Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Jenny Green (Teeth) by Steve Goodlad

Deep beneath the freezer aisle at Leighton Buzzard Tesco, deeper than the nearby canal, deeper than any cellar, in fact deeper than any mineshaft ever drilled, so deep that any human lifeform would burn and shrivel to dust, lies a catacomb of fault lines and tunnels far more extensive than the London Underground. Occasionally the Richter scale will detect a shimmer of movement, usually so subtle that a human lifeform on the earth’s surface might perceive it as a distant audible sound and rationalise as an aircraft or heavy machinery. But unknown to human lifeform a little door will be left ajar inviting a cool crisp breeze from the back of the freezer, exchanging the smell of cleaning fluid and mouse poison for a breath of volcanic air that nips the ankles of browsing shoppers. Something else is also released upon the earth surface. It rises to the surface initially as a vapour, gradually solidifying as it is drawn up through the shaft of cooler air. In liquid form it oozes from beneath the freezer across the floor undetected by the shelf stackers and in the final contact with artificial light the liquid seems to rise into the air and take on a human form and in the eyes of other humans, a rather attractive human form. Her name is Jenny Green (Teeth) who needs to use all her guile and devious means to now wreak a little mischief and survive well before the next little earthquake can close the door back to the below.


“I don’t understand it” sobbed Anita, “after Mother died, my Father made a will that I witnessed. His inheritance was mine once he passed, but the solicitor says he’s left everything to you.”


“Your Father and I loved each other very much, we were a great comfort to each other in our older years” said Jenny, “I honestly didn’t know of his will or his intentions.”


“But you are not old and Father was only in his sixties.”


“Heart attacks can happen at any age Anita, you heard what the doctor said.”


“But he was swimming in open water in November. I never even knew he could swim, what was he even thinking?”


“He discovered the great outdoors Anita, he loved the countryside, the canals, the rivers and reservoirs. He was happy.”


Anita had no reply to that, she had seen it too, the transformation all too apparent, a new energy and vibrancy. It was like he’d sliced twenty years off his age. His exploits became more extreme, so swimming in a lake in winter was no real surprise.


“But this is our family home, the one I grew up in. He only knew you for about a year, I cannot understand how he would change his mind so drastically. He knew I was living hand to mouth after my divorce. He never liked Kevin and he seemed happier that Kevin would not feature in his arrangements.” 


 


“We may have only known each other a short while, but we still loved one another and I miss him so much. You told me how pleased you were to see your Father happy again after losing his wife.”


Anita could not deny saying these things and meaning them too, when Jenny had met her Father, it took away a lot of the burden of lifting his spirits that had fallen on her and she was grieving too whilst coming to terms with an abusive relationship and subsequent divorce. Now she was living in a rented flat doing pick and pack in a local supermarket to survive. She felt guilty when she thought an inheritance from her Father of the house and his savings would have meant a new start. Despite everything, she would still have preferred her Father being alive and well.


Jenny sensed the vulnerability, the perceived weakness from someone dealing with loss. These were emotions she could exploit, but she did not call it exploitation, more a mutually beneficial bargain.


“Anita, there may be a way we can resolve this,” said Jenny, and she began to weave and spin her words like the river eddies around stubborn rocks, like it meanders around hard clay and inclines. “There is a power, a life force that moves, guides and directs and inspires you. You are one with life, with life’s energy”. The glutinous words seeped into a mind longing for solace, for a solution to her misery. Gradually the drip and drop on her defiance began to take effect, the burble and gurgle of a stream became the gush of acceptance. “If you energise yourself, restore yourself, the power to take action will come naturally like water from a spring.”


“Let’s go shopping,” said Jenny.


Deep beneath the cellar at Betty’s Tea Shop in Harrogate, deeper than the River Nidd, deeper than any sulphur smelling spa or Gaping Ghyll, in fact deeper than any mineshaft ever drilled, so deep that any lifeform would burn and shrivel to dust, lies a catacomb of fault lines and tunnels far more extensive than the limestone speleological exploration of humans. Occasionally there’s a shiver of the earth and small ever-increasing ripples appear in the tea in the tea shops porcelain cups that no customer notices, but down in the cellar something is released from a hidden doorway that has just become ajar. The vapour turns to liquid and the liquid solidifies into human form. It ascends the stairs, puts on the black uniform and white apron and enters the busy tea room.


“Good afternoon sir”, says the waitress to a smart looking gentleman in a tweed suit, seated at a table for two. He catches her eye and for a second stops short. Eventually he orders afternoon tea for two. His daughter will join him soon. “Excellent Sir” says Anita as she turns to walk toward the kitchen. She passes a table where sits a woman who smiles and winks at her. “Splendid. Beginners luck” whispers Jenny.


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