Runner-Up: Harry’s Chair

By Cathy Ives

Cathy writes: I was born and now living again in Hertfordshire after being a resident of Brighton for twenty years. I write short fiction, poetry (which I have performed) and stage plays as I am a great lover of using dialogue to tell a story.

Vera sits in the only chair left in the house; it’s Harry’s chair. Vera knows that furniture has been disappearing for a while now. The settee has gone and so has the china cabinet and her dressing table and wardrobe. All that’s left in her bedroom is her bed. She knows this for certain because she got out of it this morning feeling all hot and bothered. There are a couple of boxes and some black bags which she thinks belong to her but she isn’t entirely sure. 

Apparently she was going somewhere – her son Robert had told her this on several occasions. Where or why she was going she didn’t know. But she wouldn’t need her furniture, Robert had said. Just her clothes and a few odds and ends; some keepsakes, photos, favourite books, letters, that sort of thing. It was a shame about the furniture, she’d had some of it for as far back as she could remember. And she can remember quite a way back, but not so good at what happened yesterday or the day before. 

It was all bought and paid for, the furniture. Harry was very strict about that. “Can’t have what we can’t pay for, gal.” He was always saying that. So everything had been collected bit by bit, as they could afford it. They would go out on Saturday afternoons and mooch around the junk shops looking for what they needed and then Harry would haggle with the owner for a bargain. Lucky they had that old van Harry used for his painting and decorating. It was pretty clapped out but it got them places. When they got home Vera would have to help him unload. Didn’t matter what it was – a table, a chair, a bed – she had to put her back into it and lift. 

Vera and Harry had married right after he was demobbed; in the registry office, church wasn’t for them. There he stood in his shiny demob suit with his mate Ernie as a witness and her in her best frock, carrying a bunch of daisies. Ida her sister was her witness. Then it was home to her mum and dad’s for their wedding tea. Food was on ration but someone had managed to find a tin of salmon and a tin of peaches from somewhere. 

From that day on they were hardly ever apart except when Harry was working, and he worked hard, bless him. Vera worked too, part-time in a sweet shop, and when she wasn’t she was keeping the house clean, sewing and mending or getting Harry’s dinner ready. On the rare occasions they went out of an evening they would always go together. Harry wasn’t one for going down the pub and leaving Vera at home. 

She called out to him now but there was just silence. Thinking about it, she hadn’t seen him at all lately. He was probably in his greenhouse. He did spend a lot of time in there but it was about time he showed his face. He had always grown his own veg. “Saves paying for it, eh, gal.” 

Vera shifts in Harry’s chair. No one dares sit in it unless he’s out, not even Vera. She had shouted at Robert when he had suggested taking it away. She told him straight that it was staying put and anyway, she wouldn’t want to be in his shoes if Harry found it gone. 

By the side of the chair is her big brown handbag. She picks it up, it’s heavy. Harry had bought it for her on a day out in Clacton, or was it Margate? It could have been Frinton. She opens the large clasp, there is everything in it: lipstick, powder compact, letters and old black-and-white photographs, her manicure set in its leather case – a birthday present from Robert when he was little; chose it himself, Harry had said. There were spare glasses and keys for she didn’t know what. 

She rummages around and pulls out a bundle of letters, mostly from Harry when he was overseas. Then she gets out a photograph of him all dressed up in his army uniform. She never tired of looking at him so smart; and that smile that made him even more good looking. No wonder she fell for him. “Didn’t have a chance did I, you ole’ charmer,” she says out loud. There aren’t tears in her eyes, she doesn’t need her hankie. She puts the things back in the bag and clasps it shut, her big sturdy bag. It goes everywhere with her, wherever she’s going.