People have asked just how it was that Sandra and me got together in the first place. I mean, it seems a bit unlikely, if you know what I mean. After all, there’s Sandra, small, educated, a right stunner that makes men choke on their beers at first sight, a snappy dresser that causes men’s eyes to wander rapidly southwards in the hope of even better stuff below, and a helpless looking nature which she uses to good effect when she wants somebody to do something for her. Not that she needs it, as she is quite capable of looking after herself whenever there is nobody else around.
Then there’s me, the original thicko, tall, broad and a bit three dimensional due to all the beer I swill whenever Sandra isn’t around to control the amount I put away. I didn’t exactly leave school, I think they threw me out in disgust. I mean, all that education the teachers had, but they never made much impression on my feeble mind. Not their fault. I just couldn’t seem to understand anything.
No qualifications, of course, so about the only thing I could do when I started looking for work – well, a man has to live, hasn’t he? – was hump a hod on the building sites. No bother with that, as the one thing I do have going for me is a fair bit of muscle. All right, it’s a bit overgrown with chubbiness, or fat if you prefer, but there’s plenty of strength in what some people call a Temple of Humanity, but what I call just a plain, simple body. And I do mean simple. Honestly, if there were prizes given for being daft, I’d come in last.
Anyway, the building work pays pretty well, as I can keep two brickies going at the same time, having made myself a larger size hod than usual. It’s a rob, of course. By me. Honestly, I can’t understand why they don’t use more machinery on the sites, which would cut costs in the long run, but I’m not complaining, as I make a good living out of being a navvy.
Back to Sandra, which is where I like to be as often as possible. How we met was like this. It wasn’t exactly romantic, but that’s all right, as I’m not really one of your romantic types. Honest, yes. Hard working, definitely. Romantic? Well… I can spell the word without using a dictionary, which should mean something, but that’s about it. What happened was that I got used to seeing Sandra going past the building site I was working on at that time. Always at quarter to nine in the morning, on her way to work as it happens, and always at half past five in the afternoon, obviously on her way home from work, but I don’t suppose I really need to explain that. Work on the site tended to slow down a bit at those times, and if there was a bit of whistling and the odd comment, she either didn’t hear, which would be a bit difficult, or she didn’t mind hearing, which is a possibility.
Either way, it brightened up my day no end just to see her, though the thought of seeing any more of her, or even talking to her never crossed my mind. I mean, I could see she was quality, and not for the likes of me. So daft I am not.
Until one day, a Friday it was. I was doing a bit of overtime just to get a particular job finished, a house corner, which is always a bit tricky and best not left until the following week. For once, Sandra was late, and I couldn’t help wondering what had happened, because she was usually so regular you could set your watch by her. I kept looking around while pretending not to in the way that blokes usually do, but there was never a sight of her at all.
There was a sound though. A loud sound. The sort of noise that means someone is in trouble. It was Sandra, but of course I didn’t know that, for the simple reason that I’d never heard her speak, and wouldn’t have known how she sounded when yelling for help in any case. So, someone in trouble. Female for sure. That much was obvious, and she sounded terrified. Now you know how it is when a little baby screams, you feel like picking it up for comfort. It’s a natural thing, isn’t it? Mind, some people just feel like clamping the bairn’s mouth shut with instant glue, or tape or something. Anyway, it was a bit like that with me. The first reaction, that is, not the second, as even I could understand that taping over some girl’s mouth in order to keep her quiet was likely to put me in trouble with various authorities, and I didn’t want that.
I dropped the hod I was carrying and ran round the corner, and there she was, Sandra, as it turned out, and this bloke who had dragged her behind the scaffolding and was trying to do something which looked a bit anti-social, if you get my meaning, and included skirt hems a good deal higher than they were intended. Anyway, it was obvious the girl didn’t like what was going on at all, and no more did I. Not thinking, I just reacted, and waded in, grabbed the attacking bloke by the neck and threw him off, putting the boot in for good measure, and when I tell you that I was wearing building boots with steel reinforced toecaps, you might imagine that he didn’t want to come up for a second go. Well, that’s what I thought as well, but blow me, he staggered to his feet and pulled a knife on me, a vicious looking bread knife with one of them wavy edges. Now I’m a big lad and heavy with it. You’d think I’d be well used to looking after myself in a scrap, but the truth is that I wasn’t. A big bloke like me simply isn’t allowed to mix it with anyone smaller, and that means most people. It’s trouble, just because of the difference in sizes. As a result, I didn’t really know what to do, so I just put the boot in again, and nutted him in his face, after which, he lost all interest in the girl and me and the knife, which I broke the blade off and threw into a skip. Well, things like that are dangerous. Someone might get hurt. He just lay there in a crumpled heap, moaning through what was left of his teeth and looking sick enough for an epidemic.
Then I turned to the girl, and blow me, it was the same one I’d been lusting after for weeks.
‘Here, are you all right, pet?’ I asked her. ‘Has he hurt you?’
‘No,’ she said. ‘Not really. Not as much as you hurt him, I think.’
I looked at the bloke, thought we ought to call for an ambulance and said so.
‘Ambulance? For that scum? I want the police. He tried to do something rather nasty to me. I hope you hurt him properly.’
She whipped out her mobile phone and called the police, who arrived so fast I think they must have been hiding round the corner to see which way the fight went before getting involved. After that, there was a lot of note taking, statements were made down at the station – the police station that is, not any of the other sort, and we were allowed to go. That is to say, Sandra and me were allowed to go. The other bloke was kept until he had been seen by a doctor.
