It wasn’t like Jackie didn’t have enough to do. She wasn’t filling up her extra hours because she felt lonely or nothing. It was just good, Mandy from the Poundshop said, to give a little something back to society, and that.
But now Jackie was thinking Meals on Wheels maybe wasn’t for her.
‘Mr Ross? Are you in there?’
She was spending longer each day shouting through his letterbox at him. Old git.
The tray was steaming hot in her hand. The one that wasn’t braced against the front door of his flat as she knelt there on the cold concrete.
‘And you can clear out of it, too,’ she muttered at Mrs Higgins, who came by with her tartan shopping bag. Wondering why Jackie was shouting at Mr Ross again. Maybe it was a mistake volunteering herself for her own block?
‘Mr Ross. Please open up. It’s mince and dumplings today. And jam sponge. You’ll like it.’
The pensioners ate better than she did, actually. Some of them complained about the quality of the stuff they got doled out. Jackie wouldn’t have complained. I live off chicken nuggets and Sainsbury’s Chardonnay. I’d be glad of a bleedin’ home cooked meal, even if it did arrive in foil.
‘Mr Ross!’ she banged harder.
Course, with Rose gone again it wasn’t like it was worth cooking a proper meal in the evening. This was the longest stint her daughter had been away for.
The old boy opened the door sharpish, catching her out so she stumbled again. He liked making her do that.
He was there in his front hall. Glaring up at her from his wheelchair.
‘Decided to let me in, eh?’ she smiled at his cross old face. He really was the worst old sod she delivered to. Some of them were so sweet, the old folk. So pleased and grateful to see you. Others were just evil. Like this old git.
Jackie had been on the Meals on Wheels for a week and it seemed like a lifetime.
‘How are you doing today, Mr Ross?’ she asked breezily, taking his tray into the kitchen to dish up for him. He slammed the front door with his one good arm and followed her.
‘I’ve been plotting the ultimate destruction of this world and my revenge upon all of mankind,’ he said, furiously.
‘Oh, yes?’ Jackie smiled, and went through the cupboards looking for a clean glass. ‘Look, shall I do these dishes? They’ve been standing here for days.’
‘You will all beg for my mercy in the end,’ he shouted. ‘When my invasion force arrives in Earth’s solar system at last. You will all see then what I have planned for this miserable planet.’
‘It’s mince and dumplings. You’ll like that.’
‘I will reserve the worst suffering for you, Jackie Tyler,’ he cursed in his gravelly voice. That’s where a lifetime’s smoking gets you, Jackie thought, shaking her head.
‘Shall we get you settled at the table? I’ve ever so envious of your open plan living / dining area. Was it like this when you moved in?’
He followed her miserably, wheeling down the hall. ‘You will die horribly in uttermost agony! Rueing the very day you first heard my name! I can promise you that, Jackie Tyler!’
She popped the tray down, with a knife and fork, a glass of tap water and a paper napkin. A Christmas one, but she was sure he wouldn’t mind. ‘There you are, love.’
‘Oh,’ he said, wheeling forward. ‘Dumplings.’