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  Brenda
(I Just Hope They Don't
Make This Into a Movie)

by Tom Haskworth
 

Brenda was a strange person. She seemed more than a little, well, disjointed. She and I worked together in that new fish and chip shop in Kirk Street at one time. If trade was slack she would be in the back room where she could keep an eye on the counter. She would wait impatiently, tensely grinding her teeth like a hungry dog.

As I entered, she would click off the old Black and Decker, slip her teeth back in, and come out to meet me, scooping her bad eye from a pickle jar marked 'Optrex' with the ease of long practice.

Her lips came apart in a toothy smile. She took her hand from her handbag holding plasters for the split lips and put it back in a somewhat cool, detached manner.

I had to be careful what I said when she was around. Once, while trying to reach a sack of King Edwards on a high shelf, I asked her to lend a hand and give me a leg up. She took everything so literally. I dropped the lot. Spuds too. I looked a right twit. Brenda just fell apart.

We first met at a beach party. It was not very warm yet she wanted to paddle. The sea looked cold so she put a toe in first. When she eventually stepped in the water, she kept one foot on dry land.

Even while giving me the eye she had been picking her nose. Her beachbag held a wide selection. As we chatted, I learned she had a musical ear. She showed it me, bragging how it made its own wax recordings. I thought the quality was very poor but said nothing.

Men wept when they saw Brenda in a bathing suit. Her long, raven-black hair fell over her creamy shoulders like a dark mysterious river upon soft, whitened sand. She snatched it up and stuffed it in her bag. I heard a sneeze - not what you think; she was just cold. Brenda shivered. Her flesh began to creep but didn't get far. She put her hand in mine for a moment then let it drop by her side. It made a big impression.

I took her home where she sat in front of a roaring fire, toasting her toes. She was using one of those old-fashioned forks that I liked. Not any more. She was so cold she had to sit standing up and her knees were knocking. That really annoys me when there is a perfectly good doorbell, but I let them in.

Somehow Brenda blamed ME for the entire episode and gave me the cold shoulder. I soothed her for a while but she eventually gave me the elbow, put her foot down, picked up where she'd left off, gave me a right old mouthful and told me to leg it. I could tell by her body language she wanted me to go. I dropped everything and left in a hurry.

Someone who knew her said Brenda was one to keep her lip buttoned up when her back was to the wall but I find that hard to swallow. Her heart was in the right place but I could say very little else for her. True, she literally bent over backwards to help customers in the shop but I knew that her personal life was full of self-centred rejections.

Brenda went out with a bum from the chemist's in Exton Road for a while but it didn't last. The separation was painful and she was never the same. She took to the road. She tried to hold her head up high but Brenda was a broken woman and her face fell whenever she leaned forward to pick up her feet.

She was not a very great beauty, yet, with all her flaws, Brenda stole my heart. Local police are looking for a one-eyed, toothless bald-headed woman with a truly disarming manner, carrying an extremely messy carrier bag and struggling with a dreadful limp. Yes, Brenda had finally sold her sole to the devil.