Short story of domestic disharmony
The train ride home is as usual, a nightmare, bodies packed in tight as if we are olives being pressed for oil. Noses under smelly armpits and breasts squashed flat against broad backs.
As a whole we sway back and forth as if rocked by a giant’s hand. The distinctive smell of the subway, a mixture of sweat, farts and wet umbrellas reaches me. It makes me feel like shoving my face into the puffer jacket of the guy standing next to me.
From my position nearest the door I can see the crowd have crushed a man so tightly against a pole, his buttocks part like a rose petal.
Thank God it’s Friday, my night out with the boys.
“Hi, I’m home,” I call out as I enter the house. I search in vain for a space to hang my wet coat on the row of hooks in the hallway.
A pile of jackets, bags and hats lie in a heap on the floor. It looks like a stall at a jumble sale, picked over and discarded. I give up and drop the coat.
“Anyone home?” I shout. I can hear the kids upstairs. “Hi, kids what are you doing?”
Phoebe gallops down, followed by her twin brother Jack. I’m struck once more how much they look like their mother, both sharing her carrot coloured hair.
“Daddy! You’re home,” Phoebe squeals and wraps her little arms around my legs like a leech.
“Hi Darling,” I kiss her dirty face, “Where’s Mummy?” I swing her up into my arms, pretending to drop her, “Since you turned four, you’re way too heavy for me,”
“Why aren’t you dressed?” I ask Jack, who is wearing a pair of superman underpants.
“Mummy said we didn’t have to get dressed if we didn’t want to,” he said.
I enter the kitchen looking for Ruby,
“What’s been going on here?” I mutter.
The sink is full, dirty dishes and baked on pans cover every surface. Spilled orange juice has spread all over the floor and small sticky footprints show where the kids have walked through the puddle.
“Oh, bloody hell.”
“Oh, you sweard, naughty daddy!” Phoebe says.
My shoes make a sound like Velcro ripping open as I walk out of the mess.
“Ruby!” I shout. There’s no reply.
“Where’s your mum Jack?” He doesn’t answer, he’s a man of few words and just shakes his shaggy red head.
“How many times do I have to tell you, not in the house Jack!” A ball flies by my head, hits a pot plant which crashes to the ground spilling soil all over the hall floor.
“Ruby!” Still no answer.
I step into the living room and I can’t believe my eyes, stretched out on the sofa is my wife watching television.
“What’s going on Ruby, why didn’t you answer me, I’ve been shouting you?”
I put Phoebe down, “Go and play with your brother” I tell her.
I know I sound pissed off.
“Didn’t you hear that bloody pot plant breaking?” Ruby still doesn’t answer.
“Are you ill?” I try again to get a response
She carries on watching the TV. It’s a stupid soapy.
“The place looks like a garbage tip, have you been out all day?”
“No. Why?” She replies at last.
“Because last night’s supper dishes are still on the table, there’s crap all over the floor, what’s going on?”
Ruby just shrugs, popping a chocolate into her mouth, she drops the wrapper onto the floor, with all the others.
I swear under my breath and go out of the room before I say something I may regret.
“I’ll have a lie down until dinnertime.” I call over my shoulder.
I can hardly get up the stairs without tripping over cast off clothing, toys and..what’s this, a half-eaten sandwich?
The bathroom is just as I left it this morning, the shower screen door wide open, towels on the floor and shaving cream in the sink. I shake my head in disgust and go into the bedroom where surprise surprise, the bed’s not made, the blinds are closed and my pyjamas are still on the floor.
I sit on the ruin of the bed and rub my hands over my face, dropping back onto the pile of sheets and blankets.
I was just closing my eyes when Jack shouts “Daddy what's for dinner, we’re hungry?”
“Ask your mum,” I mumble.
“She says to ask you, she’s busy,” Phoebe is shaking my arm.
“Okay guys I’ll sort something out, just give Daddy a few minutes to talk to Mummy.”
I drag myself off the bed and go to find out what the hell’s going on.
I pick up dirty laundry from the bedroom floor and bathroom before I go downstairs, dropping it in the hamper.
“Kids! Come on, pick up some of these toys before someone breaks their neck,” I instruct.
In the kitchen I stack the dishwasher and take out the overflowing garbage, before I go to see Ruby.
“Okay, let’s have it, what’s going on?” I confront my wife, she is still in the same position on the sofa.
“What’s for dinner, the kids are hungry?” I enquire, although it’s not looking good.
“Oh, it’s you Roscoe,” she said, her face showing surprise as if she’d not seen me before, “were you speaking to me?”
I can see that she is trying to contain her anger, her freckles are standing out like sprinkles of brown sugar on her pale face, in stark contrast to her shock of red hair.
I stand my ground, my foot tapping on the dusty floorboards.
“I took a day off,” she declares.
“Day off?” I repeat.
“You come home every day complaining about something I didn’t do, you say, “I don’t know what you find to do all day.”
I didn’t answer her; I knew she hadn’t finished.
“Well, today I didn’t do it!” She says, gritting her teeth. “I’m nothing but a slave to you and the children, I never get anytime for myself, you at least get a night out with the boys.”
I open my mouth to say something in my defence but apparently she has more to say.
“The kids hardly see you, you’re either working late, going out playing cards or watching sport on the television, when was the last time we went out as a family?” I wait to see if she’s finished yet.
“ Well?” Her voice is shrill and tears spill from her eyes.
As she lies on the sofa, the mound of her pregnant belly rolls, she puts a protective hand on our unborn baby.
I have rarely seen Ruby so upset; I knew I’ve been selfish lately, too busy at work, not taking enough time with the children and failing to pull my weight around the house.
I slide down onto the floor next to her; I kiss her wet face, her neck and her swollen belly.
“Forgive me?” I whisper.
Ruby struggles to get up from the soft cushions, “I’m going out!” She announces.
“Where are you going?” I stand up from the floor to help her to her feet, she’s floundering like a stranded whale.
“Call your poker buddies, tell them you can’t make the game tonight because your wife has an appointment at the beauty parlour.” She sails from the room.
“Okay Guys, looks like it’s just the three of us, Mummy’s going out.”
I’m bending over to pick up yesterday’s newspaper, left scattered around the room, when my beautiful children jump all over me. We end up wrestling on the floor, all of us laughing.
“What shall we have for dinner?” I ask them, reaching for my phone.
“Pizza!” We all shout together.