The Weekly News (UK), That’s Life Fast Fiction (Australia)
George was always the one preaching restraint …
“It’s a good life, if you don’t weaken.”
Every time my George issues those words, my resolve to kill him strengthens. He has only been out of hospital for 3 days and I’m run ragged even more than before. He’s been told to take things easy following his sudden collapse last week. So he has. Literally. Just when I thought I’d found five minutes to myself, and was about to bite into one of my favourite naughties …
“Liz, you are going to put the vacuum around aren’t you? The District Nurse will be here soon.”
Staring at my almond slice, I bit my tongue rather than the tempting cake. A weaker woman would have snatched a mouthful, but in some respects, George was right. It is a good life if you don’t weaken, and I knew I would enjoy my cake more, if I could find time to savour it in one indulging moment. An almond slice should be relished, rolled around the mouth and allowed to disintegrate into a nutty moment of heaven.
“Liz!” he bellowed again. “Better bring a duster with you. The television screen is atrocious, I can hardly see the picture.”
I swear he only bought a 42-inch wide screen television to give me more screen to clean. Carefully placing my pride and joy back into the cardboard Baker’s box, I returned it to the fridge for later. The best things in life come to those who wait, so my almond slice would survive in one piece for a little while longer.
Grabbing a duster and the vacuum, I clattered my way through to the lounge.
“I wondered where you’d got to dear,” said George without taking his eyes off the television.
“I was putting the shopping away and was going to have five minutes to myself before I did this,” I said, looking for sympathy, yet knowing I wouldn’t get any.
“It’s a good life Liz, if you don’t weaken. I keep telling you that. How would you feel if the District Nurse turned up now and saw this mess?”
“She’s coming to give you a new diet sheet and to show you how to use that injection contraption. She’s not interested in the amount of dust there is on the telly.”
“Well I am,” George snapped. “It plays havoc with the picture quality. Wait until they start broadcasting in High Definition. That’ll really show the dust up. You’ll be wiping it morning, noon and night then, you’ll see.”
“It would be nice to have five minutes to sit down in front of it and watch something,” I muttered.
“You’d be wasting your time dear. It’s a good life if you don’t weaken, and there are plenty of other things to keep you occupied. I think the bath needs a really good clean, when you’re ready love. I might take a dip tonight if the Nurse lets me, but only if it’s clean. And you know what those doctors said. Until we know what caused that allergic reaction and my collapse, the house has to be spotless.”
Plugging the vacuum into the socket, I kicked the power switch and began sucking anything and everything off the carpet. If only I could suck George out of my life. Then I could sit down and savour my cake, spend an hour relaxing in an aromatic bath, book a holiday and find a life again.
George has always been one for being waited on hand and foot, and if ever I’ve mentioned wanting some time to myself, out trot those flipping words. The trouble is, now I’ve heard them so many times, I believe them. If George found out that I’d taken five minutes to myself, I’d never hear the end of it. I’m not sure if it is a good life, but if I were to weaken for five minutes, my life wouldn’t be worth living.
It was whilst collecting his fishing bait from his favourite tackle shop some twenty miles away, when I got the phone call. I dread it whenever my mobile rings. It’s usually George demanding that I collect something else on my way home, despite it being miles out of my way.
When I picked up the phone, I saw it was George’s number and I know I snapped when I answered it. Only it wasn’t George on the other end of the line. It was some paramedic called Terry. He said George had collapsed in town and they were rushing him to the City Hospital. I don’t know what he was doing there, and when I got to the hospital, George couldn’t remember either.
Suddenly the vacuum died on me and I saw George holding the plug.
“I can’t hear the telly.”
“Well you asked me to vacuum.”
“I know, but this is my favourite programme. Go and run the vacuum around upstairs for half and hour, I’m sure the District Nurse won’t be here yet.”
“I used to watch this,” I claimed, watching the opening titles scroll. “Why don’t we sit down and watch it together?”
“It’s a good life Liz, if you don’t weaken,” he said with a pathetic grin, handing me the plug.
Snatching it from him, I turned and lugged the vacuum up the stairs.
When the doctors finally diagnosed George, we were dumbstruck. He’d suffered some kind of allergic shock. He could’ve died had the ambulance not arrived quickly. They don’t know yet what caused it, but apparently, the body can develop an allergy at any time. Well George is certainly allergic to housework. In fact, he’s allergic to lifting a finger.
Pushing the vacuum into the bathroom, the state of the bath was obvious. But it was spotless last night, which means that he had a bath this morning whilst I was out doing the food shopping. I’ll kill him! Aaaarrrggghhh!
Screaming released the tension that had built up. It felt so good. I waited, half-expecting George to shout out to see if I was okay. But he didn’t. He hadn’t heard me over the noise of the vacuum, which made me think. If I left the vacuum running up here, I could nip downstairs to get my almond slice. George wouldn’t find out because he’d think I was still busy vacuuming. Perfect!
Sneaking down the stairs like a naughty child, it wasn’t until I was half way along the hall that I saw his feet lying in the kitchen. Approaching the kitchen door, my hand clasped my mouth in shock as I saw George, lying on his back, eyes and mouth wide open. He was dead.
Stepping over the great oaf, the reason for his collapse was there for me to see on the kitchen table. It was an empty Baker’s box. His fingers gripped the remains of my almond slice. He’d taken one bite, that was all.
I couldn’t help but laugh. It seems he was allergic to nuts. Only this time it’s been fatal. Sending me upstairs was just a means of getting me out of the way so he could gorge himself on my cake. I bet that’s why he was in town the other week. He was at the Bakers. His other tricks become obvious now. That’s why he sent me to the fishing tackle shop twenty miles away. It gave him enough time to get to the Bakers and back without me knowing!
Standing here now, I can see a completely new life opening up before me. Bending down, I pick up the remains of the almond slice from his clutches and bite into it. It’s heaven. In fact, it tastes better than any almond slice I’ve eaten before. But then, this is the first time I’ve savoured an almond slice without fear of George catching me. As the nutty sweetness tantalises my taste buds, I can’t help but wink at my dead husband. Bless him, he was right after all wasn’t he?
“It’s a pity you didn’t practice what you preached George. After all, it’s a good life, if you don’t weaken.”
© Simon Whaley