Punctuality and Posie (a short story by Kell Smurthwaite)

September 9, 2007 at 9:26 am (Short Stories) (, )

Punctuality and Posies

Punctuality and Posies

10:23am

Aidan checked his watch for what must have been the twentieth time in half as many minutes, it’s face glared balefully back at him showing the time as exactly 10:23am. There was no escaping it – he was going to be late.

If there was anything Aidan Van de Ruit really couldn’t stand, it was the thought that he might be late for anything – his heart would pound, his stomach would clench and his temples would begin to throb. His hands were already clammy and that was just the start of it. On any other occasion it would be acceptable to be tardy by a few minutes – friends and family understand that things crop up and generally don’t mind waiting an extra minute or two, but Aidan was cursed with an utter terror of ever being even a few seconds late. No matter what the occasion, he was always the first to arrive, always the one waiting for everyone else and wondering what kept them when they didn’t show up bang on time.

10:24am

Why, why, why? Why was the bus going so slowly? Why did there have to be road works today of all days? They were already on a route diversion, but why on earth would the powers-that-be choose an alternative road that was as blocked as the original? Aidan’s hands shook as he checked his watch again. This was an important interview and he couldn’t afford to have anything go wrong – not today of all days! He drew the brief letter out of his breast pocket to read again, hoping it would distract him from time ticking by…

Dear Mr Van de Ruit,

I will be pleased to meet you at 10:30am sharp on Monday 30 October.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Clark
Manager

There it was, in black and white – “10:30am sharp”. There was no way he was ever going to get there at this rate – the traffic had slowed to a crawl that could have been outrun by an asthmatic snail.

10:32am

How had that happened? Aidan put his ear to his watch to hear the steady tick-tick-tick of fine Swiss clockwork. Eight whole minutes had flown by like seconds and now he was beginning to feel like Alice’s White Rabbit (I’m late! I’m late!).

Finally, the bus turned the corner onto the high street and Aidan hastily pressed the buzzer to alert the driver as he bolted from his seat. There were still several stops to go. But he would be faster on foot.

The bus dragged itself to the kerb and the doors swooshed open. Making his exit, Aidan’s foot was plunged, ankle-deep, into an over-flowing gutter. Oh, yes, he was going to make such an impression when he arrived.

10:36am

Racing down the High Street, Aidan dodged pedestrians in a high-speed dance. He was almost there, just one more block to go…

Crash! A group of spotty teenaged lads rounded the corner and Aiden launched headfirst into them, caught himself on a shouldered bag and was sent sprawling to the ground. His ears rang with their raucous laughter and he turned his head to witness them pointing at him – their mouths gaping wide and their heads thrown back, mocking his predicament. Now in addition to the soaked shoe and trousers, he had a dark, gritty smear down the front of his jacket, coal-black knees and he’d scuffed the heels of both hands, not to mention the complete loss of dignity. He looked and felt a mess.

10:40am

Ten minutes late. He felt sick with the knowledge as he approached Bloomin’ Beautiful. Blanching at his reflection in the window, he noted his ragged appearance and his heart sank. How could he possibly make a good impression now? He looked terrible! Still, an appointment must be kept. Resigned to the fact that this wasn’t going to turn out as planned, he took in the rainbow-hued window display; tasteful arrangements of elegant lilies, orchids, ferns and variegated greenery in tall glass vases, bouquets of blossoms loosely tied with raffia, and long-stemmed roses of velvety blood red. He couldn’t delay any longer – he knew it was time to face the music.

10:42am

The light tinkle of the bell above the door caused the willowy assistant, who’s name plate bore the name “Rosa” surrounded by tiny rosebuds, to look up from her array of freesias – her face was a sweet and heavenly as the scent filling the small shop – and grinned at him.

“You look like you’ve had one of those mornings!”

Aidan smiled apologetically and replied, “You could say that. I’m sorry I’m late; I’ve come to see… ” He broke off as a tall figure emerged from the back room.

“Oh, you must be Aidan – you’re early!”

Aidan’s brow crinkled in confusion as he checked his watch again. “Early? I’m twelve minutes late. I can’t apologise enough! I had a bit of bother getting here, you see,” he gestured towards his marred jacket, “I’m so sorry, Mr. Clark – I always pride myself on my punctuality and I promise I don’t usually come out looking such a state.”

Now it was the turn of the gentleman to look confused. “What on earth are you talking about? You’re early – the clocks went back this weekend! Come through the back and let’s get you cleaned up a bit, then you can tell me what happened.”

Heaving a sigh of relief, Aidan followed Mr. Clark through the arched doorway, into the shadowy room beyond, leaving Rosa humming under breath as she tied the freesias with satin ribbon.

10:11am (proper time)

Aidan stepped out of the office, closely followed by a bespectacled Mr. Thomas, and Rosa looked up from her magazine expectantly, searching their faces for a sign of what had passed between them.

“Well, Rosa, you picked a good lad, here. I’d be honoured to have him as a son-in-law!”

Rosa shrieked with delight and threw herself at Aidan, wrapping her arms around his neck and raining kisses on his face.

“You see,” she cried, “I told you Dad would love you just as much as I do!”

A Cheshire Cat grin split Aidan’s face from ear to ear, as his prospective father-in-law spoke, “Well, I’ve always liked punctuality in people.”

Kell Smurthwaite, 2006©

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