Don’t Be Abashed

Originally published on August 18th, 2010

I’ve agreed to help publicize DBA Lehane’s competition, which is to help publicize his website. I don’t normally do much to publicize anything. Perhaps I just want to show you my own entry. I’ve never written a short story before, never mind a short short one. It is exactly 500 words and the title had to begin with the letters DBA.

I don’t have the imagination to write anything but the truth, which is what you find in A Wayfarer’s Notes, however much I like to pretend it is fiction. The story which follows is based on true components. Here it is.

Don’t be abashed

This tale is true. Well, most of it. I can’t vouch for the part of it that I got from someone else. So judge for yourself.

I’d dropped out from counsellor training. My private life was chaotic at the time. One day I bumped into one of my fellow-students, now qualified and practising in Cambridgeshire. We caught up on one another’s progress in my favourite pub, The Falcon. He told me about his first client, rather near the boundary of confidentiality rules. This young woman had entered adulthood caring for a disabled mother, who couldn’t be left alone long. She spent her days reading romantic fiction. Her outings were few: just to a couple of local shops, such as the sub-post office where she collected her mother’s disability payments.

“So what did she come to you about?” I asked him.

“She was referred by her doctor. He was concerned about her delusions.”


“That she was about to meet her hero, who would sweep her off her feet. ”

“Not uncommon, surely. What was she doing about it?”

“Well, nothing. They had an elderly dog, a little lame. She always took it with her when she went out. Which meant she couldn’t go far.”

“So what happened?”

“Well, that was the thing: I don’t know. She only came for one session. She was painfully shy, blushed easily. I tried to suggest various ways she could meet men, but she resisted them all. She wouldn’t listen, burst into tears. I felt as if I’d accused her of being ugly, which she wasn’t. Quite the reverse. She left the session less happy than she’d come in. Imagine how I felt.”

“So . . .?”

“She didn’t turn up for her second appointment. I felt bad. She was my first client. Suppose I’d pushed her over the edge? I rang her. She was fine! An angel had spoken to her in a dream, saying ‘Don’t be abashed’, meaning that she’d definitely meet her ideal lover. I said, ‘If you listen to angels and not me, why come back?’ She saw my point. I wrote to her doctor and closed the case.”

Why did I remember the conversation? Was it the word “abashed”, which you don’t hear often? Or was it my concern whether I’d been a good listener to my counsellor friend?

Months later, I was looking up another friend, in Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, but got lost. I pulled up outside a shop with a Post Office sign. A dog sat patiently outside. I went in and got the directions I needed. As I came out, a woman with downcast eyes collected the dog. They walked off, slowly, the dog limping.

My heart started to beat fast. I knew what I wanted to do: check out if this might be my friend’s ex-client. But a bashfulness prevented me. Confidentiality. The young woman’s feelings. Something within me said “Don’t be abashed.” I must have said it aloud, for she turned. Looked at me. Her eyes shone.




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