All’s Well That Ends Well - Short Story Competition
Entry byJoan Lussi, resident of a Ryman village
All names, characters, events and places are fictional
Seven of us – all Serviced-Apartment residents in a retirement village - had decided on a Sunday Brunch Buffet at a nearby café. We had also discussed whether, providing this meal went well, we might even make it a monthly or fortnightly do.
You may think this a foolhardy idea - a serve-yourself lunch for the likes of us who always had the privilege of lunch served at our tables in the communal dining room.
“It would be so nice to choose and we can all do with a nice change of environment. Let’s do this!” Bertha had said emphatically. And she managed to persuade six of us to agree with her.
“You daft old buggers,” was the general tone of response from some Independent Residents when we put the word out. “Why, you lot can’t even toddle to the lounge bar without support,”
Well, I can tell you, that kind of remark was like a red rag to a bull. So there and then we arranged to meet up at the café at 11.00am on the following Sunday.
I was slightly late and looked around the cafe. It wasn’t hard to spot our reserved table. Five shiny green ‘walkers’ plus two walking sticks (for just- in-case measures) were neatly lined up by the wall, close to a side table. I added my walker to the end of the row and took my place. After the usual nods and grunts of greetings I asked,
“Isn’t Bill here yet? I didn’t see his scooter outside.”
Bertha said he’d called to say that he’d been sitting in a café for 15 minutes wondering why nobody joined him until the waiter put him right. He’d ended up in a café a good 3 km away, but we were not to worry as he was now heading in our direction although it might take a bit of time as his scooter battery was on low and that on no account should we delay our meal for him.
She then went on, and on and on and on to bring us up to speed on how our regular buffets were to be carried out. Bertha is very organized and is only really happy if she can take charge of things even if some things (like the occasional buffet) don’t
require anything more than just turning up - providing you’ve got the right venue of
Unfortunately, this time she hadn’t been so well organised and had brought the
wrong reading glasses. She was finding it difficult to decipher her own notes.
Refusing the offer of our glasses, she said she’d just have to rely on memory. Her
memory was on a par with her eyesight and she was remembering nothing remotely
connected to a simple buffet lunch so we were happily occupied in small talk
Desmond and Deirdre had forgotten their hearing-aids and were (noisily) intent on
foraging in their belongings to search for their yesterday afternoon’s left-over
sandwiches - just to tide them over, they pointed out, “Until we can attack our buffet”.
Bertha eventually noticed our inattentiveness and made it very clear to us all that if
we didn’t listen, she, for one, would head straight off back to base and did anyone
want to join her. Nobody did. In fact we didn’t dare move an inch so she made a
great fuss of grinding her chair back and forth on the tiled floor and readying herself for instant departure.
Luckily she didn’t hear Harold mention to Desmond, ‘I told you, that woman’s a pain
in the arse’. Heaven knows what might have happened if she’d overheard. Little
Ethel said we were all deeply sorry for our misdemeanour and begged her to stay.
There was a long and silent pause while Bertha considered this and she screwed her face up into a picture of utter misery and her eyes started to water.
Things could have gone either way, but we were saved by the Head of Kitchen calling out that Brunch was now ready on the Buffet Table, and that the party at the side table could be first up as they had ‘walkers’ to cope with. That pleased us all no end. Bertha was immediately on the trot, pushing her walker at a tidy old pace.
Those of us who were now beginning to have second thoughts about fetching their
meals were promised to have plates of everything brought to them by those who
thought they could manage the few steps to the buffet table. This gave rise to much to-ing and fro-ing and swapping of dishes before everyone got what they wanted. I ended up with braised chicken livers which were, although excellent, nothing like the dish I had originally brought.
An intriguing array of pills – uppers, downers and status-quoers – tumbled out of
boxes and dispensers. And we had immense fun comparing them and questioning
what they were for. Most of us knew we’d been taking them for years, strictly on
doctor’s orders, but none of us could really remember for exactly what.
I brought Patsy a bowl of tomato soup that she’d craved for, but she said she would
only drink it through a straw because she didn’t want to dribble down her best silk
blouse, so back I went to fetch one. While I was there I thought I’d bring Desmond a
crisp apple as he’d just told us how much he liked apples. He brushed it aside
though, saying he’d lose his choppers if he took one bite, and would I please ask the kitchen to puree it for him.
I told him I didn’t want to bother them, and there were other kinds of fruit if he’d prefer. He surveyed the red apple intensely and then glared daggers at me. “I only like apples,” he muttered. I think he must have been a tad put out because he swivelled his chair round and turned his back on all of us.
We started on our various meals and even Desmond had finally swivelled back to us. We chomped and chewed, gobbled and guzzled. Things were getting back to
normality when Harold asked casually “And how has everyone been keeping this
week?” Little Ethel, whose right arm was in a plaster cast, immediately put down her fork (we had taken the trouble to cut her food up for her) and, wiping her mouth on the tablecloth, asked us if we would take a really close look at the fingers of her right hand.
She swore that the plaster cast was shrinking them. We all scrutinized her fingers and admitted that they did look quite skeletal, until we insisted we look at her left hand for comparison. We then saw that there was absolutely no difference and that she just had to face the fact that she had bony fingers. This seemed to displease
her immensely and she told us we could all bugger off if we were going to take that
Patsy wanted to have her say and relayed to us at great length and in even greater
detail the recent removal of her gall-bladder. The epicurean delight of my braised
chicken livers suddenly moved down a notch. Just as she was coming to the thrilling side-effects of her galling operation, Desmond interrupted her to tell us about his irritable bowel syndrome. Apparently that was why he only ate apples. Or perhaps it was the apples that gave him the trouble.
I’m not well up on IBS, although I’m learning fast. Harold, whose powers of concentration were somewhat taxed, suddenly motioned to a table at which sat three very pretty dark-haired young ladies who were quietly chattering and drinking coffee. “They’re Eurasians” he declared loudly, pointing vaguely in their direction. Everyone turned to look.
Desmond shook his head. “Oh I don’t think so,” he said. “They’re tulips surely.”
We all stared at him, dumbfounded. I wondered whether this little excursion had
been too much for him. I looked across to the pretty girls, and then spotted a vase of – yes, you’ve guessed it – tulips on the window-sill just beyond their table. ”Well, there’s nothing wrong with your eyes, is there?” I said, jokingly.
During the lengthy meal our chat roamed from bladder to bowel, to backs, knees,
shoulders and joints. We would have covered ears, noses, eyes and throats, but a
few of us were getting fidgety by then so one by one we trekked to the rest rooms to make ourselves comfy. Patsy declined to accompany us and piped up in a shrill
voice so that the whole café and most likely also the kitchen staff could hear, “It’s too late for me now to have a pee, I’m damn glad I took precautions.” The laughter in the ladies rest-room was deafening.
It was coming up to 2pm and we were all feeling drowsy. We’d missed our postprandial nap so we thought we’d better make tracks while we still could. Bill appeared just as we were leaving the premises. When we told him what a good old time we’d all had, and were sorry he’d missed it all, he told us not to worry. He’d
met up with an old friend on route to our café and they’d gone in ‘for a quick half’
which had turned into many ’quick halves’ and he assured us he’d had a right good
old time too.
He added that he was due soon to undergo ‘something to do with my manhood’ and
he hoped that we’d get together again for another buffet in a couple of weeks’ time when he’d be delighted to tell us all about it. I can hardly wait.
Photo by Yukiko Kanada on Unsplash