Phonetics – A Winter’s Tale

“What the…!”
“Sorry! Oh God, I’m so sorry. Me and my bovver boots.”
“Shhh…”
“Sorry. Is your foot OK?”
“Fine.”
“I’m so… I couldn’t sleep last night and had nothing to read so…”
“Nothing?”
“No.”
“You don’t keep any books in the house?”
“Flat.”
“Not even classics?”
“No.”
“Shakespeare.”
“Nope.”
“The Bible, then. Everyone has a Bible.”
“God, no… sorry, are you?”
“You say ‘sorry’ a lot.”
“I do, yes.”
“Divorced?”
“How did you know? Oh, saying ‘sorry’. It used to work…”
“Then didn’t and she left you. Shame.”
“Not really.”
“So you have plenty of time to read.”
“Not really. I’m always on the motorway, or sleeping.”
“Sorry?”
“It’s catching.”
“What?”
“Never mind.”
“You work on the motorway presumably.”
“Spot on.”
“And you work from the minute you get there ’til you finish?”
“No. There are lunch breaks, other breaks… when it’s raining. This is England.”
“Perfect.”
“For…”
“Reading.”
“I suppose, but I’m with the lads.”
“Can’t you get away?”
“Not really. The porta cabins are noisy and the motorway’s… Besides, they’ll think…”
“Does it matter?”
“Don’t suppose so.”
“How many of you are there?”
“40. 50 maybe.”
“Wow. You could…”
“I could…?”
“Start a book group?”
“I don’t think so. They’re very…”
“You could ask.”
“I guess. You like reading, don’t you. Big stack of books you’ve got there. They allow you that many at once?”
“I have two cards.”
“Isn’t that a bit greedy.”
“Not both mine.”
“Old man’s?”
“Yes.”
“Large print. Very old man.”
“Yes. Neighbour.”
“Sorry, being nosey.”
“You weren’t going to say ‘sorry’ again.”
“I wasn’t? Force of habit. Whilst I’m being nosey, and getting away with it…”
“You were?”
“I thought so but…”
“Go on.”
“What do you do that lets you read so much? The old man… a carer?”
“No.”
“Librarian.”
“Not even close.”
“Indoors though.”
“Mostly.”
“For a company.”
“Yes.”
“You’re very…”
“What?”
“Skinny.”
“Naturally slim.”
“I should pick my book and go… before I get a parking ticket.”
“What are you going for? The book.”
“Something with action, shortish chapters.”
“James Patterson’s are short, about one or two pages mostly.”
“That’s ridiculous.”
“He’s very popular. Most borrowed… or stolen, can’t remember which.”
“People’s steal from libraries?”
“I meant bookshops but yes, they probably do.”
“Isn’t that pointless? Aren’t they free?”
“They are but you need a card.”
“Which is free, or at least mine was.”
“They are. So you’ve guessed I work for a company, indoors and I’m skinny. What do I do?”
“Secretary.”
“Are secretaries skinny?”
“Not necessarily.”
“OK, clue…”
“Your foot. You’re a chiropodist.”
“Nope.”
“Treading on a spot. You squash spiders. Bug exterminator.”
“No. I’m going to have to tell you.”
“One more clue.”
“Swan Lake.”
“You make matches.”
“No. That’s Swan Vesta. I don’t even smoke.”
“Me neither. Disgusting habit.”
“Swan Lake… conservationist… no… oh, man in black tights… baddie, dark music. Yes. Ballerina. Of course.”
“We’re going through early rehearsals at the moment so plenty of time…”
“Where are you playing?”
“At the Royal, do you know it?”
“The wife took me there once. It was funny. Graham Greene, I think. Not somewhere to go on your own though.”
“Why not?”
“I don’t know. It’s just… I don’t know. Never think of it, I suppose, like reading.”
“Step on a Crack.”
“Sorry?”
“James Patterson. It’s very good.”
“OK, thanks. And sorry about your foot.”
“No more ‘sorries’, OK?”
“I’ll try.”
“And come to the ballet. You might enjoy it.”
“Sure. What are you doing?”
“You wouldn’t know it, it’s a bit of a classic.”
“Try me.”
“It’s Shakespeare.”
“Oh.”
“Haven’t you got to get back to your car?”
“My car! I didn’t even catch your name…”
“Juliet. Bye then.”
“Bye, Juliet.”
And as Mike watched her walk away, he wanted to run after her, ask for her number, give her his but she wouldn’t have taken him serious had she known, that despite everything he’s romantic, that’s he half-Italian, told her the reason why his colleagues make fun of him… that his surname is Romeo.

***

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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

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