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The Delivery

Ruth was woken by the ringing of the phone. So deep was her sleep that she initially incorporated the sound into her dream, consciousness surfacing only reluctantly when the ringing persisted.

Propping herself on one elbow, she stretched across and lifted the handset.


'Hi. This call is to advise you that Hammersmith Communications will be making a delivery to your address on or before the 21st June 2012.'

'Hello? I already …' Ruth subsiding as she realised she was attempting to converse with a recorded message.

'Please ensure that someone is available to receive your parcel. A signature will be required.'

Ruth returned the handset to the cradle and flopped back in the bed. Henry snorted in his sleep, indulged in a strenuous bout of scratching, then rolled over and started snoring again. Ruth glared at him. Sometimes sharing a bed with her husband was like sharing a bed with a large hairy dog.

She squinted at her watch and sighed. Half-past six. Her eyes were heavy and the duvet was soft and warm, but she knew if she went back to sleep she would feel awful when the alarm went in half-an-hour. After a moment of indecision, she rolled out of bed and wondered off to the bathroom.

By the time she came back, Henry was stirring. He opened an eye and watched as she walked to the dressing table to brush her hair. 'Did I hear the phone earlier?'

Ruth rolled her eyes at the reflection in the mirror. 'Yes dear.'

'Oh. Who was it?'

'A recorded message telling me the new modem is coming today.'

'Didn't we already know that?'



'What time are they coming?' asked Henry as he wrestled his arms into his jacket.


'They didn't give you any idea what time?'


'So, there's no chance of you getting to the surgery to pick up my prescription then?'

Ruth shrugged. 'If they deliver it early I'll go, but they might not come until tea time.'

Henry nodded grumpily, kissed her on the forehead, and left for work. Ruth looked around the untidy house. Her job as secretary to one of the oldest estate agencies in town did not allow much time for domesticity. Having been forced to take the day off to take delivery of the new modem, she reasoned she might as well use the time to catch up with the chores.

She stared out at the road, devoid of delivery vans. She decided to forgo the laundry, the washing machine at full speed could rival a jet plane on take-off. There was no way she would hear the doorbell arrived over that. The vacuum cleaner was little better. She settled instead for flicking around the house with a duster, stopping every few seconds to peer out of the window.

Once the dust had been moved around to her satisfaction, she made a start on preparing a moussaka for dinner. She scrolled through the album list on the ipod, selecting Pink Floyd and dialling up the volume.

She carried the sliced aubergines to the stove, sliding them into the hot pan. They landed with an explosion of steam. She gave the pan a shake, then turned the kettle on for the stock. And then she froze. The kitchen was a din. Someone could be standing with their finger pressed on the doorbell and she would never be able to hear it.

She turned everything off and raced back through to the front of the house, checking the road for a van. Nothing. She checked the letter box for a missed call card. Nothing. Shaking her head, she strode back through to the kitchen, where she resumed her cooking making every effort to keep the noise to a minimum.

The moussaka took considerably longer to make than usual, as she kept stopping to dash through to check the road for any sign of the delivery van. When at last it was prepared and sitting on the side to cool, she made herself a coffee and carried it through to the living room.

She turned on the television, running through the channels in search of anything worth watching. Apart from a brief, stunned pause on a programme that was apparently making contact with the dead relatives of the studio audience, she found nothing that warranted her attention.

She tapped her fingers on the arm of the chair, staring at the carpet. 'Oh, to hell with it!' she muttered, and charged up the stairs for the vacuum cleaner.

The house was clean. It had taken a while, but the carpets were swept, the bathroom sparkled and even the doorframes had been subjected to a wiping. Ruth stood at the window, jiggling uncomfortably, wishing she hadn't had that coffee earlier. At last, she could wait no longer and scurried to the bathroom, leaving the door ajar to ensure she would hear the bell if it rang.

She was just washing her hands when the phone trilled. She sprinted through, hoping it might be the delivery company offering some idea of when they would reach her.

'Has it come yet?'

'No, Henry. It hasn't.'

'You sound harried.'

'Well, it's stressful! I wish they'd hurry up!'

Henry gave a patronising chuckle. 'Stressful! I'd love to have a day off doing nothing!'

Ruth bit her tongue. She had a strict rule about not arguing with her husband when he was at work. She calmed herself by giving the cushions a rigorous thumping then, throwing caution to the wind, she set the washing machine away, resolving to stay in the front room where she could watch for the delivery man.

The phone rang again.

'Hello? Mrs Ruth McGowan?'


'Mrs Ruth McGowan, I am calling from the Willshaw Claims Company. I am phoning to tell you that you may be eligible to reclaim PPI on your loan.'


'You may have been missold PPI on your loan, Mrs McGowan. We could help you reclaim thousands of pounds.'

'I don't have any loans.'

'Perhaps it was for an older loan. Many people were missold PPI. Willshaw Claims Company are highly trained investigators who will gladly help you reclaim …'

'No thank you.'

'But, Mrs McGowan, this could be worth …'

She could hear the woman's voice still beseeching her to see reason as she swung the handset back down into the cradle. She leaned through the kitchen door to check the front. Still no delivery van.

The sun was shining, shimmering on the long grass of the field across the road. Ruth sighed. It would have been lovely to go for a walk. Maybe she could manage a short trip around the field if she kept her eyes open for the delivery van. No. Better not.

She cleaned the windows instead. Slowly and laboriously, stopping every few minutes to check the road.

She settled down for a late lunch, switching to the news channel on the TV. The anchor woman ran through the usual plugs for what was coming up later in the programme. It occurred to Ruth that if the silly woman just got on with telling the news it would save everybody a good deal of time.

She woke up some time later, confused, heart thumping. She must have fallen asleep waiting for the wretched anchor woman to get on with the news. She lurched out of her chair, convinced she had heard the slam of a car door. The road outside was empty.

She hurried to the door to check the letter box, arriving just as the door burst open. She screamed in surprise, then clapped a hand over her mouth. It was Henry. She frowned, looking at her watch. She must have been asleep for more than two hours. Blast Hammersmith Communications for waking her so early!

Henry looked at her, his eyes crinkling, the corners of his mouth lifting. 'Are you alright?'

'Yes. Yes I'm fine. I didn't realise you were home.'

'Good day?'


'I take it you didn't get to pick up my prescription.'

'No. I've had to say in all day waiting for the parcel.'

Henry nodded and produced a box from behind his back. It bore the label ' Hammersmith Communications'.

'The delivery van pulled up at the same time as me,' he said, with what turned out to be a very misguided laugh.


© 2012 Kay Lawrence.


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