ACW

ACW

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Stealing light-bulbs, by Deborah Jenkins


I walked into Sainsbury's the other day, wandered into the Home section and stole a light-bulb. I unzipped my bag and edged it carefully in, so as not to break it. Then I walked out. At the door a stocky security guard with acne and dodgy eyes, put on his deepest voice.

"Excuse me Madam," He gave an inquiring nod to someone behind me, then cleared his throat, "Do you have anything in your bag?"

I froze. With one half of my brain I was thinking what a strange question it was, and that I could answer with any number of things -
That is none of your business
No, unless you mean the light bulb I just shoplifted
Yes, of course I have - my car-keys, my purse, my glasses. Shall I go on? 

What was even stranger is that I felt an obscure sense of panic and guilt, even though I had no reason to. The above is a description of what they thought had happened. But they were wrong. Or were they? My mind raked back quickly over the past few moments. I had been looking at light bulbs, lifting them off the shelf and comparing them to the spent one removed from our kitchen pendant. shaking my head and putting them back again. They were all the wrong shape, it was so annoying. After lifting and comparing a number of bulbs, I finally decided they didn't have one, at which point I unzipped my bag, put the old one back in and walked out.

So I calmly unzipped my bag and pulled it out.
Yes, my light-bulb to see if...
The security guard interrupted, disappointed.
Oh, it's yours! Okay. At which point he walked off.

And I was left, heart thrumming, embarrassed and annoyed. He didn't even apologise!

As I drove home, smoothing my hair in the driving mirror, I remembered a man appearing next to me in the light-bulb aisle. As I'd zipped up my bag and turned to go, he'd picked a bulb off the shelf and spoken into his mobile. Something like, "Mum, are you sure it's the light bulb not the flex?" and looked straight at me. I remember thinking what lovely blue eyes. Perhaps the message was for Security. Code for "Older woman heading out with light-bulb. Messy hair" I felt a rush of annoyance, that I'd admired his eyes. I wished I'd thought them devious.

I carried on musing as I drove home, narrowly missing a bollard. Why could I not stop thinking about this ? The man was only doing his job. He had made a mistake. I was innocent. Move on, Deborah. Move on...

I know, I thought, I'll put it in my book. Maybe the woman puts the new light bulb in her bag by accident, and puts the old one back on the shelf. Maybe she is deep in thought, about her marriage or her dog or her gall bladder. She's doing that thing where her body moves without her mind being engaged at all until she finds herself standing, dazed, at the door next to the security guard.

Life has such rich pickings: -
A frustrated woman walks out of her job, and into a new life
An old lady counts out coins with a trembling hand
A vicar's wife dreams of buying their holiday home
A teenager runs away and squats in an empty house
A business woman loses her London company and moves to the country
A Romanian chef makes a new start running a cattery

I have used all these in my writing. Some of them happened to me, some of them to others but they all touched me in some way and I could not stop thinking about them. Until I wrote them down in a diary or a story or an article. How powerful is the written word, able to take both the diamonds and the dust from this crazy world and put them to rest in a song. It might make us sad or it might make us happy, but somehow it will soothe away the endless scrutiny and give us peace. If we are watchers and listeners, we will prevail as long as we keep collecting and writing - snapshots of other lives through which we gradually begin to see a bigger story. Like stolen light-bulbs...

Click on the link to see the novella on amazon

Deborah Jenkins is a primary school teacher and freelance writer who has written articles, text books, devotional notes and short stories. She also writes regularly for the TES. She has completed a novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an Amazon e-book and is currently working on a full length novel. Deborah loves hats, trees and small children. After years overseas with her family, who are now grown up, she lives in south-west London with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver.  

























16 comments:

  1. Yes - this is how it is, how it works! But sometimes these things we see are barely noticed until they mysteriously surface in a story and we ask 'Where did that come from?' (I was a bit worried when I thought you'd turned to a life of crime!)

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  2. Great title for your blog post! You got me curious! :)

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    1. Aha! It worked then! Thank you for reading Amy ☺️

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  3. That is so true. A bit like dreams, where you can piece together fragments of your day. Haha! Yes, I hoped people might think that ;) Thanks Sue!

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  4. Reading your blog was the best way to start my day. Thanks, Deborah. I had a big smile on my face as I read the gall-bladder reference. It's those little details in life and writing that make it sing. Like good seasoning in a recipe....

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    1. Thanks Jane. That's a lovely way to describe it ☺️

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  5. Oh my goodness! We've all been there, slipped something into our bag by accident. You got me wondering for a minute, though, Deborah!

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  6. Haha! Though I hadn't even done it, I felt so guilty. Weird, huh?

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  7. No one's ever going to turn round to you (as they have to me) and say, 'So, what's the main hook for this novel?' You have the idea of hooks bang-on. Can't wait to find out what DOES happen to the frustrated woman who walks out of her job and into a new life ;)

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  8. Haha! Thanks Fran. Can't wait to finish it and show it to you. Maybe now I've left teaching, it will actually happen!

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  9. This had me gripped and appalled all in one. I've always dreaded doing something absent-minded and silly. Is the Romanian chef story true? He sounds so much more intriguing being Romanian than being American, for example.

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  10. So glad it had you gripped Veronica! I heard the Romanian chef story from someone else. It was someone they knew. I also loved the whole idea of it. Thanks so much for reading and commenting 🙂

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  11. It was only when I read your name in the piece that I twigged that this actually did happen to you and you weren't making it up. It has a hint of a crime drama in it too. The fact that you begin by saying, blatantly, that you stole a light bulb. I was thinking why would you be careful not to break a light bulb if it wasn't new, but then I thought of course, you wouldn't want all that glass in your handbag. Loved all the extra details too. The gall bladder reference is interesting, and what would have happened if you'd hit that bollard!? So glad I was able to read your novella. :)

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  12. Martin, you are the nicest person! Thank you for your lovely comments 🙂 I really appreciate them, particularly tonight, as I'm recovering from a (minor) operation which I had earlier today. I do hope your writing plans are moving on apace? Hope you're going to Scargill next year? Fran and I have already booked 🙂 Thanks again.

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  13. You had me gripped,Deborah. Surely this could not happen to someone so lovely. I came over all protective! Another great read and quite scary how this could so easily happen to any of us. Xxx

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    1. Thanks Eileen! Yes, it could - quite an odd experience really. Hope you are well. Wondering what you are up to these days? Much love xxx

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