Flash Fiction: Norman by Ruth Thomas
The newest instalment in our series of ultra-short stories
Celeste spent Monday morning at the Job Centre: she’d lost her job as a barista and now there she was, sitting opposite someone called SHEILA MORRISON, filling in forms. There were a lot of sections to complete, and she wasn’t even sure she’d qualify: the reason for her redundancy having been lack of conviction. She just hadn’t smiled enough. Plus, a lot of customers had sent their coffees back.
‘Do I have to fill in this bit about … ’ she began.
‘You have to fill in all the sections that apply to you,’ SHEILA MORRISON sighed. And she looked up, past Celeste, past the plastic plants and out through the window.
Your surname had to go in a box before your first name. That was the way of things. The order. Like in James Bond.
NORMAN, CELESTE, she wrote, several times, over about 20 pages. Then she handed the form back to SHEILA.
‘So. You’ll hear within a week to ten days,’ Sheila yawned.
‘But what if I need the money now?’
Sheila looked at her.
‘Is it an emergency? Are you about to starve?’
‘Well, no, but … ’
‘In that case,’ Sheila said, ‘you’ll just have to wait.’
There was nothing to do after she’d left. It was 11.45 on a nothing morning. So she thought she’d pretend she still had money, and to spend it on a cappuccino.
‘Hiya! What’s your name?’ yelled the girl behind the bar. She had a sassy ponytail and was wearing a shirt that said TRAINEE BARRISTA. She seemed to be doing a better job than Celeste ever had.
‘My name?’ Celeste said.
‘Sure!’ beamed the girl. ‘So we can shout out when it’s ready!’
‘NORMAN,’ said Celeste.
The girl looked at her. Her smile struggled. And eventually, after a moment, it disappeared altogether.
Ruth Thomas is the author of The Home Corner published by Faber.