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Canvassing Opinion by Stuart Hughes

Posted on December 6, 2010 at 4:22 PM

Canvassing Opinion

by

Stuart Hughes

On a soft pre-election evening in April 2010, a young woman turned the corner and walked briskly into Sculptures Close. She wore a dark grey suit with matching jacket and knee-length skirt, the narrow party tie worn smartly, the knot tight against the collar of her freshly pressed white shirt. Her hair was strawberry blonde and tied back in a long ponytail. Her skin tone was fair, her eyes a greyish-green, bright red lipstick neatly applied to her lips. She sported a brightly coloured rosette on her left breast.

 

Sculptures Close was a cul-de-sac with a mix of two, three and four-bedroom houses giving it a particularly pleasing look. The houses ran alternately – odd numbers on the right-hand side and even numbers on the left. Sculptures Close was important for the local campaign this general election. The majority of residents had placed their X in favour of an opposing candidate at the last election. Canvassing here would help to build up a picture of whether there would be a sufficient swing this time round to win the parliamentary seat for Mid Derbyshire.

 

The young woman looked at the clipboard she carried in her left hand. Number 1 Sculptures Close. Mr and Mrs Brookes, married, both fifty-three. The party had no information on how they had voted last time. Finding out how they would vote on Thursday 6th May was crucial to the local campaign.

 

She knocked on the front door and almost immediately heard footsteps coming towards her. The front door opened to reveal a large woman wearing a white blouse and a long black skirt.

 

“Mrs Brookes?” she asked politely.

 

“That’s right.”

 

“Good evening, Mrs Brookes. I’m sorry to disturb you this evening but I’m canvassing opinion on the forthcoming general election. Would you mind telling me how you intend to vote?”

 

Mrs Brookes looked at the young woman with friendly green eyes, glanced at her rosette, and then looked at her again.

 

“As you’re so pretty,” she smiled. “I’ll tell you. I voted for your party. My husband and I have already voted by post.”

 

“And Mr Brookes?”

 

“He’s still at work, but I know he voted the same as me.”

 

“Thank you,” the young woman said. “Thank you for your support.” She began walking down the drive.

 

“Good luck.”

 

The young woman stopped for a moment, gave a broad smile, and lifted her hand in a wave.

Mrs Brookes waved back, grinned, and closed the door.

 

When she got to the end of the drive, the young woman stopped, placed a tick by the names of Mr and Mrs Brookes, and checked the details for the next house. Number 3, Mr Savage, a gentleman in his mid sixties, a widower who had lived on his own since his wife’s death. He had been a staunch supporter last time round. If they were going to achieve the necessary swing, the party needed his staunch support again.

 

She turned into the drive of 3 Sculptures Close and hurried towards the house with a skip and a dance and that same broad smile on her lips.

 

The young woman pressed the doorbell with the forefinger of her right hand and listened to the muffled chimes. She waited. She didn’t have to wait long.

 

The front door opened and the young woman smiled. Mr Savage wore a torn, green knitted sweater and brown slacks. His face was a map of wrinkles, his brown eyes were deep in pouches, and a cigarette jittered between his nicotine stained fingers.

 

“Mr Savage?” the young woman asked politely.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Good evening, Mr Savage. I’m canvassing opinion for the forthcoming general election. Would you mind telling me how you intend to vote?”

 

Mr Savage coughed loudly, spraying germs.

 

The broad smile never quivered on the young woman’s lips. She looked into the deep-set eyes of Mr Savage, saw the retired man’s gaze shift in the direction of her rosette for a moment – or maybe her breasts – before resuming eye contact.

 

“Since you’re wearing the right colour, my dear, I don’t mind telling you at all. I’m going to be voting for your mob.”

 

“Thank you. Any particular reason why?”

 

“You know why, my pretty friend, don’t you?”

 

The young woman nodded.

 

“Country’s in a right mess. Bloody shambles, ain’t it? You know it and I know it. Get the buggers out and let’s have somebody with some fucking common sense running the country for a change.”

 

“I agree with you wholeheartedly, Mr Savage.” The young woman extended her right hand.

 

“Call me Ernie,” Mr Savage said and shook the young woman’s hand.

