Elizabeth Wright
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A Case Of Mistaken Identity

It wasn’t the best of starts to the day. As my friend Wendy got out of bed she trod on Tommy, who was snoozing comfortably amongst her fluffy slippers. The cat shot out of the bedroom, flicking its bruised tail in anger, pausing just an instant to give his owner the kind of withering glare only an annoyed cat can muster. A loud clang from the cat flap announced his exit.

In the usual morning rush Wendy had to be up by six to get husband John out of the door at 7.15 for his brisk walk to the railway station to catch the London train. She made sure he was well wrapped up against the biting November cold, gave him a kiss and said, “Have a good day.”

Son Oliver, like most teenagers, was always reluctant to leave a warm bed and spent ages in the bathroom. But eventually he arrived for breakfast. Whilst snatching bites from a chunky piece of buttered toast, he decided to finish his homework. Then he dropped the bombshell as Wendy started to clear away the breakfast plates.

“Mum, dad’s taken my briefcase to work.”

Father and son possessed almost identical briefcases. Each morning Wendy packed snacks in both and to avoid any mix-ups, put them on opposite sides of the kitchen. But today it had somehow all gone wrong and John was now on his way to an important business meeting in the City carrying a black leather briefcase full of schoolbooks and a yellow Lion King lunch box.

If the trains were, for once, running on time, the twelve coach commuter train to Victoria was due to pull out of the local station in ten minutes. Oliver said, “Don’t worry, mum, you try and catch dad. I’ll sort myself out.”

With nine minutes to go, Wendy, with uncombed hair and still in her nightdress and dressing gown, speedily swung into action. The family’s improving financial future could lie in her getting the briefcase to its rightful owner. She grabbed the nearest item of outdoor clothing she could find – a green, paint-spattered, bleach-stained jogging suit. As she struggled to get it on over her nightdress, her bedsocked feet were dipping into an old pair of shoes with collapsed backs.

Eight and a half minutes to go. Outside, a layer of sparkling frost covered the car. Opening the door she scrabbled around in various pockets for an ice-scraper, but with the minutes ticking by she ended up having to scratch ice off the windscreen with her fingernails. When the car engine roared into life, the heater soon began to warm up.

Six and a half minutes to go. As she sat down and tried to pull out the seatbelt, it stubbornly clung to the inside of its little black box. Frantic jerks failed to move it but a final, desperate, gentle tweak did, and at last, she was on her way to the nearby railway station.

Four and a half minutes to go. She abandoned the car by the taxi rank, and, hampered by the shoes with fallen backs, shuffled onto the concourse. The Victoria train, all twelve coaches, was still there on platform two.

Sobbing with relief, she hobbled the entire length of the train looking into each carriage. No John. Then, with a rumble and a clatter it slowly started to move out of the station, leaving Wendy a lone figure on the platform.

She didn’t know that he was sat, reading his daily paper, on the London Bridge train on platform three. At the point where he opened the briefcase and found a yellow lunchbox nestling amongst “German for Beginners”, a colleague, on looking out of the window and seeing the Jolly Green Giant’s sister on a bad hair day, said, “Isn’t that your wife over there?”

As their train started to move, they opened the window and yelled in unison to Wendy. With a high- speed shuffle she closed the gap, and, with dexterity that wouldn’t have shamed a juggler, threw the briefcase at John whilst grabbing Oliver’s coming in the opposite direction.

That evening, John said, “I’ll take you out for a slap-up thank-you dinner. Without my right briefcase I couldn’t have clinched a most important deal for the company.”

They chose a restaurant that promised quality service and good food. Wendy ordered her favourite curry with fine and expensive ingredients and awaited its delivery with eager anticipation. After half an hour a bored teenage waitress emerged from the kitchen and said, “We ain’t got no rice to go with your curry. Chips do instead?”

It wasn’t the best of finishes to the day either. The vet’s bill for Tommy’s bruised tail saw to that.

Accepted by online magazine “Giddy Limits.”

© Elizabeth Wright