Miss Munro's Day by Roger Woodcock

Miss Munro shifts uneasily in the old armchair, her rheumy eyes scanning the leafy lane that runs alongside the rambling Victorian detached house. She had lived there all her life with her parents, her father a Director of the Great Western railway, her mother a woman who did `good works,` for the poor of the parish. With their deaths Miss Munro had considered moving to somewhere a little smaller, but as the years moved on she found herself less inclined to put herself through the anxiety and stress that a house move would surely entail.

There are new people in the Lane now, old Mr Pritchard and the Daltons replaced by younger couples. Miss Munro loved the sound of children playing in the Lane, it somehow brought the area back to life again. She brushes a momentary tear from her eye, remembering the trauma when she so nearly had a child of her own.

It had happened during the war as a Zeppelin was circling the city. She had been on her way home from work, and fearing for her safety she had taken shelter in one of the specially built underground tube stations. Here she found herself alone except for a rather nervous-looking young man. As the sound of the bombs crashed above them he`d suddenly flung himself at her, ripping her glasses from her face before flinging her roughly to the ground.

Despite the Police being involved Miss Munro had not seen the young man again. Her parents had hidden her `shameful` pregnancy by `sending her away for a holiday to relatives.` The child had been stillborn and Miss Munro returned home after her short holiday. `The `incident` was never mentioned again.

The light is fading now, the rhythmic tick/tock of the grandfather clock in the corner of the room, lulling Miss Munro into a fitful doze. It would soon be time for the fish man, his strident cry echoing along the Lane. She would wait for his knock on the door, catch his slight bow, the touching of his cap as he told Miss Munro of the day`s catch.

`Lovely Mackerel today Miss Munro. Fresh off the boat no more than an hour ago.` Miss Munro often wondered how such a thing could be achieved, Hackney being at least two hours from the nearest sea port. She was, however, too polite to enquire further, and she had always found his fish delicate to the taste.

She had spent her working life in a solicitor's office, rising from the typing pool to become the secretary of the owner, Mr Cranfield. She would usually finish work at six sharp unless Mr Cranfield had some urgent, last-minute work which required Miss Munro`s attention. Her work completed she would hurry to catch the tube, her and a myriad of other workers streaming down the escalators. Twenty six Holly Grove was an hour`s ride away, a haven of peace and quiet after the hustle and bustle of the City. Her mother would always have a meal ready, the steaming taurine placed on the dining table the moment Miss Munro had removed her overcoat and placed it on the hanger in the dimly-lit hallway.

The lights in the Lane are coming on, a yellow, sulphurous glow throwing shadows across the trees lining the Lane. Miss Munro, not being curious about such things, did not know the name of the trees, only that they made for a shady walk in the heat of the summer sun. She would. of necessity, meet her neighbours on these walks, where a polite dip of the head and a fleeting `good morning,` was all that was deemed necessary to avoid any complaint of `rudeness,` by the parties concerned. Not that Miss Munro was averse to the odd, more lengthy conversation. A bereavement perhaps, the birth of a new child, and of course the weather in its many guises, although she did find this subject somewhat tiresome when confronted by Mr Turner Evans of number twenty two who appeared to be a world authority on troughs, millibars and something called occluded depressions.

Her parents had passed within months of one another, her father of kidney failure and her poor mother of cancer of the bone. Her father`s fellow Director, Mr Trenchard had arranged the funerals, both sombre affairs followed by a supper gathering at the Mechanics Institute. After her mother's funeral Miss Munro had returned to the emptiness of Holly Grove and quietly sobbed herself to sleep in her mother's favourite armchair.

After the unfortunate incident in the underground tube, romance had not featured much in Miss Munro`s life. To her consternation she had once found herself attracted to the Head of the firm`s typing pool, Miss Trubshaw, a lady of indeterminate age who dressed in a kaftan and would often be seen wearing open-toed sandals. They had first bumped into one another at the Firm's annual dinner, and the company being short of male members, had found themselves dancing the Foxtrot together. Miss Munro admitted to a certain quickening of the pulse when gripped tightly by Miss Trubshaw. It had however all ended rather embarrassingly when Miss Trubshaw, having partaken of a little too much of the Punch bowl, had attempted to plant a rather clumsy kiss on Miss Munro`s lips during the Quickstep. It was only a week later that Mr Cranfield told her that Miss Trubshaw had, for `family reasons` found it necessary to find alternative employment away from the city. Miss Munro said she was sorry and that she would miss her around the office.

Having made a light supper Miss Munro switches on the wireless. She listens to the music of a Dance band, and, in spite of advancing arthritis, allowed her feet to slowly tap in rhythm with the music. Her father had bought the new-fangled receiver a few years after the end of the first world war. She remembered him asking the butcher's boy if he wouldn't mind erecting a wire aerial between the side of the house and a newly erected pole at the bottom of the garden. She found the machine a comfort, another voice to combat the loneliness she often felt. She had tried joining one or two debating societies, but being rather shy had found most of the members too `manly` and often extremely strident and forceful in putting forward their ideas.

She is in her bedroom now, the electric light casting a dark shadow across her face as she sits at her dressing table. Slowly she runs a brush through her grey, thinning hair before dipping a cloth into a jug of water and wiping away the day's grime from her wrinkled face. Tomorrow she will clean the living room, polish the silver ornaments she has collected over the years, maybe in the afternoon catch an omnibus into town, peruse the many and varied shops lining the high street. Outside it begins to rain, the drops splashing noisily against the windowpane. Miss Munro switches out the light and settles down between the cool sheets of her bed. Somewhere a dog begins to bark, its harsh repetitive cry echoing down the still, empty Lane.

Selected: 24th Short Story
Published in Issue #30

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