Michael Jackson - Runner up

Competition: WM0085 1000 Words

Michael Jackson lives in Warrington, Cheshire and has been retired for five years. ‘Prior to that I was a Primary School Headteacher,’ he says. ‘During my 25 years as a Head I used to love telling stories to children but never wrote anything down. Retirement gave me the time to write. The majority of my writing tends to be Flash Fiction, which sits on my blog and I also love writing Twitter Fiction. I recently started a local writing group, Stockton Heath Writing Group, which is made up of a varied and very supportive group of writers. This is my first success in any form of writing competition.’
Michael Jackson

Where's My Esther?

Hello, what’s this? Looks like this lovely policewoman wants to talk to me, wonder what I’ve done wrong? I do hope it’s nothing too serious. I must say she’s very pretty but so young. They always say, don’t they, that the moment you start noticing that policemen are looking younger, you know you’re getting older.
   ‘Excuse me sir, are you OK?’
   What a strange question. Of course I’m OK, why shouldn’t I be? My gout’s playing up a bit, probably something to do with this weather we’re having, but I’m sure she can’t be referring to that. What would a woman her age know about gout? I suppose she’s just being polite. Not sure what I should say? Probably best if I just ignore her.
   ‘Can you hear me sir? I was asking if everything is alright? Are you waiting for someone?’
   She’s at it again, more strange questions. I wonder why she's started talking so slowly and in a raised voice? That’s the trouble with youngsters these days, too quick to make assumptions. Just because I’m a bit older than her, she seems to think I’m stone deaf. Wait a minute, what’s she doing now? Why has she got hold of my hand? Where’s she taking me? Mind you, I’m not complaining. It’s a long time since a pretty young girl held my hand, apart from my lovely Esther that is. Talking of Esther, it would be just my luck for her to come along right now and catch us doing this.
   ‘Why don’t you sit down here sir, I’m sure you'll be more comfortable and maybe we can have a little chat? Do you want to tell me your name?’
   Well this is a turn up for the books. Sitting on a park bench being chatted up by a pretty young lady. Mind you, she’s being a bit forward. I suppose that’s the modern age for you, though I’m not sure I approve. All these questions. Before we know what’s happening she’ll be asking me where I live and then wanting to go to the pictures or something. I’m flattered, naturally, but I think I might be a little bit old for her and then of course there’s Esther. She can get very jealous can my Esther. That reminds me, I wonder where she’s got to?
   ‘Look sir I can’t help you if you won’t speak to me. Are you supposed to be meeting someone?’
   Now might be a good time to tell her about Esther, let her know that I’m already spoken for. Better to say something now, before things get out of hand, let her down gently before she builds her hopes up too much. Goodness knows what Esther’s going to say when she comes along. This could take some explaining. I wonder what’s keeping her? I bet she’s chatting up that butcher again, seeing if she can get some extra rations.
   Maybe she’ll manage to get hold of some sausages. We’ve not had sausages for a long time. Bangers and mash! Now there’s something to look forward to.
   ‘Here you are sir, here’s my colleague and she’s got a nice warm blanket to wrap around you.’
   Two pretty policewomen! This is definitely turning out to be my lucky day. I’m not sure why they’re wrapping that blanket around me, though I must admit, it has gone a bit chilly. My fault, I should have listened to Esther when she told me to put on my scarf and gloves this morning. That’s the thing with Esther, she’s so sensible, always knows best, my trouble is I don’t always listen to her. I must give some thought as to how I’m going to explain away two pretty ladies to her.
   Hello, who’s this young chap walking towards us? He looks a bit agitated. I do hope he’s not one of their boyfriends come looking for trouble. Not that I’m worried. I can look after myself. Mind you if Esther catches me fighting over two women I’d really be in for it.
   ‘Thank goodness you found him officers. Is he OK?’
   ‘May we ask who you are sir?’
   ‘Sorry, I’m his son. My wife and I have been out looking for him for ages. He slipped out of the house earlier this morning. It was some time before either of us noticed he was missing.’
   ‘You do know he has no clothes on, don’t you sir?’
   ‘Yes, I know, he often does that. He simply forgets he’s not got dressed. We keep telling him but it never seems to quite sink in. I should have guessed he’d be here. It’s where he and Mum used to do their courting, just after the war.’
   ‘Is she still alive sir, your Mum?’
   ‘No, she died almost five years ago. I’m glad in a way. I don’t think she would have been able to cope with him like this. Dad forgets she’s dead and keeps talking to her or asking where she is. Can I take him home now, before he freezes to death?’
   ‘Of course sir.’
   ‘Come on Dad, let’s get you home and dressed. Ann has got some lovely sausages in for your lunch. She’s doing you your favourite, bangers and mash, just like Mum used to. You like sausages, remember.’
   Strange, that young man has stopped talking to the two policewomen and now he’s talking to me. He doesn’t look so angry any more, maybe he’s not a boyfriend looking for a fight. Though I don’t know why on earth he’s going on about sausages, I hate sausages. Hang on, did he just call me Dad? What a strange thing to say. I was only telling Esther the other day about the strange folk you meet in this park nowadays. Wait a minute what’s he up to now? He’s got hold of my arm. What’s he playing at? Where’s he taking me? Constable stop him! What’s happening? Where’s my Esther?

Judges Comments

Storyline: We frequently see stories about the problems experienced by elderly people, and that is not surprising because such problems can easily provide the central conflict for the writer. But this story gives us the viewpoint of the elderly person himself, it gives his own first-person take on what is happening – misunderstandings and all.
Character: The elderly person, who we can only call Dad, is the one character who matters and his first-person narrative voice builds his character. He simply does not realise that he is wandering unclothed in the park, but he does think that Esther is still with him. That not only motivates the character, it also points up the central problem posed by the story.
Dialogue: With the story being told through Dad’s interior monologue, there is not a lot of call for dialogue. There does have to be verbal interchange between Dad and the police officers, and that is entirely believable showing, as it does, the sympathetic manner in which the officers handle such an unfortunate problem.
Opening: The story opening does exactly what it has to do: It introduces Dad and the police officers and it shows that he is elderly and confused. It sets everything up for the story to proceed.
Closing: The problem is resolved at the end as Dad is taken to the safety of his home. But we are left with a tinge of pathetic sadness as Dad still clings to the moral support of a wife who died five years ago.

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