Solent Writers Circle

Arthur’s Last Trip

By Shirley Blane

Shirley is the author of The Widow’s Revenge, a full length novel published as an e-book on Amazon and a contributor to four volumes of short stories also published for Kindle, the latest being Temporal Tales.

Queenie was at that point in life when she didn’t know whether to lie about her age or boast about it. But young looking or not, her memory let her down. Here they were, first day on holiday and she had lost Arthur.
They came to Bournemouth every year. Of course, if he had been more ambitious, it might have been the Costa Brava. Still, at least he’d never been forced to flee there, like some of his mates. And now she couldn’t remember when she had last seen him. She phoned her daughter, even though Patsy would probably yell at her.
‘Hi, Mum,’ Patsy said.
‘Hi, darling. Don’t shout at me. I’ve lost your Dad.’
Patsy made a choking sound. ‘Mum, Dad’s dead, remember? He died six months ago.’
‘Yes, I know that, love. My memory’s not that bad. But you know how he loved Bournemouth. I couldn’t come here without him, could I?’
‘What do you mean, Mum?’ Queenie detected panic in her daughter’s voice and hastened to reassure her.
‘His ashes, darling. I brought his urn with me. I thought he’d like that, especially as I booked the guest house we always stayed in. But I took him out with me this morning and I’ve lost him.’
‘Oh, Mum.’ Her daughter made a noise between a sob and a giggle. ‘You’re priceless. Why don’t you retrace your steps? You have to find him. Suppose someone picks him up and thinks he’s a jar of talcum powder?’
Queenie blinked back tears. Her Arthur, used to powder someone’s bum? She couldn’t bear the thought.
Patsy was still talking. ‘….and call me back later.’
‘Yes, dear,’ Queenie said and switched off her ‘phone.
She checked the shops and café she’d visited. No-one had handed in a blue china urn. The trouble was she had been taking him out of her handbag every time she stopped, so he could look around, too. She returned to the promenade to check the bench where she’d sat. Her feet ached in the new high-heeled shoes. But she liked to look smart and Arthur was always proud of her.
‘Can’t you give me some clue as to where you bloody are?’ she said, limping along. ‘You’re always so good at reminding me where I put things. Come on, Arthur, stop mucking about. It’s not funny.’
Near to tears, she sat on the bench.
‘Are you all right, love?’ asked a woman sitting there with her husband.
Queenie’s tears flowed.
‘I’ve lost my husband, my feet are killing me and I can’t walk any further.’
‘Perhaps he’s gone home,’ the woman said.
‘He couldn’t do that. We’re on holiday.’
‘Perhaps he’s gone back to your hotel,’ said her husband. ‘That’s what I’d do if I lost Sheila.’
‘He couldn’t do that either.’
‘Suffers memory loss, eh?’ The woman nodded in understanding. ‘My Dad was always wandering off. Why don’t you go to the police station and report him missing?’
Queenie gulped. Even the sight of a police car brought Arthur out in a prickly rash. But Patsy wouldn’t forgive her if she didn’t bring him home.
She made it to the taxi rank, the blisters on her heels rubbing raw. Bloody shoes, bloody Bournemouth, bleedin’ feet, she thought, wishing she had some sticking plasters.
‘I’m sorry, Arthur, the cop shop’s the only option,’ she muttered. ‘The police station,’ she told the taxi driver.
‘Everything all right, love?’ he asked, pulling away.
‘My husband’s missing.’
‘How long’s he been gone then?’
‘Two hours.’
The driver’s head swivelled round. Watch the road, Queenie wanted to shriek. Traffic halted in front of them and she rammed her heel to the floor. He turned back and slammed on his brakes. ‘Bit early to call in the police, love,’ he said, quite nonplussed, while Queenie waited for her heart beat to return to normal. ‘Perhaps he’s in the pub.’
Queenie sighed. ‘Just take me to the police station,’ she said wearily.
He drove without another word, shaking his head in disbelief. She paid him, ignoring his expression and went up the steps.
‘Can I help?’ asked the young woman behind the desk.
‘I brought my husband on holiday with me and I’ve lost him.’
The girl drew a form towards her.
‘How long since he disappeared?’
‘About two hours.’
The girl put her pen down. Her expression said ‘another time-waster’. Queenie told her Arthur was dead. The girl went cross-eyed. Queenie explained, before she was arrested for murder.
‘…I took his urn out of my bag several times,’ she finished. ‘I don’t know where I’ve left him.’
‘Right,’ said the girl, with obvious relief. She pulled out another form. ‘So it’s lost property we’re talking about.’
Queenie didn’t like Arthur being referred to as ‘property’, but clearly he wasn’t a missing person, as such. She answered the questions, then signed the form.
‘I wouldn’t hold out much hope,’ the girl said. ‘Ring in a couple of days and quote this number.’ Queenie took her copy of the form, resigned to the fact that she might never see Arthur again. As she turned to leave, another woman came in.
‘I hope you can help,’ the woman said to the girl, dumping her capacious handbag on the counter, ‘I seem to have picked up the wrong handbag.’
Queenie looked at both bags. They were identical. She went back to the counter and put her bag next to the woman’s.
‘Blimey, that’s quick service,’ the woman said, smiling.
‘I didn’t notice it wasn’t my bag,’ said Queenie, ‘I was so upset at losing my Arthur.’ The woman raised her eyebrows. ‘Don’t ask,’ Queenie said. ‘Is there a blue china urn in there?’
‘Yes, here.’ She took it out. ‘Oops.’ It slipped from her hands and smashed on the stone floor. ‘Ooh, sorry.’ White dust rose and the girl behind the counter sneezed.
Queenie covered her mouth with her hand. Arthur, ending up in the cop shop! He’d never forgive her.

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