A Domestic Dispute

All right, what have I done?

Nothing.

You haven’t spoken to me for half an hour – what have I done?

Nothing.  Don’t worry about it.

Don’t worry about what?

Nothing.  But if you want to open the subject of your baked bean tin…

Ah!  My baked bean tin!  Well, actually, it isn’t mine exclusively, because you bought it and we share the housekeeping budget…

But it becomes yours when you make it the substance of your lunch.

I see.  Yes, I see.  Ownership of the container is conferred by consumption of its contents.  Very wise.  Did Solomon eat baked beans, do you think?

What on earth are you talking about?

Therefore disposal of the container becomes my responsibility, yes?  You see?  I’m on your side.

Only superficially.  If you really cared you would dispose of the empty can in the correct bin, which is the brown bin.  Not the black bin, which is for unrecyclable material, and from which I had to retrieve it.

Sorry, just to be clear – are we talking about the brown compartment of that thing with the lids that look like a Microsoft logo under the kitchen counter or the overflowing, rat-infested edifice in the alley which hasn’t been emptied for a month?

You see?  I knew that would be your reaction:  negativity, all the time.  All I ask you to do is at least learn which rubbish belongs in which coloured bin.  There are only four.

Maybe I didn’t appreciate the discernment of those rats.  I shall try to be more careful.

And less secretive, you’ve been lunching on your baked bean diet for several weeks now, and this is the first tin to resurface.  Perhaps I should be grateful for that.   I suspect Amanda’s slipshod domesticity may be behind it, though

Amanda, now!  Yes, I admit it, I have been taking my bean cans around to Amanda’s flat for furtive lunch activity. Who knows what else we might be getting up to.  Such jealousy!

She’s your sister!

Well, I might take a liberal view of that point, but yes, it was well made.  I will say there are a number of empty cans in play here.

A dishwasher full!  Were all those cans Amanda’s?

I knew you’d bring that up!  It was her suggestion; she said that if you’re so damned picky…

I only ventured to suggest that we should clean our cans before we throw them in the recycling …

And Amanda suggested since you were so enthusiastic about it, maybe we could wash her cans as well.

Just how much canned food does she eat?   There were dozens of them – three of which were for dog food.  Amanda doesn’t have a dog.

Well, I may have picked up a few extra ones on the way home.  Space in the box, you know?  You realise that bloody waste bin is now at the centre of our relationship?

That’s unnecessary! I like to be responsible in my treatment of household waste, is that so bad?

Bad?  It’s horrendous!  That bin haunts me; I have dreams about it!  I want to give it greasy black hair and a toothbrush moustache.  It should be standing at the window overlooking the street with its right front lid stiffly raised declaiming its agenda to the people!

Recycling is our only hope of saving the planet.  We all have to do our part.

Our only hope of saving us , maybe.  The planet won’t be sad to see us go, that’s for sure.  But do our part?   Look, under that street runs a tunnel that discharges ten thousand gallons of raw sewage an hour directly into the sea.  The blockages it suffers from wipes and household fat lurk beneath our feet, waiting for the apocalypse.  Sometimes I fancy lifting one of its stinking lids and chucking a lighted match down there.  Send a billion Basiljet bricks into permanent orbit at a stroke.  Think of it!

That’s quite an engaging thought.  Why not stand on the lid and do a little bit of deep space exploration of your own?  There’s almost as much junk in orbit around this planet as there is in your sister’s flat.  You could make a start on clearing some of it up.

Are you trying to tell me something?

I see no harm in bringing our relationship to a Faustian conclusion.  At least I’d be sure you were satisfactorily recycled.  I’m going out.  Make your own tea – and not baked beans!

 

 

 

 

Waste Disposal

amy-3“I think I asked you to put out the trash, didn’t I?”  Amie asked.  “I did, didn’t I?”

“Amie, clearing the refuse isn’t time sensitive.  I’ll do it after I’ve finished.”  Malcolm, frowning with concentration, applied a wing strut to his model of the ‘Wright Flyer’.  It was his sixth attempt.  The glue wouldn’t let the piece sit in position, but kept sliding it to one side.  “Isn’t it amazing people used to fly a thing like this?”

