My Short Story: Ash.
(this was published early June on my blogsite: http://frog101.wordpress.com
Ash laid down the paper. The headline said it all. "Council House Millionaire now broke" it stated. Ash knew the person they were referring to - it was well discussed at his local pub; Danny Billson had won 3 million on the lottery just over a year ago and had moved his young family out from the Council house that they had been given, and for a short while the road was clear of the rusted white van and that MOT wreck of a Mondeo. They'd left the skip in the driveway with two old mattresses discarded into it. It was annoying, thought Ash, that the skip had then remained on that drive for most of the year, added to with the next three rounds of occupants that had passed through on their way to bigger council properties. But Danny was broke - no surprise there, he'd had little thought to saving and no doubt that teenage wife of his had bought up most of the King's Road to make sure that she was posh and everyone knew it. He wondered how long it would be before he saw Danny and his wife queuing up at the Benefits Office in designer gear. or how long it will be before they were back to buying their clothes from the market again. It was nice that someone won the money. but him?
Ash's eyes scanned round his living room. Realistically It was a small room, but it had supported him and his family (when he'd had one). Importantly though, it was his house - not the Council's - and whilst it meant he'd had to pay for all the work to maintain that drab exterior it was affordable and something that would see him out - and pay for that final service.
He looked absently at the pictures of the wall. They'd gathered a little dust (I hate doing the cleaning he'd said to his drinking chums, but I can't afford a cleaner) but they showed back to a happier time, when he was married with a young child. James would be about ten now he thought absently. It wasn't his fault that she'd decided that her boss was a much better ticket option than he; it wasn't his fault that they'd gone off to America, never to return - and it certainly wasn't his fault that he couldn't afford a computer to "facebook" with his son, which seemed to be the only way he was ever going to talk to him these days. He was a little happier that she never phoned him for money (they'd not wanted a penny) but he did wish he was told how his son was getting on.
And with a bored sigh and a return to routine, he picked up the remote and clicked on the TV. The screen flicked, then slowly warmed to reflect a smiling (cheesy grin) of the quiz master as he introduced the next model smiling couple to their chance to win £500,000.
"I wish I'd get that sort of money" said Ash. "I could really do up the place, get a computer and a new TV - and possibly replace my car with a newer model. I wouldn't waste it, like Danny did"
After watching the TV for a little while, Ash started to feel a bit hungry, so he clicked off the TV and shuffled into the kitchen, his nylon slippers scuffling along the patched, threadbare carpet. In the kitchen he opened the yellowing cupboards and got down some sliced bread and a tin of beans. He reached across to the sink and pulled out a used saucepan. Ash looked into the top and saw the remnants of the beans making a mark round the side of the pan. "I'll clean it later" he lied to himself.
He emptied the tin into the saucepan, lit the gas and put the saucepan on the hob. The sliced bread heated quick enough and after a short while he'd made himself his evening meal, which he ate quickly before dumping all the cutlery and crockery into the sink. "I'll do it later" he promised himself. He reached into the fridge and pulled out two large bottles of beer. "That'll save me coming back in here" he thought then armed with a clean glass he shuffled back into the living room.
What he had failed to notice was that the gas hob hadn't been turned off - as he'd picked up the saucepan it had blown out the flame, but the gas still leaked out silently.
Ash woke with a start. What time was it he thought? Oh, three in the morning. I must have fell asleep he said - looking at the beer glass lying casually on the floor, it's contents discharged into the carpet and slowly seeping a darker wet circle as the beer dissipated into the carpet. "Good job I don't smoke" he thought "I could have started a fire. Time for bed though".
Ash got up, slipped his feet into his nylon slippers, then started to shuffle off to bed. "What's that smell? Smells funny" he thought, and instinctively shuffled towards the kitchen. As he got close to the door, he reached out and touched the metal door knob. Ash felt the crack as the static spark left his finger and landed on the door knob. He vaguely remembered feeling light and then it all went black.
Ash woke up and everything felt odd and unusual. He didn't feel "right" and it didn't feel like the usual morning hangover that he'd suffered from for the last twenty years. Also, everything felt clean and crisp. This wasn't his bed - this wasn't his room. Where was he?
"Don't panic Mr Florin - you're in a hospital" The nurse smiled politely at him before stepping to one side and another person stepped in.
"Mr Florin - my name is Doctor Sindeep. What was the last thing you remember?"
Ash then started to recall - the static shock, the big, bright light and being thrown backwards.
"Yes, that's about right" agreed Doctor Sindeep "You're suffering from some serious concussion after being thrown backwards and having half your house land on you"
What? The house falling on me? What's he talking about? Ash felt himself getting stressed.
Doctor Sindeep stepped in quickly "Mr Florin, please calm down else we will need to sedate you again"
OK, so what's happened - why can't I move?
Doctor Sindeep spoke slowly and carefully. "Mr Florin, you will have a lot to take in. Your house was fully destroyed by a gas explosion - nothing remained. Fortunately, a Mr Billson was driving down the road and saw the explosion. He dashed into your house and pulled you clear, just as the last of the supporting timbers gave out. You were both lucky to escape.
"Unfortunately though, you have suffered massive injuries and at this time we are not sure how much mobility you will have left in your legs, or how much we can restore. We will also have to run some other tests to check other functions - we had to sedate you very heavily to be able to patch you up - so there's much at this time we don't know about the extent of your injuries.
Several months passed and the Doctors worked hard with Ash to try and restore mobility to his legs. A little progress was made, but Ash eventually realised that he was going to remain wheelchair bound for a very long time. His house insurance paid up quickly, and he was able to buy a smaller bungalow to live in.
That morning he went around to pick up the mail. There were two letters addressed to him.
The first was from Social Services, advising him that because of the injuries to his hands (his right hand had been badly injured by falling debris) they were able to get him a computer so assist him with communicating with others and would set him up on the internet. The second letter was also from the Council, this time the Planning Department, identifying that following an inspection of his house they would be providing him with a grant of £500,000 to make adaptions to his house.
Ash sat and read the two letters. A small smile spread across his thin lips. He turned and wheeled himself into the kitchen.