by Ann Abineri
Claire pushed open the glass door and stepped into the foyer of Pinetrees, thinking again what a nice place her father had found to live. The receptionist looked up from her computer screen and smiled warmly. “Claire, fantastic news. Your father told us this morning.”
“Now why doesn’t that surprise me!” said Claire, smiling back. She knew that her father’s sociable nature meant that any family news was likely to be known throughout the residential home within a day, if not sooner.
Claire found her Dad in the lounge watching the horseracing and making notes in a small book. He switched the television off.
“How’s my darling girl?” asked Alf. “Feeling a little better I trust?”
“Feeling lots better” smiled Claire. “I went for a scan yesterday.”
A look of concern passed over Alf’s face.
“Routine, Dad. Everyone has one.”
Claire placed a small black and white photo in her father’s hand and he looked at it nervously.
“Well, well. Hello young, er, young man?”
He looked at Claire who nodded, smiling.
“Tom must be thrilled. What’s the young fellow’s name going to be?” asked Alf.
“We haven’t decided yet Dad. Plenty of time. Now how about a walk in the garden?”
“Lovely dear – just a short one. I’d like to catch the Grand Prix qualifiers.”
Next time Claire arrived at Pinetrees, Mrs. Butler, the Registered Nurse was standing in Reception.
“How’s Finn?” she asked cheerily.
“I heard he’s called Noah!” called a voice from the office.
Claire smiled to herself.
In the corridor Claire passed two residents. “Congratulations, my dear. I hear you’ve got a name already. Fyfe is it?”
“No, no dear, it’s Atticus,” said her companion.
“Interesting ideas,” murmured Claire.
Claire went to find Alf for their usual walk in the grounds. He was just putting a book about Poker onto the side table in his room.
“Mrs. Patton came in with my library books. She sends her regards to you, Tom and young Cedric.”
Claire opened her mouth to reply but decided to let it pass.
Over the next few months, Claire started looking forward to hearing the offbeat names that the staff and residents of Pinetrees had chosen for her baby. One day, the handyman waved to Claire from his ladder and asked after Tristram. Another, the minibus driver stopped her in the car park and said Saul had always been one of his favourite names.
Five months later, Claire, Tom and their baby son arrived at Pinetrees. As they walked to Alf’s room, faces appeared around corners and excited squeaks could be heard.
“They’re here with little Sirius,” came the cook’s voice from the kitchen, almost drowned out by the clatter of pans.
“Ignatius “said a voice from deep within the linen cupboard.
They turned into the lounge and saw Alf folding today’s sports pages. Outside the window behind him a large rhododendron shook violently as Mrs Lambart freed herself from its clutches to wave and mouthed “How’s Gerontius?”
A broad smile filled Alf’s face when he saw them “My darlings! You must sit down. How are you all?”
“We’re all fine Dad” smiled Claire, “Would you like to hold your grandson?”
“Nothing I’d like more,” said Alf as Claire carefully placed the shawl-wrapped bundle on his lap. Alf examined his Grandson proudly.
“Dribbling a bit,” said Alf knowledgeably, “got just the thing here”
He started to fumble in his pocket for his handkerchief but Claire beat him to it with a clean tissue.
“You haven’t asked his name yet Dad.”
“Don’t tell me yet, dear. I’d like to invite a few people in to hear this.”
Given how quickly the residents and staff tumbled into the room, Claire and Tom knew that they must have been waiting in the corridor. Mrs Lambart entered through the French windows, putting down her secateurs. They gathered round, cooing at the baby. Then Alf cleared his throat to make his announcement.
“I have called you in because my daughter and son-in-law have an announcement to make.” This was met with murmurs of excitement.
“Over to you, Claire, my dear.”
“Well, Dad, ladies, gentlemen…we’d like you to meet our son, Monty.”
A broad smile spread over Alf’s face but there was an even more enthusiastic response from Mrs. Patton.
“I knew it!” She delved in her cardigan pocket and pulled out a slip of paper, which she handed to Alf.
“Dad,” sighed Claire “Is that a betting slip?”
“Not exactly, dear. Just a little sweepstake. Lucky Mrs. Patton here has won a crisp twenty pound note and the rest of the funds are in an envelope for you to invest for my grandson.”
Claire and Tom laughed. Then they joined Alf on the sofa and gazed at the beautiful addition to their family as he slept. Claire rested her head on her father’s shoulder.
The staff and residents of Pinetrees crept tactfully out Alf’s room to give the little family some time together.
“Terribly clever guess,” Mrs Taylor whispered to Mrs.Patton.
“Just lucky, my dear, “ murmured Mrs.Patton, deciding it was probably wisest not to mention that once a week she took Alf’s library card into town to change his books and had always admired his distinguished middle name, Montgomery.
Ann Abineri’s short story “What’s in a name?” came first place in the 18+ short story category as part of our 25th Birthday Writing Competition.