“I don’t care.   I don’t care about your bloody pile of sticks.  I asked you to put the rubbish out.  You haven’t.   Just like I asked you to clean up the living room, and you didn’t.  Or cook for us last night….”

“All right!”   Malcolm sighed in resignation.  “So I don’t do everything you want, the moment you want it.  Look, Amie, I’m entitled to some time of my own, you know?”

“I suppose I have to do it myself!”   Amie grunted.  And it was a tiny, porcine grunt, one of her mannerisms that Malcolm had found so attractive, once.   She stood in the corner of their living space, glaring at the model and its dedicated constructor.   “Must you keep tuning the light to orange?”   She demanded.  “You know I hate it.”

“I told you, it’s a good light for intricate work like this.  I won’t be long.”

“Work?   That isn’t work, Malcolm, that’s a hobby.  You know, like making cathedrals out of matchsticks or little handbags out of string?  I wouldn’t mind if sometimes – just sometimes – you actually did some real work!”

Malcolm treated Amie to one of his paternal, superior looks.  “I work just as hard as you, Amie.”

“Oh, you do!  You mended the cracked tile behind the cooker. Let me see, when was that?  Yesterday – or was it the day before?  That’s just it, Malcolm, you don’t!   You don’t do anything I ask, you don’t help, you don’t…”

“Okay, okay!”  Malcolm was on his feet, blazing back.  “While we’re on the subject of ‘don’ts’…”

“Yes?  While we’re on the subject..?”   Amie strode forward, facing her partner like a pugilist, legs astride, hands on hips, only the table and the model aeroplane upon it separating them from total war:   “What are you going to bring up next?   Come on, let’s have it!”

“Well’ it would help if we…I mean, if you…”

“If I still slept with you?   That’s what you mean, isn’t it?  Same old, same old!”

“Knowing there’s no affection, no love anymore.”

“Oh, right!  No lurrrv!”   Amie breathed deeply. “So the fact that you’ve developed into an overweight, bone idle bore is my fault, is it?  So the sum of your romantic accomplishments would measure up to those of a rampant bull elephant is down to me, yes?”

“Possibly!  Not that it would worry you, and mostly it doesn’t worry me anymore.  It’s just that we still keep nights and days, and right now is the time of night when I miss it most.  But no problem:  any inclinations of a pachydermatous nature have long faded; although I’m surprised you even remember them.  Do you realise we haven’t had sex in ten years?”

“And you’ve been counting, of course…”

“Absolutely I’ve been counting.   And you know that very well.   How many times have we walked through this same argument?  Every month?”

“Every week.”  Emotionally fatigued, Amie drew out a chair to sit across the table from Malcolm.  “Every week.  Look, Malc, I know my role in this relationship.  I haven’t forgotten what we promised, and I will sleep with you again, honestly, when the time feels right.  I simply need a little space, like you.  Me time, you know?”

“Ten years?   You get out of practice, Amie.  People forget.” Malcolm met Amie’s sad look, determined to hear the words he needed, yet dreading his answer, too.

“We’re a couple.  That’s never going to be in doubt, Malc.”

“But you don’t love me.”

“Why must we always confuse sex and love?”  She clasped her hands together, resting them on the table-top.  Her fingers seemed to fascinate her.   She tapped them, each onto its opposing knuckle, making a hollow sound.

“Because without it we get unhinged.  Or maybe that’s just me.”  Malcolm said gently.  “Amie.  You – don’t – love – me.”

Her mouth twisted around her words.  “You’re cornering me.  Don’t do that, Malc.  Perhaps we don’t have the passion we used to share, but…”

“Amie, it’s time to be cornered.  It’s time to be honest.  You don’t love me, do you?”

“I’m not sure I ever did.”  As she spoke them aloud, Amie ruminated upon the power of those words, and the freedom they engendered.   Not to live the lie anymore, to have said the truth she had known for all of their years together.  “Are you sure you want to do this now?”

“I want to have it out so I can look at it, think about it.”  Malcolm’s voice was dangerously quiet.  “Why on Earth…?”

