“The Pooh Brooch” by Jim Murdoch
We’d like to present a new Feature Story here at Metro Fiction. Please check the Welcome page for more information about us. This week we consider whether Jill will hang on or let go.
We present our Feature Story: “The Pooh Brooch” by Jim Murdoch
Some of this story is true. Most of it. Actually all of it’s true and much of it happened more or less the way I tell it—but not all of it. Does that spoil it for you? Things don’t need to happen to be true; truth is a part of everything, even made up stuff. I won’t tell you the bits I’ve made up or changed because there’s no need. Let me play the omniscient observer and you’ll never have to worry whether I was one of the leads, some third party who got told this in a pub or maybe I’m just the author. None of that is especially important and it won’t be.
Neither of the individuals in our story understands love but we all know that it’s the one emotional state that plays the most havoc with our senses: we see love where it is not, we hear it expressed in everyday conversation, we feel it because we need it. When one person is this desperate it is sad but when there are two people involved, it is tragic. She’s in her late thirties, a widow, still pretty when she wants to be. Her husband could just have easily left her for another woman. That he left her for nothing was the hardest thing to take. It wasn’t an accident. If it had been a drug overdose she might’ve talked herself into believing he didn’t mean it. No one cuts their wrists by accident no matter how drunk they are.
She’s a Liverpudlian. It was the accent that first attracted both her husband and our hero to her; she talked like The Beatles. He’s about the same age, our hero. He abandoned his wife to chase bright young things but couldn’t keep up and lost heart. Don’t be too hard on him, though; he was younger then and we all make bad calls from time to time, some that even affect the rest of our lives. He’s a teacher and for a while they thought they were a couple.
Do you see that guy by the pillar-box? That’s him, in that baggy raincoat he thinks makes him look like Harrison Ford. He doesn’t realise he’ll end up as a character in a story anymore than, one supposes, Harrison Ford ever imagined he’d wind up being the face of Han Solo forever. Our hero’s life is very real to him and what he is doing this minute is particularly important. His has, up till now, been something of an uneventful life, the break-up of his marriage aside; she got the house, the car, the kid and he got to hold onto his Pink Floyd originals and all the photos. Even this event, the slipping of a small package into the slot, is nothing to write home about but it matters to him and, as such, since he is one of the subjects of our tale, its contents should be of interest to us.
They’ve said their good-byes. They were simple, necessary, painful. She made the decision. It was hard but she felt it was right. After her husband’s suicide she’d strayed from one man to the next, like some lost puppy, trying to make some sense out of what’d happened, looking for love, looking for sex, looking for some reassurance that it wasn’t her fault. Now one of these past relationships had come back to life and had lured her away with promises of a good life, security. What’s a girl to do? Look after Number One—that’s what.
The parcel contains a letter—you expected to discover that much—and a brooch. Even though they have said good-bye, both are for her. It’s a tacky brooch, cheap—more of a badge to be honest—but it caught his eye and sparked his imagination. He’s nervous. You can see that. Our hero is human. He wouldn’t be believable otherwise. It’s understandable because once he lets go of that envelope then he’s committed. The brooch is of a cartoon, ceramic Pooh hanging onto a balloon for dear life from one of the original illustrations by Ernest Shepherd. He has no idea if it’s her style but that’s not its point. He’s not even sure if she has any affection for Winnie the Pooh—strange the things they never found time to talk about—but what the heck? Would you like to read the letter? It’s not long.
It’s hard holding onto things in this life. There’s always something pulling you down. The same can be said of letting go. It’s just as hard to know when to let go or how. You have to decide. You can hang onto what you have and see where the winds of change carry you or you can let go and hope there’s someone there to catch you. If what you have just now is precious then hang on with everything you’ve got but, if you have any doubts, then let go before this thing carries you too far away. I’m still here. Just be sure.
Of course that’s not their real names. I didn’t use them because they don’t matter. Fill in any others that come to mind: Romeo and Juliet, Arthur and Marilyn, Fred and Wilma. Believe me, it’s for the best that you don’t know the names because that would cloud your judgement. She’s not the first girl to turn back to an old flame and he’s not the first man to do the decent thing.
To his credit he never wrote again and she never replied but it brought some kind of closure to the relationship, for both of them. He couldn’t know back then that he’d see her once more, two years down the road, at a funeral of a common acquaintance, and that their eyes would meet across the church, and he’d know she’s still hanging on but that her arms are getting tired. It’s just as well we don’t know what the future’s likely to bring. If he had, might he not have waited to see and missed meeting the woman who’ll be standing next to him in the pew, the one he’ll end up spending the rest of his life with?
People should know when it’s time to move on, when they’ve used up everything or everyone around themselves. With animals it’s instinct. Humans make such a palaver about it, we philosophise about it, anguish over it and sentimentalise it but, at the end of the day, we either let go or we get dragged off. It’s as simple as that. You can sit there and have a think about it or you can just sit. It won’t change anything or make any of this less true. Not even the made up bits.
Jim Murdoch is a Scottish writer. His poetry has appeared in small press journals and online since the 1970s. A full collection of his poems entitled This Is Not About What You Think was published in 2010. He is also the author of three novels and is currently working on a collection of short stories which should appear early in 2013. He’s rarely not writing and when not producing fiction is working on articles for his long-running blog The Truth About Lies. You can learn more about Jim and see other examples of his writing at his website.
Tags: jim murdoch, metro fiction, short stories