The Tank

It is Friday June 12th 1987. Tom and Liz have finally escaped the city and are moving to a small country village of narrow lanes and mellow stone houses and cottages just like the one they have bought. Their happiness is muted: it’s also the day after the Tories were re-elected with a majority of one hundred and two. Worse than this, Margaret Thatcher is still Prime Minister.

Waiting in the lane, Tom waves and the driver of the first lorry flashes his lights.
The two lorries park, blocking the lane, and removal men climb down to join Tom and Liz.
Well, there’ll be nowt coming down here today, will there? one of the drivers asks.
I’ve notified the county council and the police are aware, Tom says.
Are there signs up? another man asks.
They never arrived, Liz replies. Fancy a cuppa before you start and have a look inside to see what’s what?

As they drink their tea they hear the sound of car horns blaring.

On the lane, Tom walks to the three parked cars and explains that they’ll need to reverse and use the next lane as the removal lorries will be there all day.
This is met with a string of violent abuse. Stop that immediately! a female voice shouts. An elderly woman, with immaculately permed white hair, large white goggles and bright red fingernails, approaches on a mobility scooter. Leave this to me, she says to Tom. By the way, I’m Dorothy, she adds offering her hand for Tom to shake. Off you go and get on with moving in. Dorothy approaches the furthest car, stands, smacks the roof with her hand, and commands, Reverse!

All day, as the lorries are unloaded, Dorothy trundles back and forth on her scooter re-directing traffic, shouting, Reverse!
As the lorries finally leave, Tom and Liz thank Dorothy and introduce themselves.
My pleasure. You’ll be busy tomorrow. So, come on Sunday. Noon. For drinks. I live just opposite. Beowulf’s the name.
Your name? Tom asks.
The house, silly boy.

On Sunday, Tom and Liz, open Dorothy’s gate, cross the courtyard and ring the door bell.
The door opens. Punctual. Excellent! Dorothy says. What’s that you’re carrying, Tom?
White wine.
We only drink dry Madeira on a Sunday at this time. You can leave it by the door. She leads them to the lounge.

On the lid of the baby-grand piano there are three glasses, a decanter and a photograph in a silver frame.

You pour, Dorothy commands. Do sit, she says to Liz.

Tom, transfixed, stares at the signed photograph; he knows it well. It’s Peter Jordan’s 1986 photograph of Thatcher, perched in the gun turret of a Challenger tank that’s flying the Union flag. Thatcher is all in white, grinning and wearing immense goggles. The signature reads, To Dorothy, with affection, Margaret

I said pour, Dorothy says.
Oh, yes, sorry, Tom apologises. Is Thatcher capable of affection?
What? Dorothy demands. How dare you!

I hope you enjoyed this story.  Remember, I publish a new story every Sunday.
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And remember, you can read previous stories from “Behind the Plague Door”
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© Phil Cosker 2020
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.

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