Saturday, 1 September 2012

Chapter 5

 Several months had passed since Susan’s experience at the Sheds and Sectional Buildings exhibition. She had recovered her composure and was managing to deal with her job and day to day tasks but the lure of the shed was never far from her thoughts. One day, a few weeks before Christmas, she noticed a poster which read: “Melbourn Shed Society Annual Meeting at the Black Horse Public House”. She began to ponder the prospect of going to the meeting, but how could she, a woman, they were bound to all be men, but every time she thought about it her pulse quickened, she knew that she had to go.

 As the day approached Susan began to hatch a plan. She would dress as a man in order to attend without drawing attention to herself. Her long absent partner had left some clothes at her house and she tried them on until she eventually found some that would fit after she had made some deft adjustments.

An hour or two before the meeting Susan stood in front of the mirror to review her disguise. A sports bra had flattened her chest but she still cut a rather slight figure in a jacket and flannels and her feet were decidedly small for a man. Her hair was already short and she gelled it back to make it even less apparent. Her complexion was smooth, boyish even and she hoped that her voice could be disguised as long as she could remember to lower it when she talked. In any case she hadn’t intended to talk much; rather she would listen, soaking up the shed talk.

She set off for the Black Horse and upon arriving she could see a notice summoning the attendees to the left hand bar. Nervously she opened the door and was greeted by a man who seemed to be the organiser, “Hi I’m Keith” he said, waiting for her to respond. In spite of her extensive preparations the one thing she had forgotten was her name or rather her name for that night. “Simon” she blurted, the first name that had come into her head. “Well Simon, let me introduce you to some of the lads” Ric, Pete, Graham, who duly greeted “Simon” with firm handshakes, “and this is Julian and Dennis”. A moment of horror confronted Susan as she realised they had both been her patients and it was Dennis whose introduction to sheds had heralded the beginning of her obsession.

“Don’t I know you” said Dennis? “No, I don’t think so” Susan responded, trying to defend her precarious position by using the lowest voice that she could muster. “Well come on in” said Julian, let me buy you a pint. “I’ll stick to water, I’m driving” she replied. “Come one, you can manage one” and before she could say no Julian had thrust a pint of something dark into her hand. “Cheers” he said gulping down almost half of his pint and expecting her to do the same.

Fortunately Julian was immediately drawn into another conversation and didn’t notice her wincing as she sipped at the beer. But her isolation didn’t last long as Ric saw her alone and began to tell her about his experience desulphating car batteries. She feigned interest for a time but eventually lost the tack of Ric’s explanation and was about to break off the conversation by saying that she needed to pay a visit to the “little girl’s room” when she realised her dilemma. She couldn’t use the Ladies but how could she use the Gents? Fortunately the need didn’t arise as Paul interjected, “he’s not telling you his desulphating story is he, I’m Paul and this is Gerry, Gordon, Tony, Will, Roger, Ed”.

At that moment there was the sound of a loud clink on a glass, it was Keith summoning the meeting to order. “Without further ado” he said “I should like to start the video”. Chairs were noisily arranged in front of the screen and a sequence of images appeared, sheds of every shape and size, in every type of location.

This excited much comment and debate amongst the audience but all Susan could hear were those words that drove her obsession, “jamb, knee plate, ballast, mullion, bracing, trusses, flashing”. It was as if she had entered a trance, she felt detached, floating almost but with each repetition of the word provoking a shuddering climax.

Suddenly there was silence and Susan realised that the video had ended and that all the shed men were looking at her. “Are you all right Simon” said Pete? She gazed up at him, legs wide apart, slumped back on her chair and for a moment she was frozen. Pete repeated the question and Susan immediately came round. She had been sweating and could feel the salt on her lips and her clothes sticking to her rigid body. “Yes I’m fine” she blurted, “got a bit of a virus, I think I’d better go home, great show, fantastic, must come again”. “Looks like you already did lad” said a voice from the back followed by much laughter.

Susan stood up and with the whole bar staring at her said “thanks, yes thanks” and turning she moved towards the door. Once outside the cold air hit her. Her clothes felt damp and she was shivering. Hurriedly she strode across the car park but on reaching her car and grabbing for the door handle she felt a hand holding it firmly shut. “I’ve remembered where it was” said a voice. Turning, she could see that it was Dennis towering over her.

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