Threescore and Ten
Today is the
wife’s seventieth birthday. I popped out this morning and sneakily bought a
card and a bunch of bright yellow daffodils from the garage on the corner. But please, don't let on! For all she knows I went out yesterday and got them, but to
be honest I just didn’t get chance.
I have so many things to do around the house these days. For a start we seem to have a strange smell coming from somewhere. It’s unpleasant; rather sharp and sickly in the nostrils. The wife keeps moaning about it, insisting that a bird or some other critter has got stuck up the chimney and died. I have tried shining a torch up there, but I can’t see anything. And anyway, it seems to be coming from somewhere in the living room or kitchen.
That’s not all. The rooms are becoming more and more cluttered and dusty; and because me and the wife both suffer with chronic back problems, we can’t seem to keep on top of the cleaning. Our three children have long since moved out and started their own lives elsewhere. None of them drop by very often. In fact, I don’t think the wife has had a birthday card off any of them. That makes me angry. We brought them up better than that.
Anyway. Back to the smell. I’m in the living room looking for the cause of it. I have to step over the dinner plates from last night; and plates from the night before (mental note: Must wash up later) and look behind the sofa. It seems worse here.
You’re blocking the telly, the wife just yelled! I mutter sorry and step out of the way. As I do so, I knock over a stack of newspapers that really need putting in the recycling bin. I kick them angrily.
Temper, temper, the wife smiles. I return the smile, but it’s strained. I need help around the house, but her back problems seem worse than mine. Instead, I re-stack the yellowing newspapers and carry on searching for the bad pong.
I go into the kitchen, sniffing and frowning. Bad in here too, but not to such an extent. God! Look at those worktops! Can’t see them for dirty plates, cutlery and tea-splashed mugs. I must get round to cleaning up later.
Back into the living room. Ask the wife if she would like anything to eat or drink. She says no; at least I think she said that. Hard to tell with her. She tends to mumble a lot just lately.
Instead, I put her daffodils in a vase and place them on the windowsill. First I have to wipe away a few dead flies. Then I stand back and admire the flowers. A splash of bright colour against the grey net-curtains. They need taking down and washing really. I will do that next week.
Back to finding the source of the smell. If we had any pets I’d swear they had gone to the toilet in here! That’s what it’s like. It’s like shit.
On my hands and knees now (wincing as my seventy-two year old back clicks sharply) and peer beneath the sofa. Lots of food crumbs and tangled dust-balls. Looks like a battle field from my point of view; the carpet fibres represent mud, the dust-balls snarled barbed-wire. Anyway, nothing under there. I stand up with a grunt. The wife is staring at me. She looks ill. Sunken-in. Like that painting called The Scream or something.
Watch the telly, not me, I say. I only mean it in a joking way but she doesn’t laugh or anything. I look over at the TV, wondering what it is she’s watching, and notice that it isn’t even switched on. That’s odd. Could have sworn it was. The screen is coated in a layer of dust. But then again, what isn’t?
As I walk by the sofa I lay a hand on the wife’s shoulder; to reassure her everything will turn out ok. She feels cold. I should put the heating on really, but it costs a lot of money.
I love you, I say.
Love you too, hubby! Till I’m threescore and ten!
I smile and shake my head. That’s an old saying from our younger days. I remember dancing with her to Strangers on the Shore at our local club all those years ago, circling the floor, swaying slowly to the dulcet tones. Never leave me, I remember saying. Her eyes had been sapphire blue; like a tropical pool. I wanted to swim in them forever.
Never. I’m with you till I’m threescore and ten and beyond . . .
I’m still smiling as I wander into the kitchen for no apparent reason. I pause for a moment, frowning, and then wander back into the living room.
The wife has slumped. She does that a lot I’ve noticed. I straighten her up and flap away a fly that is crawling across her face. Pesky things. I ask her if she wants a cup of tea, but I don’t get an answer.
The smell is back. Strong; bitter. I should open a window or something, even if it’s just to get some of these flies out, but the wife hates being cold. I sit down next to her and pull her close. She doesn’t protest.
It’s a funny thing, life. You meet all sorts of people throughout it; a seething mix of both good and bad, but the ones that mean something – I mean, truly mean something – never seem to stay with you for long. As human beings we’re fated to hate change, no matter what the next person says. Change is big, and in my opinion never good. I like things to stop as they are. I’m fine with that. I love the wife and she loves me; so why should we bring that to an end?
So. I’ll sit here a while and hold her against me. She’s cold and I need to warm her up. I’ll sing to her. She likes that. Afterwards I’ll start looking for what’s causing that terrible smell. I might even start cleaning. Then again, perhaps I won’t.
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