“I’m leaving you, you pie-faced bastard! My mum was right about you, you are a useless, talentless waste of space. What did I ever see in you?”
So saying, my girlfriend Sue, threw her cup of tea in my face and flounced out of my flat for ever.
It had been an unpleasant period in my life that was getting worse by the day.
I’d lost my job a month ago, and, in between rushing around looking for other employment, I’d begun writing the novel I’d been planning for years. At least I had Vampire Dawn, to concentrate on, even though money worries and uncertainty about my future somehow precluded my concentration, so that the great novel of the twenty-first century was taking much longer than I’d anticipated. In fact, although I’d got a really cracking first chapter, I realised that my original idea had somehow disappeared. After setting the scene of my dystopian horror story set in the year 3060, when vampires ruled the world, somehow I couldn’t work out how to go on with it, and all I could do was stare at a blank computer screen.
How could you get writers block when you’re not even a writer?
Later in the pub I was telling my brother Jack about Sue’s departure and how desolate I felt.
“I mean, Jack, she said such hurtful things. I mean would you say my face looks like a pie?” I asked him indignantly.
“A meat pie, you mean?”
“Blimey, hardly a blimmin’ cherry tart!”
“Well, since you mention it, your face is very round, very pale, and now that your hair’s receding so fast, I suppose you could say—”
“Okay, okay,” I snapped.
“You’ve got to admit,” he went on, oblivious to my discomfort, “Sue does have quite a way with words. She’d have been a good writer. Mind you.” He leaned forward to look at me seriously. “There is a plus side. No more Sue, no more Sue’s mum. And you know what they say, don’t you? If you want to know what your girlfriend is going to be like when she’s older, just look at her mother.”
I had to admit to myself that the bloodless corpses in my novel had been partly inspired by Sue’s ghastly, stick-thin, evil virago of a mother.
“People who are very thin can sometimes have a mean nature,” Jack observed. “Sue’s mum never liked you, did she?”
I nodded. “And the feeling was mutual.”
“You set too much store by a girl having a good figure and not being overweight. Sue worked out, her muscles were toned, she had a fantastic figure. Admit it, her sexy shape was the only reason that you overlooked her horrible personality. Fat people are often nicer than thin people. It’s a known fact.”
The following day I woke up to find that Albert, my cat, had done a poo on the pages of chapter one of Vampire Dawn, obliterating the deathless prose of my opening paragraph. As I looked at the mess, it seemed to summarise my life.
There was a knock at the door, and, in a foul mood, I opened it.
“Good morning. Would you like to buy a gypsy’s charm for good luck?” said the attractive girl who was standing there. Her lovely red hair was captured in a colourful headscarf, gypsy style, and she was dressed in a kind of old-fashioned smock, carrying a huge basket of bouquets of little flowers. A beautiful radiant smile lit up her face, but I was in no mood for charm.
“No I bloody don’t want a good-luck charm,” I snapped at her. “I don’t believe in all that nonsense. Clear off and don’t come back!”
“How dare you speak to me like that?” she told me, her face crumpling up as if she was about to burst into tears. “I’ve a good mind to put a gypsy’s curse on you!”
“Go ahead, curse away,” I told her, “you can hardly make things worse!”
As I slammed the door in her face, I thought of the shock and sadness on her features when I’d yelled at her. I was instantly ashamed and opened the door and rushed after her to apologise, but she’d vanished round the corner and I couldn’t see her anywhere. I realised how badly I had behaved and felt dreadful.
When I came back into the living room, Albert stared at me as if he was scandalised, swishing his tail. “I know, I know mate, you’re right,” I told him, unable to resist picking him up for a cuddle as I thought of the girl I’d been so rude to. “I shouldn’t have snapped at that girl, it was stupid and childish. Sometimes you do things you regret and you just have to live with the consequences.”
“Do you?” Albert seemed to say as he stared back at me, wild-eyed with accusation.
The following morning, Jack turned up at my front door, the grin on his face almost reaching his ears. “You won’t believe what’s happened,” he said cheerfully, leading the way into my living room. “You know Jane and I have been trying for a baby all these years? She’s only told me that the doctor’s certain that she’s pregnant—didn’t want to tell me until she was sure! So after that I felt really lucky, went into the bookies and I’ve just won a fortune on the horses. The drinks are on me tonight.”
“Congratulations, you deserve a bit of luck for a change,” I told him, genuinely pleased for my good-natured brother.
