She appeared just after we’d recalled and recited three of her sayings. Did she really used to utter ‘City desk. Duty pigeon’ when she answered the phone? Never worked out what that meant but it did amuse her.
Stella and I were sitting in my living room talking about all kinds of things when we realised. We’d known each other getting on for twenty years but only then discovered we had both previously worked with Rita Marshall, Stella in the early eighties, me in the late.
We dredged up and swapped remembered details and decided it had to be the same Rita Marshall. The children’s names were the identical, both Rita Marshall’s had died in their fifties and no two people would say ‘Up here for thinking, down there for dancing’ pointing to head and feet respectively.
Then Stella heard her laugh but I said it was the magpies on the chimney pots outside but soon I caught the smell of smoke in my throat and there she was. Rita Marshall. Taking up room on my sofa. She lifted her cigarette to her well pink-lip-sticked lips, a finger of ash clinging to its end. She held it still, eyes scanning the room for an ashtray. She laughed again.‘I wouldn’t pay ‘em in empty fag packets.’