The house shakes as I slam the front door. God, she makes me so mad. How was I supposed to know we had no milk? Is that my job? And why must I put the damn loo seat down every time? I’m only going to need it back up next time. Haven’t I got enough to be dealing with? And I’ll fix the kitchen sink tap when I’m good and ready.
I stomp purposefully down the street towards the corner shop and search my pockets for the correct money to buy the Observer newspaper. I ignore Hilda, the over-polite shopkeeper, who asks me how I am, toss the change on the counter, fold the paper, and clasp it in my armpit and leave. And no, I didn’t buy any milk. I’m off to the pub. At least there, I will get some peace.
It’s smoky as usual, but I don’t care today… smoke away. The White Hart is full of the usual Sunday lunchtime drinkers… men. It’s buzzing with different conversations, I overhear snippets of these as I order and wait for my pint of bitter…
“So, I told her, stop spending or I’ll take a pair of scissors to the plastic…”
“Geoff was arrested again last night, I don’t know what we are gonna do about him…”
“Come off it! There’s no way that was a penalty Steve! The referee’s a wan…”
I search around, and find an empty table in the corner to read my paper and calm down. I don’t want conversation. I’m not in the mood. I pull my mobile from my coat pocket and switch if off. She can apologise later.
I’m halfway through my pint when he approaches the table.
“Ith anyone thitting here?”
I look up. It’s an anorak. He’s pointing at the empty seat opposite me. I close my eyes for a few seconds. “Feel free..” I nod at the empty seat.
The anorak places his glass, which looks like orange juice, but maybe there is a vodka or a spirit of some kind in it… I doubt it though. I watch him as he removes his anorak and meaningfully folds it into a neat square before placing it on his lap. He sniffs. I turn to page four.
It’s quiet for a few minutes.
‘Ith that the Obtherver?’
‘Pardon?’ I frown at him.
‘The paper. Ith it the Obtherver?’
I frown, again. ‘Yes.’
“Good paper. Tabloidth are thimply dire, aren’t they? Full of topleth women and gothip.”
I study this man for a few moments. I put him at thirty-odd years of age. The severe middle-parting in his jet-black greasy hair, does him no favours. The thick-rimmed glasses he peers over, are not flattering. He has chronic acne. He’s cut himself shaving, several times I see. The checked collar of his shirt appears neatly at the neck of a home-knitted jumper. I think he may start to talk about trains shortly. I turn to page six.
“I’m waiting for my wife. Thuthanne. The’th in Waitrothe. Thopping.”
“I’m sorry?” And I was.
“Thuthanne. Waitrothe. The thupermarket?”
“Oh, Suzanne. Waitrose supermarket. Yes, I see. Good. Nice.” Shut up, please.
“My name is Rodney.”
I should have known. I sigh; I’m not going to be able to ignore Rodney.
“I’m Gary. Pleased to meet you, Rodney. I’m reading the paper, so if you don’t mind…”
“Oh, yeth, yeth, you get on and read your paper. Thorry.”
I smile. “It’s okay.” I continue reading page six.
Rodney does not utter another word until I return with my second pint.
“Thorry, I couldn’t help but notithe you reading about the trouble in Iraq. Terrible, ithn’t it? I blame Blair and Buth, mythelf.”
“Yes, awful state of affairs.”
“All thith fighting and thtuff. Life ith far too thort.”
“Indeed it is, Rodney.” I turn the page.
The headline glares up at me: Sinister Suicide Bid of Sisters Shocks Shrewsbury. I quickly turn the page again.
Rodney sniffs. A lot.
“Nice of you to thpeak to me, Gary. I don’t feel comfortable in platheth like thith. But I hate thopping even more.” He laughs as he takes a sip of his drink.
“Don’t mention it, Rodders.”
“Pardon?” He raises his thick eyebrows.
“Nothing.” I can’t help but smile at him. “How long have you been married, Rodney?” Intrigue has now set in.
“Oh, Thuthanne and I are in our thixth year. You?” He looks at the gold band on my wedding finger.
“Four. Four years.”
“I like being married. I like having thomeone to care for. And of courthe, thomeone to care for me.” He pats his anorak.
I like Rodney.
“Oh talk of the devil…” Rodney is excited as he stands to greet the tiny woman heading for our table. “Thopping done, thweetheart?” He bends down and plants a peck of a kiss on her cheek.
“Yes, Wodney. Is that alcohol?” She glares at the glass.
“No. No, orange juice, thweetie.”
“Good. Wight, well, we weally must be making twacks now. So dwink up.”
Suddenly, I want them to stay a while longer. Rodney carefully pulls on his anorak, takes another sip of his juice and relieves Suzanne of two of the shopping bags.
“Bye, Gary. Pleathure to meet you. Enjoy the retht of your paper. Mutht dath.”
Suzanne smiles at me and off they go. I sit for a few moments staring at the door which Rodney and his wife have just closed behind them.
I grab my mobile, and switch it on. I punch in the number and wait…
“Yes, I’m in the pub, but I’m just about to leave. I’ll grab some milk on my way and stop off at Focus and get the washer for the tap. Okay? Oh, and I love you.”
Raine writes in Leicestershire, UK.