I found it lying in the front garden almost untouched by the explosion. I don’t know if she had dropped it there or if it had somehow been blow out with the windows.
I hadn’t understood the panic when Mary had first called, but I did now. She was in a frantic state.
‘I’ve lost it,’ her old feeble voice sounding more so, over the poor connection of her mobile phone.
‘Lost what Mary?’
‘It’s gone. I know it was in my handbag and when I looked a minute ago it wasn’t there.’
‘Mary Calm Down,’ I was shouting now as the back ground noise was getting louder. ‘Now tell me what you’ve lost.’
‘Mary I am sure you don’t need to panic. We’ll get you some more next time I come to take you shopping.’
‘You don’t understand I need it. It’s my knotted one.’
‘I think we’re getting a little confused aren’t we? You stay there and I will pop round and bring you a new one.’
I put the phone down and decided that Mary had had me running round like a blue arsed fly once too often lately. She wasn’t even family. She had been my mother’s bridesmaid and so she had always been Aunty Mary. All the rest of her generation had died now. Her sweetheart had been killed in the war and so she never married or had a family of her own, so I looked out for her. The only problem was it was taking up more and more of my time. Sarah and I had just retired and the kids were all gone now. We should have been enjoying a relaxing retirement not running round after some dotty old dear.
‘Who was that on the phone?’ Sarah asked when she wandered out to the garden with a cup of tea a while later.
‘Only Mary. She’s lost her hankie apparently.’
‘Not her knotted one?’
‘She needs that. Every time she switches anything on she puts a knot in the hankie and when she switches it off she takes the knot out. Without it she might leave the lights on or even worse the gas.’
I suddenly understood Mary’s panic and quickly jumped into the car. Ten minutes later I was trying to turn into the close Mary lived on but the fire engine and police car were blocking the road. I jumped out of the car and raced down the road until a policeman blocked my way.
‘Mary,Mary,’ I gasped. ‘Is she okay?’
‘Sorry sir who’s that?’
‘The old lady who lives in that house. Is she okay?’
The downstairs window of the house had been blown out and there was smouldering ash all over the front lawn.
‘I don’t know sir the explosion was localised but we are just waiting for the Fire Brigade to let us know the extent of the damage before we can send in the paramedics.’
Just then a fireman appeared and approached the policeman.
‘All clear. The kettle had boiled dry and exploded. Shot straight through the kitchen window. Looks a lot worse than it is.’
‘How’s Mary.’ I called
‘Mary?’ The fireman asked
‘The old woman who lives in the house.’
‘No one in the house sir she must have gone out and forgotten the kettle.’
Just then Mary appeared round the corner dragging her tartan shopping trolley behind her. She waved and I ran up to great her.
‘Mary you okay?’
‘Of course I am dear. I just had to get a new hankie before something bad happened. What’s all the fuss about?’
I smiled, glad she was alright and vowed never to think of her as a silly old lady again.
‘There’s been a little accident. Why don’t you come to our’s for tea and I’ll tell you all about it.’