Saturday 24 June 2017

'Everything Would Be Fine If the Family Would Calm Down' by Helen Rye

Kev did flood damage quotations in an office with giant pot plants that cost hundreds and got their leaves spritzed once a week by women in pink uniforms. It used to smell so lovely in there, like fresh coffee and plant polish and concentration.

Then Kev got made redundant and since then, all he does is he sits at the dining room table making these little tiny model antelopes out of tinfoil and wristwatch components. He says he’s relaxing, but the way his face bunches up together like a cat’s arse while he’s soldering says different, and it’s antelopes, always antelopes, never something like a cow, or just a normal deer. He says you can tell by the horns.
When I ask him, ‘Why the antelopes, Kev?’ he just looks past me and says,

‘Antelopes run free as the air on the plains, Shaz.’

Then he picks up his soldering iron, and a little cog-hoofed tinfoil leg, and that’s that.       

Antelopes, antelopes, antelopes. The word’s got inside my head and upside down and now it always sounds wrong, like a made-up word for nothing in particular. All those toxic-smelling fumes from soldering are not helping him, I am sure, all those metal atoms bumping about in his brain like dodgems, like angry little bees, buzzing and whispering into his cerebral cortex, ‘Kev. Make more antelopes, Kev.’
So what I’m doing now is, I spray him.

I read an article on aromatherapy in a magazine last month, and it said geranium and rose make a relaxing blend that’s especially good for frazzled nerves. So, 600ml of water in a plant sprayer, 30ml of alcohol (I’m using vodka), a few drops of the essential oils, and I spritz it regularly, all around his head. It smells of gardens and undertakers and restfulness.

The kids fight all the time, of course, but now instead of me going into the pantry while the shipping forecast’s on loud and breaking things until it gets to Lundy, Fastnet, Shannon, I use a light mist of patchouli and sulphur around them as a soporific and a warning, and I’m loving a subtle miasma of green morenga for a breakfast-time boost of vitamins.

Yesterday I moved the food out of the pantry and into the shed to make room for the new essential-oil extractor and my scent collection, the rows of bottles with their neat labels, all tranquil blue glass, smooth and still and sapphire-quiet.  I run my fingers over them in the gloom and their little silver lids blink up at me and say,

‘We see you.’

It smells like moonlight and goddesses.

Last night Kevin packed all his antelopes into a tin with bubble wrap and I think he's planning to leave, but that’s ok: I have a scent for that. I’m thinking lavender and beeswax, and I’ll spray it on him while he’s sleeping, which everyone knows is really calming. And that’s what he needs. He needs to Calm. Right. Down.


  1. Nice arc for a short piece, really enjoyed it.

  2. I get the whole antelopes thing and the cats arse

  3. Oh, I remember reading this story before - still love it.


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