Excerpt of Half Broken Things by Morag Joss
(Page 5 of 6)
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'Right, well, Jean,' Shelley managed at last, 'so you've had our
confirmation. Basically I just wanted to check if you've got any
queries. You're okay as regards the contents of the letter, are you?
Unfortunately we won't be in a position to offer you any further
employment after the expiry of this current contract. I mean, we had
said, hadn't we. I did say.'
Jean said nothing, knowing that her silence would be considered a
Shelley told her, 'We don't like terminating people but it's
company policy. Town and Country's not in a position to keep people on
past retirement age, we're not allowed. It's the insurance.'
Breathing of a struggling, bovine kind followed this long speech. 'I
mean, you've done sterling work. But you've already had four years
past sixty. Right. So.'
Still Jean said nothing, so Shelley changed tack. 'So, you're doing
okay, are you, Jean, as regards the location of the property? Okay
popping out and getting your bits and pieces? Because they did say
it'd be better for a car owner as you've got over a mile to the
village and it might be lonely. They said really it'd suit a slightly
younger person with a car and maybe a part time job in the area, though
I did tell them you were very professional and okay with a mile. You are
okay, Jean, are you?'
'There's been a breakage,' Jean announced. 'Today, while I was
dusting. A teapot on the sideboard. Blue and white, Chinese, with silver
mountings. Not very large.'
There was another wait while Shelley prepared the tone of her reply and
Jean heard the breathing grow unmistakably irritated. 'Well, you've
just proved my point. We have to fork out the excess on that now.
You'll need to find it on the inventory and notify us and we'll have
to tell the owners. You have got the inventory, haven't you? It was in
with the rest of the paperwork, with our letter and the owners' list,
you know, all their do's and don'ts?'
'Yes, I've got the paperwork. And the list, all the do's and
don'ts. Plenty of them.'
'Yes, well, that's their prerogative. People can go a bit over the
top, especially when they can't meet the sitter themselves. The
Standish-Caves had to fly out the day before you arrived, that was all
explained, wasn't it?'
The list of instructions and grudging permissions for the house sitter
that had come from the owners, via the agency, filled several typed
pages. They were wide-ranging: no open fires, no candles, do not use the
dining room or drawing room, use TV in small sitting room, use only
kitchen crockery, do not use the cappuccino machine or the ice cream
maker, always wear gloves to dust the books, beeswax polish onlyno
silicone sprays, you are welcome to finish any opened jars, unplug the
television at night. Jean hugged her cardigan closer.
'You'd think I'd never house-sat before. You'd think I don't
know the first thing.'
'Well, you can't blame them, can you, especially not now
something's broken. It is their house.'
'I could have a go at mending it. I've still got the bits.'
'Don't touch it! They'll want it properly mended, if it's even
worth doing. These clients are very particular, that's why they're
using us. That's why you're there. Oh, Jean.'
from Half Broken Things by Morag Joss Copyright © 2005 by
Morag Joss. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of
Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be
reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the