Today’s post is the first draft of a short story. I’ll be forced to neglect the blog for the next two days, as I’m going away and I won’t have an internet connection. I’m planning to spend some remembering how it feels to write with a real pen and paper instead …
The Invisible Woman
I think I may be invisible now. The fog doesn’t help, mind. I haven’t seen fog like this since the last smog in London. Thick and acrid. Catching in your throat. We walked to school with scarves over our mouths. Made all the difference. I remember mine. Red. With white stripes. Mum knitted it while I was having my tonsils out. Her words rang in our ears as the cold stung them. Keep your scarf over your mouth. This isn’t just fog, it’s smog, you know. It can kill people. Will it kill me? No dear, just old people. I’m old myself now. They don’t tell you it’s pollution of course. Mother earth’s last gasp. They don’t want to worry you. Keep things fuzzy. Like the headlights on the passing cars.
The supermarket lights pull things into focus. Make you want to buy them. I slip past the security guard. A stealth mission. To buy a pair of slippers. The girl in the shoe aisle can’t see me. She’s talking to her friend. Tidying the slippers. Very slowly. I wait for her to move. She carries on. Oblivious. Rabbiting about what she did last night. The other girl’s not doing anything at all. Does she get paid for that?
I used to imagine I had a cloak of invisibility. The things I could get up to if no-one could see me. Mum was never fooled by it. Stop daydreaming. Do something useful. She’d get me peeling potatoes or polishing the silver-plated spoons. I so wanted it to be real in those days.
I give up on slippers. I’ll get the rest of the shopping. Supper. Fish pie? There might be something nice in the reduced section. There’s a man heading straight at me. One little girl standing in the trolley. Another in the child seat. Screaming her head off. I want sweeeeets! I want sweeeeets! I step aside. He doesn’t even glance at me. The screams echo all down the aisle.
I’m not sure when I started to fade. Men used to wolf-whistle once upon a time. I was glad when that stopped. People used to stop and talk in the street. It could take half an hour to walk to the corner shop. Then younger women started giving up their seats on the bus. As recently as last year, a couple carried my bags up the stairs at the station.
I still can’t grasp paying four pounds for a ready-made fish pie for one. Extortion. I head for the wine section. At least I know what I want and where it is. Passing the fresh fish counter, a girl coming the other way wrinkles her nose at the smell. What was that programme called? The one where she wiggled her nose. Bewitched. That was it. I loved that programme. She used to make things happen. Much better than being invisible turned out to be.
The man in the wine aisle is right in my way. All I want is a bottle of half-price Shiraz. He’s scrutinising the shelf above. Can’t see me. Naturally. I’ve walked the length of this supermarket and my trolley’s still empty. I’m not leaving till I’ve got that bottle of wine. I’ll stand my ground. Wait for him to move. What’s taking him so long anyway? My nose is itching. I flare my nostrils. I swear that bottle moved. Twitch again. No doubt this time. A full-blown wiggle. A bottle of expensive Champagne edges its way along the shelf and crashes to the floor at my feet. The man turns sharply. Almost drops the bottle in his hand. The next one flies across the aisle and smashes into the Lambrusco. The third performs an elegant pirouette and makes a dive for the BOGOF beer. I’m getting the hang of this. Staff come running. The man shakes his head. Shrugs. Gesticulates. Bottles and wine boxes fly in all directions.
Just one bottle of Shiraz settles quietly in my trolley. The Champagne corks are starting to pop as I head for the checkout. This invisibility thing’s going to be a lot more fun than I thought.