This is my December entry for Jeff B's invitation to write a fictional story about a particular series of events. You can find out what it is all about on his blog, Word In Edgeways. Why not have a go?
The telephone had been ringing all evening. I wasn't in the mood to take calls and I just wanted to get on with my book. I enjoy my own company. Whoever it was could wait.
The answer phone kicked in.
Message One, the automated voice droned.
"Hey mate, we're at the Rose and Crown and a whole lot of us are meeting up at Ed's Casino afterwards. Expect to see you later."
I recognized Uncle Max's voice immediately. He wasn't related to me. He'd always been known as Uncle Max by everyone in the area. He was around fifty, with a beer gut, as he liked to go down to the Rose & Crown every night. He was a very confident type, a bit eccentric and liked to dress up rather loudly. He was a very friendly, kind man who would share his last penny and help anyone. No wonder he was so popular.
This was his flat and his phone, but since the night of the fire, he'd done me a great favour and put me up.
This block of flats overlooked the back of another identical block on the other side of the street. It was there that the fire had happened. Just as well there were fire escapes. Most of the flats were ruined by smoke damage and Uncle Max had helped everyone down the staircases in thick smoke.
He had looked weird that night dressed in a yellow floral shirt and yellow shorts, white shoes and socks and even a panama on his head. What was he thinking of dressing up like that for on a cold night?
The phone rang again.
Message Two........ the voice of the answer phone droned on.
"Come on mate, I know you are there. We are all waiting for you, old chap. See you soon."
I thought back to the night of the fire. It had started on the first floor and the smoke had billowed upward, blackened windows and threatened to choke everyone in the building. Every occupant was forced out of their apartments.
I had lived on the second floor and everything I owned had been damaged by smoke, although I'd managed to get out via the back of the buildings down the fire escapes, like everyone else. There were people above and below me but as far as I knew, everyone had escaped unhurt.
Every property in the building was ruined and no one was allowed back, even though the fire engines had got the blaze under control fairly quickly.
When Uncle Max had taken me in, I soon learned that he'd been due to go on holiday the very night of the fire. He had been intending to head for Heathrow Airport, not very far away and his destination was Hawaii. He'd put on his holiday outfit thinking that all he had to do was to was to jump into a taxi and get on and off his planes till he landed. The fire had messed up his holiday completely and his clothes were black and had been discarded. His holiday was cancelled.
The phone rang persistently.
"We're leaving the Rose & Crown now and heading for Ed's Casino. Hope you're on your way, mate. If not we're waiting for you. We're in for a good night."
Uncle Max sounded chirpy.
I groaned....... Uncle Max was an extrovert. He liked to be the centre of attention, a real 'life and soul of the party' type of person. Nothing wrong with that except that I was the complete opposite. All I lived for were my books. I had always been a bit of a recluse. I went to the office five days a week, did a good job there as a book keeper, came home and swotted. When I wasn't swotting I read books for pleasure. I was happy enough. I would have preferred a quiet night in at home. However, I now had no home and Uncle Max had been kind to offer me his home.
Most of the other residents seemed to have found other places to live. Some had been rehoused miles away, some were staying with relatives or friends, but I wanted to stay in this area near my work and didn't have any one I could ask. So I was in Max's spare room until further notice. He had really become an uncle figure in my life. I just wished he was a quieter type of person like me, that's all.
Reluctantly, I put down my book, grabbed a jacket from the hook near the door and went out into the chilly London night air. The door slammed shut behind me as I turned up my collar and set off round the block.
Ed's Casino wasn't very big as casinos go and was only a short distance away. The bar sold expensive drinks and there was a roulette wheel and tables for Black Jack and Poker. There were a few scantily clad girls whose job it was to try to entice the clients to drink more and to part with their money at the gaming tables. Not my cup of tea at all.
I hadn't got much money to gamble with as I was still waiting for the Council to rehouse me and for the Insurance to pay up for the possessions that I'd lost in the fire. I made up my mind that I would have a quick drink and place one bet and then go home. That way Uncle Max would not think of me as ungrateful or stand offish.
As I approached Ed's Casino, the doorman looked me over and let me go through the swing door. I was astonished at what met my eyes. There seemed to be a sort of party going in full swing and everyone was singing 'For He's A Jolly Good Fellow'. Uncle Max was revelling in all this attention and was positively glowing.
A middle aged lady who seemed vaguely familiar was handing Uncle Max a bouquet of yellow roses, which he was obviously thrilled with. I noted how he really seemed to love the colour yellow, thinking back to his holiday outfit.
I glanced around the casino and recognized many faces of residents from the block of flats where the fire had been. The woman was the wife of the manager of the casino. They'd lived in my block. That's where I'd seen her.
She took Uncle Max by the hand and started to address the people.
"This gentleman here," she said in a choked voice, "Is responsible for saving the life of my disabled son, Pete. He can't walk and he's too heavy for me to carry and the lifts were out of action because of the fire. I was beside myself and didn't know what to do." Tears were streaming down her face by now as she continued.
"Then this wonderful man came and put Pete over his shoulder, thinking nothing of his own safety and guided us both down the staircase."
Uncle Max beamed with pleasure and everyone started to cheer and applaud.
Eventually they all went off to do their own thing and Uncle Max noticed me.
"Come on, old chap, while you're here lets place a bet before we go home. It will be good for you to get away from those damned books." He playfully slapped my back.
Uncle Max knew the ropes when it came to gambling, but I didn't have a clue. I really wasn't that interested. I turned out my pockets for him to see and threw my last few notes that amounted to fifty pounds, down onto the deck, together with all my loose change. With his help I placed my bet. The betting stopped, the wheel turned and I looked away and waited for them to confirm my loss.
A cheer went up from Uncle Max.
"Hey, mate, that's beginners luck. Want to place another bet?"
I shook my head. I knew when to stop. I was staggered to see the thick wad of notes that made up my winnings. A considerable amount I reckoned.
I passed it over to Uncle Max.
"Get yourself another holiday," I said, pushing the money into his hand.
Uncle Max counted it out.
"Hey, mate, there's enough for the two of us to go to Hawaii. Yes, you're coming with me, mate."
There was a part of me that doubted very much whether there was enough money there for the two of us to go to Hawaii, but I guessed that he really wanted me to go with him. As I said before, he was a generous man. Could I really stand his loudness and his boundless energy for two weeks?
I looked at him fondly, and guessed I could and I maybe I'd take some books with me.
"Tell you what, mate," Uncle Max piped up, "I'll treat us both to some new holiday clothes. I know just the place to go."
Every one laughed, but I inwardly groaned........... not yellow!