A short story from a writers’ group anthology.
I’ve been a bit busy, and feeling a bit ‘meh’ this week and not got round to writing a post till now. I’ve taken a lazy option and used an excerpt of a short story. It’s from the story I contributed to the Coventry Writers’ Group anthology before Christmas. We didn’t organise a launch then in case the weather was bad. Instead we arranged it for the beginning of this month. And – guess what? – we had to cancel due to heavy snow. The anthology is called Stories to Make you Smile, but this was no laughing matter!
Anyway, here are the opening paragraphs of my contribution – Storm in a B Cup.
I was eating toast and nearly didn’t take the call.
“Hello?” I said eventually, still chewing and coughing slightly as a crumb caught in the back of my throat. I took a sip of tea to clear it.
“Andrea Peterson?” It was a man’s voice, heavily accented, and nasal, as if he had a cold or was holding his nose. I thought he might be East European, but I’m not very good at accents.
I “uh-hu’d,” in the affirmative. That, and the tea, helped shift the crumb.
“Andrea Peterson, we have your father.”
There was a pause. He, presumably, to let the import of what he’d said sink in. Me because my father had been dead for over two years.
“Sorry, I think you have the wrong number.” I was about to switch off, but the man cut in quickly.
“He’s safe – for now. Fifty grand by the weekend or he loses a finger every day you delay. We’ll be in touch.”
The phone went dead. I took another mouthful of toast. It had to be a mistake. But the man – Russian, I’d decided it had to be a Russian, because this was the sort of thing Russians did in films – knew my name and my mobile phone number. Knew my new name in fact as, since the gender re-assignment surgery, I had stopped calling myself Andrew.
How had he got hold of my mobile number? Was this part of a new spate of transphobic trolling? I’d had a fair bit of that in the past few years. I scrolled through my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Nothing. So far, this call was a one off.
But the thing about chopping off Dad’s fingers bothered me. Was it some kind of coded digital message? How do you chop a finger off a dead man anyway? So dead, in fact, his ashes had been deposited in an old cocoa tin on my mantelpiece whilst I decided what to do with them. I needed to agree his final resting place with my brother, who currently wasn’t speaking to me. Or maybe he was – but I’d made it a rule two years ago not to open letters addressed to Andrew Peterson, and he knew that. Besides, I’d been told by an old neighbour that he had moved to a new flat and salon, but she didn’t have any contact details.
I finished my toast, took three hormone boosting pills with a few swigs of my now cold tea, and rinsed the mug and plate under the hot tap.
The phone rang again. I picked up quickly this time.
“Don’t phone the Police.” He rang off before I had time to say a word. This time I felt the accent had a hint of Welsh, but the line went dead so quickly, I may have just imagined it. I sat looking at the phone screen – option one seemed to have been ruled out before I’d even thought of it.
The tablets always made me feel a bit queasy for a bit after I’d taken them. But it was worth it – my breasts had been growing since the start of the hormone treatment and I was a decent B cup size now. I felt them appreciatively, and for a moment they took my mind off the recent phone calls. Then the phone rang again.
“Yes?” This time I forgot to modulate my voice in the way I’d been taught, and the word came out as a basso bark.
“Hey, steady! What’s this with the macho aggression?” It was my transition mentor. I was due to see her in an hour.
“Clare, I’m sorry.” I willed my voice up half an octave. “Been having a bit of bother over the phone. I thought it might be them again.”
“Trannie haters?” I hated Clare using that term – in her book it seemed to cover ninety percent of the population. But I had never known how to tell her, and just now didn’t feel like the right time either.
“Don’t think so. It was about my Dad.”
“Poor you. You think you’ve got them dead and buried, but there’s always something still needs doing. No peace for the wicked eh?”
I glanced at the cocoa tin. For the second time in less than a minute I felt Clare’s counselling skills were somewhat lacking. But she’d been through the system, well not the full bells and whistles – she’d decided to keep her bells and whistle intact – so, in the absence of any other mentors being available, I was stuck with her.
“Anyway,” she went on, “I’m just ringing to say I’m running terribly behind this morning, can we leave it till the same time tomorrow? That’s great. You’re a star. Must dash” She rang off without waiting for a reply. I didn’t believe she was too busy. More likely she had been out on a date last night and still hadn’t got home. Clare never seemed short of male partners looking for something a bit different.
The phone rang again almost immediately.
“Hello?” I remembered to use my lilting contralto this time. ……
Want to read more? The anthology is available on Amazon in print and as an e-book. here is the link if you are interested: myBook.to/StoriesSmile