After dinner Charlotte bought her laptop over and went through her collection of digital photographs that she had taken on safari. Stephen was impressed with her detailed knowledge of the animals and places.
‘You should write it all down, Charlie, I’m sure it would find an audience.’
‘Me, write? as in writing something other than an email or a report? I can’t see it somehow.’
‘I read your emails, they were very descriptive, I think you’ve got a real talent there. It just needs polishing up a bit. While you were away, I joined the local writers group. They’re a strange lot, mainly elderly, but they do have some younger members stashed away in a cupboard somewhere. Why don’t you join too? maybe together we could blow away some of the cobwebs and get it functioning again. What do you say?’
‘Writing, hmm, I have to admit I’ve always fancied the idea. My old English teacher said I should be a journalist. It’s certainly worth thinking about. What do they do at this group?’
‘Not a lot as things stand, but they do have writing competitions every month and they have reading nights, so you can get an idea of what strangers think of your work. Family members and friends are always going to be polite about your writing, and while that’s encouraging, it’s not really going to help.’
Stephen put the last few pages of his novel on the table. Charlotte picked it up and read.
‘This is great,’ she said eventually, ‘where’s the rest of it?’
Stephen tapped his head.
‘In here, I’ve more or less got it all worked out.’
‘So, you wrote the ending first?’
‘Yes, I know, the writers group thought I was mad too. Or at least I think they did; I didn’t get any reaction from them at all when I read it.’
Charlotte pursed her lips and thought for a moment.
‘Thinking about it, it’s quite logical. You should know where you’re going to end up.’
‘That’s how I see it. Of course, when I write the preceding chapters the story might take a major diversion and it may end up in a totally different place, but I just thought I’d give it a go.’
‘If the writers club is so old and crumbly, is there any real point in me joining. They sound a mean old bunch.’
‘I was told they are just scared of change; they know things will have to be done differently if the group is going to survive, but they just can’t face up to that reality.’
‘So, what are you going to do, start a revolution?’
‘ It started tonight, I have one or two that I think I can persuade, it will take time, they won’t just follow like sheep, nor should they, it is their group. But I think I’ve sown a few seeds. We’ll see what happens over the next few weeks.’
Stephen produced the Westwich Writers Club, publicity leaflet.
‘Have a look at that, it has all the details of competition nights and manuscript meetings. They are going to be adding guest speakers soon too.’
Charlotte scanned the A5 sheet.
‘I wouldn’t be able to make all the meetings, I’m back to work at the hospital from Monday. But I could scrounge a lift with you now and then I suppose. The more I think about it the more I like the idea of writing about my safari.’
‘You could turn it into a novel, Charlie.’
‘Maybe, there are possibilities there, I suppose. I’ll think about it and get back to you.’
Charlotte looked up at the kitchen wall clock.
‘Goodness, it’s after one, I’d better let you get to your bed.’
‘I’m having a day off tomorrow, so don’t worry about it.’
Charlotte picked up her laptop and Stephen showed her to the door. She kissed him on the cheek and walked out onto the landing.
‘I’ve missed you, Stephen. I love our little get-togethers.’
‘Me too, Charlie, we’ll have to do it again soon.’
Charlotte looked at him quizzically.
‘How come you never try anything on with me? Most do, even my tour guide in Kenya. Aren’t I your type or something?’
‘Just because I don’t do it, doesn’t mean I don’t think about it.’ said Stephen. ‘You don’t know how close you’ve just been to a good, try it on.’
‘Here’s a tip,’ whispered Charlotte. ‘ Next time you think about it, give it a go, you never know your luck.’
She turned and made her way back to her flat. As she reached her front door she looked back over her shoulder.
‘I’ll let you know about the writers club soon, I promise. Goodnight, Stephen.’
Stephen woke with the sun in his eyes and a ringing in his ears. He reached out and picked up the phone from the bedside table.
‘Speak,’ he croaked.
‘Stephen? it’s Carole. Did I wake you? I’m sorry.’
‘Hi Carole, it seems I am having a lie in, but it wasn’t planned, I had a bit of a late night. What can I do for you?’
‘We’re short staffed again, I know it’s your day off, but…’
‘Who hasn’t turned in?’
‘Ben? I’m beginning to get a little fed up with him, what’s his excuse this time?’
‘Granny died last night.’
‘Again? Didn’t she die three or four months ago? he had a week off to get over it.’
‘This is another Granny.’
‘But he’s never met his other Granny. He doesn’t even know who his Dad is, does he? Didn’t his mother bring him up on her own?’
‘Okay, I’ll be there in an hour. Leave the virus infection and the new main board job for me. Give Mel the memory upgrade and the new OS installation. She turned up, I hope?’’
‘Yes, Mel’s here, she never misses. We have to force her to take holidays. I think you have an admirer there.’
‘Don’t,’ groaned Stephen. ‘She’s only seventeen. What would I do with a girl that young?’
‘I’m not going to answer that,’ laughed Carole. ‘But I’m sure she could.’
‘I’m sure she could too, but I’m not going to ask. Hold the fort, I’ll be there shortly.’
Stephen parked up in front of his computer repair shop, placed his parking permit in the windscreen and hurried into the sandwich bar next door.
‘Coffee and a croissant please, Sharon. If you’ve got any left.’
