Saturday, 21 June 2014

'Things We Do Not Talk About' by Viccy Adams

Mildred passed Ernie the small silver jug of cream and he attempted to balance the blue cup and saucer on the thick ridges of his corduroy trousers.
‘Let me.’ Her fingers left small mists on the buffed surface of the jug as she turned it in her hand and poured for him. Ernie shifted slightly against the back of the sofa and held his breath until she sat back. 
‘Lovely flowers.’ Seven or eight tall stems stood in a white ceramic vase, blue heads tilted to one side as if waiting for a question. ‘Irises were my mother’s favourite.’
‘John and I celebrated our anniversary last week. Seventeen years.’
From the other side of the room, Mildred’s husband heard his name mentioned and walked round the elephant. He pulled the sleeve of his navy jumper up to reveal the chunky brass face of an oversized watch. Ernie nodded his appreciation of the exposed mechanisms and, when the elephant finished trumpeting, asked John if he noticed the extra weight of the metal strap, remembering that last year’s watch had a dark brown crocodile-effect leather strap.
After a moment’s considered raising and lowering of his arm John said that no, he didn’t. Then Betsy leant to look round the elephant, asking what the three of them were talking about and her blue mug slipped from the blue saucer in her hand and a thick splash of coffee landed on the cream carpet next to the rolling, unbroken china.

Some hours later – back in their own house – Betsy turned to Ernie and asked him again what the three of them had been discussing so seriously and whether he thought Mildred would really be able to get the stain out with white vinegar.
‘Nothing really,’ Ernie replied. ‘Probably be fine.’
‘Her face. I wanted to laugh: nerves more than anything.’ Betsy put her earrings down on the dressing table and reached over the elephant’s back. Ernie passed her the dressing gown from the back of the door, then went to fetch a glass of water. The elephant unfurled its trunk and stroked his arm as he passed its head. Ernie patted it and wondered if there were any more peanuts in the cupboard over the sink or if he had forgotten to buy them again.
By the time Ernie returned, Betsy was on the phone to a friend, relaying the story of Mildred’s face and the carpet. She raised her eyebrows at the peanuts and shook her head and said she’d be done in a minute. Ernie got into bed and Betsy went downstairs. Ernie turned the light out and lay listening to the elephant’s drowsing breathing. When Betsy came back through, both Ernie and the elephant were snoring.


(first published in issue 31/32 of Brittle Star, 2013)

No comments:

Post a Comment