Stranger than fiction

It’s said that one of the main appeals of murder mysteries is the sense of order that’s uncovered, thanks to the brilliant detective work. It’s also said – although I haven’t seen any hard evidence – that in times of economic recession and war, murder mysteries are more popular than ever.

But sometimes, life’s little incidents can be every bit as mysterious, if a lot less orderly

Picture the scene.

I’ve just come out of the temping agency where I’ve learned two things:
a) I know far less about Microsoft Word than I ever realised – it’s like a whole software package and not just for writing!
b) As a touch-typist, I can do sixty words a minute, as long as the word is ‘a’. Failing that, I can hammer out forty-five words a minute, using three fingers (no idea why), hampered by a four percent error rate.

Neither fact is relevant to what happens next, but I wanted to paint you a picture of my mental processes. Also, on my mind, is the possible find of a Neolithic or Medieval arrowhead, which I’m taking to the museum for verification.

Anyway, as I amble along, juggling thoughts of history with my inability to successfully merge documents, I hear a woman calling out to someone. I stop and turn towards her; she’s standing across the high street, holding a child’s hand, at the bus stop.

She waves and starts a one-sided conversation, of sorts. I naturally assume she’s talking to someone behind me because I’ve never seen her before. But gradually it dawns on me that she’s talking to me. She beckons me over, through the traffic, and immediately starts up like we’re old pals.
“How are you? What have you been up to – it’s been ages.”

Strangely, the kid beside her doesn’t make a sound. And no eye contact either. So now my cynicism comes to the fore and I’m waiting for the inevitable, ‘can you spare me a quid for bus fare,’ followed by a lengthy explanation of the dire emergency that necessitated coming out in a rush.

But no; she opens her purse, pulls out a mangled fiver and says, “Could you go to the chemist and buy me some Chesteze? I have to wait here for the bus.”

So, being a good if slightly bemused citizen, off I trot, fiver in hand. The chemist, three doors up, doesn’t have any, so I hurry back to return the fiver. The woman thanks me anyway, adding, “Would you like to buy a lucky charm?” I decline, she says ‘God Bless You,’ or something similar, and I go on my way.

Later, after the museum (who will let me know in four to six weeks), I’m having a belated birthday lunch with some friends I used to work with, and out the window I see the same woman and child. They evidently had second thoughts about that bus they needed to catch. And they’re still peddling lucky charms.

So what has gone on here?

My first thought was that Chesteze could be mildly addictive and the woman had bought there recently. My second thought, and one more plot driven, is that the fiver was counterfeit – and she wanted some Chesteze as well.

If it were fiction, the Good Samaritan (me, temporarily) could have been caught with the fake fiver and obliged to pay for the Chesteze himself, only to have the woman protest innocence afterwards. Or maybe the Chesteze had some calming effect on the child?

Anyway, it will have to remain one of life’s little mysteries. Except… except, the trusty internet tells me that Chesteze has been abused by partygoers and bodybuilders, so there are now restrictions on purchase and supply.

Finally, perhaps strangest of all, Chesteze is made by Do-Do. Whichever way you pronounce it, it’s a little odd, don’t you think?


  1. Brian Keaney says:

    Is this is? She knows they don't have any chesteze in the chemist because she's already asked. Then she 'trusts' you with the fiver so that you feel positively towards her. And when you return with the disappointing news that you couldn't get any chesteze, you feel an obligation to buy a lucky charm to make up for it. If so, it's a fairly sophisticated scam. Maybe it's just a counterfeit fiver after all.

  2. Derek says:

    You could be right, Brian. I'm leaning towards the theory that she had been refused chesteze before and wanted some now. Or she may have been about to embark on a course of bodybuilding…

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