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The Big 4-0 by Karen Gunning

The Big 4-0 by Karen Gunning

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Published by Paul Vincent
Short story by Open College of the Arts Creative Writing student Karen Gunning.
Short story by Open College of the Arts Creative Writing student Karen Gunning.

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Published by: Paul Vincent on Aug 14, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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01/01/2014

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The Big 4-0
(final draft)Look, look at all the balloons bobbing about in the draught fromthe window – not the old fashioned type, these are the silvery,rustling helium ones that stay upright on their own, weightless.Silvery pink, silvery blue, shaped like overstuffed cushions, all with40 on them.
40!
40 Today!
The big 4-0!
Now look around the room. There’s a bit of everything in here, it’sa bedroom, and it’s got a sink and a mirror in it, fair enough, otherbedrooms have those - but do they have microwaves, mini-fridges,tellies, computers? This is not a hotel room, it’s a bedroom in anordinary house, in a boring cul-de-sac in Reading. Gaynor Beech’sbedroom, in her own house, and she never leaves it.Have you noticed the photos on Gaynor’s wall? Surprising that shekeeps them, really. There she is at eight years old, a skinny child in asexless padded coat and unflattering socks that don’t pull up quitehigh enough, dead flat shoes. Pudding basin haircut; Dean calls itthe Joan of Arc photo.
Did
call it the Joan of Arc photo. Then there’sthe picture from that holiday in Clacton the year after, Gaynorgetting ready to catch a ball on the beach, (not that she will, she’sso unco-ordinated there must be a medical name for it.) She gotchanged in Uncle Tony’s car that day and put her swimmingcostume on back to front so it looked like a Victorian strongman’s
 
leotard, pink nipples on a flat chest showing. Gaynor can’tremember if it was Dad or Uncle Tony who took the photo. Itcould’ve been either, they were both constantly snapping away ather. Uncle Tony would’ve loved a daughter, that’s what Mum said,but him and Auntie Sharon only had Lee.
That’s why he was alwaysso keen on you, Gaynor.
 There are two tickets on the bedside table, black and sparkly pink. They’re for a Big Girls club night in town, but they won’t get usednow. Dean had high hopes for this one. Gaynor waved them aroundthe last time she went on the webcam, promising she’d be there foreveryone to see, in the flesh. You may have noticed there are no birthday cards around, despiteall the 40! balloons. It’s because Gaynor is 36 years old, not 40, andanyway, it’s not her birthday. No, the balloons were sent last weekfrom various well-wishers, all men, when Gaynor reached 40 stonesin weight. Dean broadcast the weigh-in live on his website, got overa thousand hits. The telly’s been on for hours but it’s just background noise –Gaynor’s not really watching it. She’s so sick of being looked atherself, she’s not even comfortable doing the same to the people on TV who
want 
to be looked at.
 
There’s a daytime repeat of an awards ceremony on. An actress isaccepting an award on behalf of an actor who can’t be there. She’sas thin as a famine victim, showing it off in a backless dress . Thetops of her arms are narrower than her elbows, the architecture of her shoulder joints clearly visible. She’s beaming - all teeth andsharp cheekbones, skeletal. She’s recently been voted the mostbeautiful woman in the world (by readers of The Sun,) but notaccording to Dean, who said, “Beautiful? It’d be like shagging axylophone.”The actress wants to be seen, but to disappear at the same time.Look, here’s Gaynor’s last-day photo at school, sixteen and with theworld at her feet – the male world. Within reason. No man will takeher on as a pilot or an astronaut, but they’ll promise her the world.She’s a knock-out, see; the uniform looks slutty on her, blousehardly buttoned, tie loose, hair bleached, lips gleaming. That wasthe day she saw Mr (Sleazy) Sleaford the careers advisor, who toldher, “Gaynor love, you won’t need a career with knockers like that. Iadvise you to get yourself preggers while you’re still young enoughto get your figure back, then you’ll get a council flat.” Then there was the photographer, who got through the boysfaster than the speed of light but took ages over the girls. ToldGaynor to lick her lips because they looked a bit dry.
One morebutton undone please dear, your collar’s ruining my line.

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