So that was my first real meeting with Sandra, and it all developed from there. I wondered out loud what we should do next, and she took charge of the matter as she has done ever since.
‘I’ll let you buy me a coffee,’ she said. ‘Then you can tell me something about yourself, and I can thank you properly for what you’ve done. I do hope you damaged the gentleman beyond repair.’
Only she didn’t say gentleman, but another word which sounded a bit odd coming from someone with a face like an angel, only I don’t want to give a bad impression of her. She means too much to me for that. Well, we had our coffee, one each, and a large helping of strawberry and cream cake, also one each, after which I walked her home because you never know who’s hanging around, do you? Besides, I rather wanted to know where she lived. It wasn’t far away.
The following day, I called on her with a big bunch of flowers, which I’m big enough and ugly enough to carry in the street without comment, a thing most blokes can’t do too well. That was our second meeting, and while she didn’t invite me in, I could see she was impressed. And there it stayed for a while, except that on her walks past the building site, she always had a word for me, making the other blokes really envious, but as I said, if you have good looks and lots of charm, of course you’re going to pull the birds, only I doubt if they took it very seriously. I know I wouldn’t have done if it was the other way around.
For a while, I said, then things started happening. I got called on by the police and asked a few more questions before being advised not to change address without informing them. It seemed that I was facing a prosecution for GBH, which means beating somebody up badly, only I can’t spell the term properly, so GBH it is.
Well, I don’t want to go into all the detail here. You can read about it in the local rag that calls itself a newspaper, only there’s never any news in it at all, if you are really interested. Apparently, this bloke I’d saved Sandra from had put in a complaint about me, just as soon as he could speak again, and wanted compensation, and to see me serving a sentence from life to a public execution without the option.
They took it seriously, the authorities, that is, even though any reasonable person would have treated me like a hero for saving a young woman from a fate worse than death as it used to be called back in the days when parents didn’t want their youngsters picking up odd words and asking awkward questions about them.
I found myself in court, well, in front of the magistrates anyway, whose job it was to decide if there really was a case against me. And that was where Sandra came into the picture again. I hadn’t told her, but she picked it up from somewhere or other, and came to volunteer to be a witness for me, which was rather nice of her, and very generous as she had no need to do so. Later, she told me that she actually did need to do so, but I never really understood that bit at all.
To cut a long story short, there we were, in front of the magistrates, who were really nice, and made every effort to put everyone at their ease, though you were left in no doubt as to who was in charge. This bloke, Sandra’s attacker, was asked some questions, and I have to admit, the hospital had done a marvellous job on his phizzog, but couldn’t give him what he didn’t have after I’d finished with him. He was still black and blue with interesting tinges of green and purple, so I thought things didn’t look too good for me.
Then Sandra stood up and gave her version of what had happened. Honestly, I hardly recognised her. I mean, she’s only small and slim to begin with, but on this day, she looked smaller and slimmer still. More than that, she looked a lot younger. Now I don’t want to give any secrets away, but I can tell you that she publicly admits to being in her mid twenties, so make what you like of that. In front of the magistrates though, she was dressed in a shorter skirt than usual, white knee length socks and a long sleeved blouse reaching up to her neck, looking not a day above fourteen. Incredible. Then she started crying and just about everyone made those noises which people do when they see a kitten or tiny baby or something like that, and that was it, just about. I was given a warning about misusing my strength – it always happens that way with a bloke as big as I am – and sent off without a stain on my character. It was Sandra’s doing, of course, I’m not that stupid, and anyway, she told me about it later, when we were sat in a nearby restaurant where I treated her to a three course meal as a sort of celebration and a heartfelt thank you, and I ignored the disapproving looks from other customers who obviously thought I was in the business of abducting young girls.
It so happened that Sandra was doing a bit of supply teaching in a local school, and that one of her pupils was actually the chief magistrate’s daughter, just fourteen years old, and he doted on her. All Sandra had done was to dress herself up to resemble the girl, though not too closely of course, as otherwise it might have been too obvious what she was playing at, and that was it. The magistrate was made to feel how it might be if it had been his daughter in Sandra’s position instead of Sandra herself. No contest, really. Devious. Very devious. Must say, I’m rather glad that women don’t run the world, though I’m not too certain that they don’t do that already.
Oh yes, there was a little more, and it came from Sandra, as always.
‘A couple of questions,’ she said. ‘Are you married?’
‘Married? Er, no.’
‘Any girl friend? Serious one, that is?’
‘Like to have one?’
‘Er… er… you mean you? Yourself?’
‘Someone has to look after you. Honestly, you’re not fit to be let out without a nanny. Come on then, if you’ve finished eating. You can take me home again. You can stay until late. After that, we’ll see what happens.’
Well, there was quite a lot of after that, and that only shortly after. I still don’t know what she sees in me though.
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4 thoughts on “Meeting of Minds by Raymond Hopkins”
Oh that was great! I really enjoyed it. I love the way you feel completely at ease with the narrator. I loved; “I think they threw me out in disgust”. Thank you, Raymond Hopkins.
Being ugly enough to carry flowers across the street without provoking comment is a vastly underrated life skill. Most men lack the protagonist’s confidence. This was a very good outing.
I loved this story. I loved everything about it. I expect to love the next one you send us. Best wishes, June
There’s a real consistency to this story in terms of the voice of the main character – made it a very easy and enjoyable read. Nicely done Raymond, look forward to reading more of your work.