The Consignment: A Story; and Update on 5th Book!
I enjoy posting on my blog, but it's hard for me to pull myself away from editing the 5th book in the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series!
I'll give you an update after this story.
I wrote this piece for the January 2023 Uxbridge Writers' Circle Word Challenge.
The words I had to use are in italics.
I hope you enjoy it.
The consignment should have arrived by now. Muriel peers through a gap in her lace curtains and wishes she’d had her cataracts removed. She chickened out because she couldn’t face having pieces cut out. It didn’t seem right to replace the lenses she’d been born with. But, on the other hand, it would be a lot more convenient if she could see more clearly.
She sighs and is about to step away from the window when a van drives up and screeches to a halt. Finally, some action. She grabs her cane which is propped against the windowsill and makes speedy progress to the front door. The van is plain white with no markings like so many one sees around these days, but the driver could have been less dramatic about her arrival. The last thing Muriel wants is to draw attention to her or to her house.
Despite her fuzzy vision, she can tell that Ethel is glum. Her normally down-turned mouth is an inverted ‘U’, and her footsteps are heavy on the concrete path. Ethel lets the gate slam and pushes past Muriel as she marches into the house.
The motion of curtains being pulled this way and that by her neighbours across the street doesn’t escape Muriel. Everyone in Sheepston will soon know a van arrived at an unprecedented speed and came to an abrupt halt outside her home.
“Ethel, what is going on?”
“Tea. I need tea. It’s a matter of life or death.” Ethel flings herself down onto the sofa.
“What drivel. You can live without tea.”
Ethel groans. She yanks her shoes off and hurls one towards Muriel.
“Ethel, stop it! You’re in goblin mode again.”
“I’ve told you I don’t like your low-based mockery of my vertically challenged size. And just because I have a temper doesn’t mean you can call me names. I could call you a few.”
“Well dear, you have on several previous occasions.” Muriel shakes her head. “How have we gone so off track?”
“Because you insulted me.”
“We’re getting nowhere.’
“You can say that again.”
“I’ll put the kettle on. Come into the kitchen and tell me the news.”
Ethel sighs and heaves herself off the sofa. She has to rock backwards and forwards a couple of times because her feet can’t reach the antique Axminster carpet.
Muriel places two Royal Doulton cups and saucers on a tray and opens the biscuit tin.
“Digestive or Jaffa Cake?” she asks.
“Tell me what’s going on, for crying out loud.”
In her usual dramatic and embellished style, Ethel explains that the van was the first vehicle to come off the ferry. Cooper drove up to her, flung the door open, and dashed off without a word. He left the engine running. Ethel checked the back of the van. Nothing. She didn’t think she should leave the vehicle since it could possibly be traced to Muriel, and she’d get a ticket. So, she drove to Muriel’s house as fast as she dared. And that wasn’t easy because she had to be in an almost standing position to reach the pedals. Very awkward.
“I don’t think the people who placed orders will be very forgiving,” Muriel says as she picks up a cup of steaming hot tea. “Especially since they’ve paid in advance.”
The kitchen is cold and damp. Ethel shivers and hugs her cup.
“No. But what can we do? Cooper must have run off for a reason.”
“Who knows? He imagines things sometimes.”
“I can’t see how we can reach a resolution. It’s a disaster.”
“Come now, Ethel. Let’s think. We’ll come up with something. We always do. But first, get rid of that van.”
“I’ll give it to George. He’ll do a make-over.”
“Alright.” Muriel sips her tea. “I have an idea. But we’ll need a new van immediately.”
“You don’t mean to say,”
“Yes, I do mean to say. We’ll do it ourselves. As my mother used to say if you need a job done well, do it yourself.”
“But we’re two little old ladies.”
“Speak for yourself. But don’t you think that’ll work in our favour? Nobody will suspect us.”
“Muriel, it’s not realistic. We’ve not done it before. Cooper does this sort of thing for us.”
“There’s always a first time.”
“But we should be sitting by a fire with our feet up, reading a book.”
“I can’t see well enough to read, so that’s not appealing. Let’s get on with this and fill our orders. I might even be tempted to get my cataracts removed with my share of the proceeds.”
“Oh, you’ll be able to purchase full eye transplants.”
“Now you’re being silly.”
Muriel drives, with Ethel giving directions in a shaky voice. Muriel says she’s not blind yet and they’ll make it in one piece.
They drive onto the ferry and enjoy the trip across the English Channel. Ethel has a Scotch, or perhaps two, as Muriel keeps a lookout for dolphins and seagulls, although she’s disappointed and can only make out distant shapes that could be other boats.
They finally reach French soil and link up with their supplier. It hasn’t occurred to either of them that he can’t speak English. They both believe everyone can speak English. It’s just that some people choose not to. And Francois is one of those. But they are good at charades and the van is soon loaded.
They make it to Muriel’s home and, under cover of darkness, Muriel’s grandson, Cooper, carries the boxes into the empty dining room and fills half the space. Cooper won’t tell them why he panicked and ran off. Muriel shrugs her shoulders and offers him a bottle of red Burgundy and takes one for herself out of the box that she’s keeping. She chose this wine because she likes the label.
Ethel opens Muriel’s bottle of Scotch while Muriel rummages in a kitchen drawer for a bottle opener. Cooper scurries out of the backdoor. Muriel knows he isn’t cut out for this sort of thing. Never mind.
She joins Ethel on the sofa.
Now to get the rest of the wine into the hands of the people who’ve ordered and paid for it, without arousing suspicion.
Vicky Earle Copyright 2023
Meg Sheppard Mystery Series: Book 5
Editing is a slow process but I love the challenge.
Some writers abhor editing. Fortunately, I'm not one of them!
But it is a little scary when you're editing the book for the 6th or 7th time and you find a glaring error. It could be using the wrong name for someone, a simple spelling mistake, a consistency error, or a punctuation issue etc.
One mistake I've made more than once is to call Kelly 'Meg'. There's a reason for this - we had a wonderful border collie named Meg (and I modelled Kelly on her to some degree).
And I realized too late that I shouldn't have used the name 'Meg' for my protagonist.
I haven't decided on a name for this 5th book. 'Over Frank's Dead Body' came to me in a flash, but I haven't come up with a good idea for this one yet.
I must also develop an intriguing book description so that you, the readers, will want to read it! Just to whet your appetite: William and Jake are missing and there's a murder (of course)!
I must get back to work.
Thanks for your support and encouragement!
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