Saturday, 6 June 2020

'How to Cope' by Audrey Niven

She didn’t have a plan. It wasn’t something she’d dwelt on for weeks or talked about with her friends, bitching over cheap wine.

She’d cleared up the spills and crumbs of breakfast, throwing the wasted crusts in the bin. There was half a loaf left for the rest of the week.

It was the washing that did it, though. Pink. Every fucking thing pink. She’d murder somebody one of these days and nobody would blame her.

She started writing a note. How to do the washing. Sort the colours from the whites. Two piles. One scoop of powder. Quick wash, brackets: cheaper.

She made a coffee after that and sat looking at the piece of paper while she drank it. There were no biscuits left.

She got up and hunted round the kids’ bedroom for more paper. There was a notebook with unicorns on it that no-one was using. She took a clean page.

How to do the shopping. Make a list. Don’t buy what you won’t eat in a week. Shop around. Get the Aldi super six for fruit and veg. Three for two is a waste of money and nobody finishes the stuff.

How did nobody else in the house know this?

She filled the next pages with how to clean the kitchen and the bathroom: shop’s own bleach and elbow grease, basically. How to relight the pilot light in the boiler. A long list of what Sammy doesn’t eat. Then Caitlin. She should do one of those circle diagrams with the overlapping bit in the middle where she could write beans, toast, sausages, plain pasta.

How to make twenty-one meals a week out of that lot.

She turned the page and wrote about how to catch the bus to Gran’s house, how to top up the mobile, how to wash Caitlin’s hair, how to handle cuts, grazes and burns. By lunch time the pages of the notebook had curled up from the pressure of her pen.

She washed her face and tidied the bedroom. How to make the beds, she thought, as she did it. How to open a window and let some air into the stifled sweaty-sock stink of the room. She picked up the tee shirt and knickers she had slept in; Gary’s washed out boxers. How to have sex. She didn’t write that down.

She got down on her knees and reached under the bed, her arm stretched its full length, scrabbling for a hold. Got it. She pulled out the teenage rucksack she’d packed all her belongings in when her ma threw her out. It was covered in dust. How to hoover. She packed it again, not stopping to write: How to pack a bag.

She found her shoes, keys, purse. How to cope.

She set the unicorn notebook on the couch with the remote control on top of it. Unmissable.
How to lock the door behind you.

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