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Posts Tagged ‘Brenton’

Before sleep

In blogopera on May 1, 2011 at 2:22 pm

‘I do not read,’ she said, ‘for the same reason I do not eavesdrop.’

He let his book fall, spine-up, against his chest.

‘Never?’ he asked. ‘You never eavesdrop?’

She shook her head, although on account of the pillow it was more of a rocking from side to side than it was a shaking.

How do you stop yourself? How do you make sure other people’s words don’t drift into your thoughts? Are you never curious, never attracted, never repulsed by the people you see as you wander through your day?

He wondered these things, but he was wary of learning too much more about her. If he took in too much more of her mind or the way she thought, then scratch of her nails as she combed through his hair might no longer be enough.

‘You wouldn’t either,’ she said. ‘Not if you’d met my daughter.’

He had got better at keeping his breaths regular in response to such pieces of news. He had learned not to say, You joined the army, you speak Greek, you sewed your own wedding dress.

But even so, a daughter?

‘It’s set for five,’ she said, then put her phone by the side of her bed. ‘I’ll be gone six. I’ll let you know about dinner, but I don’t think I’ll be back.’

He held his breaths steady, waiting for her to peel the book from his chest.

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Eat by Tuesday or freeze

In Brenton, Christine, Meredith, Paul, Rose, Sue on June 29, 2006 at 11:38 am

There was a new lasagne on the top shelf when Brenton got home and that made three this week.

It was from Sue.

He could see that without taking it out of the fridge. The post-it note was pink (eat by Tuesday or freeze) and the glad wrap was in a tight double layer. It would not stick to the bottom when he dished it out. The sauce would be thick and rich and the layers of pasta would be smooth.

The lasagne would not need salt or extra tomato sauce.

It was not a big dish. Most of them had stopped leaving big dishes. Still, it would be too much for them to finish. Dad was eating hardly anything and Rose never stayed for tea anymore.

That didn’t stop her opening the fridge first thing whenever she came over.

They all think I don’t do enough, don’t they?’ Rose said it about every lasagne, stew and casserole they left. She opened the fridge before she put her bag on the table, before she flicked through the notes next to the telephone. And even when there had been Mum to go and see, the fridge was the first thing Rose did. ‘They think I can’t cope, that I should do more. I can’t do everything, you know. It’s hard enough looking after Max as it is. They’ve forgotten how much work a baby is…’.

Dad had AC/DC playing out in the shed. High Voltage. It wasn’t one he normally played. He hadn’t played much AC/DC lately at all. It had been all Hey Jude in the day and Songs of Love and Hate at night.

Brenton took the parcel from the second shelf. It was a bowl wrapped in a sticky plastic bag held together with masking tape. The masking tape had grey fluff caught along the edges and a long black hair caught underneath. Christine was the only one who didn’t leave notes about how long to warm it (30 minutes in a pre-warmed oven, 180 degrees) or what to add (half a cup of milk, one tablespoon of cream to taste).

He wondered, sometimes, what her family ate. How it would be to live with someone whose voice warbled like that, whose laugh screeched even at jokes that only needed a smile.

Brenton pulled the bag away, but he did not look long at what was inside. He walked across the room and took the large spoon from the top drawer.

He held the pot over the bin.

The pot was heavy, and it was hard to hold it with just one hand while he scraped with the other. His stomach did not turn at the moist noise and the cold smell of the food, but the sound of the spoon against the clay pot was the sound of fingernails on a blackboard.

He thought of the pages of the book they had been reading to Mum. The cover was orange and blue and he had broken the spine – more than once – so the book would stay open in his lap. The paper was not quite white and rough, and Brenton had rubbed his palm across each new page. He had wanted to clench his teeth and to bite at his lip, but he kept reading. He read even when he knew Mum couldn’t hear.

Brenton stood up straight, took the empty pot and put it in the sink. He turned the hot tap on hard and flicked his finger back and forth under the water as he waited for it to warm up. Then he squeezed the detergent in then walked away.

If he left it in the sink like that, someone would wash it tomorrow after they put another meal in the fridge.

Victoria: the rock and roll man (2002)

In Brenton, Mike, Victoria on May 20, 2006 at 9:12 pm

In the morning, Victoria writes milk, cheese, bananas, nappies, nappy wipes. At different times during the afternoon, she adds tissues, shampoo, napi-san, dishcloths, yogurt.

She keeps smoked salmon in her mind and thinks tomorrow she will have it for lunch and if she folds the packet before she puts it in the bin, Brenton will never know.

There are other things – toilet paper, vegemite, stock cubes – they will be needing soon, but she doesn’t have the money today.

She does her shopping at night, after Brenton is home and the kids have been bathed and tea has been served and parts of it eaten, and the table is cleared, but the dishes are still on the sink. She carries go-green bags, her purse and the keys to Brenton’s car.

The day’s restlessness has not emptied from her mind.

The rock-and-roll man is in the nappy aisle, although it is Tuesday tonight. She would have come here first if she had known. She throws the packet of nappies in the trolley, then she pats at her hair, bites at her lips, smooths the front of her shirt.

He is at the other end of the aisle, a pallette of boxes in front of him. He uses a stanley knife to slice the box. He pulls the knife towards him and she thinks they are probably taught to slice the boxes side to side. It is not safe the way he is doing it.

His grey hair is swept from his face, Elvis-style, and his skin is that of a man who has smoked too long. His white shirt is crease-less, tucked neatly into his trousers (black and tight and she wishes he would turn around). He is wearing gold cufflinks, filled with a black stone.

She pulls gently on her earlobe and remembers the onyx earings she used to wear to parties on Saturday nights.

When he looks up, Victoria smiles at him.

He smiles with his mouth and she thinks if he blinks slowly enough, she could kiss the lids of his eyes and rub her hands across his skin.

Victoria would forgive him every flaw and he would not mind that he was fifty years old and working at a job made for adolescent boys.