From The Edge of Hunger - LetterPile - Writing and Literature
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From The Edge of Hunger

Author:

Road Monkey always wanted to be an author, almost from she first learnt to write.

In The Car

“How did you get involved with the local food bank?” James asked, as they returned to the car after their third delivery of food parcels. This was their first delivery round together.

“Hearing about the level of poverty rising and seeing so many homeless people on the streets,” Ann replied briefly, starting the car and setting off for their next stop. “My children are grown, and I felt I could now do something to help. What about you?”

“It’s rather like that last client we visited.” James nodded his head back at the house they had just left. “My sister married a man who refused to let her see her family, took all her money and abused her. We know she ran away from him but wouldn’t ask us for help, in case he attacked us. We don’t know what has happened to her. I suppose I feel like I’m helping others in the same situation as her.”

“I’m sorry!” Ann exclaimed. “That must be very hard for you.,” she paused, “And for your parents.”

“Yes,” James agreed and said no more. Ann respected his silence and concentrated on her driving.

Delivering

“Is this our last one?” James asked, as the car halted in the old station car park.

Ann consulted the list, “No, we have one more after this. We are now delivering to Lucy, single parent, small baby. Welfare benefits not arrived and short of food. This is my third visit to her. She’s feeding the baby herself, so I added some extra fresh food for her. She’s not very communicative,” she added, “Very little eye contact, tends to hide behind her long hair. She has a dog, so I brought him a treat.” She patted her pocket. James nodded, realising now why Ann had bought a dog treat separately from the fresh food paid for by the food bank.

They lifted the bags and boxes of food from the car and carried them along the old platform, heading for the non-working, vintage carriages that had been repurposed as small apartments for low income families. The platform was still frosty under the platform canopy, even in the early afternoon, so they moved carefully.

“interesting use of old railway carriages,” James remarked.

“Dual benefits,” Ann replied. “A family gets low cost accommodation and the railway charity gets rental income that keeps them afloat, as well as keeping carriages for display, even though they can’t be used as rolling stock.” She puffed a little, carrying the heavy bags. Their client would be in the last carriage near the end!

The Client

Ann knocked on the carriage door. The curtain twitched and the door opened. Ann stepped up heavily. Inside, a gas fire provided a stuffy warmth and a large dog sprawled on a sofa bench along one side. She carefully deposited her boxes and bags on what was used as a kitchen table and handed the treat to the dog, turning back to face Lucy.

“Thank you so much,” came the soft voice from behind the usual curtain of hair. Ann noticed streaks of pale gold at the roots of the dark hair and realised that Lucy’s hair was dyed. She shrugged, many women dyed their hair but usually from dark to light.

“This is James,” Ann said, gesturing behind her as James manoeuvred his box through the narrow carriage door. “He’s working with me today.” She turned to look at him but he was more intent on the dog on the sofa who was now rapidly disappearing under the kitchen table.

“Timmy,” called James. Behind her, Ann heard a gasp from Lucy and turned quickly to her but Lucy already had her back to her, bending over the small pram holding the sleeping child.

“Where did you get the dog?” James asked, looking at Lucy’s back.

“A stray,” Lucy whispered, not turning from the pram, her hands moving nervously over the baby’s clothes. The child, disturbed, began to fuss. “Please go,” Lucy whispered.

“Yes, of course,” Ann agreed, we’ll leave you to feed the baby in peace. I hope you have everything you need.”

“Thanks,” Lucy whispered, not turning round.

Ann turned to James but he was staring at Lucy’s back. “Come on,” she chivvied him, “We need to let Lucy feed the baby.” James moved reluctantly and Ann, disturbed, made sure he left in front of her. She closed the old carriage door behind her, with a good push. “Now, let’s see who’s next,” she said treading carefully on the frosty platform, and taking the list from her pocket, as they walked out of the old station.

Argument

“Do you think you could do the next delivery yourself?” asked James tentatively, as they reached her car.

“No,” Ann said sharply, somehow not surprised at the request. “You know that we have to deliver in pairs. It’s security for us as well as our clients.”

“Surely just once wouldn’t matter?”