“We were young…”

“Idealistic.”

“I admired you, so much!”

“But you weren’t stupid, surely?”

“Malcolm, you represented hope, for me:  you did!”

“Hope – that’s a poor substitute for love.”

“It was what brought us here.”

“Yes.  And now we’re stuck together, like this bloody model!”  Malcolm rose to his feet.  “I think this might be a good time to put out that rubbish.”   He disappeared in the direction of their kitchen.

Amie called after his retreating back:  “If we’d just met and got to know each other like any normal boy and girl?”  Malcolm did not answer.

Left to herself, Amie allowed a tide of emotion she had contained rigidly within herself for so many years to wash over her.   She wept gently, recalling the dreams she had dreamed, all the joys she had believed she would share – all come to this dark nothingness.  And her thoughts, as they slipped ever closer to the precipice of despair began to fuel a sense of bitter injustice, of inexcusable wrong.   Those linked fingers still rested upon the table; now, though, they grappled, wrestling each other, left hand against right in self-mutilating fury.

Malcolm found her thus, taut with simmering rage, when he returned ten minutes later.  “The rubbish chute’s blocked again.”  He said mechanically.  “I’ll have to clear it from outside.   I won’t be long.”

Amie’s reddened eyes followed him as he went out through the vestibule, closing the door behind him.  ‘We don’t want you to catch a chill from the draught’ – her mind repeated the stale old joke he always made when he closed that door, although this time it remained unsaid.   She watched through the window of the door as he prepared himself to face the conditions outside, then his back and the opening and closing as he finally left, trash bag in hand.

She hated that back!  She hated his smug expressions, his indefatigable humour, the very smell of him!

Inside Amie all the strings were snapping, all the contents of her emotional cauldron bubbling to a boil.   With a deliberately closed fist she smashed the model of the ‘Wright Flyer’, slammed it into the table; then with determined force she raised the table edge to throw it on its side, screaming at the pieces of wood and plastic as they scattered across the floor.   Having achieved her necessary outlet of destruction, an icy calmness overtook her.   She was apart, somewhere outside herself, watching as she walked towards the vestibule, through the door.  At the outside door she stood for a moment, quite still.   Then she reached before her and threw the lock.

“Amie?”  He was outside, no more than four feet away.   He heard the click as the tumblers interlocked.  “Amie, what are you doing?”

Her mind fixed in a grim determination of which she had never thought herself capable, Amie glared through the window in the door as Malcolm turned and headed towards it.   He tried the door handle, shook it vigorously.  “Amie?”

Amie did nothing.  She just smiled.  She smiled at Malcolm, at all the failed years.  She smiled because she could already see the first traces of vapour on his visor; the panic in his eyes.

“Amie?   For God’s sake, Amie!”

She smiled because she knew that for such a simple task he would not have attached his safety line, or bothered to check the bio-systems inside his suit.  Custom and habit had made him careless with the years.  Those systems would fail very soon, and when they did his grip would loosen.  But the last surprise was his.  She saw his eyes – saw the flame within them quieten.  He accepted. He understood.   Perhaps he even wished it.  And he let go.

Amie’s last sight of her life partner was a dwindling white dot in the sparse light of sun star Proxima Centauri. The little craft that had been constructed so carefully to make its interior feel like a warm and comfortable home had already begun to slow down.  Soon, in only a matter of months now, it would navigate itself into orbit around that fertile planet where they had been entrusted to settle, she and Malcolm, and to raise the first children of a new civilisation.  It had always been a vain and tragic hope, this last gesture of a dying race on the burning world they had left behind – two people meticulously chosen for their compatibility, for their patient, sanguine natures, for their mutual respect.

Amie listened for a little longer, until Malcolm’s gasping breaths were lost, out of the range of his communicator, then she switched it off.   She returned to the kitchen to make supper.

 

© Frederick Anderson 2016.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Goods Counselling

This was a few years ago.  Tony was a generous man of nearly my own age, not in the bloom of health perhaps, but still walking in the sun when he found a partner younger than he, slim and apparently self-confident with a willing smile; a paragon of something not quite within the powers of description but mother to two adolescent children, a girl and a boy.

