, all he would have to do would be to shower, dress, have breakfast, and catch the bus to the airport.

 

Richard stood outside his front door and wondered why it wouldn’t open. He struggled and struggled with the key to no avail. The lock just didn’t budge. A passing police car saw him and stopped. One of the policemen got out of the patrol car, and asked Richard, “What’s going on here, Sir?”

“Something’s gone wrong with my key, it just doesn’t fit anymore.”

“Are you sure you live here?” the constable asked.

“You can ask the neighbours that question, too. We’ve all lived here in this street for the same amount of time.”

“We’ll do that, Sir, but in the meantime you’d better come along with us.”

The positive effects that the holiday had given to Richard were swept away with those words.

Inside the station he was heavily questioned, and his name was entered into a computer to see whether he was in fact the legal owner of the property he was unable to enter. When all the problems were cleared up, the police told him that the front door would have to be forced open. They all returned to the house and a new policeman kicked in the front door, shattering the lock.

The interior was naked of everything, there was not even a light bulb! Richard was speechless.

“Looks like you’ve been visited by burglars, and they have left a note,” a policeman said, handing Richard a piece of paper from his own notebook.

The note read, ‘Thanks for use of house.’ Richard couldn’t believe his eyes.

“Have you any enemies, or do you know of anyone who might do this to you?” asked a policeman.

“No, I don’t, and I don’t know what to do now.”

“Sir, you’d better get to an hotel, and stay there till you’ve decided what you want to do next.”

Richard let them take him to a decent hotel, and asked, “Does this kind of thing happen often?”

“Far more than you think,” replied one of the policemen.

 

Richard eventually came to the conclusion that the loss of his goods was not such a bad thing. It had made him wake up. He had no need of a house, a flat would be much better for him. He put the house on the market, and thanks to the huge rise in the prices of properties, he made a killing. Richard thought the coast would be a more positive place for him to spend the rest of his life, as he liked the sea. He literally spent a long time going from one resort to another in the quest for what he fancied. At his age, he wouldn’t settle for anything other than what he really wanted. He found a lovely flat in an upmarket area of a south coast resort. He bought it, and furnished it with tender loving care. His previous home he never gave a thought about.

 

The New Year started out very well for Richard and the terrible trio, but even so, life has a way of unravelling.

Before the following summer arrived, Martin had found himself a girlfriend and moved in with her, and said goodbye to Pearce and Lance for ever.

Lance found a job in another town, and a new flat.

Pearce couldn’t believe it. He was absolutely stunned by those events. He was politely asked to move, as the flat was too big for a single man. So he exchanged to a smaller flat, but was happy as the rent was cheaper. His old car he had sold to a young teenager on the estate, and he had managed to get another one in better condition.

 

 Richard was very wary of talking to barmen or shop assistants about his activities after the burglary. Whenever anyone asked him what he was going to do for the weekend or for a holiday he answered, “I haven’t made up my mind yet.”

 


Submitted: January 18, 2015

© Copyright 2022 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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