Next morning the door to the empty downstairs flat was propped open by a pile of packing cases which listed severely to the right. A bicycle was propped against the wall with a child seat on the back, beside it a toy fire engine with three wheels. As Rose squeezed past the handlebars there was a loud bang from inside the flat of ceramic hitting laminated floor, followed by a child’s cry. Well at least he wouldn’t listen to Iron Maiden at 2am.

British School, title not known [photo: tate.org.uk]

British School, title not known [photo: tate.org.uk]


At 9am the Herald’s features team gathered in Ivy, the fifth floor meeting room with the blue and yellow swimming pool Hockney print ‘A Bigger Splash’. Rose usually passed the time in Sam’s meetings by considering Hockney’s fascination with water. Her usual policy in editorial meetings was to keep quiet until spoken to, but today was the day she was going to be noticed. Having done the Maddox interview, she wanted to do more and needed a pay rise to afford a bigger flat. Avoiding Sam was not going to achieve that so, to raised eyebrows from the rest of the team, she suggested three feature ideas.

Sam, tapping his pen on the desk as if striking a drum, rejected them one-by-one as boring and predictable. “No, no, Rosa, that won’t do.”She seethed silently through the next ten minutes while Frank suggested a survey of women’s sexual habits, referencing it to a giveaway cover-mount of Desmond Morris’s book. A girl so quiet and pale in complexion and dress that Rose hadn’t noticed her before, passed a piece of paper to Frank from which he quoted at length. It was all predictable stuff. She waited for Sam to reject it too as predictable.

“Old Desmond knew how to hit the right button, as they say. Eh Rosie?” Sam winked at her. “The poor old male ape has a hard time, he only gets his oats one week out of every four. At least women are up for it all the time, eh? That’s what we need to show in the results, Frank. Make sure you write the questions to get the answers we want. This could make the front page, maybe a picture of Cara or Keira. Or Hermione.”

Frank caught Rose’s eye and winked but she didn’t wink back.

Yeh, right Sam, she thought. ‘The Naked Ape’ has some good stuff in it, hasn’t it? If my memory serves me right it also charts the droopage rate of a man’s penis as he gets older. So let’s see Sam, you must be in your early sixties so that means you can manage an erection for about eight minutes. So if your wife’s up for it all the time, as you claim all women are, where’s she going to get her oats?

She stifled a giggle.

“Is there something amusing you’d like to share with us, Miss Haldane?”

For one horrible moment, Rose thought she’d said all the drooping penis stuff out loud.

“Or are you considering the benefits of getting a boob job? If you do, let us know. We could make you a case study. Before and after pictures. From melons to fried eggs.” He sniggered.

Rose stood up. “Perhaps instead of worrying about the size and shape of my chest, you should read what Desmond Morris has to say about the sexual performance of men of your age, Sammie.”

The blood rushed to Sam’s face and leached from everyone else’s. Frank’s eyes burned into the notebook on his lap.

She couldn’t stop the words from coming. “And by the way, my name is Rose. Not Rosie or Rosa or Roz. Rose, like the flower.”

Silence hung in the air. She sat down again and invited eye contact, challenged it even, but no-one looked at her. At least I didn’t say ‘penis’ out loud. Did I?
© Sandra Danby

…in IGNORING GRAVITY #14: Rose is shouted at by Sam and leaves his office with more than she bargained for.

This is the 13th instalment of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ about identity detective Rose Haldane. To start reading from the beginning, please click on the category ‘My Novel: Ignoring Gravity’ in the right hand menu.