Chuck gave us a genre mash-up this week, and I got Cli-fi Musical, which sounded like my two favourite things. It may be post-Nano Blues, or the Olympics, but Thursday night came and I still hadn’t got a clue. So I’m pulling out the short story I did for Ely Writers Day earlier in the year. I found it hard to come up with a topic for a 500 word short, but then I thought of fictionalising a real event in my life. Trimming it down to 500 made it a bit sparse, I thought.
The M25 is the notoriously jammed orbital motorway around London. Other M-roads mentioned are major exit routes from London.
Don’t forget to enter my Beach Reads Giveaway – ends Sunday night.
The fatal decision
Jenny cleared her desk thinking of Friday on the M25. Staying locally and driving home at weekends saved the stress of a three hour one-way commute.
She turned left out of the car park, as usual. Darn, Sarah’s party was at the Rowan Arms; she would apologise on Monday.
She drove completely round the roundabout and headed back to the pub.
As the evening ended, Jenny dithered over going home. She’d had only soft drinks, but she was tired; maybe she should stay. But the drive would be less than ninety minutes now. Shorter than even Saturday morning. She waved to her colleagues and set off. A clear night, with little traffic after the M40.
Home after midnight, she imagined she smelled gas in the kitchen. Strange; she didn’t cook by gas, and the living-room boiler didn’t smell at all. Her nose must be tired.
Lying in bed she told herself off. Don’t be silly. Call the gas people. She checked her watch; one a.m. The phone book said in bold letters ‘if you smell gas, call — twenty-four hours.’
She put some clothes over her night things and waited for the gasman.
He arrived in ten minutes. “Yeah, I live locally. Where’s the leak?”
“It’s in the kitchen, but I haven’t got gas there.”
He had a detector on a rod, and poked it in cupboards, around appliances, around the boiler and the fireplace. Then up at the ceiling where it met her party wall.
“Oh dear. Who lives next door?”
His face fell. “Will they still be up?”
“I doubt it.”
“I need to wake them, and stop them switching a light on.”
“Why? Oh, sparks?”
He nodded. “Do you know where they sleep?”
“Mrs Foster’s at the back and he’s at the front. He’s a bit deaf.”
“Can I go through your garden?”
The expedition to rattle the neighbour’s bedroom window roused the neighbour on the other side, who attracted Mrs Foster’s attention.
A few minutes later a bemused elderly lady opened her front door. Jenny choked on the smell. Mrs Foster noticed nothing.
“Usually the case; it can creep up on you so gradually you don’t realise.” The gasman went through to the kitchen and turned off all the taps on the gas stove.
“Often happens when they’re getting older,” he explained to Jenny. “They get confused, check them for the night and turn them the wrong way. I’ll have to recommend she changes to electric cooking. Good thing you called us. Could have gone boom by morning.”
At two o’clock, Jenny lay awake. If she’d come home straight from work, she’d have been in bed, asleep, while gas seeped into her kitchen. If she hadn’t turned around…
Then again, if she’d stayed at the bedsit instead of driving so late, would her house have been here when she arrived?
In fact, the only good scenario was that one that had happened. Anything else could have been fatal.
© J M Pett 2016