The Knicker Drawer and The Second Hand Dog

October 14, 2013 § 6 Comments



I found out the truth last week: they’re not my real parents. I know because I found the adoption papers in the top drawer of Mum’s dressing table stuffed behind her underwear. I found Alice and Jane’s too. They had our names on – the papers not the pants – so I know it’s true. It means my real mother gave me away. Strolled into hospital with me all excited about being born, then cool as cucumber, walked out without me. Stranded. Motherless.


I told my best friend Belinda about it, and she said I should be thankful I’m not an orphan. That’s when you don’t have any parents. ‘You’re one of the lucky ones,’ she said. ‘You’re just second hand.’


I knew what that was because we had a second hand car, and I wore the clothes Jane had grown out of. Hand me downs. Faded and darned. Even my shoes had the shape of someone else’s feet. Jane got her clothes from Alice – who’s the eldest and doesn’t have a job – so that makes my clothes second hand twice over. Belinda said second hand was what you had when you couldn’t get anything better, then she decided she didn’t want to be my best friend anymore. I didn’t care.





‘Dad. What’s second hand?’


‘Something used, sweetheart.’




‘It’s when you want something more than someone else, so you buy it from them.’


‘Like what?’


‘Like our car,’ he said handing me a duster. ‘Let’s polish.’ We rubbed until our faces shone hot and pink.


‘So is second hand good then, I mean for the person who has it?’


‘Yup,’ Dad smiled, running his hand over the shiny black bonnet. Then he stroked my cheek as if it was a soft, furry animal purring on his lap. ‘I take extra special care of my second hand purchases.’


‘Dad. Can you buy second hand children too?’


‘No sweetie. Just things.’




‘Hurry up and get in the car!’ bossed Alice, pulling my hair.


‘Ow! Ow! Alice is killing me.’


‘I’ll tell you a secret if you shut up,’ she whispered, twisting my ear until it hurt. I pressed my lips into a thin red line, opened my eyes wide and waited. ‘It’s rude to stare,’ she said. I pressed them even tighter together because what I really wanted to do was stick out my tongue. ‘We’re going to the dog rescue place.’





‘Are we agreed then?’ said Dad.


We nodded like the plastic dog on our parcel shelf. ‘We’d like that one.’


We piled into the car and Mum handed Alice the black and white collie. It sat neatly on her lap and started licking her face. Alice wasn’t being nasty any more. All the sharp edges on her face had turned into a soppy, wet smile.


‘Ten minutes is up,’ announced Dad.


‘Your turn,’ said Alice. ‘Do you want to hold her?’


‘No,’ I replied, sucking my thumb. ‘Give her to Jane.





‘Who’s next after Jane?’ smiled Dad, looking at me.


‘Your turn Flora,’ said Jane, mopping her face with a sleeve. ‘She’s our own second hand dog. Hasn’t run out of lick yet.’


‘Shan’t. Don’t want to.’


Dad stopped the car and looked at me through the rear view mirror. ‘Don’t you like our new dog?’


‘She isn’t new, she’s used,’ I grumbled, spreading the word long on my tongue. ‘Belinda said you only had second hand when you can’t have new. Used is bad.’


Mum leaned across and planted a noisy kiss on Dad’s cheek. His face turned red like a strawberry, and he tried not to smile. The collie put a paw on my arm like a question. Then she crawled onto my lap, curled up and closed her eyes. ‘Must have run out of lick,’ I said.







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§ 6 Responses to The Knicker Drawer and The Second Hand Dog

  • mikesteeden says:

    Unlike so many who throw their words like arrows you have the gift of letting the breeze of a summer’s evening carry them away. A very fine read – my wife enjoyed it also to the extent she now is about to set up a ‘blog’ thing!

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      The only arrows I ever throw always miss and are blunt anyway! Thanks for those kind words – writing egos are fragile little things sometimes…
      Keep your pieces coming. Beautifully written and like a breath of fresh air! 🙂
      PS. Excellent news about your wife. Look forward to reading her stuff!

  • Lovely twist – and an excellent tale – yet again. I shall catch up eventually, but am enjoying going back to your earlier stories. There is a grace and elegance here – as well as a michievous sense of humour which appeals. Thank you for sharing these with us. I hope the blog is going well, and wish you good fortune with it.

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      Thank you for your comments, Geoffrey. As always, much appreciated. On looking at this piece again all I could see were the flaws, so I shall have fun re-writing it! Thank you for your good wishes too. The blog has slowed down rather – largely because I am posting less – but running a blog alone (as you may have found), is so time consuming. But it nevertheless remains satisfying, and keeps me off the streets!

      • Well, that’s always a good thing 🙂

        I’m fortunate in being adopted by Jessica’s blog, so it works out nicely; I rarely post on my own.

        I’d suspect that folk will pop in when you post, and some, like me, having found you, will read back through what you’ve written.

        You are, dear lady, a too-severe critic of your own work. ‘Flaws’ is an interesting one. It was said of Cleopatra that it was precisely the flaws which made her such a beauty; a thought worth pondering, perhaps?

  • Rachael Charmley says:

    Cleopatra? That’s a comforting thought. Thank you. 🙂

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