Blank cheque

Tuesday 25th October 2011

IDEA for a short story, entitled Blank Cheque.

Joyce, 67, lives in a bungalow, with her three cats. Husband left years ago. Kids grew up, moved away.

She embroiders small tapestries, on scrolls, in frames: meadows, streams, poppies. Modestly priced, they sell well at indoor markets. Gives illustrated talks to WI groups. Anonymously, she donates 20% of her takings to charity, not earning enough to be registered for VAT. Half page feature, with photographs, in the local newspaper last month.

Then, unexpectedly, a rush of commissions: an initiative in community partnerships, ‘driven’ by the Chamber of Commerce. Two dozen required, £50 each. A scrolled pledge for the estate agents, fuchsias in a frame for the florist, an embroidered stack of own brand goods for the supermarket.

Weeks of late-night needlepoint.

Joyce delivers. Managers smile, staffs applaud. At the unveilings, nobody says anything about paying her. She is too embarrassed to ask.

A month passes. Nervously, she telephones Customer Services at the building society, leading to an appointment with the manager.

“Oh, I am sorry to hear that, Joyce. When did you submit your invoice?”

She sends out invoices. Two months later eight payments are still outstanding. Plans to see her grandchildren in Canada have been cancelled. One of the cats has died. She couldn’t afford the operation. The veterinary surgeon, not a Chamber of Commerce member, politely declined the offer of a tapestry in part exchange.

Joyce takes action. She goes into the florist’s, chooses a bunch of flowers, and walks out of the shop with them. A hesitant assistant runs after her, urging her to come back, because she’s … er… forgotten to pay.

“Oh really? Well, just send me an invoice!”

She tries on shoes. They fit. She leaves the shop wearing them.

“Send me an invoice!”

She loads a supermarket trolley, runs up a fifty pound bill and tells the cashier to send her an invoice. As she is leaving, a security guard steps forward to intercept her…

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