A Precious Gift

A Precious Gift

A Story by Barry Thomas-Brown

Wilfred has gambled away his pension...


Wilfred sat clutching his yellow betting slip.

And Beanie Baby romps home in the Sampson's Stakes her jockey Derek Mannison looks delighted, past the winning post by five furlongs.” A commentator concludes. Wilfred's strained eyes began to fill with tears.

What have I done?” He sighs, holding his laboured hands to his face. He feels his shoulders being caressed vigorously. “Another loss Wilfred? I told you True Love had no chance! Never mind, there's always tomorrow, better weather conditions too.”

Wilfred mumbles under his breath. 'Oh not this time. This time I really have spent my last penny.' His betting slip flutters onto the table in pieces. He reaches for his cane and hauls himself out from the bookmakers. The rain is soft. He crosses the road toward the jewellers. Placing his hands on the window, Wilfred looks at a cocktail watch, 14 carrot white gold and encrusted with diamonds. I just want to give you what you want Jessica. The reflection of the Somerset Arms catches Wilfred's attention.

So that will be £20 on your slate now, I don't mean to hassle you Wilf, but this really should be your last pint until I see some kind of return. Ok?” Stressed the barman.

Wilfred nodded and sipped the frothy head of a freshly brewed Chessington Ale. His drinking partner, Eddie Barnes, drew from his pipe.

You are looking sad Willy, what's to do?”

Throwing his chequered flat cap onto the bar, he explains.

I'm in trouble Ed. Big trouble. There are no more shillings in the piggy pot. This is it for me.”

Eddie blew a plume of smoke and sipped from his whiskey glass.

Come on Willy, don't talk like that. Hold your thoughts...” Eddie got down from his stool and walked over to an illuminated jukebox. The yellow and green lights bounced off his shiny balding head. He giggled, inserted a coin and selected number 55. 'Jack O'Diamonds.' As the music came on he jiggled his slender body back to his seat.

Wilfred shook his head and smiled. 'Lonnie Donegan. It has been some time since I heard him. The King of Skiffle there's no doubt about that.”

Eddie tapped Wilfred's arm. “Now come on. What is all this nonsense you were spouting before.”

Wilfred tilted his head back and ruffled his stringy white hair. “Oh I don't know. Everything seems so expensive these days. The pension lasts all of five minutes. Me and Jessica have been on baked beans all week. It is doing our sex life no good...no good at all.”

Eddie lost his breath with laughter. “You old dog. 50 years of marriage and you still got lead in your pencil. You will be in for an MBE.”

At this time in my life, I should be enjoying myself. I earned it didn't I? Working them bus routes for thirty years. And for what? To live in poverty? To have to scrimp and scrape to get by each week. And then when I do have a bit of money I lose it all backing horses with no real logic other than liking the liveries and horse names.”

Eddie pointed a finger at Wilfred. “You know this society is fucked. We told them all years ago. They had a decade to sort something out but they let it all go to pot. And now we have two clowns running things. It is not just the financial issues either. Kids killing kids. Kids having kids!”

Wilfred interrupted. “You know I came in here to feel better. You think that was a mistake?” His friend raised his hands.

I'm sorry.”

It's ok. I know I am not the only one going through this. But I mean take my grandson. Here is a 23 year old man, without sounding like an arrogant fart, he is denser than a fog storm. Yet here he is, sitting on £50,000 a year salary in some office.”

Don't get me started on that issue. Anyway can't he help you out?”

Wilfred gargled on his ale. “You think he gives a s**t? No. He has no family values. None of them do. You know what I have been thinking?” Eddie shrugged his shoulders. “I've been thinking I should just take what I want. To hell with it all.”

Wilfred come on. We aren't far away from meeting the Sky Daddy, you don't want to do anything stupid.”

I'd better get back to Jessica. She will wonder where I have got too.” Wilfred put his cap firmly on his head, thanked Eddie for his advice and shuffled out the bar-room doors. The rain had subdued somewhat, he put his cane under his arms and rolled up his collar. He stood for a moment-looking across at the jewellers. He bit his lip, grimaced and began striding across the road.

Lizzy was preparing for closure when the store bell rang. A gentleman walked in shaking off the last drizzles of rain. 'Ugh' she cussed and strode over to greet the customer.

Hello. What you looking for?”

The man looked at the teenager and scanned the establishment. Puzzled at its upmarket appearance. He leaned over peering into the glittering cabinets.

I'm looking for something for my wife. I have a budget of around £200.”

Lizzy sniggered. “You won't get anything here for that. You would be better off trying something at the shopping mall. They sell cheap stuff.”

The man began breathing deeply through his nose. Then in one swift movement he pulled from under his long jacket a shotgun and pointed it in Lizzy's face.

How about for free then you b***h?! Give me all that jewellery and some of the window display ones too before I blow your useless brains out!”

Oh my god, oh my god.” Cried Lizzy as she fumbled in her pockets for the cabinet keys. She dropped them onto the top of the counter. “Please, please take what you want.”

