SHORT STORY Tales from the in Midlands If "Mum "For a Saturday dad,; GO FOR IT.
"LOUISE has got a first," mum exclaimed. "Good God! Has she?" "Incredible! A first in maths."
"Cool, Sis. Our local girl makes good," I thought.
We found ourselves that Saturday morning in June: mum, dad, Mary - my second sister - and I, the sole brother, in the sitting room, By chance, uncle Roger - a leading local businessman, Tory councillor and my father's brother - was only too present.
"Wonderful," he chorused. "Wonderful.
"There's proof, if any were needed, that brains and drive are invested in this family.
"Well, in apart of it, at least," he added, staring at my father who had just withdrawn from a family business opening because confi-dence failed him.
"Entrepreneurial skill and drive are what this nation still needs. Go for it! Shape your, and our, destiny!" he thundered, eyeing my luckless father.
I eyed in turn councillor Roger Vickers, an almost Dickensian caricature of a man: big, bluff, larger than life, scourge of the 'unworthy' of our town, especially prostitutes, against whom he waged an unforgiving and relentless war. "We must let friends know," mum continued, quietly ignoring him. "We could put it in the local paper. People do."
"Oh, we can do better than that," uncle interrupted. "Put our Louise on the internet. 'Louise Vickers, niece of councillor Roger Vickers complete with our pictures and honours."
What did it matter to him at that moment that our Louise was an overloud and vociferous socialist? "She'll be here in two days with her boyfriend from the university," Mary reminded us. I shouldn't put her on the internet," I said.
"Why not?" "Well, it's like showing off." "No it isn't," uncle snapped. "It's legitimate family pride."
"But it concerns our family only." "You're only jealous," my sister retorted, "because she's clever and you failed the eleven plus."
That was true. I had failed the eleven plus and it had hurt not only me, but mum and dad, too.
"No, it isn't that at all," I protested.
"Put it in the local paper but not on the internet."
"Why? Explain!" "Just don't, that's all." "You're hiding something. What is it?" Uncle Roger's eyes blazed.
"Well, if you insist. I wish I hadn't said anything."
"Well, you have. So get on with it."
"Well... Louise was on the game for a year."
Baffled looks searched me. "What do you mean?" Mary asked. "Betting?" "Prostitution." Uncle's face had already gone purple.
"That's shocking! How dare you?" Mary cried.
The silence was electric. Then Mary spat: "How could you know?" "I have her picture. It's on the internet. She called herself Fiffy."
"You are, of course, making it up," Mother pleaded.
I produced my downloaded picture.
There was no mistake.
A further stunned silence prevailed.
"Why? I mean, how could she?" Dad mumbled "Because she's a bloody socialist, uncle, recovering, spluttered. "She has shamed not only the whole family but also soiled, tarnished the good name of our town.
"Just like a socialist. It was her damned Labour Party who left our country in such a mess, crippled with a mountain of debt."
"She was high-class, not a street prostitute," I proposed. If looks could have killed ... "What about the neighbours?" Mum whispered.
"For God's sake keep it quiet. Not a word," uncle thundered. "What a scandal! Your aunty Nellie will be turning in her grave!" "There was a prostitute named Theodora who became an empress.
You never know," father piped up nervously.
Uncle stared at him. "You're a waste of space," he snapped, "Always were, always will be."
"Keep it from her boyfriend, too. Don't spoil things," Mary insisted.
"Just what are we going to say?" Mum mused.
"Nothing! Not a blasted word! Do you hear?" A slamming door echoed Uncle's fury.
So it was that two days later a buoyant Louise introduced Cyril. Congratulations and embraces were shared all round.
"You're brilliant," uncle said, as his otherwise unforgiving lips brushed Louise's cheeks.
Three days later she departed with Cyril for a short break. Mum received a letter from her.
"It really is lovely in the sunshine.
But the beaches are far too pebbly here in Brighton.
"By the way, I could tell that you all knew. I don't care.
"Uncle's Tory government has saddled us students with such crippling university debts. We just had to do something.
"Cyril organised our enterprise and looked after me.
"We are getting married. We love each other, warts and all. We couldn't start life together in such debt.
"So we went for it. Our bit of entrepreneurial skill and drive, wouldn't you say, uncle? "PS: Don't worry, we shan't be doing it again."
"That's a pity," dad murmured. "We could all have had shares in the business."
If looks could have killed, he'd be in his grave by the time you read this.
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