‘You’re late today, Stephen, what’s up, wouldn’t she let you out of bed? I know I wouldn’t.’
‘I overslept that’s all. I was on an African safari last night.’
‘Yeah? well next time you go take me will you, I’ve always wanted to see a tiger.’
‘There are no tigers in Africa, they do have lions and leopards though, I saw lots of them last night.’
‘Tell you what? Forget the animals, just make sure it’s hot and there’s a beach.’
Stephen laughed. Sharon was happily married and they both knew it.
‘If Ian could hear you, you’d need a divorce lawyer,’ he said.
He paid for his breakfast and walked round to the shop.
‘Morning Carole, morning Kell.’
‘Morning boss,’ they called in unison.
Stephen walked through to his workbench in the back room, put down his paper bag and picked up a job sheet.
‘Is Paul out on that networking job at Blackstock’s?’ he called.
‘Yes, he said he’ll be back this afternoon. They want another five workstations adding to their order.’
‘ Great stuff, that’s fifteen now, Paul will be wanting a pay rise.’
Stephen turned to his trainee.
‘How are you getting on with the memory upgrade, Mel?’
‘I’ve finished it, I’m halfway through loading the new operating system on the Walker PC.’
‘Well done. Do you think you’ll have time to do the job Ben left yesterday evening?’
‘No worries, he’s already done one virus sweep, I’ll do the spyware scan and check the system registry after lunch.’
Mel pushed her chair back from the bench and crossed her long legs. Her skirt rode up her thighs. She checked to see if Stephen had noticed, but he had turned away.
‘Test the RAM chips as, well will you?’ He called over his shoulder. ‘Ben thinks every PC problem is caused by a virus, make sure the memory checks out.’
Stephen turned back to his bench, took a sip of his coffee and slid the side panel off the faulty computer. He gave the inside a blast with a compressed air spray, opened the box containing the replacement main board, then picked up a screwdriver and began to remove the old one.
‘Anything new come in this morning?’ he called to Carole.
‘We had a call from a Mr Morrison. He says his computer has Alzheimer’s. He’s bringing it in this afternoon.’
‘Alzheimer’s? laughed Stephen, that’s a new one. I’m not sure I know how to fix that.’
Paul returned just before lunch and reported back to Stephen on the status of the Blackstock job.
‘Five more PCs to add. Well done Paul, the parts for the original ten were delivered last night. Can you ring the supplier’s and order up what we need for the other five?’
‘No problem, anything else we need while I’m at it?’
‘There’s a list on my desk but get them to add another dozen memory sticks, will you? We’re going through them like nobody’s business at the moment.’
Stephen checked the test results of the repaired computer and printed off a customer copy, then he replaced the lid and called through to Carole.
‘Can you print an invoice and ring Mr Williamson please? Tell him he can pick his PC up whenever he’s ready. If there’s nothing else pressing, I’ll get back to my day off.’
Stephen picked up his jacket from the office and switched off the power to his bench. He was about to walk through to the front of the shop when he heard a familiar voice.
‘It’s lost the plot. It keeps giving me messages about not having enough virtual memory. Some clever so and so told me it was down to something called a Trojan, but I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about.’
‘That sounds like good advice,’ said Carole. ‘Trojans can cause havoc on a PC.’
Mick shook his head.
‘Trojans,’ he said, ‘it’s all Greek to me.’
Carole laughed politely and made out a job sheet. She looked up as Stephen walked in.
‘Hello, Mick, come to get it sorted, have you? ‘
Mick stared at Carole.
‘Don’t tell me you employ him?’
‘I own the business, Mick, it’s what I do when I’m not reading medieval murder stories.’
Mick ignored him and continued to talk to Carole.
‘I want you to get one of your staff to fix this, I don’t want him poking around inside my private stuff.’
Carole made soothing noises.
‘Don’t worry Mr Morrison, I’ll get our head technician to sort it for you.’
‘I suppose that will cost me more too, I’m only a pensioner you know.’
‘Standard rates,’ said Carole. ‘We don’t charge extra.’
‘Give Mr Morrison our pensioner discount, Carole,’ said Stephen. ‘And another ten percent off for being a member of our local writers club.’
‘I don’t want any favours,’ sniffed Mick. ‘ I always pay my way.’
‘I’m sure you do, Mick, but the offer applies to any Writers Club member. I’ll bring a poster along to the next meeting.’
‘Short of work, are you?’ asked Mick suspiciously.
‘Not at all, but I’m always looking to drum up more business.’
Mick turned back to Carole.
‘When will this be ready? I have to carry it on two buses so I need to know in advance.’
‘We can deliver it back to you, Mick,’ offered Stephen. ‘No extra charge.’
‘Hmm, well, I suppose that’s all right then. Make sure it’s after one though, I’m always busy in the mornings.’
He walked to the door, then turned back.
‘And look after that computer. It cost me a bloody fortune.’
After Mick had gone, Stephen picked up the machine and carried it through to his bench.
‘I thought you were going home,’ said Mel.
‘Priority job,’ said Stephen. ‘I want to drop this off on my way home tonight, just to see if I can get him to say thank you.’
Just realised I’d missed this one – had clicked on the latest instalment first! It is definitely coming along well, getting a real sense of the characters and their voices.