The man, who had made no attempt to cover his identity swiped the keys and began opening the display cases. “I need a bag you moron!”

She grabbed a handful of stylish bags and threw them across at the robber who held masses of sparkling gold and silver. He headed over to the window displays and began scooping up mountains of jewellery. Once the bags could carry no more, he walked over, dipped into his pockets and threw a pound coin at the shopkeeper.

Here, this is for the bags. I like to do my bit for the environment.” He confessed before darting out of the store. Lizzy grabbed her android phone and urgently began texting a status update on her facebook account; 'OMG someone just robbed the store and they left all the Gucci, Armani and D&G!!'

Wilfred stood at Bus Stop 4C looking at the town clock.

Tut tut, late again.” He said noticing a bearded gentleman having difficulty with some jewellery bags at the top of the road. Then the high pitched sound of a store alarm followed with a flashing amber beacon. Wilfred watched as the flustered man began sprinting in his direction. It was a moment of instinct, and perhaps one which Wilfred may regret, but out he stuck his cane nevertheless; sending the assailant sprawling across the floor.

The goods he had stolen scattered across the pavement and in the middle of it all, shining brightly at Wilfred, was the French cocktail watch. His heart was racing. He knelt down and picked it up in his hands and without thought slipped it into his pocket. From across the road two men who had witnessed his heroics, came running to his aid. The taller of the two approached the robber.

Ahh, this geezer is out cold. Well done sir.”

Oh..it..was..nothing. Really.” Wilfred was relieved to see his bus arrive at the stand. “I really must be going here is my bus, only one an hour. Cheerio.”

Hang on mister, you can't just go! The police will need a witness statement!”

Wilfred was already sitting down and waving from beside the window. He waited five minutes, until he was clear of the town, looked over his shoulder and delved into his pocket. Delicate and light, he held it in his palm. Images of a youthful Jessica flooded his mind. The smile on his face lasted but a few seconds.

What you got there then?” Said a blonde haired lady, dressed in a white shawl who had sat beside Wilfred without him realising. He was startled and quickly returned it to his pocket.

Nothing, just a little something for my wife.”

She is a lucky woman.”

Oh it wasn't that expensive.”

No I meant lucky to have you. Someone who cares for her so much. It is obvious you would give her the world if you could.”

Well yes...I suppose I would.”

The lady continued. “My father is the same. He gave me the world. He only wants love in return. Nothing more. But he never gives gifts, material things I mean. Just his company, kindness, consideration and understanding. Those are the best gifts don't you think?”

Wilfred sat silent for a moment, then responded.

Yes, you are quite right..”

The bell on the bus rang.

I think this is your stop.” Said the lady who had pressed the buzzer.

Wilfred looked outside as the bus came to a halt.

Did someone want to get off here?” Shouted the bus driver.

Erm yes, me.” Said Wilfred, who thanked the lady with a grateful stare.

The bus departed and across the road basking under the sunlight was Chessington Police Station.

With a strong heart, Wilfred walked over with his head lowered and entered reception. In the interview room he told the officers everything, signed a statement and received a caution.

Now we have shown leniency here because of your heroics, regret and good public record. I certainly hope that I never have to see you here again Mister Cunningham. Now then, is there a Missus Cunningham we can contact to pick you up?”

There is but she doesn't drive constable.”

The officer sighed, “Ok very well, I will see that two of our officers give you a ride.”

That would be much obliged.” Thanked Wilfred.

Standing at the door upon his arrival was Jessica, wearing an apron, fluffy slippers and with her hand to her mouth. Wilfred walked over slowly with his arms outstretched. She gave him a tight cuddle and he repeated his afternoon whilst smelling the sweet jasmine on her neck and sobbing onto her shoulders.

Oh Wilfred, you silly old fool. You gave me everything I ever wanted and could want, the day you married me.” She said, running the back of her gentle hands down Wilfred's cheeks.

I am so sorry my love.”

The two policemen sat stationary observing their embrace.

Goodness. I hope my marriage is like that when I get to their age.”

Yeah me too. Actually, that reminds me. Guess who won a ton of money on the Sampson Stakes today?”

No! You didn't! Who did you have?”

Yes I did! It was a bit of luck really. Beanie Baby won the race, but afterwards, at the weigh in, they found he had been running at an illegal weight allowance. So a stewards enquiry disqualified him, so True Love won in the end.”

You lucky git!”


© 2011 Barry Thomas-Brown

Author's Note

Barry Thomas-Brown
Sorry if the ending is poor, it is 2am. Perhaps I should of waited until I had a clearer mind in the morning but I was so eager to get it written and finished in the one sitting! Any comments appreciated.

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Added on January 15, 2011
Last Updated on January 26, 2011
Tags: love, hope, old, gambling, choices, and, other, various, elderly, pub, music


Barry Thomas-Brown
Barry Thomas-Brown

Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland, United Kingdom

My Life: writing, reading, hiking, single malt whiskey, a film then bed. more..