(To be read as a stream of consciousness)
She was the quiet one. There was the three of them in the corner, her, her sister and her friend. I had my eye on her friend first, she was the pretty one, all dolled up, trying to look twenty-one when she was probably closer to sixteen. Long flowing blue dress. It was the colour of the summer sky. She had no interest in me though, I didn’t have the film star looks she was seeking, even by that age I was beginning balding and my belly was certainly looking like a Yorkshire pudding expanding over the edge of the baking tin.
She eyed me up, little did I know at the stage. I gathered my whits about me and stood up. I don’t actually remember our first words but we danced the night away. She moved like an angel, I moved more like a steam train, heavy and on rails.
Married in the spring. Small wedding, her sister, mother and giggling friend. My mother and brother, shortly before he was killed in the forces. I never had great aspirations, plumbing, taught by my father, noble profession, ‘Will always put food on the table lad, someone somewhere will always have tried to flush something they shouldn’t have down a toilet’. He was right, never out of work, which was a good thing.
It started shortly after our wedding night. She had what I can only say as a very ‘short’ temper. I was never a drinker, always made me feel a bit sick, I always stuck to a nice brew, on a special occasion I could be pushed to a port and lemon, she always said that was ‘a ladies drink’. I tried stout once and couldn’t eat for three days.
Six AM, seven days a week, always up at six. Early to rise, another one from my father. ‘Be up with the lark, and bed by the moon’. I can’t say that did him much good, he died at sixty from consumption.
First it was just a raised voice. ‘Barry, your boots, you’ve dragged mud all over the kitchen again’. We never had children, we tried, on a couple of occasions, I was certainly no Casanova. She always said that I may be a plumber but I couldn’t fix my own pipes.
We never had a physical relationship, well not in that way. She was always chaotic while I liked a sense of order. It was probably after about a year it started. We’d been been ambling along quite happily in our two up, two down. Greyhounds were my thing. Once a fortnight. Local track, couple of shillings. I wasn’t a big gambler, never spent more than I could afford. Not that I had any money anyway, she insisted it all went in the jar. Every job, every bit of paperwork was scrutinised, every penny had to be accounted for. It was only the ‘extras’ I received I got to keep. I was known for being discreet and minding my own business, I wasn’t a meddler, what went on in a man’s home I believed stayed there, maybe that was part of the problem. On several occasions I was called out to do ‘special’ plumbing jobs. I remember one in particular. A mature lady married to a rather well known member of the constabulary, had what can only be described as an ‘indiscretion’ with a man from the military. The local ‘doctor’ had to pay a visit. I later had to unblock the sewage pipe.
The first bruise never really showed up. It was probably my fault anyway. I should have never have left the gas cylinder by the back door, I didn’t expect her to catch her dress on it. Food wise, was always potted something, spam, chicken, stake and ale. Always came out of a tin. I was never really a good cook, my mother always catered for that. I don’t think my father ever ventured into the kitchen once. ‘Woman’s domain’, that’s what he always said. Always ate off a tray, never had a television, she said it would give me ‘ideas above my station’. We had a radiogram, one of those old fashioned ones, the radio would drift in and out, she always said she wanted a new one, but I couldn’t earn enough to provide one.
The rib was an accident. I’m sure she never meant to tug the power cord of the vacuum cleaner. The stairs were steep and the carpet was loose, she’d warned me of the carpet, saying that I never paid any attention to jobs around the house. The hospital stay was brief, I needed to get back to work. A band-aid and I was ready to go.
I had two pairs of work trousers and four shirts. I also possessed a ‘going out’ suit that I used for the greyhounds, I wish it had a happier story but both my brother and I were similar size, but what he had in muscle, I made up for in fat. My mother was a quiet woman, she new her place in the household, but she was also a great believer in life skills. I will always be grateful for the evening she spent with me with a needle and cotton. Those trousers have held up well, literally. Father used to press his own shirts, always said it was a ‘man’s job’ and had to be done right. He was taught in the army and passed his ironing skills on to me.
I’m sure the scar will fade with time, after all I shouldn’t have left the iron there. She always went out Wednesday to Sunday. I was never invited. Said I wouldn’t really enjoy it, French conversation class, reading groups and poetry exploration. Always had a new dress, bright lipstick and smelled like a freshly plucked rose. I’d sit by the radiogram with my steak and ale pie.
Thirty-five years. Yet with the pillow over her mouth, it only took her sixty seconds to die.