The Jolly Boys

Shirley Stephenson is a bored housewife who never stops day in day out, its the same humdrum existence. Bob her husband is a lazy good for nothing. who lost his leg in an industrial accident and is claiming benefit fraudulently. he keeps her short and moans because she goes to the bingo. Shirley finds the courage to file for a divorce and free herself. her life is suddenly transformed after she finds all of the compensation that Bob has been hiding from her. she orders a taxi she takes £30.000 and takes a box with some things that her gran had left her.

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13. 13

"Where were you last neet?'

"I stayed at Joyce's, she won at bingo and bought a couple of bottles of wine. I thought there was nothing spoiling because you wouldn't get home until four anyway.'

"What do you want for your breakfast?'

"Is there any bacon for a sandwich?'

"I'll have a look. Shirley looked in the fridge knowing there was none because Bob had eaten it all two days before.'

"No there is none, there's a couple of eggs there I can make you an omelette.'

Aye gan on then but put plenty of tomato sauce on it.'

"Shirley took out the frying pan then added some oil and lit the gas under it. She mixed the eggs in a bowl and then poured them into the pan. How many bits of bread do you want?'

"Enough for four sandwiches.'

"Don't you think that's a bit much?'

"No, I'm cutting down gradually.'

"Are you going for a walk like you said you were?'

"Aye I'm gannin' to the bookies first.' I've a few bob to pick up from yesterday.'

Shirley buttered four slices of bread and put the eggs into them and added salt and pepper and a big dollop of tomato sauce on each of them before cutting them both in half.'

"Here said his wife as she set them down on the table as he perused the racing section of the paper.

"Where's me cup of tea.'

"Give me a chance, I can only do one job at a time.'

In no time at all the first of the four sandwiches was down Bob's neck and his hand went automatically to pick up the next.

She placed a teabag into the pot and switched on the electric kettle to boil again. Bob was a stickler for leaving the teabag in boiling water for three minutes before taking it out and adding milk and four sugars. She'd tried to reduce his sugar intake because he was borderline diabetic. If she put only three in he'd get up and put in another two heaped one's in it then stir. She set the mug down then looked at her husband before saying "Bob we need to talk.'

"Not now Shirley can't you see I’m picking out my horses.'

"This is important.'

"So is this, you know I've got to study the form.'

"Look Bob,' I've tried I really have, but I can't go on like this.'

"Oh man Shirley stop your whinging, bloody women and PMT.'

"I haven't got PMT I've got SOYS.'

"SOYS what the hell is that when I'm at home. is this another bloody excuse for not having any bacon in the house.'

"No Bob,' it's "Sick of You Syndrome.'

"What sick of me, what the hell have I done now?'

"Let's face it we aren't getting along, are we?' God forbid if we have a conversation in this house apart from the rows in here.'

"Whey, you’re the one who starts them?'

"That's right blame me why don't you.' I'm always the one at fault?'

"Well it's bloody true, you pick on me all the time about my weight and if it isn't that it’s about the amount of beer I drink.'

"Well you can drink yourself into oblivion if you like from now on because I’m going.'

"Going where?'

"I'm leaving you Bob, I'm going to stay with my sister in Whitley bay for a while.'

"What for?'

"Because I've had enough of you.' I cannot live with you anymore, you don't lift a hand stir in here, the place is badly in need of decorating and you just sit there all day watching horses. You leave everything to me in here.'

"Well you don't go to work like I do, do yer.'

"That's because I've got too much to do in here.' You'll see how much I do in a day when you've got to look after yourself. "You see I’m going to find a job Bob and I'm going to get myself a life.' I'm sick to death of slaving after you, Jimmy, and our Margaret.'

"Aye what about wor Jimmy and Margaret eh your leaving them in the shit too yer na.'

"Jimmy is nearly eighteen Bob he's nearly a man, he can look after himself.' Our Margaret is getting a flat soon she told me.'

"So, when are you leaving?'

"I will do all the washing and ironing and I will get your shopping before I leave.'

"You'll soon be back; your Kate won't put up with you for long.'

"When I get a job, I will get my own place Bob.'

"Job,' there's nae work man woman.’

I'll retrain and do something, it might take a while but I’ll do it.'

"So, you have no intension of coming back then have you?'

No Bob, you will be getting a letter from my solicitor. I'm divorcing you.'

"The tears were rolling down the cheeks of Shirley as she filled the washer and set it away.'

"Whey that's what I get for working my arse off to provide a roof over our heads for seventeen years.'

"Look Bob we are both young enough to start again.' I'm sure that you will find someone to look after you.'

"I thought I had.' "What is it, is it because of my false leg, are you ashamed of me or something?' I've noticed when we gan anywhere you walk ahead of me now.'

"That's because you walk too slow Bob, It's your weight as well. You are killing yourself with food and you won't listen to me.'

"What so you're divorcing me because I've gained a few pounds. That's a joke.'

Shirley took out the ironing board and began to iron a pile of shirts and trousers.'

"Bob our marriage hasn't been right for the last ten years.' I've tried to carry on but enough is enough.'

"Is there someone else?'

"No,' you know that there isn't.'  I haven't time to conduct a relationship with anyone else.'

