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These pages are a collection of stories from the Writer's Group at Box Hill U3A.


The Windfall

"Where is it?" she said. "Have you seen it anywhere, Jim?"
"What?" he said.
"My handbag. I put it down when I came in this morning. The phone was ringing so I rushed to answer it and now I can't find it."
Silence. Jim had switched off.
Marj sat down and tried to retrace her movements. She remembered emptying her big black bag and putting all the stuff into the smaller brown one. So that's what I'm looking for. Where the hell is it? I shouldn't have swapped bags, as the black one is so big you can't miss it, she thought. Trying to force a picture to her mind, she saw herself talking to Betty on the phone. She noticed the time; 11.10 am, and the rain being flung against the window. She just couldn't see what she was doing before it rang. She came through the front door, and then what? She had the bag with her at the time, didn't she? She took her keys out of her pocket to open the door, and she had her old shopping bag. Did she leave her handbag in a shop? This is happening to me all the time now, she thought. How many times a day do I say "I can't remember" or "I've forgotten?" Memory is something you take for granted, but it trips you up in lots of different ways, as you get older. The other day, she remembered her friend Anna asked her if she would like to go to a concert.
"When is it on?" she had asked. Anna gave her the date and time and then went on -
"They're having a harpist to accompany the soprano, as well as the pianist. It should be really good, so, can you come?"
In that short space of time she'd forgotten what day it was on, but covered up, saying "I'll just have to check the diary, now it was....", and Anna filled in the rest.
Marj continued searching for her brown bag, and eventually found it in the guests' powder room. She'd popped in for a quick visit because the family toilet was at the other end of the house. To her chagrin, when located, the bag had changed colour - it was green! Of course, she remembered then that the brown one had not been quite large enough.
Since entering the portals of seniority, Marj felt she had developed a sense of humour tailored to the vagaries of her changeling memory. Naturally enough, frustration makes you want to cry sometimes, but there are many things that make you laugh - if you let yourself. Marj had always thought that putting the sugar in the fridge and the milk in the pantry was an exaggerated example of a lapse in memory, made up for comedic relief. Yet, on one occasion not so long ago, she'd caught herself in a similar act. She also discovered that sometimes, even in the absence of any distractions, it is impossible to remember something for even a few seconds. It happened last Monday when Jim asked where she would like to go for their morning walk.
"How about that place in Blackburn where we took Rachel and William (their grandchildren) the Sunday before last."
"Okay," said Jim. "Will you look up the map reference in the Melways for me? Perhaps we can call in to the chocolate shop on the way home? You know the one where you get a free chocolate. I'll go and get the car out."
As Jim headed off to the garage, Marj got out the Melways and duly found the correct map. She decided it best to write it down, so she wouldn't have to remember it. The park was located on Map 35 E2 but she wrote Map 32 E5. Fortunately, she immediately noticed what she had done and laughed to herself, although later admitted she found it puzzling and "a bit of a worry". She didn't tell Jim because she knew what he'd make of it. He always maintains he doesn't have any problems with his memory. "I can still remember lots of things I did when I was a kid", was his frequent response to those who dare to question. Marj used to say "But can you remember what you did last week?" Of course she never got an answer.
The next week it was Jim's birthday; on the Wednesday. Marj had planned to get him a DVD he'd previously said he wouldn't mind watching, but at the last minute changed her mind. She decided instead she would take him out for a special dinner, because she'd had a bit of a financial windfall. This is how it happened. She'd been aware of the accumulation of fluff and dust at the bottom of their wardrobe for quite a while; some of the shoes were covered in it. On the spur of the moment she decided to tidy up the shoes and vacuum the dust. Loose carpet had been placed on the concrete floor; disturbing it to vacuum revealed the envelope. Marj was surprised to discover it contained $200. Before they retired, she and Jim had kept some money tucked away for emergencies, but she thought they'd used it all long ago. Marj felt it only right that Jim should share in the windfall. She was quite disappointed though with his reaction; he did not seem at all thrilled at the prospect of a night out. However, the day after, he thanked her and gave her a lovely bunch of flowers; her favourites, Singapore Orchids. So he must have been happy.
Poor Marj would have been disappointed all over again, if she'd heard Jim, talking over the back fence to his mate, a few days later.
"I'm telling you Bruce, I nearly flipped when Marj said she'd found two hundred bucks in the wardrobe."
"So, she didn't know it was yours?"
"Nah, we used to keep a bit of money there when we were working. She thought it was left over from then."
"Why did you put your money in the same place?"
"I didn't really, it was in an envelope, but I put it under the piece of carpet on the wardrobe floor. I didn't think she'd take it up to clean!"
Bruce shrugged "At least you had a night out and got a present. The missus told me you gave Marj some flowers to thank her for the night."
"Yeah, well, I guess I felt a bit guilty initially. Marj saw the money as her windfall, and here she was going to spend it on my birthday. But, really, I was just relieved that she didn't come across my other stash instead; wouldn't have wanted to lose five hundred bucks."

Goldie Fox