Saturday, January 29, 2022

Tuppence Coloured (Short Story,1959)

 A Short Story from the January 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

“ I dunno,” said Mr. Smith, “ every tea time we get bloody rock and roll.”

“ You was young once, dad,” said his sixteen-year-old son, Bill, putting on another record.
“ I was never that young,” snapped Mr. Smith, “ and there’s Mary gawping out of the window as usual. If she spent as much time on her homework as she does that, she might have a chance in the scholarship.”

“Oh, alright, dad,” began Mary; then she broke off, "My! there’s Maggie coming up the steps with one of those dark blokes. Gosh! he looks a real smasher.” “ What, another one! ” said Bill with a grin. "Maggie certainly likes her men colourful.

“Shut up,” said his father. “Listen, Daisy”; he addressed his wife almost accusingly, “This has got to stop. It was only last year, she wasn’t seventeen then, and she got in with that darkie who she used to bring to the door. Then there was that Jamaican she met at the firm’s dance, to say nothing about that West Indian she brought home one Saturday night. It’s a bit thick, you know, and it’s about time we put our foot down.” 

“Well, I don’t suppose she’s going to ask this one up,” said Mrs. Smith mildly.

“ She’d better not,” said Mr. Smith, darkly. “ I’ve nothing against coloured people, but black and white don’t mix, it’s not natural. Besides, if they must leave their own country they can at least keep themselves to themselves when they’re in someone else’s country. The way some of ’em make up to our girls makes me sick.” 

“ Worse than the Yanks, dad? ” asked Bill.

“ Besides,”’ said Mr. Smith ignoring the remark, “ I don’t want all the neighbours gossiping. What with Fred Price living in the same house and working at my place, it will be all over the firm. I bet Mrs. Price is looking out of the window.”

At that moment there was two sharp knocks on the street door.

“ Bell’s out of order again.” said Bill, “ I bet Maggie’s worn her finger down, pressing it. Shall I go and open the door? ”

“ No, I’ll answer it,” said Mr Smith.

“ Don’t make a scene, dad,” said Mrs. Smith, but Mr. Smith was already out of the room.

Mr. Smith opened the door, and in the porch with Maggie stood a coloured young man about 25 years of age, dressed in a suit that might have cost anything from £50, upwards.

Then, as Mr. Smith looked, into his line of vision, just beyond his 1938 Austin seven, stood a big 1958 Jaguar.

Mr. Smith felt a little warm and embarrassed.

The young man spoke in a well modulated voice. “I have come back with your daughter, perhaps I ought to explain.” he hesitated for a moment.

Mr. Smith rushed in. “ Don’t explain on the doorstep, come in, we’ve just made a cup of tea.

“ Very well,” said the young man. still a little hesitant. “ I will just lock my car.”

“ What! Got rid of him already.” said his son, as Mr. Smith bounded into the room. “That was quick work.”

“ Get a cup and saucer from the best set.” said Mr. Smith to his wife. “Christ, look at this place, always looks like a pigsty.”

“ But I thought ’’—began the astonished Mrs. Smith.

“ This bloke’s different.” interrupted Mr. Smith, “ you wait till you see him. Actually he’s not really dark, but sort of, off white, like a lot of high class Indians are.”

At that moment there came a tap on the door. Mr. Smith ushered the dark young man in. The family stared. Nobody noticed Maggie as she came slowly into the room and sat down.

Mrs. Smith handed the young man a cup of lea. Mr. Smith offered him a slice of his wife’s home-made cake, which he graciously declined.

“ Mr. Ram Singh,” said Maggie a little awkwardly.

“ Not the racehorse owner’s son? ” said Mr. Smith in somewhat awed tones.

“ I am afraid so,” smiled the dark young man.

“One of his horses is running in the big race tomorrow.” said Mr. Smith, rather proud of his racing lore.

“ Yes,” said the young man. “ and if I may offer a tip off the record, my father thinks it will win."

“ My! ” said Mary, from the window, quite unabashed. “ Never knew Maggie had such posh friends.”

“ I haven’t,” said Maggie. “ I have never spoken to Mr. Singh in my life before today, although he has a suite of offices in our block of offices. You see, I was crossing the road and I slipped and gave my ankle a bit of twist. Good luck, Mr. Singh swerved or I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale. I was going to tell dad downstairs, but he rushed off before I had a chance. So,” concluded Mary, “Mr. Singh kindly brought me home.”

“ Oh.” said Mr. Smith.

Mr. Singh handed round some Turkish cigarettes and after a few general remarks he finished his cup of tea and courteously made his departure.

“Who’d have thought of having the son of Jam Ram Singh up for a cup of tea," said Mr. Smith to the office staff, next morning. “ You could have knocked me down with a feather, and don’t forget to back his old man’s horse. You know, I believe he’d taken a bit of fancy to Maggie. Must say, he had no side, quite the gentleman, treated us like equals.”

Ted Wilmott

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