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Thursday, 23 September 2010

Lipstick in the Haystack (A short story)

“Those blooming townies have been out this way again Boy. Almost caught two of the blighters last night. I comes to the stable, because the horse was restless, and what do you think I sees? I’ll tell yer – one of those townie boys and his Jezebel, midway into their sneaky routine,” he cursed in the most vulgar of fashions to Tom, the young farm hand.


The old man’s face flushed an angry crimson behind a huge bulbous, pock-marked nose, which Tom knew, was due to years of dedicated cider drinking.


The young farm hand remained silent as the morning breeze ruffled his long ginger hair. He peered down at his employer with relaxed brown eyes – remaining silent as the old man vented his frustration – ignoring his dislike for the grumpy farmer’s brash and ignorant manner, well aware that Mr Jenkins had been suspicious of his stable being used for an illicit rendezvous, by a courting couple.


“Took to their heels when I walked into the stable - shot out of the other door and took off into the night, didn’t even glimpse what the perishers looked like!” The old man pushed open the stable door and Tom followed him inside.


The horse had been released into the field earlier in the morning, leaving the stable with an eerie and empty feeling as shafts of light tore through the gaps between the wooden planks, causing dust particles to swim within the rays. This did nothing to appease the gloomy silence.


“We’ll have a little search around, Tom. See if we can find anything, you never know, I might be able to find out who the blasted pair are and tell them to take their cavorting elsewhere.” He put his hands on his hips and looked into the corner where a pile of hay lay propped against the wood panels. “That’s where they must’ve been. We’ll have a little look there first,” he glanced at Tom with a devious smirk and then sauntered forward.


The old man went to work enthusiastically, rummaging through the hay while Tom showed a distinct lack of zeal for the task, causally turning over some hay with a disinterested aspect. His eyes settled on a tube of lipstick, which he recognised as Sarah’s – old man Jenkins’ young daughter. He had been with the young woman when she had bought the cosmetic a few weeks ago. It had been during the afternoon and he had run her into town to buy a few things. The sight of the lipstick surprised him, and he felt a strong kick of disappointment in the pit of his stomach. Secretly he adored Sarah and thought her to be without a boyfriend. For some time, he had harboured a desire to court the fine looking woman, but now his ambitions were dashed.


Quickly, before the old man spotted him, Tom grabbed the lipstick and put it into his pocket, knowing that Sarah would be in dreadful trouble if her blustery Father was to fathom out it was her cavorting about in the stable with her lover.


“I should have hid and waited for the good-for-nothings, when I first suspected – I knew it was up to me to do this. It’s not the first time they’ve used my stable for their mischief. Now I’ll probably never know who they are,” concluded the old man.


“Well, Mr Jenkins, if it frightens them off for good – then you’ve achieved what you wanted. They certainly won’t use your stable anymore. Not if they have any sense,” added Tom.


“Oh yeah, I knows that boy, but....” He stopped and looked around as though certain that someone was eaves dropping, then leaned forward and continued in a mischievous whisper. “I would have liked to have known who it was – I could have a little chin wag about it down at the pub with the rest of the lads.” He winked at Tom and stood up straight.


“I bet you wouldn’t,” thought Tom.


The old man looked down at the pile of hay and sighed to himself. “I’m clutching at straws aren’t I lad?”


“Yes Mister Jenkins – quite literally,” Tom smiled


“All right then lad, lets go back to the house and have a cup of tea before getting down to work, shall we?” He turned and left the stable with his recent ardour completely evaporated.


Tom was relieved but also repulsed by the old man’s hypocritical manner. It was a corrupt trait of Mr Jenkins to act disgusted for one moment, and then enjoy the funny side of things when in the Public house with his drinking friends. The old man would not be so willing to laugh if he knew that his daughter’s lipstick had been found in the stable.


They remained silent as they walked across the farmyard returning to the farmhouse via the kitchen door, entering to a welcome smell of sizzling bacon and the sight of a boiling kettle.


Sarah Jenkins was busy laying the table for her father, looking splendid and radiant with her long fair hair hanging loosely past her shoulders. Her high cheek boned face framed Tom’s admiring vision as she looked back at him and smiled.


“You’ve got a good sense of timing,” she smiled, walking back to the cooker to attend the breakfast.


Tom felt a pang of disappointment in his heart. If only he had asked her for a date some time ago. She might never have met her illicit lover.


“I knew it was up to me,” thought Tom, wishing he could be a little bolder about things.


“Well if that sizzling aroma knocks a man out, Tom!” laughed the old man, smelling the bacon. He was in a fine new mood. He strolled past his daughter and wandered into the hallway, leaving Tom standing alone with Sarah. Although he was rather disgruntled, he accepted it was not his place to expect Sarah to know of his feelings. She would never be aware, and it is no use him being grumpy about such things. He sighed and held up the lipstick he had recovered from the hay pile, knowing that they were out of sight from the old man, and raised one eye brow to deliver a light-hearted ‘caught you out’ look.


Sarah frowned and held out her delicate hand. “Where did you find that?” Her voice was puzzled.


Tom whispered sadly. “In the stable Sarah.”


Her innocent eyes widened in surprise. “I brought that the other day when you run me into town. It was a birthday present for Mummy. She only wears it for best. God knows how it ended up in the stable,” she laughed.

 
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