To celebrate having a little flash fiction tale in a vending machine in Canada, I wrote the fourth in my wildly popular (ahem) Story From A Song series. Guess which tune inspired the story below and leave your guess in the comments. It’s oh-so tricky this time – in fact, the picture probably gives it away…
Sheila pulled back the curtains and her face fell faster than the downpour against her window. ‘It’s raining,’ she sobbed. ‘On my wedding day!’
‘Isn’t that ir…’ began her Mum, about to quote from her favourite song.
‘It’s not! It just isn’t! Don’t say it,’ snarled Sheila, and marched upstairs to put on her dress.
The limo taking them to church was stuck in a traffic jam. ‘No,’ sobbed Sheila again, ‘We’re already late!’
‘That’s…’ said her Mum.
‘Mum, this isn’t funny!’
Sheila turned and sulked out of the window. ‘Did you hear about that man on death row who was pardoned two minutes too late?’ asked her Mum, conversationally. Sheila ignored her and concentrated on being grumpy.
Sheila spilled out of the limo at the church, and her mum went to pay the driver. ‘No, ma’am, you paid at the time of booking,’ he said, tipping his shiny limo driver’s cap in her direction.
‘Gosh,’ said Sheila’s Mum. ‘A free ride when you’ve already paid. Well, isn’t that…’
Sheila stamped off up the church driveway before she could finish her sentence, dragging the train of her dress through the mud.
The wedding went off without any hitches that could be described by the lyrics of a ubiquitous 90s pop song, and the guests all made their way to the reception, where they were handed drinks as they entered the plush hall.
‘There’s a black fly in my Chardonnay!’ hollered Sheila at the waiter.
‘That’s so…’ started Sheila’s Mum.
‘Shut up, Mum!’ hollered Sheila. Her new husband, Paul, went to the bar for a pint.
Dinner came. An unremarkable soup course was followed by what looked like an unremarkable steak, but no-one could eat it because the tables were laid incorrectly. Sheila tried to saw her sirloin with the edge of her spoon as neither she, nor anyone else, had a knife.
‘Gosh, it’s like ten thousand spoons when…’
Sheila turned a black glare of hatred on her Mum.
‘Just saying. Isn’t it ir…’
Sheila doubled down on her glare and her Mum fell silent.
Paul was drinking another pint. Sheila’s long-lost cousin Shelley, who Sheila hadn’t met at all until that day and was pretty pissed off that she’d somehow wangled her way onto the top table, sat to his left, turned to him and asked if he’d heard about the old man in the news, who’d turned ninety-eight, won the lottery, then died the next day. Paul shook his head, and nearly spat out his beer when he felt Shelley’s hand running up his thigh beneath the table. He shuffled his chair away from her, banging into Sheila as she fruitlessly tried to carve her steak with her spoon again. ‘Sorry love,’ he said, glancing back at Shelley, who pulled a kissy face at him.
It was late, and the guests were dancing boozily to Kung Fu Fighting. Sheila’s Uncle Tom was performing his best martial arts moves on the dancefloor. Sheila sighed to herself. She needed a break. She meandered out of the reception hall, down the corridor and out of the front door, where she produced a packet of ten cigarettes and a lighter from her cleavage. She was about to spark up when she felt a tap on her shoulder.
‘Excuse me, miss,’ said a doorman, gesturing to a sign. ‘There’s no smoking just here.’
‘A no smoking sign!’ shrieked her Mum, appearing from out of nowhere and reeking of gin. ‘On your cigarette break! That’s so…’
‘SHUT UP MUM!’
Sheila marched around the corner into what seemed to be a deserted area of the car park, where she didn’t see any bloody no smoking signs. Except, actually, it wasn’t deserted. Paul appeared from the far side at as close to a sprint as he could manage, with Shelley pursuing him not far behind.
‘Leave me alone!’ he hollered.
‘Come on, baby, you know you want it!’
‘What the bloody hell’s going on!’ shrieked Sheila, her voice startling a flock of sleeping thrushes, who rose to the sky chirping in fright.
‘Oh,’ said Shelly. ‘Hi, Sheila.’
‘Babe, I didn’t do anything,’ puffed Paul. ‘She keeps following me. I’ve told her no, that I’m married, that I love you, but she won’t leave me alone.’
Paul didn’t lie, Sheila knew. Lying involved having to think, and thinking wasn’t Paul’s strong point. She stepped forward a couple of paces and slapped Shelley hard around the jaw. Shelley raised her hand to her face, where a stinging white handprint blazed in the moonlight, and burst into tears.
‘It’s not fair,’ she sniffed, snot rolling down her top lip. ‘It’s like meeting the man of your dreams-’ she gestured at Paul here, who, Sheila noticed, had his fly open and pee stains down the front of his expensive hire trousers, ‘-and then meeting his beautiful wife.’
Sheila barely noticed the compliment. Then her Mum approached from behind, fury written across her face. She marched up to Shelley, eyes boring through her, raised a fist and said, ‘Well… isn’t that ironic? Don’t you think?’ Then she smirked, then giggled, then began to hoot like a mad owl.
Silence for a moment, and then…
‘SHUT THE FUCK UP! IT’S NOT FUCKING FUNNY! OR IRONIC! YOU’RE A PAIN IN THE ARSE!’
But that wasn’t Sheila. She looked at Paul, who cast his eyes down at his shoes as Sheila’s Mum stared at him, horrified, no longer laughing.
‘Sorry, love,’ he said. ‘But someone had to say it.’
Sheila took Paul’s face between her hands, gazed into his eyes, and kissed him.