Ann began to feel irritated and worried in equal parts. “What’s the problem?” she asked, almost certain she knew.

“I need to talk to Lucy,” James said, “Ask her where she got the dog. My. .. my, sister owned that dog.”

“Lucy didn’t want to talk to you,” Ann reminded James. “She asked us to leave. We cannot go questioning her. We have no right.”

“Not we, me,” said James. “I’m not asking you to get involved. I just want,… need .. to know, where Lucy got the dog. It might help me find Carol. Surely, you can understand me wanting to find my sister?” he said. “It might be my only chance to find her.”

Ann hesitated. It seemed a reasonable request.

“You don’t have to be involved at all,” James continued, “Just deliver to the last person yourself, that’s all I’m asking,” he said persuasively.

“No,” Ann responded quickly. It felt like he wanted her out of the way and she was not just going to leave Lucy to deal with him by herself.

“I’m going back anyway,” James said, pulling away, as Ann reached for his arm to delay him. She followed him, hurrying to keep up with his longer strides but he had to slow down as a large van pulled in front of them to park at the station entrance, giving Ann a chance to catch up. A group of women emerged from the van and flowed into the station. James stopped abruptly and turned.

“You’re right,” he said. Let’s make that last delivery.

The atmosphere in the car was strained as they drove to the last client. They delivered the final bags and boxes to a family trying to set up in new accommodation. The children were tired and fractious but calmed down when they got a bowl of cereal and milk.

“I’ll leave you now,” said James as they got back to the car. “I know this part of town and I’ll make my own way home.”

Ann nodded coolly and drove off but as soon as she was out of his sight, she turned to drive back to the railway station. She had to warn Lucy.

Return

The carriage door was lying open when she arrived, and an elderly man was sweeping out the carriage.

“She’s left,” he said in response to Ann’s enquiry. “A group of women came and took all her stuff with them. I’m cleaning up ready for another tenant. I don’t suppose you want to rent it?”

Ann shook her head and turned to leave. James was just hurrying in through the platform entrance.

“What have you done?” he asked angrily, as he walked past her along the platform, “You’re the one who said we couldn’t go questioning her!”

“She’s gone,” Ann said, “Nothing to do with me.” She continued on towards the platform exit, as James hurried the other way towards the vacated carriage to talk to the old man. As she reached the exit, Ann saw Lucy coming through it towards her, head down, as usual. Ann stepped in her way to warn her that James was here but Lucy sidestepped her.

Finito

“Lucy,” Ann said as quietly as she could. “James is here.”

Lucy stopped dead, looking up towards the carriage she had vacated. As Ann turned, she saw that James had also heard her and was running down the platform towards them.

Ann stepped in front of Lucy, just as James slipped and sat down heavily on the frosty platform.

“James,” Lucy cried out, “Are you alright?”

“Carol, is that you?” James looked up from his seat on the platform, his mouth forming an “O” of astonishment. “Your hair’s different.”

“I dyed it,” she said simply, reaching her hand down to James. He took it and scrambled to his feet, seeming unharmed.

“Lucy?” Ann queried, puzzled. Things didn’t seem to be quite what she had assumed.

“This is my sister, Carol, the one I told you I was looking for,” James explained.

“Yes, but, but…” Ann spluttered. “Why did the dog run away from you?”

“He was a rescue dog,” Lucy / Carol explained. “He doesn’t like men, even ones he has known a long time, like James.”

“Come home, Carol,” pleaded James.

“I can’t. Doddy threatened to hurt you all,” Carol said.

“Doddy’s in prison,” James said. “He threatened the wrong person. He’ll be there a long time.”

Carol’s face lit up. “Come and meet your nephew,” she said, taking James’ arm. “Thanks, Ann” she called over her shoulder, “We can take it from here.”

Foodbanks

What Do You Think?

Comments

RoadMonkey (author) on September 16, 2020:

That must have been terrifying Denise and I hope the story did not bring back bad memories for you. I am glad you got away from him and found happiness the second time around. Thank you for visiting and commenting

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on September 16, 2020:

I was glad of the ending too. It is so scary when you think someone is out to get you. When I ran away from my first husband, he swore to find me and kill me and my little girls. It's hard to sleep at night with that kind of threat over your head.

