There Is No R In Bath
You spend years planning your escape, stretching and softening your vowels and picking up dropped h’s, swapping ta for thank you and ta-ra for goodbye. Your family starts calling you Lady Muck and your grandad tells you to sling yer ‘ook, with an ‘oo’ like in moon. You don’t care. You roll up your continental quilt, which you’ve learned to call a duvet, and pack your wok, your toaster, your kettle and your new voice into a cardboard box. You step away from your old life as easily as a snake sheds its skin.
On the first night, Felicity from Cheltenham tilts her head as though she’s listening to birdsong and coos that she loves your northern twang. A few days later you hear her in the kitchen, telling someone that, half the time, she has no idea what you’re saying.
Nobody has heard of the tiny town you’re from. You’re asked, more than once, if you live on a cobbled street. You let slip that your grandad still has an outside toilet and stop yourself, just in time, from calling it the lavvy, or the bog. Someone whispers ‘It’s grim up north’ when they pass you in the corridor.
You find yourself defending what you’ve spent so long despising, protecting it like a scrawny, scruffy, snotty kid that nobody likes, picked on in the playground. You resharpen, reshorten your vowels and spit them out. There is no r in your bath.
You take the scrawny, scruffy, snotty kid back to your room and find that you like her more than you care to admit. She reminds you of split and a fish from the chippy on a Friday night, your nan stuffing her winnings from the bingo into your pocket before you left, the queue outside Burchall’s pie shop, your dad fishing in the ‘otties, asking were you made at Pilks when you stood in front of the telly, you, sitting in the laundrette with your mum reading a library book, a pan of scouse on the hob and Vesta chow mein in a box with crispy noodles for a special treat. She reminds you what your mum said. However far you run, you take yourself with you.
You introduce the scrawny, scruffy, snotty kid to Felicity from Cheltenham, and stand back as they shake hands. You watch Felicity from Cheltenham wipe her hand on her cashmere cardigan. You don’t care. Your scrawny, scruffy, snotty friend tilts her head, says she loves a southern twang. Felicity is bemused.
“Put wood in th’ole and stop yer mithering,” you tell her. “Let’s av a brew.”
Alison Wassell is a short story, flash and micro fiction writer from North West England. She has been published by Retreat West, Reflex Fiction, Bath Flash Fiction Award, NFFD, Ellipsis Zine and Litro. The easiest was to annoy her is to ask her when she's going to write a novel.