Saturday, 6 June 2020

Debut Fiction: 'The Receipts' by Andy Stewart

Father Paul was puzzled. This was unlike Helen Sowerby. To leave, before her time, without saying where and why. She was an organised and somewhat obsessive girl. Or young woman as she had now become. Helen had been coming to The Retreat each summer for three years. Ever since her anorexia had got out of control and her doctors had failed to come up to her mother’s exacting standards.

Father Paul stood in the simple room with the single bed with its single sheet and the single arched window that overlooked the vegetable gardens. An area tended by the Augustinian Friars with the dedication and expertise they applied to every task, be it mundane or backbreakingly arduous. The small spartan bedrooms were referred to as cells. But that was a misleading term. No one here felt like a prisoner. They came willingly, and only left when they felt healed.

Helen was largely healed. She was a normal weight now, unrecognisable from the emaciated human wreckage of three years ago. She ate in the Refectory with everyone else, tucking in with enthusiasm to the healthy fare laid out on the ancient tables before her. But she wouldn’t have left without saying goodbye. She and Father Paul had a bond. An understanding that ran deep and wide.

He looked around him. Bed neatly made. Two books on the bedside table. A History of Victorian England. A Compendium of Crossword Puzzles. And three till receipts from the local supermarket. From the last three consecutive days. The same three items on each one.

Peeler £1.40
Prepared Fruit £1.00
Prepared Fruit £1.00
Total £3.40
Cash £3.50
Change £0.10

What possible use could she have for one peeler, let alone three? And fruit was plentiful on the meal tables. She hardly needed to buy extra.

He opened the only draw. Three peelers, still unopened in their plastic wrapping. Six small clingfilm-covered containers of pineapple chunks.

Outside in the corridor he almost collided with Friar Petriu. Friar Petriu had converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Catholicism, but it seemed to Father Paul the Greek was struggling to adapt.

Father Paul made his way towards his office, still clutching the three receipts. Perhaps Helen had a reason to communicate with him in a different way. One that only he could understand. With their shared love of Victorian England and crossword puzzles.

Brutal comprehension hit him like a tsunami. Why had he been so slow to realise?

When the front door bell tolled an hour later he was not at all surprised to see two police officers.

“You’ve come to see Friar Petriu,” he observed matter-of-factly.

“You were expecting us?”

He nodded and ushered them in.

He studied the receipts for a final time before replacing them in a pocket lurking beneath his robes.

‘Peeler.’

The Victorian name for a policeman. She was telling him she had gone to the police.

‘Prepared Fruit’. An anagram. Twice for emphasis.

Raped. Fr Petriu.

1 comment:

And the Flood abates....

That's it for this year's FlashFlood!  Huge thanks again to our writers, our readers, our editors , and everyone who submitted work....