Monday, February 17, 2020

The Mummy Track by Rosemary Johnson

A young mother longs to make more of her career, but dare she ask her husband to make a sacrifice for her? By Rosemary Johnson.

Wake up, Rod. I have to talk to you, please. Now.

I know it's early, but listen to me, please. I've been meaning to say this for... you don't know how long... but, whenever I open my mouth to speak, something else happens, something more important, more urgent. Then another year passes and here I am in the same place, every autumn.

Such a little thing I'm asking for. Please don't make it into a big thing.

No, it's not what you think. I'd never do that. I love you very much and I always will, and our darlings, Gemma and Laura, but I can't carry on like this. My life is passing away.

You're going to say I'm getting my violin out. Well, maybe. But no, actually, no. Everything I've done, I've done for them and for you. Years of searching the supermarkets for your favourite peppermints and untwisting the wrappers, silently, during our boxset evenings, so you don't miss a moment of our film. Years of taking the Gemma and Laura to birthday parties, with cards and presents. Years of working to pay for the little extras we need. How lucky I thought I was to get a job as a teaching assistant. Fits in nicely with school hours and school holidays, doesn't it?

Did I tell you about what happened in class yesterday? The kids were making beetroot brownies. You wouldn't believe it, Rod. The teacher used twice as much butter as it said in the recipe and she didn't have enough eggs. And the mess the children made with the beetroot. Good thing I had some baby-wipes in my bag.

But is this it, Rod? Is this my life, all of my life, until I reach sixty-seven or however old I have to be to receive a state pension?

I can see my own hearse. As clear as your van in our drive.

What I'm asking is just a little thing. Please don't make it into a big thing.

You see, I'm not just Mummy. Laura will be nine next birthday and Gemma's getting on for eleven. Have you noticed how Gemma's developing? In a few months she'll have the figure and curves of a woman. I know she looks like me, like the girl you fell in love with years ago. They won't want to call me Mummy anymore. They'll be teenagers and I'll be Mum. They'll move on and I must do the same.

What I'm asking is really just a little thing. I need you to stay at home on Monday evenings. To look after the girls while I attend a maths class. For a year. This year.

You're not still asleep, are you? It's half past six, and the alarm goes off at quarter to seven.

That's what it is, Rod. Just that. Monday evenings. I know you always go to the pub with Dave and Lee on Mondays. I know Monday is darts night. It's a little thing, but actually quite a big thing.

Last night I dreamed I was lying in my coffin. Men in black suits were closing the lid. Darkness was falling across me. Silky lilac lining soft brushed against my skin, and, when I awoke this morning, it took me a minute to realise that it was our mauve duvet cover against my shoulder. Wake up, Rod, do wake up.

I understand you're tired. I know how hard you work, and about the long hours. You're a wonderful husband and father, the best. My parents didn't want us to get married, did they? Neither did yours. They said we were too young. We were, even though we already had Gemma, and Laura was on the way. But you know - and I know - that we'll be together for ever.

I need this thing, Rod. Please wake up. You can't imagine, how hard it is to say all this, and I'm getting no reaction. I'm asking you to be at home on Mondays, your darts night. I know you're not going to like it, but, please, at least, let's talk about it.

I've been a TA for five years. Another year of watching the vivid autumn yellow, red and purple dahlia heads in the school allotment wither and fade to brown and their vigorous green stems turn black with frost. I hate seeing something so grand and glowing with colour rotting away.

I could stand up in front of the class. I could teach. Oh, you must be awake now, Rod. There. I saw your eyelid flutter.

I must've spoken to the teachers a hundred times. I've had to tell them about my maths GCSE, of course. You need C or above in English and maths. I've read this on the Department of Education website. I've got English but you know how ill I felt that day I took my maths GCSE. Morning sickness, my stomach churning like a concrete mixer. All your fault, Rod. Well, partly. It takes two.

The adult community college runs GCSE maths classes in our school. On Monday evenings. I've seen the posters on the walls.

There. You've opened your eyes at last, Rod. Will you do it? Monday evenings?

...Yeah, darts night.

...I know you're in the darts team, but that's when the maths class is.

...No, they don't do maths classes on other evenings. Just Mondays.

...How long for? A year.

...Yeah, a whole year.

...How long will it take me to train as a teacher? You were listening. You weren't asleep. Three years, but I need to get a C in maths GCSE first.

...You'll do it? Oh, I love you, Rod. I love you so much.

...Hang on. You want to go to college too? To take electrical qualifications? Oh, okay.

...On Thursdays? But that's my Pilates night and I go out with the girls afterwards... Oh, all right. All right, all right. I'll do it.

12 comments:

  1. Entertaining story with a unique style. The wife displays a very interesting perspective of the marriage and the family. It makes me wonder what the husbands perspective would be (though the fact that he pretends to sleep through the majority of the conversation might be a hint). Thanks for sharing your work.

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  2. I enjoyed the creative approach to using monologue as dialoge.I believe the ending is hopeful.

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  3. What a lovely story: engaging voice, keen eye for detail (eg, untwisting the wrappers, silently, during our boxset evenings, so you don't miss a moment of our film) with a satisfying surprise at the end.
    I do hope she enjoys her Maths class! We were a lot older but a friend from my university maths course did her final exams with her new baby in a cot beside her.

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  4. A surprise ending since I expected the husband to either be sleeping or not caring, but it turned out hopeful and that was the surprise.

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  5. I also expected a different reaction from Rod, perhaps because I felt that the wife expected a different outcome based on her manner of pleading her case...seemed like she was bracing for an argument. Interesting touch that she was immediately forced her to reciprocate to avoid being hypocritical...trying to decide if that was a purposely petty move on Rod's part, or if he was simply inspired by his wife's ambition. The vibe seems to tilt more toward the hopeful so I'm leaning in that direction. ;)

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  6. A story that illustrates the give-and-take in a marriage in an interesting way, keeping readers wondering whether the husband is going to be selfish and deny his wife the opportunity to better herself. Loved the ending when the tables were turned and concessions made by both. As the previous reader commented, this marriage is likely to survive trials and tribulations!
    Beryl.

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  7. Effective (mostly) 2nd person narrative, and with a great hook. Comes together nicely in an ending that was credible yet surprising for is banality, a gentle twist. Speaks to the evolution of a modern marriage.

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  8. That is good Rod didnt make this into a "big thing." Nicely written. Marriages succeed or fail on such compromises.

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