Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cross your fingers: a short story

The sound of the radio wakes me.  Saturday morning and the announcer calls out the details of the horses that will be running in the various race meetings of the day.

I turn over and his pillow is empty.  A typical Saturday.  I find my man in the kitchen, toast crumbs on his plate, the newspaper folded to a manageable size. He holds a red biro in his hand and with it circles the details of each horse and race to establish where he will put his money.  His preoccupation with the form guide borders on insult but I do not take offence.

I start the day by loading whites into the washing machine, whites and lights first, followed by the darks.  When the basket is full to overflowing I take the clothes out behind the apartment block and hang out as many as the line can hold.  I try to keep the excess washing to a minimum forcing clothes together as closely as possible and sharing pegs.  I know it will not speed up the process of drying but to me there is a certain satisfaction in a full washing line without a chink of light between the clothes.  Recently there has been an underwear thief in our neighbourhood.  I do not relish the thought of some stranger stealing my knickers, worn and un-sexy as they may be.  I will hang our underwear on the small clotheshorse that stands on the balcony of our apartment.

My man  comes out to say goodbye as I clip his shirts in order of colour to the washing line.  ‘Wish me luck,’ he says.  I wish him luck and any niggling feeling of dissatisfaction I tuck away inside the peg bag.  My man provides for me while I am a student and have very little money of my own.  If my man wins today we might go out to a flash restaurant and if he loses they may yet turn off our electricity next week because the bill is still unpaid and long overdue.  Ours is a tempestuous life but I tell myself I like that.  I thrive on the uncertainty.  Never a dull moment I think as I hang out the last of the white handkerchiefs.

The day goes by quickly enough, floors to mop, the toilet and sink to go over with Ajax.  I do not dust the surfaces in the bedroom as there is too little furniture in there beyond the bed to warrant it, but I dust everywhere else and in the kitchen I wipe down the bench tops and scrub the stove clean with a hard scrubbing brush.  I drag the vacuum cleaner from the bedroom to the lounge until my back aches with the effort.  Bend and straighten. This is good exercise I reason and the rewards are great.  Soon I will have a house that is spick and span, my man will come home, and we will be able to relax in the comfort of a clean home.  I cross my fingers and hope for a win.

My man has devised a system whereby he can maximise his returns.  He is ruthless.  He does not become emotionally involved with the horses. They generate an income that is all.  Twilight and I hear the clip of his heels in the stair well.  The door rattles open.  The look on his face tells all.  We do not say a word but crawl into bed for a coupling that offers comfort to both.  He for his day on the job and me for my domesticity.  Afterwards we will decide what to do for dinner. 

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