Saturday, 31 March 2012

Educating Carla

By Ashley Lister

Below is the opening to a novel I’ve been working on for a few years now. Carla is the hero.

“The university have been pestering me to go back there for years now,” Carla told Def Leppard. “And not just because they want those overdue library books back.” She nestled into the veranda’s recliner and blindly admired the verdant expanse of the golf course. A handful of regular faces idled along the sun-strewn fairways, dragging begrudging and reluctant trolleys behind them. Intermittent cries of “Fore!” sang like the cries of distant whippoorwills from beyond the rise.


Sam’s voice bellowed from the clubhouse behind her. It was loud, strident and bereft of patience. Carla ignored him and turned her attention back to Def Leppard.

“The university must have heard about my teaching skills,” she went on. “And my phenomenal ability to learn things to pupils as well. So I'm seriously considering their invitation. It will mean I get less opportunity to spend time here at the course but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.”

“Carla! Where the chuff are you?”

She sighed, contemplated the empty cocktail glass on the table beside her and shook her head. It was an enormous decision that had been forced on her. Whichever choice she made – either to refuse the invitation or accept – would undoubtedly affect the rest of her life. Talking the situation through with Def Leppard helped.

“I might have to reduce the number of my annual holidays down to six or seven a year. But I suppose there are some people – those poor people that Sam laughs at – who can barely manage three or four holidays a year.”

She smiled sadly. Sam often ranted about the poor, laughing at those who lived on council estates, jeering at working men’s clubs and hurling insults at homeless beggars. Sometimes she wondered if he was really the philatelist he claimed to be.

“Carla? Are you out there, Carla?”

Affectedly, Carla took a menthol cheroot from her purse. She lit the trembling end with a gold and diamond encrusted lighter. It looked elegant and sophisticated between her fingers. It didn’t look a bit like cubic zirconia and timeworn plating touched up with gold nail polish. Breathing life into the cigarette she exhaled twin plumes of smoke from her nostrils.

"If I accept their invitation I'll be starting back at the university next week,” she explained. “I suspect they'll be wanting me to teach some classes. But they're also wanting me to learn about English. But that's not really learning for me because I already know all about English. I've read all the Russian authors. My favourite is John Grisham, although I like Dostoevsky and that other Russian bloke.” She frowned and struggled for recollection. “Smirnoff? No. Stalin? No. He wasn’t Russian.” The name came to her with a blinding flash of insight. “Tolstory!” she exclaimed. “That's him. Pixar have done his movie but I haven't seen it yet.”

Def Leppard said nothing.

Her face was momentarily saddened as she realised the potential flaw in her plan. “But if I go there, I’ll have to reduce the time I spend here: especially if they instantly recognise my genius and make me Dean of the university and professor of the England language. And, although it would be nice to be recognised as one of the leading thinkers of our time, I can’t come up with one good reason why I’d want to spend less time here.”

“For chuff’s sake, Carla!”

Sam stormed onto the veranda. His face was the unhealthy purple of rude outrage. The fleshy tone of his fury contrasted starkly against his short, silver hair. It made her think that his head looked remarkably similar to his one remaining gonad.

“What the chuff are you doing out here?”

With a gracious smile, Carla said, “I’m just telling Def Leppard about my opportunity to go to the university.”

Sam sneered. “It’s not Def Leppard. His name is Deaf Leonard.”

Deaf Leonard, staring blithely toward the fairway, said nothing.

“And,” Sam continued, “since the old tosser’s got his hearing aid switched off, you might have been talking but he certainly wasn’t listening.”

Carla bristled. She sucked on her cheroot and asked, “Did you want something? Something other than to be rude to me and to insult Def Leppard?”

“You need to unblock the lavvies,” Sam scowled. “The turds are piling up higher than your bullshit.” With a glimmer of wicked malice in his eye he added, “And you’re still the head bog cleaner round here.”

“I thought my job title was Head of Domestic Services?”

Sam chuckled. The sound of his laughter had all the warmth of a fire blazing through a puppy farm. “Your job title is Head of Domestic Services,” Sam agreed. “And that puts you in charge of unblocking lavvies and getting rid of turds. Have you got any more questions?”

She nodded and came to a decision. Stabbing her cheroot into an ashtray she said, “I’ve just got one question. Can I employ an assistant to cover for the days when I’m at university?”



Lindsay said...

Carla, or Paula? I'm sure I've read this before, or lived it maybe.

Lindsay said...

Does Carla also have a website called And lego hair?

Ashley R Lister said...

I know I've posted parts of it online before but I can't remember where.

Some characters are just too heroic to sit undiscovered on the hard drive :-)


Ashley R Lister said...

I think it's

Lindsay said...

I think I may have read it on paper, did you write it while studying? It's great anyway Ash made me laugh then and still does.

Ashley R Lister said...

I think I might have printed out a hard copy draft back when we were studying alongside Carla.

Are you and the family feeling a little better today? These bugs are not funny.

Lindsay said...

Yes were a lot better than we were thanks. I wonder what happened to Carla? We may need a new installment in this story.

Ashley R Lister said...

Glad to hear you're all better.

I do think I need to work some more on this one and find out what happened to her.

Anonymous said...

Forget what happened to her! What happened to Sam's other gonad???

Ashley R Lister said...


My intention with this story is to have a a chapter entitled 'Like a Woman's Corn' where this curious piece of backstory explained.

Thanks for reading.