After he’d gone, something strange happened. I sat down at the desk and I found my fingers flying over the keyboard. At last my story was taking off, and I really felt as if I was getting somewhere. New ideas were pouring through my mind so fast it was hard to get them on screen in time.
Then I had a phone call from my Auntie Pam. “Oh Alan, you won’t believe what’s happened! Dan has just phoned to tell me we won the lottery! Thousand and thousands, I can’t believe it!”
Only yesterday, Auntie Pam had been telling me of her money worries, and how my uncle needed a hip operation there was a huge long wait, and she couldn’t afford to have it done privately.,
Then, when I got home after my long walk I found I had a phone message on my landline, to tell me that my interview for a job as a postman had paid off and they were offering me a chance. Wow, what a result! Getting up for the early shifts would be hard at first, but I had a mate who was a postie, and he told me that it’s brilliant—all the walking keeps you super fit, which would mean I could start playing football again, the money’s regular and you finish in the early afternoons.
But there was a cloud on my sunny horizons. Ever since I’d seen the gypsy girl I’d been feeling even more guilty about being so rude to her, and for some reason I couldn’t forget her lovely face. I thought back to all that ridiculous nonsense she’d told me about laying a curse on me—provably wrong, when in fact since she’d come into my life everything had changed for the better.
But I was feeling so guilty that I went to the farmer’s field at the edge of town, where all the gypsy caravans were parked. After a bit of asking around, I found the girl, Rose, near one of the caravans, carrying a bucket.
“Look I’ve come to apologise to you,” I said, wondering why I hadn’t noticed how beautiful she was. “I’d had a bad morning, but I had no right to take it out on you. I’m very very sorry I was so rude. Is there any way I can make it up to you?”
“It’s me who should be sorry,” she confessed, leading me to one of the caravans and sitting on the step. “You see, my great granny was a white witch. Mum kept all her old notebooks, and in the back of one of them are all the details about curses and blessings, the words you say, and how you do it. So, just for a laugh, I looked at them again, and with my sister, we said the words that were meant to curse you. Lit candles and said incantations, all kinds of stupid stuff. I’m so sorry, we just did it for a laugh, we never in a million years took it seriously. I knew nothing bad would happen really.”
“Well, plenty has happened to me, but all of it’s good. I got an offer of a job, and I suddenly got all these new ideas for the novel I’m writing. And my brother and auntie have had tremendously good news too.”
She frowned. “I can’t understand it. Oh, wait a minute, I think I know what must have happened!” She nodded, and as she began to laugh I felt as if the sun was coming out after a cloudy day. “You know what I must have done? The writing was all spidery and old, and I couldn’t make it out properly and guessed here and there. I must have said the words for the blessing instead of the ones for the curse.” She stopped smiling and became deadly serious. “Mind you, it’s brilliant that it works, isn’t it? Maybe I should try again, and this time do the blessing and see if it works out as a curse?”
“Oh no! Please please don’t!”
“If you could see your face!” She was laughing again. I realised that Sue and her mum hardly ever laughed. “When you get to know me better you’ll find out that I joke around a lot.”
“When I get to know you better?”
“Yes.” She looked into my eyes. “Something tells me that we’re going to get to know each other very well. Have you got a girlfriend?”
“Not any more.” I thought of Sue and her dreadful mother, and what a narrow escape I had had. “I think your blessing was working retrospectively when she walked out on me last week.”
“There you are then,” she went on. “I broke up with my boyfriend last week too. It must be fate that we met. Oh look,” she turned to look behind me. “Here comes Mum. You’ll like her, everyone likes my mum.”
In the distance was the largest woman I’ve ever seen in my life. I remembered Jack’s remark about girls often turning into their mothers. Looking at the faces of mother and daughter I could see how alike they were, and that no doubt one day Rose would become grossly overweight like her mum, and her face would also be encased in rolls of fat.
But do you know something? I didn’t care. Jack’s words came back to me: Fat people are often nicer than thin people.
“It’s odd,” Rose said to me on our second date a few days later. “My granny tells fortunes. She’s always predicted that I’d meet an important man in my life on my twenty-second birthday. And I did.”
“And did she say anything else about me?” I asked, full of pride.
She paused for a moment to consider. “She said you’d have a face like a meat pie. But I don’t mind. Looks aren’t everything.”
(photo courtesy of Robert Waghorn)