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‘Numbers’ is the third book of short stories and poems written by Ruth Partis. She is very grateful to the Sheppey Writers Group for their encouragement and continual nagging without which this book would never have been completed. (And probably not even started.) Ruth is also grateful to TAUP UK Publishing who have turned her work into what she hopes is a presentable volume.
Most of the contents are published for the first time, but there are a few favourites deemed worthy of another view.
Ruth’s stories tend to be very short enabling the reader to re-read them easily or indeed read them aloud to someone else.
Ruth’s two previous publications ‘The Incomplete Works of Ruth Partis’ and ‘My sister’s Shoes’ were very well received and are still available (as of 2015).
Brian didn’t mean to be a one-armed bandit. In fact he didn’t mean to start on his crime spree at all, it just sort of happened.
He’d spent three hours in Casualty, waiting for an x-ray only to be told that his fall has resulted in just a sprained wrist. He was given strapping and a sling, a prescription for pain killers and shown the door. He went to the pharmacy and had to sign the ‘over 60’ part of the prescription which proved difficult as it was his right wrist and he was right-handed. It was only as he got into his son’s car that he realised that he had accidentally taken the pharmacy’s pen. He’d put it into his sling so that he could hand the prescription over. It wasn’t worth going back, so he just went home and forgot about it. Until the next day.
He popped out to the nearby shop and was deciding whether to have a tin of sardines or if he could afford red salmon. An idea got into his head and just wouldn’t go away. He slipped the salmon tin into his sling and went and paid for the sardines.
That night he enjoyed the salmon in crusty rolls and his cat enjoyed the sardines. When they were both wiping their whiskers and feeling very content, he promised himself that he wouldn’t do it again.
The next day it was a pack of paté, he and the cat enjoyed that too.
His wrist was feeling a lot better the next morning, but he put the sling on anyway, just in case. In the greengrocers he stashed away a pack of asparagus and in the pet shop, some of the cat’s favourite treats.
In the days that followed, each day something small and expensive found its way into the sling. It started to get easy, and he started to get greedy.
The supermarket manager’s office was smaller than he expected. The manager was surprisingly kind and apparently accepted his story. He had found carrying the wire basket too heavy and put the small pack of the best coffee in the sling and forgotten it. His doddery old man act was so good that in a few minutes they brought him tea and biscuits and an offer to ring his son. The refreshments were welcome, but he was a bit panicky about having his son told. He knew his father wasn’t forgetful and although he could lie to the shop staff easily, he wouldn’t be able to lie and still look his son in the eye.He insisted he was all right, paid for the coffee, drank his tea and got away from the supermarket as quickly as he could.
At home he stopped at his wheelie bin and put the sling in it. His short, but exciting life of crime was over. He let himself in, greeted the cat, put the kettle on and retrieved the biscuits he had stuffed in his pocket in the supermarket’s office. He was surprised to find the manager’s pen in there as well.
But it really wouldn’t be worth taking it back.