This is the eighth part of a fiction serial, in 1170 words.
When he got home, Nan was just going out to get her hair done. “I will be gone for a few hours, love. After the hairdresser’s I’ll pop into Morrisons, get us something nice for dinner”. He kissed her on the cheek. “OK, Nan, see you later”.
Benny unpacked the sports bag, and connected the laptop to the mains, so the battery wouldn’t go flat. Then he plugged in the dongle, and followed the instructions Noddy had given him. Google popped up in record time, and he was very impressed by whatever had been done to increase the performance of the basic machine. After two hours, and most of a family-size bottle of Pepsi, Benny was fast becoming disillusioned with his search. Online money-making seemed to fall into two distinct categories; selling crap to anyone who might buy it, or selling tips on how to make money online. The first option would involve storage and warehousing, containers from China, good credit, and money up front. The second option seemed to be about sending someone twenty dollars to release their ‘secret’ to you, and tell you how they became a millionaire, sitting by a pool in The Bahamas. Searches soon revealed that all they would do for that twenty was to advise you to ask other people for money for the same ‘tip’. Then the circle continued, with the outcome that all of these people were just asking each other for a donation, and hoping to find the few who were dumb enough not to do any research.
He went to get some crisps from the kitchen, his rumbling belly reminding him he hadn’t eaten. Eating them washed down with the last of the Pepsi, Benny was about to shut down the laptop, when he had an idea. Something nice for Nan, hopefully. He wiped his greasy fingers on his t-shirt, returned to the flat keyboard, and opened a new tab. In the search box, he typed ‘Betty Baxter’, then hit send.
Sitting back, he wondered at the marvel that was the Internet. The search produced over a quarter of a million options, many repeats of the same stuff of course, but still. He changed the view to ‘Images’, and gasped as page after page of photos of Nan appeared on screen. It was all there. Her younger days with the racy lingerie glamour modelling, stills from the dodgy films that followed, and tons of shots of her when she was much older, from her heyday in those ‘special interest’ magazines. Benny reckoned she would love all this, being immortalised online for all time. He clicked back to ‘All’, then scrolled down. There were clips from her films, magazine covers featuring her poses, and various entries on what was known about her life. Surprisingly, many mentioned her real name, Lilian Thwaite, and he wondered how that had got out. Halfway down, he found a forum, dedicated just to Nan. It seemed that the admirers of Betty Baxter had never forgotten her, and some were running this active forum, with entries posted in just the last two hours. Not only that, some appeared to be new fans, and had stumbled across Nan by following random links.
Using one of his new email addresses, Benny signed up as a member of the forum, so he could read the full comments, and add his own if he wanted to. It didn’t cost anything, and he picked the username ‘Retrofan’, showed his age as forty-two, and a location of ‘Britain’. This was a revelation. Over two thousand members, and hundreds of threads, with ninety percent of them active and buzzing. Looking at the member stats, he soon discovered that over half of them were in America, with the rest mainly coming from Britain, Germany, and of all places, Belgium. Others were much further afield, including some Arab countries, as well as a few from Australia and New Zealand. These men, he presumed they were all men, were thirsty for information on anything to do with Nan, as well as the other so-called stars of the magazines and films she had featured in. They swapped treasured photos, gave each other links to hard-to-find film clips, and all seemed to be trying to outdo each other as the biggest fan of Betty Baxter. Benny was amazed, and he knew Nan would be.
He spent another hour perusing the threads, even going so far as to add a few random comments on some of them. They wanted more, that was clear. Undiscovered photos, VHS films, even reel-to-reel film, if anyone had it. Many were also desperate for information on what Betty was doing now. She had dropped off the scene when she had been close to sixty, and nobody knew why. But Benny knew, as that had been around the time he had gone to live with her. She had abandoned her career for him, not wanting his youth to be remotely tarnished by any association with an elderly glamour queen. No wonder she had told him about it when he was eighteen. She must have been bottling that up for almost ten years.
The forum also had lots of links, and he clicked on them, bookmarking them all in sequence. ‘Glamorous Grannies’, ‘Lingerie Grannies’, ‘Grannies In Stockings’, and dozens more. Not only were the members really into this stuff, it was made obvious that they were also searching these sites in the hope of seeing Betty Baxter reappear one day. Benny did some more research. He had checked out some porn when he first got the laptop, just the usual mainstream stuff. But he had no idea about this huge new market for Grannies and Matures. There were hundreds of sites, and most linked to others, until the number of combinations became too high to fathom. They showed images of older women in every imaginable pose, doing things you would never have credited. There were videos too, and sites where you had to pay a hefty monthly fee to be a member. ‘Granny Webcams’, ‘Granny Personals’, Granny Dating’, it was all out there. Benny sat back, blown away by what he had found in less than three hours. Grannies were the goldfields of the Internet, and he had the mother lode, out getting her hair done.
Nan came back with two shopping bags, and Benny took them off her to take them through to the kitchen. Her hair looked exactly the same, but he guessed that she had just had the dye topped up, as usual. She sat down on the sofa, slipping off her shoes. “Morrisons was packed, Benny love. Then I got chatting to Sheila on the way home. You know her, my friend who drinks in The Queens Head and Artichoke. Anyway, I got some lovely sausages for dinner, and I will do some mash in a bit”. Benny sat down, a broad smile on his face. “Don’t worry about dinner for now, Nan”. He opened the laptop, and clicked on a bookmark.
“I’ve got something to show you”.
To be continued…