FFfAW : Digging the Dirt

This week’s photo prompt is provided by wildverbs. Thank you wildverbs!


 

Everyone on the little cul-de-sac of sooty terraced houses said what a good neighbour Beryl was.

When Mary at number 5 was laid up with a broken hip, it was Beryl who fed her budgie, put the ancient Hoover through its paces. And when Fred and Sylvie’s son died in a car crash, it was Beryl who organised the wake, made the beef paste sandwiches, kept the mourners topped up with tea and sweet sherry.

On the day she passed away there were many tears shed. By the next day – when her diaries were found – there were no more tears.

There was a diary entry about the baby Mary had given up for adoption when she was fourteen, a sad little snapshot of the golden haired baby boy – the only picture Mary had of him.

There were newspaper clippings of Fred and Mary’s son taped on one page, about the trouble he’d got into in Exeter with that young typist and the reason he drank.

Only the vicar attended Beryl’s funeral.


Written for FFfAW. See the picture, write a tale, share, read and comment – here.

Yes, I’ve gone a little left field. I struggled to begin with but once the title phrase blipped into my head, the rest came easily.

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40 thoughts on “FFfAW : Digging the Dirt

  1. “Worrabitch!” is the popular phrase that springs to mind: we all know at least of those individuals who weevil their way into others’ private lives under a Good Samaritan guise but who, in reality, are Collectors. Brilliant little vignette, like those titbits malicious neighbours pass on over the garden fence… 😁

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    1. Ha! You made me snort with that ‘worrabitch’ – so funny! Have you read Anthony Horowitz’s The Magpie Murders? (Enjoyable but strangely cold too) That has a similar character at its core, someone who sees other people’s misfortunes as a living soap opera to revel in. Thank you for the chuckle Chris and for your kind comment πŸ™‚

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      1. No, sadly Horowitz is an author I’ve somehow missed in my literary trawling, though of course I’m well aware of him, but I’ll bear this title in mind!

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      2. It’s enjoyable, but more of an intellectual exercise than emotionally engaging. It’s reminiscent of Christie – intentionally, of course – and she was never a great one for warmth in her characterisation. Worth a read

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  2. And the moral is: never trust a woman who makes beef paste sandwiches for a funeral.

    With your eye for the macabre, I expected corpses in shallow graves, but this is far better – more subtle.

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    1. Haha! Beef paste sandwiches … can’t remember the last time I had one of those, though I have been veggie for thirty years, so not entirely surprising. Yes, a low body count this time, though the neighbours will carry the scars. Thank you Jane πŸ™‚

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      1. When I find myself in times of trouble
        mother Beryl comes to me,
        building beef paste sarnies, let it be.
        And in my hour of darkness,
        she is standing right in front of me,
        writing in her diary about me

        About me, about me,
        let be, let it be,
        writing words of evil about me πŸ™‚
        ,

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  3. It’s always so interesting when someone dies and you find out secrets about them in their homes… and creepy sometimes, too. But I feel like I’m missing something about the diaries, because I can still interpret it as her being concerned and keeping up with her neighbors. Was she saying nasty things about them in the diaries? Like, gossiping, but only to herself?

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    1. Well, she was collecting scandalous secrets about people – ‘digging the dirt’ as the title suggests. If I’d had more words I might have suggested how she intended to use these secrets. A little blackmail, perhaps. Thank you for reading Joy

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    1. Very true. Though I imagine her saving them up for the future, using them as ammunition perhaps, leverage on her neighbours should she want something of them. Thank you for reading Jade

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  4. “Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbors” – I’m having to force that tune out of my head now. For a moment I was thinking Beryl’s misdeeds might be balanced by her acts of (apparent) kindness, but I read the story again – nicking the photo of Mary’s baby was absolutely unforgivable. What a twisted cow! And what a good piece of writing.

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  5. You have narrated a story so nicely and built up the character of Beryl so well. Sympathy for her good deeds turns into anger once people know she was collecting information about people’s miseries. To be fair, she probably kept the information with her but did not share.

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      1. I’m friendly with my neighbours (I only have two within shouting distance). But we keep a polite distance. Wasn’t like that when I lived in a village.

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      2. We’re on nodding terms with ours but we’ve only been here a year. We were friendlier with previous neighbours, but we’d been in that house for eleven years. But we do have friends nearby who pop by if we’re away and water my plants in the summer heat, so we’re very lucky. Was the village much more insular? Did you have a Beryl watching over you? πŸ™‚

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      3. The village? Couldn’t walk down the street with your skirt hem above your knees without some gossip making something of it. My brother-in-law used to pop in for a cuppa when he was out our way. Damn great lorry parked at my gate, couldn’t be missed. We were, of course, having a torrid affair … in the minds of the neighbours.
        I might only have 2 near neighbours now but both will take in parcels if I’m out, and one, ex army, says next time the power outs, to take a mug round and he’ll make me a coffee on his primus stove. I think he’s just glad I don’t moan about his motorbike. He does thunder past sometimes, late at night. But I grew up with motorbikes; I don’t mind them.

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      4. Ha! Love the gossip about your brother in law – you could have had fun with that if you’d a mind! Thank heavens for neighbours who will take in parcels for you – me, I’ll take parcels in for people if I know them or not. All welcome πŸ™‚

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  6. I had to read this a few times, checking the names against the clippings (I’m blaming my lack of sleep, not your writing, though!)

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  7. A fascinating piece. Poor lady that no one would come to pay their last respects. Awful,that she suffered, & I wonder what happened with this baby. It seems in the end, they forget she has passed, and everyone judges her for it. But I also read your FF piece before, & the Vicar himself makes me suspicious now. Lol.

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    1. Ha! Too many suspicious characters in my stories! Weirdly, in real life I tend to take people very much at face value and believe what they tell me. If the story had been longer I would have shown how manipulative she was, that she was gathering information on people to some end to suit herself. Word count stopped that.

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      1. Oh nice. This sounds good. File this one away Lynn. I think you could do a lot with it sometime. And it’s another I’d love to read. πŸ˜‰

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