Saving The World

Entry by: Nutcracker

18th December 2015
Albert, 37, didn't have a girlfriend and he didn't want one. Women, as far as he knew, were interested only in clothes, make-up and shopping. Albert said that word 'shopping' with a sneer in his voice, peering myopically at whoever he was speaking to through his bottle bottom glasses. Most people knew better than to pursue the conversation with him. The unwise received a tirade about the iniquities of chain stores and supermarkets. Albert didn't care that he bored people with his speeches. He knew that he was right. He, and those friends who agreed with him, were Saving the World. They pursued long and worthy discussions on e-mail. They wrote frequently to their Members of Parliament about their concerns. They went on protest marches. They felt good because they knew that they were right.

Emily Ethel, 83, lived next door to Albert. She sat at her window with a blanket over her knees and watched his comings and goings. To her he looked rather sad. One day she asked one of her carers if she would put a note through Albert's door:

"Dear Neighbour (it read)

I'm sorry I don't know your name, but would you like to call round for a cup of tea? It would be lovely to get to know you. I'm here all the time.


Albert picked up the note on his doormat, peered at it, snorted and tore it up. One of his campaigning friends called round soon after and Albert said that he had "a come-on from some bird next door." The friend made a crude joke and the pair of them guffawed about women and their supposed obsessions.

Emily Ethel was disappointed that she got no reply to her note. She continued to watch Albert from her window. He looked in her direction sometimes and once she waved but he didn't didn't see her.

The months went by and a new pizza restaurant opened near to where Albert and Emily Ethel lived in neighbouring houses. They both received publicity fliers through their letter-boxes. Albert tore his up. Emily Ethel read hers several times. Generally her carers warmed tins of soup and stew for her. She longed for something different and suddenly it had landed on her doorstep. The restaurant was offering to deliver take-away pizzas. She decided that she would try one. The carers were doubtful. Did she really think that she could manage? Pizza crusts could be hard to chew, they said. Emily Ethel was tired of their caution.

"No," she said, "Please don't worry. Please order one for me tomorrow. No need to call in and get me lunch."

Her carer did so but no pizza arrived. It was delivered, in error, to Albert, who sent it away with a sneer of disgust. He had never, he said, heard of a Miss Ethel. Next door, Emily Ethel went hungry.

Christmas approached. The campaign group to which Albert belonged organised a meal out in the pizza restaurant. Albert refused to go. It had, he said, poor ethical standards. He was also, he said, surprised that they, his friends, were compromising their principles. They were, he said, supposed to be Saving the World.

When there was a power cut in his and the nearby streets on the night of the meal, Albert was gleeful. His friends wouldn't be having their pizza. He opened a can of soup and ate it, cold, from the can. Next door, Emily Ethel - who had not owned up to the previous failure to get a pizza delivered - had told her carers that she would like them to order her a take-away again. The pizza restaurant tried to ring her that evening to explain why they could not deliver, but her arthritic fingers made her fumble and drop the telephone receiver. She had a can of soup in the kitchen, but her arthritic fingers could not work the can-opener. Emily Ethel went hungry. And she was cold. Very cold. She tried knocking on the wall. Albert heard her knocking but he ignored her.

Next day the carers found Emily Ethel dead in her chair. The doctor, when he came, said that it could have happened any time. They should not feel guilty, he said. One of the carers remembered the note which Emily Ethel had sent to her neighbour and knocked on Albert's door to let him know. Albert was offhand. So some old bird had died. What did it have to do with him?

Albert sat down and wrote a letter to his MP about hunger in the third world. He wrote a good letter and as he popped it into the post box he felt a warm glow. He was, he knew, doing his bit to Save the World.