Thursday, 7 January 2010

'Til Death Us Do Part

The vacuum cleaner roared into life, jolting Diane from her deep immersion into the book she was trying to read.

“That bloody machine!” she spat through gritted teeth. “If it’s not that, it’s the electric drill!”

She tried to get back into the storyline of the novel, but it wasn’t easy. What with the badly-written tripe she was reading in the hope it would get better and in the absolute certainty that it couldn’t get any worse, and the constant interruptions from her husband’s efforts, assisted by what must surely be the noisiest machines known to man, to tidy the house.

Not that she was unappreciative of him or his efforts, but his timing was immaculate.

The beginning stains of the theme to Coronation Street just would not be recognisable without the wine of their elderly Hoover Junior and her lie-in on a Sunday morning, incomplete without the ear-splitting screech of the hammer-drill.

It was, of course, entirely of her own making, for she had never, well, hardly ever, complained. As her friends commented, and she agreed wholeheartedly, at least he DID help out. Many a man wouldn’t bother.

She turned another page of the diabolical book to the realisation that she had scanned six pages and not read a word. The book dropped into the wastepaper basket in a gesture of disgust.

She listened for tell-tale sounds. “What’s he up to now?” she wondered to herself. Clanking and clinking of crocks told her that the dishwasher was being stacked. Bless him. Another job for her not to do...

Diane reached for another chocolate and braced herself for the clank-dunk-whoosh! That was the dishwasher’s signature tune and right on cue, radio five. Terence always listened to radio five when he was immersed in his housework.

“Just going to fix that curtain-rail,” Terence popped his head ‘round the door. “There’s a good film on Two in a minute, why don’t you watch it? You’ll enjoy it, got that Alan Rickman that you like in it and it’s a weepie. I won’t be more than ten minutes fixing this rail.” Terence made his way over to the window, switching on the television as he passed. Next he fetched a dining-chair on which to stand whilst he fixed the swinging rail.

Twenty minutes later, all possibility of following the story-line demolished as the drill screamed and hammered followed by the electric screwdriver, which did something unmentionable to the television screen and then back to old faithful. The vacuum cleaner. Terence always cleaned up after himself.

“You not enjoying that then?” Terence asked as she flicked from channel to channel when he’d finished.

“Couldn’t get into it somehow, “ she answered absently. She got up and went to the cupboard where the ironing-board was kept. She may as well do something useful. She hated ironing but with a mind-numbing video and a large scotch she could just about face it.

The video running, the ironing impedimenta set up, the scotch at her elbow, Diane was sweeping through the shirts, skirts, blouses and hankies at a rate of knots. She’d managed three shirts, two pairs of jeans, two blouses, a dress, half-a dozen hankies and was on the linen tablecloth and well into her stride when Terence popped his head ‘round the door again.

“Just taking the dog out. You don’t mind running us to the park, do you?” Terence smiled his cling-peach smile.

“No, not at all,” which is hard to say when you have your teeth firmly clamped around your tongue. “I’ll just get my keys.”

Driving back from the park, Diane thought about how ungrateful she was. He cooked - well, sort of - he cleaned, he mended things, was a wonderful father, husband and lover and he walked the dog. What was she complaining about?

The noise. That’s what. Everything was made a meal of. Very noisily. For a quiet man, he made an awful lot of noise. After a day off work with Terence, she was ready to go back to work for a rest. Next to him, the three kids were catatonic!

She began to work out what she could do to improve the situation but nothing was forthcoming. She couldn’t bring herself to complain because he was both pig-headed and very sensitive. She would hurt his feelings and he would refuse to lift another finger for the rest of his life. No, that wouldn’t do.

She’d already tried joining him and pitching in and they ended up very close to either the divorce or the coroner’s court, she still couldn’t be sure which. Besides, she wasn’t a very physical woman, being only five foot tall and less than seven stones. She supposed that was why he did so much for her.

When she got back in the house, the chocolate box being empty, she decided to go and have long soak and having lost the ironing impetus, to read a book in peace.

Diane had no sooner stood up to head for the bathroom, when she heard the bathroom door close and the radio burst into life, closely followed by the shower being run.

It was obvious that one of the boys was in. It was a wonder they didn’t all have webbed fingers and toes, the length of time they spent immersed in water. And the boys were rapidly becoming worse than Louise, who was quite bad enough!

Diane knocked at the bathroom door, “don’t be too long in there, I was just about to run a bath.” Mumbled reply which, being an optimist, she took to be assent.

Sitting at the dining-table in the morning-room, she picked up some sewing, which had been begging for attention for weeks now and turned on the television.

It was one of those Agony-Aunt type shows that the Americans do so badly that you just have to watch, in disbelief that anyone could stand up in front of millions of viewers and confess to all sorts of peccadilloes.

The woman that was on, was complaining that her husband ignored her apart from when they were actually making love. She was saying he took his golf-clubs to more places than he did her.

Aunt Audra’s remedy was so simple, it was fiendish. Every time the woman’s husband made a move toward the golf-clubs, she was to seduce him.

Like a light-bulb the answer to her own problems flashed on in he mind. “That’s what I’LL do!”

In the next few weeks, Terence thought his wife had had a brainstorm of some kind, but he wasn’t complaining! All wives should have such a brainstorm. It should be mandatory! His cling-peach smile was wider than ever.

The smile was still intact when they buried him a few months later.

His widow was suitably and genuinely devastated at this turn of events, although it did comfort her to know he died extremely happy.

The funeral was held on a miserable March Monday, the rain lashed down and everyone was glad to get back to the marital home for refreshments. It was a quiet affair, both of them being from small families and it ended early, leaving just a few curled-up sandwiches to be finished off by the dog.

Diane was glad the children were grown up. They had been upset enough but at least she didn’t have any little ones to explain things to.

By half past seven, she decided she’d had enough for one day and settled on the couch to watch television.

She flicked the remote to I.T.V just in time for the disembodied voice of the presenter to announce the imminent start of Coronation Street.

“Oh good,” she thought, “ chewing-gum for the eyeballs.”

She snuggled herself into the sofa, cuddling a scatter cushion and waited for the signature tune to begin. The familiar cornet-notes drifted to her ears and then were accompanied by another familiar sound. The high whining noise of an elderly Hoover Junior....

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