The Life We Choose – Episode 40

Thor, apparently asleep, gave a loud snort.

“I’m glad you think it’s funny.” Bunty poked him with her foot. “Just you wait till he arrives. He hates dogs. Takes the vapours at the very sight of a Pekinese.”

“There’s a wee shilpit nacket at the back door,” the housekeeper, Mrs Goudie, said from behind Bunty, making her jump.

“A what, Mrs Goudie? Translate, please,” she requested.

“A wee fella, astray in his claes. Wearin’ a bunnet like a little parasol.”

“What does he want?”

“Says he’s heard there’s a job goin’ here and he’s come t’ apply for it.” Disapproval oozed from every syllable of Mrs Goudie’s words. “Ah told him there’s nae job, but he’s persistent. Cheeky wee rascal. Will Ah send him away?”

Bunty beamed at her.

“But there is a job, Mrs Goudie. At least, Mr Goudie says there is. And he’s in something of a hurry to have that job filled, since we can’t get casual labour from the farms at the moment.”

“I’ll bring him in, then.” Mrs Goudie sniffed, turning on her heel.

Bunty smiled to herself. The afternoon was beginning to become slightly less boring.

“Take off that bunnet. Show a bit o’ respect,” Mrs Goudie said to the caller. “In there.” She pointed to the door of the drawing-room.

Tricky Binnie took a deep breath and, clutching his bunnet to his chest, presented himself to Miss Bunty by delivering a bow and an ingratiating smile.

“Good afternoon, Miss Grant. Ah’ve come efter the job. The name’s Binnie, by the way.”

Bunty beamed.

“I know you,” she said. “You’re the little man who looked after the bay when I was down at Langrigg recently.”

“Guid gear goes intae sma’ bulk, Miss Grant.” Tricky sounded slightly offended.

Bunty peered at him.

“You’re not by any chance the famous Tricky Binnie?” Bunty asked doubtfully. “Mary Ellen’s neighbour? She mentioned you to me recently. Something about you wanting off the pithead. Trouble with your job or some such thing.”

Tricky sighed.

“The same. It’s the women, y’ see, Miss Grant. A’ tryin’ to get ma attention. Fair distractin’, that.”

“So the ladies have a liking for you?” Bunty encouraged.

Tricky sighed.

“Oh, aye. But Ah’m a happily merrit man, Miss Grant. Well, happily maist o’ the time.”

“And the rest of the time?” Bunty was beginning to enjoy Tricky’s company.

“My Magrit’s crabbit.” Her visitor sighed. “Mind you, my mither warned me. ‘That Magrit’s a skinny wummin, an’ skinny wummin are aye crabbit’. Guid workers, mind. A skinny wummin’ll keep a guid clean hoose.” He sighed deeply. “But aye crabbit.”

Bunty was becoming entertained. She invited Tricky to sit down and rang for tea.

Mrs Goudie, setting down the tray with a disapproving rattle, directed a look at Tricky like a poison dart.

He smiled at her and launched into an entertaining account of his life, his thwarted ambitions, his unrecognised talents.

At last, Bunty remembered that he was looking for a job in the Grant household.

“How did you come to lose your job down the pit, Tricky?”

His teacup rattled slightly in its saucer.

“A serious illness that struck withoot warnin’, an’ me no’ bein’ ane for complainin’, I was hingin’ for days an’ tryin’ tae work, but no’ makin’ much o’ it. Ah’d never missed a day’s work till then, Miss Grant, but y’see . . .” He thought for a moment. “The first day, Ah wis no’ very weel, the next day Ah wis no’ weel, then the day efter that Ah wis awfy no’ weel . . .”

“What would have been the next stage of your illness, Tricky?” Bunty was intrigued.

“Deid!” Tricky sighed. “The truth is, Miss Grant, Ah’m no’ cut oot for workin’ doon the pit. Mither aye said Ah could ha’ made somethin’ o’ mysel.”

Bunty resisted being drawn into another of Tricky’s meanderings. Time was getting on.

“Right. I’ll tell you about the job,” she said briskly. “It’s simply being an assistant to Mr Goudie, seeing to the horses.”

“Me an’ horses get on fine,” Tricky replied. “They say they’re maist intelligent beasts – guid judges o’ character.”

Bunty eyed Thor, who was scraping gouges into the drawing-room door in his anxiety to get out. She pressed on.

“General duties at Mr Goudie’s behest, helping the gardener, especially in summer, cleaning out the stables.”

“Nae bother,” Tricky said.

“A month’s trial. Wages based on performance to begin with. In the meantime, I’ll give you a little more than you’re getting on the pithead, but if you do well, that might increase.”

She got up. Tricky rose, too, and sketched a bow.

“At your service, Miss Grant. You’ll no’ regret this.”

Feeling slightly dizzy, Bunty showed him out. She wasn’t so sure.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.