Shirley carried a pile of ironing into their bedroom she placed all of it into Bobs draws then took out her suit case and began to pack some of her clothes. Bob stood in the doorway and said "Won't you stay Shirley, I’m sorry you feel this way. I'm sorry it has come to this I really am, but if your mind is made up then I’m not going to stop you.' "You know if it doesn't work out then you can always come back.'

"Nothing will ever change here Bob, oh we might give it another go but after a few weeks I will be back in the same routine, the same rut I've been in for ten years. No Bob, I'm going.'

"I want a fresh start and I suggest that you do the same.' get yourself sorted out Bob, you need to take a long hard look at yourself and face up to reality. you have been living in a cocoon for the last ten years.'

"I've tried Shirley but I get depressed you know that.'

"Yes, I know you do and I've tried to be supportive Bob.' I am nothing more than an emotional crutch to you. and you have to face up to it; our marriage is over.'

"Will you at least wait to tell Jimmy and our Margret?'

"I will call in on my way to our Kate's and tell them both, Shirley ironed Jimmy’s things then put them away in his draws then went to the passage and put on her coat. "I'm going to slip to the shops now to get you enough shopping to last you and Jimmy until the weekend. I won't be long.'

Shirley took her shopping bag with four other plastic bags inside then hurried for the bus.

"She was surprised when Gary Sanderson pulled up.'

"Hi Gorgeous, where you off to?'

"I'm Just off to the shops, Look Gary, about last night.'

"Gary pulled away as Shirley sat near the front.'

"I'm sorry I had to run off like that but duty called.' look can we meet up tonight?'

"I don't know, I’m going to our Kates in Whitley Bay later today to stay with her until I sort myself out.'

"You told him then?'

"Yes, I've told him.'

"Does he know about us?

"No, I haven't told him.'

"Look I will be on a break in an hour, why don't you meet me at the cafe next over the road from Greggs. "I'll buy you lunch and we can talk there.'

"I don't know Gary; my head is all over the place at the moment. I told Bob that I wouldn't be long.'

"You are not beholding to him anymore Shirley, anyway it is only for a half hour I have to get back on the bus after that. "Come on what do you say.'

"Alright I'll get my shopping and meet you in the cafe.'

The bus carried on into Wallsend and she got off and went to the Co-op. taking a trolley she wondered around picking up as much as she could carry then went to the check out.

"Hi Shirley how are you love said Phyllis Jackson her old school friend.'

"I'm fine, how are you and Ray getting on?'

"Same old Shirley, he's out of work and can't get a job.' Since Swan Hunter's went into receivership the amount of skilled men on the dole has gone up and up.' They keep sending Ray on these training programmes like but there's no permanent work going anywhere.' "What's your Bob doing these days?'

"He's in the taxi office at Westholme Club.'

"Too close for comfort if you ask me.'  you know what men are like, slip out for a quick pint.'

Phyllis put her shopping through as Shirley was bagging them up. "Christ Shirley are you going to be able to carry this lot; you’re like a pack mule.'

"I only live around the corner from the bus stop.'

"Bob should have been here to give you a hand.'

"It's alright really, I'm used to it. She placed three carrier bags in one hand and the other two in her other then said goodbye to Phyllis.'

Walking through the forum she made her way past the Anson to a set of traffic lights then crossed the road when they turned green. The was a new bargain shop just opened called Greenway's next door to the cafe. Shirley went in the cafe and ordered herself a cup of coffee she chose a seat next to the window so she could see Gary coming. She looked out onto the High street seeing people coming and going. Johnny Decker was standing on the corner asking people for fifty pence and a cigarette. The man had a learning difficulty, he didn't work and spent the vast majority of his day cadging money from people and riding on the Metro trains free because he'd been caught that many times and fined. The courts found they could do nothing to stop him so he was just ignored by all the ticket inspectors who all knew him as he travelled to Whitley bay, Tynemouth and North Shields every day come rain, hail, or snow. Johnny would be out asking people for money in the early hours of the morning as people were going to work. He would stand and ask people for money. His mouth was permanently open and saliva would dribble onto his tee shirt. His afro hair was beginning to turn grey. When he had a few pounds he’d leave and enter Nobles the place where he would spend the money in the bandits inside the arcade. Rumour has it that his father Solomon hit him over the head with a heavy steak plate when he was just a boy causing brain damage. There was eight in the Decker's family and many of them went to Southlands School on Beach Road for slow learners. "Shirley saw Gary running along towards the cafe. He would of had to run from the terminus at the metro station to get there. She got up and ordered a coffee and a sandwich for them both then paid for them as Gary walked in.'

"I got you chicken salad is that alright.'

"Yes, thanks but you shouldn't have.' Gary took a few deep breaths until his breathing returned to normal.

"Have you walked here with all of those bags.'

"Yes, it is no bother.'

Gary took her hand and the red welts where the plastic had cut into her skin were clearly visible. Look at your hands Shirley.'

"I'll help you carry them along to the bus stop then wait there until I come around and I'll drop you off at your door.'

"You'd better eat your sandwich or you'll get no lunch.'

Gary opened the triangular box the sandwiches were in and placed them onto the plate.'

"Aren't you going to eat.'

"I'm not hungry.'

"Come on eat something you'll feel better I promise.'

"So, what do you want to do tonight?'

"I don't know Gary, I mean I don't want to treat my sister's house like a hotel.

"Look Shirley we will go to the estate agents tomorrow, it’s my day off and we can ask about a flat for you.'

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