A short story by Lauren Edwards
Queenie gulped a mouthful of the syrupy concoction of Malibu and Diet Coke, served in a half pint glass still warm from the dishwasher, happy that she had her feet rooted in her favourite spot directly in front of Dave the bassist. The frayed carpet was crunchy beneath her feet from a decade of spilt drinks, but this was where she was happiest, this is where she longed to stand every Saturday night to wash away the tribulations of the past week.
Queenie’s mantra in life was to make the best of any situation and she didn’t see the point in complaining. Queenie had been a permanent fixture behind the counter of the Easysave convenience store for 11 years now. She would leave her house at 7am each day and wander through the estate just as it was waking up, weaving her way through the debris strewn in the playground at the entrance to the flats, she would pass the closed shutters shielding the Launderette and then the Bookies, past the chip shop with the smell of stale fat still hanging in the air before she reached her place of work. Queenie would hang her handbag on the coat hook in the small office behind the till, put on her pink tabard, which was hanging on the back of the door, and arrange her Quizword books beside one of the two tills in front of the cigarettes and the small selection of medicines.
Queenie was married to Derek and had been content in wedlock for 23 years. After struggling to have children to no success, Derek had adopted two retired Greyhounds, Dolly and Fargo, when he discovered that after years of racing, they were due to be put out to pasture prematurely. Derek was now Chairman of the Dolly And Fargo Trust, for retired greyhounds. Queenie had tried to persuade him to change the name from DAFT but he was insistent that his beloved dogs were the founders of the cause and should be in the title. Derek could be found most Sunday morning’s manning a stall at a local boot fair, selling bric-a-brac he had bought from the charity shop, along with DAFT T-shirts and bookmarks to help raise money so that he could rehome other racing dogs headed for the vet’s table. It was the cause of many an argument between Derek and Queenie that she was not willing to share their home with any more dogs.
Queenie worked five days a week at Easysave and had Sundays and Mondays off. She would work until after the school run and head home to prepare Derek’s dinner at 5pm. Derek was a self-employed plumber and worked whenever he could, but not on Sundays. This was the one day that Queenie and Derek would spend together and the only time that Queenie would accompany Derek on a dog walk with Dolly and Fargo before they headed home and Queenie would make the Sunday roast and Derek would clean out his van. They had their routines and were content with their roles. Derek was happy to watch Queenie’s costume dramas and she would feign interest in the True Crime documentaries that fascinated him. Queenie wanted to escape into the corseted clothing and sweeping backdrops of Poldark whereas Derek wanted to talk at length to Queenie about how a husband was convicted of his girlfriend’s murder after the police found a drop of blood on a discarded cufflink under the sofa.
Queenie was happy to live her life within their routine, to be supportive to Derek and his dogs and be content with her sometimes monotonous job at Easysave. Queenie could put up with most anything in her life as long as she could have her Saturday nights at The Crown.
Steel Longing had been playing together as a band on and off for 20 years. Formed by Dave Burke on bass and backing vocals, other members were Stu on lead vocals and guitar, Sam on lead guitar, Jonesy on drums and Sam’s nephew Phillip on keyboard and percussion. Dave had seen some success in the 1970s playing bass on the number one hit Open Road with the band Eleven Inch Drums. After the success of Open Road, the band never charted again and split up after their lead singer moved to Detroit to pursue a solo career. Dave returned to his job at the local steelworks where he had first joined straight out of school and formed a band with Stu and Sam who were also on the factory floor.
Steve ‘Jonesy’ Jones had been friends with Dave since school and would tell anyone who would listen that he ‘turned down the drummer’s job in The Who as he didn’t think they were any good.’ He ended up becoming a Building Surveyor but would drum for the Space Spiders heavy metal band every weekend throughout his 20s and was the only Building Surveyor Dave had ever seen that wore his hair in a bun so that he could have it long for the band. Dave managed to persuade Jonesy to join Steel Longing so they could take up their residency every Saturday at their local pub The Crown.
Dave strummed the opening bars to Rosanna by Toto and looked for her, the lady who was always there, every week, he knew this was her favourite track out of their setlist as he saw the way she beamed when Jonesy drummed the familiar intro. He harmonised the chorus with Stu knowing how frustrated Jonesy was with this soft ballad but pleased that it gave Phillip some time to show off his keyboard skills, which kept Sam happy.
Queenie was memorised by the music. Her friend Margot always complained that they stood too close to the front and that ‘her ears would be ringing all day tomorrow’ but Queenie had to be here, in her usual spot, waiting for Dave to see her. It wasn’t that she fancied Dave, but more that she wanted to earn his respect, for him to see that she was a dedicated follower of their band. Not that she ever spoke to them. As soon as their set was finished and they did their obligatory encore she would leave and every week Margot would try and persuade her to stay and meet them but Queenie couldn’t do that. If she spoke to them, it would ruin it, they were the only mystery in her life. Margot was three times divorced and used their Saturday nights to look for husband No. 4 so was always frustrated that she wouldn’t get the opportunity to flirt with a member of the band, especially Stu.