When Old Mr E. Called the Police by Hannah Retallick

Old Mr E. told everyone what he’d done. We shouldn’t have been surprised. He was always stopping to grumble while we pulled weeds from our gardens, queued to pay for our shopping, or entered the pharmacy as he was collecting his betablockers. We still couldn’t help blurting, ‘You did what?’  

What kind of man would call the police on three girls who were selling cupcakes outside their home?  

 Old Mr E. must have lived in Carbis Bay for longer than anyone. No one asked him anything about himself. It wasn’t advisable, not when we were always met with a tirade of gloom – resenting the loss of the old days, resenting the newcomers who invaded Cornwall, diluting its traditions and inflicting their own ways on the duchy. Resenting us. 

 As those of us who were sympathetic suggested, perhaps his attitude was due to some great tragedy in his life – a death, a disappointment – and we spoke kindlier of him for a while. Until this. There’s a time when tragedy is no longer an excuse, and that time had arrived: victimising children for no good reason. 

 We pictured the moment he confronted the girls yesterday; their falling faces, their glances towards the window where their parents watched, their eyes smarting above the doily-covered plates that were piled high with cupcakes, dripping with blue icing and sprinkles. Those cakes went down a treat; his actions left a sour taste. What sort of man would ask if they had a trading license? 

Most of us incomers don’t inflict our own ways on Cornwall; we join the natives in upholding its culture, which he would know if he allowed us a voice. It is he who dilutes Cornwall’s joy. 

So, perhaps you will forgive us for caring very little when we heard that Old Mr E. passed away from a suspected heart attack this morning. It may have happened last night. His fully dressed body was spotted through the living room window by the postman, who phoned for an ambulance.  

 May he rest in peace; may the girls sell their cupcakes in peace and raise a fortune for their school hall. What kind of man would call the police? They never showed up, of course; they have better things to do with their time. Old Mr E. clearly didn’t. And now he has no time at all. 

Hannah Retallick is a twenty-seven-year-old from Anglesey, North Wales. She was home educated and then studied with the Open University, graduating with a First-class honours degree, BA in Humanities with Creative Writing and Music, before passing her Creative Writing MA with a Distinction. She was shortlisted in the Writing Awards at the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2019, the Cambridge Short Story Prize, the Henshaw Short Story Competition June 2019, the Bedford International Writing Competition 2019, the Crossing the Tees book festival competition 2020, and the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize 2021. https://www.hannahretallick.co.uk/

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