Confidence in what?

Confidence is the title of my latest short story. Read the story and find out to what it refers! For once I’ve written a short story set in the present. If you want some more, try my collection of stories set in the past: Geoffrey’s Historical Shorts. I put one of these, set in the 17th century, on my blog recently, A Matter of Honour.

This collection does not include 'Confidence'.

This collection does not include ‘Confidence’.

Confidence – a short story.

Five middle-aged people sat in a row behind a table across a rather bare room. A picture of the Queen hung on the wall behind them. Not a recent picture.  The two women sat together to the left of Sir Bertram Barclay in the centre. He ran his eyes down a list in front of him. The others all had copies.

He said, “They’ll be coming in alphabetical order, but it so happens I think they are in the right order: the first being the most promising.” There were nods and grunts all round. He addressed the severe-looking woman standing by the door. “Have they all been told what is required? Very well. Send in the first one.”

She went out and immediately a man of around sixty entered. He had a fine head of grey hair and wore a pinstipe suit. His tie informed those in the know that he had once been an officer in the Grenadiers.

Sir Bertram knew this was a man who had kept calm under fire and was generally a safe pair of hands. He said, “Colonel Charles Carrington-Cliff? You know what is required? Do take a seat and proceed as soon as you are ready.”

The former colonel sat and studied the sheet of paper on the table before him, weighted down with an ashtray which had long been seeking alternative employment. He wondered fleetingly if it was an invitation to smoke but instantly realised what a faux pas that would be. Looking up with a confident but relaxed expression, he said, “I can unhesitatingly assure you that I am completely convinced that…” He tailed off and struggled to suppress a laugh. Having apologised, he asked to begin again, but got no further than before and stood up shaking his head and saying, “It’s no use. Another time perhaps?”

The next to enter was Darren Dixon, a younger man in a blazer with a loud tie. His hair could have been described as a mullet. His confidence came with a certain enthusiastic swagger. Sir Bertram thought this was the sort of man who could sell you anything and be out of the room, or possibly the country, before you realised you had been duped.

Darren confirmed his name and studied the page. For a moment, a look of dread crossed his face, but soon he looked up with a smile and began, “I can unhesitatingly assure you that I am completely convinced that this government has err… “ He buried his head in his hands and his shoulders shook. Sir Bertram wondered whether the man was laughing or crying. Looking up again, Darren said, “Sorry, I’ll have to pass on this.”

Within seconds of Darren’s departure, Elizabeth Edwards strode into the room. In her forties, she was solidly built, wearing a pleated skirt and a Cashmere cardigan. Her appearance was spoiled by her terrible haircut: straight down to the ears with a fringe. She had a no-nonsense manner. Sir Bertram thought she could have been a headmistress or a matron.

Elizabeth put on her hornrimmed glasses and studied the paper before her, nodding approvingly. “I can unhesitatingly assure you that I am completely convinced that this government has dealt with hahaha!” She apologised and composed herself. At her next attempt, she burst out into uncontrollable laughter after only the first three words and was still laughing as she left the room.

Sir Bertram said, “Oh dear! There’s only one left and he doesn’t sound at all promising. We nearly dropped him from the list. Well, let’s see what he can do.”

In came a fat man in an ill-fitting brown suit. Sir Bertram thought he looked even less promising than he had done on paper and momentarily wondered if there had been a mistake. “You are Frederick Fiddler?”

“Aye. Just Fred, really.” His tie was not straight and the knot looked as if it was more suited to mooring boats. His comb-over failed to convince anyone that he was not almost bald. He sat before being invited to. Sir Bertram told him to begin as soon as he was ready. Fred studied the sheet casually and said, “I can un’esitatingly assure you that I am completely convinced that this government has dealt with this pandemic regarding both the heath issues and the economic ones completely efficiently and effectively and with the utmost integrity and that they will continue to do so until the end.” He looked up with raised eyebrows.

Sir Bertram glanced to each side, noting the happy astonishment on all four faces around him. “Well now, Mr Fiddler – Fred if you prefer – Congratulations! it gives me great pleasure to say that you have been adopted as the Conservative candidate for this constituency for the forthcoming bye-election.”