Friday, 10 March 2017

A Seven Letter Word

Robin Wrigley

a pink gin

‘You know I’m meeting Angela this morning darling?’ Jane was talking to her husband Harvey while applying lipstick with the aid of the lounge mirror and watching for his reaction from his armchair across the room.

     ‘Are you? Can’t say as I remember, not that it’s a problem.’ He looked up from his paper where he had been tackling his daily crossword with moderate success. His wife said that in his case crossword had a double meaning in that he invariably became irritable with whom-so-ever the compiler was, especially on Thursdays.

     ‘The trouble is you never do remember darling but I should be back by dinner time and I have done all the prep. So we will eat on time if that’s what bothering you.’ She finished applying the lipstick, turned side on to the mirror and smoothed the back of her recently dyed hair and then turned to smile at Harvey who was oblivious to this attempt at remote affection. He was still trying to answer a very simple clue that had appeared before he was sure, but he was damned if he could remember. It really was so frustrating when solutions kept buzzing around in his mind but defied retrieval. He was certain he knew the answer but it continued to elude him, ‘A summer bird in adverse weather conditions’ – seven letters.

     ‘Right I’m off, you’ll be able to find something suitable for a sandwich in the fridge darling; see you later.’ She blew him a kiss that landed in a similar place to the smile earlier as he continued to do battle with the crossword.

     ‘Yep, okay say hello to Angela from me,’ but his words simply hit the inside of the front door as Jane had already closed it behind her and was fishing for the remote control for the garage door in her handbag.

     As the crosswords in Harvey’s life went, this wasn’t too bad and by a quarter to twelve he had finished it all except for two connecting words; one up and one down and if nothing else he knew when he was stumped. He prided himself at not being a quitter but enough was enough and once he left it alone the answer would come to him later in the day. It nearly always did.

     He continued reading the rest of his newspaper and the phone rang. He ignored it knowing it would either be for Jane or some charlatan from the sub-continent wanting him to inadvertently divulge information that might lead to his financial disadvantage while pretending to help him with a non-existent computer virus. Whoever it was they didn’t leave a message on the answering machine so he felt vindicated. 

     Strange really that Jane had managed to get him to ignore phone calls. Back in his working life he wouldn’t dream of ignoring a call even though there were times when he wished he had. His decision was influenced by the fact that so many of his calls to Jane when he was overseas went unanswered and she admitted she was in at the time but thought it was probably a ‘cold caller’.

     There was a period towards the latter part of his working life when overseas trips became more frequent and lasted longer that the unanswered phone calls played on his mind in spite of Jane’s explanation. That and the fact that he sensed they were growing apart and didn’t share the same likes and dislikes anymore. He often felt that they would have had more in common if they had had children but they didn’t and somehow neither of them was able to discuss this fact.

     Many a time he mulled it over in his mind to bring it into a conversation in their early married life; but every time he lacked the courage fearing that it was a taboo subject. He was afraid that she would interpret the lack as her fault when in actual fact it had never been established whose fault it was as they had never sought medical advice. 

     Having finished with the paper and somewhat at a loss as how he should spend the rest of the day he phoned his friend Patrick to see if he fancied a pint and a sandwich. His call went unanswered so he decided to go out anyway. It was definitely preferable to sitting around the house. Moreover he decided to treat himself to the new lunchtime special they were advertising in the hotel in town. At least the prospect of dining alone never bothered him greatly as he had plenty of experience in doing so. The prospect of the visit into town began to please him so he decided to make an effort in his attire by changing his trousers for a smart pair of silver grey corduroys and putting on a tie, something he rarely did in the daytime since retiring.

     The journey into town took a little longer than normal as he indulged himself further by going the pretty way. He parked in the central car park and stopped off on the walk to the hotel and bought a magazine in the newsagents off the square. It was just a current affairs weekly that would compensate for the lack of conversation during his lunch. In the past he would eliminate the silence at meal times alone by reading novels. He was particularly fond of spy stories especially those written by Le Carré.  But since retiring he found he had lost the appetite to tackle anything of length even though he now had plenty of time to do so. He put it down to his reading a daily newspaper, struggling with crosswords, listening to the radio and of course the biggest waster of all time, television. He often wondered to himself where the time disappeared to.

     Entering the hotel he was just about to turn into the dining room when, glancing along the corridor leading into the bar, he saw Patrick engaged in conversation. The person he was talking to was obscured by the narrowness of the corridor so he decided he would at least go and say hello. As he walked further along the corridor the legs and dress of Patrick’s guest came into view just before he announced his arrival.

     An icy chill ran through his body as he recognised who it was and he turned around, quickly walking away he turned into the lobby and headed for the restrooms. He was in a blind panic as he shoved open the swing door failing to see the small yellow sandwich-board warning that the floor was wet. His feet went from under him, his only thought before his head cracked on the porcelain washbasin was the one word across he had not finished. Cuckold.

     At a little after six o’clock Jane entered the house and called out. ‘I’ve left the car in the driveway darling as I might go out early tomorrow.’ There was no answer and just as she noticed how strange it was that Harvey had not put any lights on, she saw the little red light blinking on the answering machine.

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