Creative Comedy Project

Ladies Who Bounce By Helen Yendall

Aunty had changed her window display again. The three bald mannequins, their arms at strange angles, like they were directing traffic, were wearing the new ‘Jai Ho’ collection. It said so on the poster in the window.

As I was imagining myself flouncing down a catwalk in a ‘Jai Ho’ sari, the door was flung open and Aunty pulled me inside.

She was flushed and bright-eyed. I’d only seen her like that once before, when the Monica Bedi collection arrived. Monica Bedi is Aunty’s very favourite actress. She admires her even more than Shilpa Shetty and even though she dated a gangster and has been in prison. “We all make mistakes,” Aunty says.

She beckoned me after her as she waddled through the shop. “Quickly, Sunita. Come!”

We squeezed past piles of jewelled saris and silks, the colours of peacocks and sunsets and went into the stock room at the back. It had fluorescent strip lighting, stacks of cardboard boxes and a mirror in the corner. It smelled like a charity shop.

“Well, what is it?” I asked. Aunty was flapping, pulling something out of a plastic bag.

She held it up. “Look, Sunita! Look what I got you!”

“Havin’ a bit of bother, Bab?”

I was sitting in the cubicle with the door open. The changing room was silent and I’d thought I was alone. All the other women had gone through to the pool. The class must have started: I could hear the dull thud of music.

In her shop, when Aunty had showed me the swimsuit, I couldn’t work it out at first. There was a label on the packet which read, ‘Mid-thigh length Spandex top, with built-in shelf bra, straight leg polyester pants with drawstring ankle pulls. Swim cap and one piece hijab.’

“‘Hijab?” I said. “Where did you get this?”

Aunty snatched it back and waved it like a flag. “It’s so practical. Nylon! Fast-drying material. Chlorine-resistant!”

Her shoulders dropped. She looked at me. “What else are you going to wear, eh? To that ‘ladies who bounce’ thing? Salwar-kameez? What – a sari? You’ll drown, Sunita.”

Now, I’d almost got it on: the flared pants that covered my legs and most of my feet and the long-sleeved top. But the hijab was too tight for my big head. I threw it down on the tiles. Just another of Aunty’s stupid ideas.

The lady who’d spoken to me was sitting on a bench opposite. She was wearing a black swimsuit and a white hat with yellow daisies. Her legs were very white and goosebumpy. Like a plucked chicken.

She caught me looking and tapped her daisies. “I nearly left this behind today. I’m like Humpty Dumpty under here. But I bottled it. Lost my nerve.”

I nodded. “Me too.”

The lady walked carefully over the wet tiles and picked up the hijab. She frowned. “You don’t need to wear this, do you, Bab?” She looked me up and down. “You look pretty decent to me.”

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