Last summer I attended a creative writing course. One particular task was to eavesdrop on other people's conversations and relay them in less than 500 words, I’m quite fond of the result. As most people are not the Dalai Lama, Muhammad Ali, Stephen Fry or Germaine Greer, most conversations are intrinsically boring, involving "what's for dinner tonight" - "dunno, soup?" etc. But I was lucky to catch the first line of a conversation when I visited the Saatchi Gallery last year. I plucked it, memorised it, scribbled it in my moleskine and the rest I embellished.
I'm fond of it as it is nothing like anything I usually write (someone usually dies or gets wanked off). I'm very fond of both characters and I feel I can't continue this story in case one or both of them die or get wanked off. So a 500 word limit was perfect! Enjoy
“My legal name is Frances of course, but everyone calls me Fanny! It leads to much amusement with my bank manager!” the frail looking old lady announced with a snorting laugh.
She had one of those voices, which travelled, filled the room, clear as crystal, plummy, like an old school BBC radio presenter.
It belied her tiny body, with those sparrows’ ankles poking out the bottom of her long skirt, accentuating her patent leather red shoes.
She wore a blue fascinator, complete with veil. Her blue frilly blouse was buttoned up to her chin. She looked like an ice cream cone, with her head a precariously balanced scoop of vanilla, ready to slip to the floor and splat at the slightest touch.
Edward blinked and squinted through his jam jar glasses, struggling to focus. “Oh” he managed, before Fanny resumed her onslaught.
“I see from your name tag that you are Edward, jolly good. A proud, solid name.” she boomed whilst poking him on the name tag with her bony finger. He rocked back on his heels with each poke.
“And why are you here today Edward? Are you an artist too? Or an interested observer? Perhaps an art collector? You look the discerning type. Which part of the exhibition did you enjoy most? Any of my pieces catch your eye?”
Edward tugged the bottom of his jumper, straightening it out. He folded his arms, looked around and twiddled his thumbs as he struggled for an answer.
“Perhaps the depiction of Apollo?” she offered. “What of Thor? Anubis? Herakles?” She pounded him with the names of mythological gods, each one thumping him on the top of the head like a tent peg. Each time his knees buckled further into the ground.
“The last one” he muttered.
“Oh Herakles! Wonderful! Edward, you are so kind to say such things” she beamed, genuinely touched, fluttering her eyelashes from under the lace of her veil. Edward focused through his glasses and noticed the abundance of rouge on her cheeks, but also the sharp handsome bone structure, high cheekbones. She was probably a stunner in her youth, he mused.
Behind him, Edward heard a couple of youths sniggering.
“Look at that dog’s dinner going on and on”
“State of her!” replied the other voice with a guffaw.
Edward felt a pang of sadness for this eccentric relic of a bygone era. “Are you ok Edward?” enquired Fanny, gently touching his arm, her voice no longer booming but subdued and steeped in maternal care.
“Oh yes” he said. He unfolded his arms and offered one to Fanny. “Please show me, tell me more about your work. It’s beautiful” he smiled.
Fanny put her hand to her mouth with a tiny giggle, took his arm and leant on him for support. She blushed as they walked steadily back into the exhibition room.