Vera’s Life: Part Three

This is the third part of a fiction serial, in 776 words.

Once she was old enough to have to go to the lavatory by herself, Vera used to try to hold it as long as possible. Walking downstairs and through the side door to the garden, she approached the black painted wooden door of the outside convenience with her lip trembling. She knew there would be spiders inside, sometimes big fat ones squatting in the corners.

As she sat high up on the seat, she would stare at her shoes, hoping to stop herself looking up. If that failed, she would flick through the squares of newspaper hanging on the nail, the paper they used to wipe themselves. There might be some with photos, or interesting pictures on advertisements. They would help divert her attention from the spiders until she had finished. Her dad had tied a long piece of cord to the chain so she could flush it without having to reach up high, and she would pull that without looking back as she did so.

It was worse at night, or in the winter, because she needed to have the light on, the bare electric bulb that cast a harsh glare inside. Then she couldn’t help but see the spiders, and sometimes there were moths or other flying things fluttering around the bulb. One night, the money ran out in the meter while she was sitting there. Before her mum could get the sixpence in, Vera ran outside, terrified. She stood sobbing in the garden until mum came to find out where she had gone.

It wasn’t really a garden, although Elsie and Albert liked to call it that. In theory, they shared the space with Clara who lived downstairs, but she only used it for her mangle and the washing line, and had litle interest in it. Albert had built two low brick walls creating containers, one on each side of the small yard. Filled with earth, he grew his treasured roses in them, then started to call it the garden. When the milkman or coalman came down the street in their horse and cart, Elsie would try to be first out with a shovel, to scoop the horse manure off the road before anyone else. Albert prized it for use as fertilizer on his roses, and would always have a big smile when his wife told him she had got some that day.

The same year that Vera had to start school in September, Vivian and Roy got married the week before. Viv told her sister that she would have the room to herself now, except when Teddy came home from sea. Her and Roy were going to live with Roy’s mum, all the way over in Kennington. His dad had been killed at the end of the big war, and they would share her two-bedroom flat. Vera wasn’t sad to see her sister go, as she was sure they would see a lot of her. And she would have a lot more room, as Teddy was hardly ever home. He couldn’t even get back for the wedding, so was going to miss Vera being a bridesmaid.

In her little world, her sister’s wedding was a marvellous, almost magical day. Mum had a special dress made for her, and she was to carry confetti, and a wooden horsehoe covered in silver paper, to wish them luck. Vivian was up early, with her friend Madge curling her hair at the kitchen table. The only person in their street who owned a car was Mr Fleming, who was a taxicab driver. He had been paid to take Viv and dad to the church, even though it was less than a mile away. He had put some long white ribbons from the front bumper to the top of the windscreen, and polished up the taxi until it was shining. Mum had been up since it was still dark, making sandwiches that were put into tins, to go with the cakes she had been making all week.

Dad wore his best suit, which was also his only suit. Mum pinned a white carnation onto his lapel, and gave him a packet of cigarettes she had bought, as she didn’t like him rolling his own in company. Aunt May and Uncle Derek turned up in their fancy car, but she looked a bit miffed when Elsie started to load her tins of cakes and sandwiches inside it. They had come early, to be able to give Elsie and Vera a lift to the church, along with Clara Simmons, who of course had been invited.

Trying hard to keep her white silk shoes clean, Vera was almost overwhelmed with excitement.

35 thoughts on “Vera’s Life: Part Three

      1. I’m still getting my head wrapped around so many readers having outdoor loos growing up. I’m glad the serial is popular with all of us. Your detail brings nostalgia to life. Best to you, Pete.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. We didn’t have an iceman. The ‘cold larder’ was a marble slab, covered with a wire mesh cage. The cool marble kept some foods ‘fresh’, as long as it was out of the sun. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.


  1. Although set thirty years before I was born a lot of this rings bells. I was a bridesmaid for the first time at the age of 5 and had a long yellow dress and the satin shoes. The dress was taken up afterwards so I could wear it to parties! And I still remember outside loos when I was a teenager – thankfully not ours. A gentle story of nostalgia.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. (1a) “She knew there would be spiders inside, sometimes big fat ones squatting in the corners.” Not all squatters are spiders. Generally, those who are not spiders choose homes with modern flush toilets inside. Which is proof that humans are smarter than spiders. (Although I’m not sure George Carlin would have agreed.)
    (1b) A girl once accused Spider-Man of being a pervert. I find that comical.
    (1c) Spiders invented web design. The first blogger was a spider named Charlotte.
    (2) Vera “would flick through the squares of newspaper hanging on the nail, the paper they used to wipe themselves. There might be some with photos, or interesting pictures on advertisements.” Apparently, she thought twice before wiping herself with the Gillette razor blade ad.
    (3) Overheard…
    Moth: “My cousin was drawn to the flame!”
    Butterfly: “Big deal! My sister was crushed on the wheel!”
    (4) Vera “stood sobbing in the garden until Mum came to find out where she had gone.” Peony, Lavender, Aster, and Daffodil were too busy tending to Black-eyed Susan, whose abuse by the Hellebores was a perennial problem.
    (5) “Don’t me give no shit, woman!” said Albert never.
    (6) The coalman’s name was Nat King.
    (7) One day, the coalman came down the street in his horse and cart. Vera ran out to meet him, and asked if she could unshoe the horse. The coalman said, “I wooden advise it. If I were you, I’d find a fake horseshoe and wrap it in silver paper.”
    (8) Bad citation: “Dad wore his best suit, which was also his only suit—except, of course, for his birthday suit.”
    (9) Another bad citation: “Trying hard to keep her white silk shoes clean, Vera followed the coalman’s horse and cart to the church.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really like this, Pete. I enjoy reading of the difference in growing up in the UK from growing up in the US, and I really enjoy the sameness.
    ‘Vera was almost overwhelming with enthusiasm.’ ? A hint perhaps on her temperment.​

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Probably more because such an expensive celebration (relative to their income) was so rare, Don. For example, the bridesmaid dress and silk shoes were unlikely to be worn again while they still fitted, and would most likely have been sold after the wedding.
      Glad you are enjoying this nostalgic story.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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