 

“Thank you for your support, Ernie.”

 

“You’re welcome.” Mr Savage grinned, displaying two rows of stained and missing teeth. “I think you’ll have your work cut out for you tonight though, my dear.”

 

“Your neighbours?”

 

“My neighbours, yeah. Nice people, most of them, but blind as bats. Can’t see beyond the end of their own noses. Can’t see the bloody mess this country’s in.”

 

The young woman giggled like a schoolgirl at that.

 

“I’m only telling you what I think, my dear. Advice doesn’t cost owt, does it?”

 

“It’s about the only thing that doesn’t with this government in power.”

 

“You can say that again.”

 

The young woman smiled her broad smile. “Don’t you worry about your neighbours, Mr Savage. Some of them might surprise you.”

 

“I doubt it. I know your mob offers the best hope for this country but they just can’t see it.”

 

“That’s why I’m here, Ernie.” The young woman’s smile stretched even broader as she raised her hand in a wave.

 

Mr Savage closed the door and the young woman walked away. At the end of the drive she stopped and placed a tick against the name of Mr Savage. She checked the details for the next house. 5 Sculptures Close. Mr and Mrs Lewis. A married couple, him thirty-five, her thirty-two. Both voted for the government last time round. Knowing how they intended to vote this year would be important.

 

She turned into the drive and skipped and danced towards the Lewis house.

 

The young woman rapped on the door with the knuckles of her right hand. She waited. She waited a while longer. Rapped again.

 

“Coming! Coming!” A deep voice boomed out. “Hold your horses!”

 

The front door opened and the young woman smiled broadly. Mr Lewis wore black denim jeans and an unbuttoned grey shirt. He was barefoot.

 

“Mr Lewis?” the young woman asked politely.

 

“Yes.” He checked her out, up and down, his eyes lingering on her breasts.

 

“Good evening, sir. Sorry to disturb you, but I’m canvassing opinion for the forthcoming general election. Would you mind telling me how you intend to vote?”

 

“Yes, I would mind.”

 

“May I assume, then, that you won’t be voting for us?” The young woman’s smile fluttered briefly and she felt a moment’s disharmony.

 

“That’s correct.”

 

“May I ask why?”

 

“None of your damned business.”

 

The young woman reached inside her jacket pocket and pulled out a pin hammer.

 

Mr Lewis backed away, his mouth wide open in surprise, blood visibly draining away from his face. Mr Lewis tried to close the door but the young woman was too quick for him, blocking it with her body.

 

“Who is it honey?” a soft, female voiced called from upstairs.

 

The young woman swung the pin hammer and struck Mr Lewis on his temple. She swung the hammer and struck him again, swung and struck again, swung and struck…

 

Mr Lewis slumped to the floor and the young woman followed him down, straddling his chest, swinging and striking with the hammer, swinging and striking, swinging and striking…

 

She heard a scream.

 

The young woman looked up to see a blur of motion – sweeping brunette hair, a flowery dressing gown flapping against naked legs – hurrying up the stairs.

 

“Mrs Lewis?”

 

The young woman stepped inside the house.

 

“I’m canvassing opinion for the forthcoming election,” she said and hurried up the stairs.

 

* * *

Later that soft pre-election evening the young woman slipped the pin hammer back inside her jacket pocket, stepped over the body of Mr Lewis, and closed the front door after her. She skipped and danced down the drive.

 

The evening was getting darker now, but it was still beautiful. If there were bloodstains on her dark grey suit they wouldn’t show much, not in the twilight of a soft late April evening.

 

At the end of the drive she stopped and crossed out the names of Mr and Mrs Lewis. She checked the details for the next house. Amanda Carsley. Miss Carsley. Aged twenty-four. Miss Carsley was renting the property from a Mr and Mrs Stow who were living and working abroad on a five year contract. Miss Amanda Carsley was a crucial voter, according to party information she was a dangerous floater.

 

Miss Carsley might need some persuading.

 

The young woman began to smile. She reached inside her jacket pocket and caressed the pin hammer.

 

She skipped and danced her way up the drive towards Miss Carsley’s front door.

 

The End

Categories: Short Story, Horror

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