A SHORT STORY PREPARED FOR THE SALISBURY LITERARY FESTIVAL SHORT STORY COMPETITION

 

UMBRELLA

 I was always the shabby one left in the back corner, regularly  passed over. Don’t misunderstand me, I never minded in the least.

We do a lot of hanging about here outside the cloakrooms, under the stairs. Home is a Victorian hat, coat and umbrella stand; beautifully carved in walnut with a box for brushes and an ancient mirror, just so that gentlemen of the club could tidy themselves before leaving the building. We’re better described as a place for lost property: umbrellas, bowlers, coats, gloves, in fact everything gentlemen might forget when they’ve had a lunchtime drink too many, before returning to the City.

The bowlers hanging above us think themselves superior but when all is said and done, they are no better than the rest us.

I’ve been here longest because I’m scruffy; so always overlooked. Being grubby, bent with a well-worn handle means I am regularly ignored in favour of the brash young, bespoke umbrellas jostling for attention in the front of the stand. I don’t mind.

For some, ‘getting left behind’, is a traumatic experience. I’ve seen many shaking with emotion about being forgotten. That’s when I can be most helpful.

‘He’ll be back for you,’ I say. ‘It wasn’t intentional, he has just forgotten’. Then just in case, I add; ‘mark my words there is someone out there in the wide world who is just waiting to cherish you’. I always speak loudly enough for the rest of them to hear. ‘We must stand together like city brothers in serried ranks’. I say. I watch them straighten and lift their handles proudly.

Everyone gets excited when it rains. I still do myself. It’s the anticipation that there will be a rush of gentlemen pouring down the stairs to borrow from the stand of lost property. Umbrellas all eagerly push forward to the front in the hope of getting noticed. I used to do that myself. The bowlers are no better; they’re a snooty lot sneering at us, but when it comes to a rain shower they jostle around, just as desperate to get noticed as the rest of us.

For a sombre band of  brothers like us, a rain shower is like…. anticipating nirvana. It is the promise of a new life. A gentleman selects from the stand and measures for length against his pinstriped trouser. He holds firmly and lifts to inspect the tip. Then he smiles and takes it away to a new home.   

It all changed one Friday afternoon in early April. The sort of day we umbrellas favour; raining, off and on all day. Just after lunch, a new arrival. No one saw who brought it. We had all been sleepy after the lunch time rush. Suddenly there was a new umbrella in our midst.

A bright stripey canopy; outrageously impudent, cheerful, and threadbare.

The bowlers were first to make their feeling heard muttering ribald comments: common, tasteless, slutty,

For me, it was love at first sight.

 

DELL