Within three months they found a house – a modest semi-detached with a garden – and moved in together; a course of action which might have seemed sudden, but the days grow short as you reach November, and it would be hard to criticize them for reaching out to grasp at happiness.  To all appearances, this was the sort of consolation prize relationship many dream about but few attain, and all seemed well with Tony and Marian, his new-found friend.

Barely six months had passed before the first cracks showed.  According to Tony, Marian’s expensive tastes did not match his modest income:  she kept two horses, insisted upon her own car, and had a penchant for retail therapy.  Two months later, again according to Tony, Marian drank heavily; Marian was bi-polar, Marian was ‘troubled by her nerves’.   Marian suffered those slings and arrows stoically and made no accusations in return, but the outcome was inevitable.

Friends gathered around the two camps; battle lines were drawn.  It was noticeable that of the two armies, Tony’s was much the smaller.  They entered into skirmishes on his behalf with less enthusiasm and were conspicuously absent at key points in the fight.  Like Custer at Little Bighorn, Tony stood tall; like Custer, Tony was too stubborn to realize he was hopelessly outnumbered.

No-one mentioned counseling.

Then, one Saturday morning as she hung out washing on their garden line, Marian announced calmly that she and Tony were not ‘getting on together very well’ and she was moving out.  She had procured a new house locally, she told me, and would be gone ‘within the week’.

True to her word, as day seven dawned she and her children were to be seen loading boxes of possessions into her little car.  They drove off and peace descended over the little house.  A disconsolate Tony watched the remnants of his defeated army disappearing over the horizon.  He stood alone.

For one day.

On the Monday morning at nine o’clock Tony went off to work.  At nine-thirty Marian’s car drew up outside his house, where she stayed for the rest of the morning because her new accommodation had no washing machine and no garden.  By midday she could be seen pegging out her washing on what now had to be regarded as Tony’s washing line.  It was a temporary arrangement, she explained.  It would be rectified as soon as she could procure the necessary equipment.

By Tony’s return in the evening Marian and her washing had vanished and the matter should have rested there – would have done, if Marian had fulfilled her intention to purchase her own washing machine and drier.  Perhaps the temptation was too great, the answer too simple; or maybe with all her other commitments now she was single again new white goods were beyond her financial reach: whatever the reason, Marian kept coming back.  Three times a week, her washing adorned Tony’s washing line, even to a point on one occasion when Tony’s own washing had to be deposed to make room.Image

Now Tony’s ear for bush telegraph was less than acute, but eventually this state of affairs had to come to light.  You do not need to catch a rabbit red-handed to know it has trespassed in your cabbage patch.  The evidence is provided by the cabbages.  My choice of metaphor, by the way, is not accidental. 

Marian had retained possession of a key.  Her daughter knew its whereabouts.  It was so available that one afternoon, in the grip of coital fever and desperately in need of privacy, she and her boyfriend let themselves into Tony’s house and thence into Tony’s spare bedroom.   They were still there, deep in satisfied sleep, when Tony returned that evening.

I am unsure exactly what agreements the ensuing row produced, though a whiff of blackmail hangs in the air to this day.  Suffice to say both Marian’s children spent the following weekend grudgingly treating Tony’s garden to a rather inexpert but well-intended makeover, and Marian’s washing forays no longer retained their clandestine nature.  In fact, she often arrived with the basket before Tony had left, and on increasingly frequent occasions did not leave on the same day, or the next.

These events took place, as I have said, a few years ago.   Tony is older now by double those years, and poorer by several more:  but Marian, though she has still a house of her own, spends little time in it, and a lot of time in Tony’s, if only because of the volume of her washing.  As far as I know, she has never bought her own machine, and if she has, she never uses it.

The moral of this story?  If there is one, it might point out there are many versions of ‘happily ever after’ which even within one partnership may not coincide.  And a further point: as a bachelor in need of a life partner, your first consideration should probably be the purchase of a good washing machine.

Funny old thing, life, innit?