I went into service in a country house in Yorkshire when I was fourteen. I could read and write, and my employers, the Bellinghams, unusually, allowed me to use my limited time off to extend my education in their library. It was no Catherine Cookson novel: I worked hard and rose to become their housekeeper; learning along the way that it was best to do your job without fuss and, somehow, to be invisible.
The Bellinghams fell on hard times and they had to let me go; it almost broke my heart. Having no family of my own, I had nowhere else to be; they let me stay in one of the cottages on their estate until it was sold. Despite my excellent references it took months to find new employment with everything being done through the Royal Mail.
Finally, Arthur Broad, a widower and master gardener, employed me as his housekeeper. I was anxious as I moved into his large house as his only servant:a widower and a spinster, whatever next? Tongues wagged in the village – I didn’t care; I needed the job. We became the best of friends – I learnt how to garden and he learnt to be tidy – a miracle. He always kept a diary of his crops and a notebook for his poetry and encouraged me in these new habits. I was no longer invisible.
When he died he left me the house and his wealth. I was both sad and grateful but I also thought there must be some mistake and feared that I would once again be homeless. I was needlessly frugal; I determined to make the money I inherited last all my days. Anyway, I was too old for another job. I grew my own fruit and veg and had meat and fish once a week. I made do and mended my clothes until they looked wretched but I wasn’t going to buy new clothes at my age. My only luxuries were my television and a cream sherry on a Friday night.I lived alone for many years until my arthritis was too painful and I was no longer able to care for myself and reluctantly moved into this care home.
I should have married, had children, but, alas, it never happened. No one visits me, ever. The staff are kind, they know my name, but they don’t know me, and they never will. Despite my arthritis, I still try and write my poems, and for that I thank Arthur.
Once again invisible
I lack the nurture of company
Bereft in my high backed chair
Amidst the piped music of care
I’m quietly avoiding
Of being visible
I embrace myself
For lack of others’ arms
I wait at idle leisure
For what they call passing
As if it were a game of football
Or an exam to take
To rise victorious
My own arthritic hands
Raised in Pyrrhic victory
Sitting in the waiting room
Invisible at my ending.
I hope you enjoyed this story. Remember, I publish a new story every Sunday.
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© Phil Cosker 2020
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
Closely relate to this one …
Sent from my iPhone
Thanks Liz. Go well. Phil
Thanks Phil, A lovely read. It made me think about the days when I have felt old, particularly in shops waiting in a queue to be served, and I think, I’m invisible- is this what it means to be growing old? Keep them coming please Much love Fran xx
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Thanks Fran. Much appreciated and much love. Go well. Phil
“I spoke to her,” he muttered, after a long silence. “I told her she might fool me but she couldn’t fool God. I took her to the window–” With an effort he got up and walked to the rear window and leaned with his face pressed against it, “–and I said ‘God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me but you can’t fool God!’ ”
Standing behind him Michaelis saw with a shock that he was looking at the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg which had just emerged pale and enormous from the dissolving night.
“God sees everything,” repeated Wilson.
“That’s an advertisement,” Michaelis assured him. Something made him turn away from the window and look back into the room. But Wilson stood there a long time, his face close to the window pane, nodding into the twilight. (8.72-105)
“Invisible….” The Great Gatsby came to mind so I send the quote.
In the world I know, The Great Creator/God/Great Spirit/IT doesn’t see everything… “IT” experiences everything, without rejection or attachment.
Great Spirit is inhabiting the ALL… waiting to awaken. Love is the key to flooding the heart and opening the eyes.
Thank you so much for your lovely short stories… they are excellently crafted jewels which unlock the heart at deeper levels.
Well done dear bro
Thanks for your passionate response Nick. Excuse my ignorance, but what is the source of the quotations?
Thanks once more for a cracking short, short story
Maybe it’s just me (that can’t be true) but today’s story, in particular, touched me in a gentle and sweet way.
It made me think of my absent parents – especially my father who spent the last couple of years of his life in care homes. He moved ‘progressively’ from a sheltered housing arrangement to a dementia ward with necessarily-locked doors and windows.
Your story is touching and poignant is a soothing way that I can’t fully describe, but it’s akin to melancholy and a curious nostalgia for something I haven’t personally experienced – but might one day.
Thank you for putting these things into words Phil. It’s a lovely gift.
I’m feeling a bit homesick now. I’ve just finished my first day of teaching her in Kuwait, after resuming it online. Hurrah though…. I’m returning to Britain in August. It seems the ties to a dangerously dysfunctional society are just too strong for me to ignore: Russian roulette with my health?
I’ll be sure to get in touch when I’m settled back in.
Hi Gavin, Thank you for your kind words. See you when you’re back. Go well, Phil