Blessings,

Denise

RoadMonkey (author) on July 18, 2020:

Thank you M G Singh

RoadMonkey (author) on July 18, 2020:

Denise, food banks do not only need people who hand out items. They also need those who can collect donated stuff from shops, people who can create posters to advertise their services, people who can take phone calls .... so many jobs that need dooing and not all of them need people to be in close contact.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on July 18, 2020:

Worked out to be a nice tale. Engrossing

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on July 18, 2020:

During these times it is risky to work anywhere where the public is in close contact but I have thought about working at a food bank before. This story reminds me of my daughter who started volunteering for a food bank in her area and ended up working for them as a coordinator.

Blessings,

Denise

RoadMonkey (author) on April 02, 2020:

Thank you very much Mel Carriere. Sometimes we don't know that something simple is going to turn out as anything but!

Mel Carriere from San Diego California on April 02, 2020:

Very interesting twists and turns for such a compact tale. I like the way you gradually get your reader deeply involved. A mundane grocery delivery turns into something very serious.

RoadMonkey (author) on April 02, 2020:

Thank you Flourish. Food banks are going to become even more important in the next while, with jobs lost, children at home, etc.

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 01, 2020:

You told this touching story with empathy and attention to detail. Although I’ve never volunteered for a good bank, my father sat on the board of the local food bank for years.

RoadMonkey (author) on March 17, 2020:

Very sorry you had to suffer that Denise. I hope he can be stopped from hurting any other people

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on March 16, 2020:

I understand being afraid because a crazy husband has threatened people and threatened your life. My ex is still free and hurting more women. He's very careful never to threaten men though. He only intimidates women. Like most bullies.

Blessings,

Denise

RoadMonkey (author) on March 16, 2020:

Thank you Pamela Oglesby

RoadMonkey (author) on March 16, 2020:

Thank you very much John Hansen

RoadMonkey (author) on March 15, 2020:

Thank you very much Jason.

RoadMonkey (author) on March 15, 2020:

Thank you J C Scull

RoadMonkey (author) on March 15, 2020:

Hi Shauna, thank you very much. Glad the suspense kept you going!

Jason Nicolosi from AZ on March 14, 2020:

Hi RoadMonkey. Great story, I really enjoyed it. Nice ending too. Great job on Bill's challenge.

JC Scull from Gainesville, Florida on March 14, 2020:

I very much enjoyed your story.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 14, 2020:

RoadMonkey, I love this story! When James recognized the dog, at first I didn't put two and two together with regard to Lucy. Good job of keeping the suspense going 'til the end! I'm always disappointed when I figure the outcome halfway thru a story.

Yours has a happy ending, albeit an unusual one. You were very creative in blending the ever-growing low income dilemma with a brother's inexhaustible search for his missing sister.

I really enjoyed this. Great response to Bill's challenge!

RoadMonkey (author) on March 14, 2020:

Thank you very much Bill. Very kind of you.

RoadMonkey (author) on March 14, 2020:

Thank you for your kind comment Chris Mills. Much appreciated.

RoadMonkey (author) on March 14, 2020:

Thank you very much Umesh Chandra Bhatt

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2020:

A lovely ending to a very powerful story. There was a very authentic ring to it, which is a huge compliment to your storytelling abilities. A job well done.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on March 13, 2020:

Your story had deep emotion built into it. I could understand Ann's misunderstanding. I could also understand James's great need to see Lucy just one more time. The story could have gone any one of a number of ways. I'm happy you chose this one. Not all stories have happy endings, but this one needed a happy ending. Good job responding to Bill's challenge.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on March 13, 2020:

Nice story. Good end.

RoadMonkey (author) on March 13, 2020:

Thank you for visiting and for the comment Pamela Oglesby.

RoadMonkey (author) on March 13, 2020:

Thank you very much John Hansen. That's a relief.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 13, 2020:

I really liked your story and I liked the ending as well. Volunteering at a food bank is a good thing to do. I think this story is well done and a good response to the challenge.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on March 13, 2020:

I enjoyed the story, Road Monkey. A good response to Bill’s challenge, and I thought the ending was fine. Well done.