Marry me, Mrs Johnson

“Will you marry, me, Mrs Johnson? ” Ted asked, putting two milk bottles through the kitchen window, always ajar, one gold top and one silver top. He asked this every morning as he delivered the milk. My mother gave him a tired little smile and said what she always said “Oh Ted, I’m already married, you know.” Ted nodded at the customary  answer and walked away with his head down, back to the milk van, his sadness palpable.  I think he really wanted a wife. Ted was a “mongol” as we called a person with Down’s syndrome in the sixties. At eight,  I wondered at the word. He lived alone with his mother and we never knew who his dad was, or cared. Ted was as much part of the village as the vast oak tree on the green, Mrs Hurley in the village shop, or the village vicar. He was always immaculately dressed in a clean, pressed checked shirt, a home knitted grey tank top and twill trousers. He had a job on the milk-round and everyone knew him. He commanded his own respect and only got angry if anyone was unkind to him. Ted and his mother taught me what Care in the Community should be.

Mrs Rouault’s kitchen window

The image of a painting by Sally Swain was hard to track down online, but no matter. In the end, I photographed the image I have.

I have often thought of the wife of Fauvist artist Georges Henri Rouault and my sister while washing the dishes. Let the record reflect that her name was Marthe Le Sidaner. My new abode has the perfect window when engaged in this activity.

The colours are frequently as bright. The colours are either in the glorious sunrises or in my imagination. Sometimes it is a touch of both.

Artist Sally Swain published a book called Great Housewives of Art. The image here is of the greeting card my sister sent me thirty years ago, full of the news of her adventures as a young woman in London.

Alternative caption: Allison does not wash windows, but thinks about it while washing the dishes.

Oh, the dishes I have washed in my life! Oh, the colours I have had the enormous privilege of seeing! The ink of the letter has faded; the colours in my mind’s eye do not.

©2019 Allison Wright
[172 words]

Pictures

So many pictures, all in frames. I am good at drilling holes in walls. I am. My father taught me well, you see. Plus I have had practice. Plenty of it. All the places I have lived.

I won’t be exercising this talent this time, though. I am letting go. Such things are burned already into my soul. I have kept one. My sister knows which one. She and I took turns with the handle of that press.

Her first wood engraving. Nothing else matters. I have an easel on which to display it – as if it were something special. It is. I’ll clean up the easel and the picture this week.

©2019 Allison Wright
[109 words.]

Closure

In front of the house there had been a dead tree. Its bark had long scaled off, leaving it white and bare and raw. A rosebush had fancied it the spot to make its new home and entwined itself around its tall stature—spawning myriads of bright pink blossoms every year, imbuing the air around the house with the scent of summer. There were so many of them that every visitor would get a bouquet of roses, should they want one, and sometimes I would feed one or two flowers to the iguana.

I turn around the corner and reluctantly step onto the street. I used to live here. This is weird. Nothing has changed. The narrow street is lined with the same neatly cut hedges, behind which the deceivingly friendly dwellers of this village lurk. It’s quiet, eerie, just like it had always been, back then. I keep walking towards the house, each step slower than the one before—

…and there it is. A low, wooden fence, and behind it the cowering, red brick stone structure, a lonely, garishly green watering can, and a bench that wasn’t there before. The dead tree must have had to yield to a neatly mowed lawn, and the scent of summer has long since faded away.

[214 words]

(c) 2019 Anett Enzmann

Black for business

James, the geologist, had to walk through my office upstairs to his. That day, he came in after lunch with a new black leather folder that held a pad of A4 paper, and fastened shut with what purported to be a brass clasp.

I greeted him and asked how the interview for the new job had gone. He was somewhat astonished at the question, since he had not mentioned anything about looking for another job to me.

“How did you know?”

I smiled, and took out of my desk drawer my own new folder, identical to his.

“Don’t say anything,” he said.

“I won’t if you won’t,” said I.

©2019 Allison Wright
[119 words.]

Old things

Everyone else thought the candle museum in Sydney was amazing in 1986. So many shapes and colours. To me, it all looked like those useless porcelain figurines people attach value to. On the top floor, there were some other arts and crafts. I was taken by the handwoven cushion covers. Piles of them Any 4 for $10.

I must have spent 30 minutes choosing which ones I wanted. I spent another 30 minutes deciding if I wanted to spent a whole $10. I got good use out of those cushion covers. Decades later they looked a bit shabby, except for the blue one, which was merely frayed around the edges.

I took a piece of denim, and appliquéd two sides to the cushion I made for João’s first wheelchair.

Years later, she got a real cushion, designed especially for her new wheelchair. I stuffed the cushion cover with a new piece of foam rubber and sat on it for years at my desk.

I used it this summer on top of another chair to put my swollen feet up while working

Today I gave an old chair I was refurbishing to a friend. I cannot take it with me when I move. She preferred this old cushion cover to the piece of foam rubber I had not yet covered.

She has a special shack where she sits and thinks at the bottom of her garden.

I remembered about choosing the original cushion cover in Sydney. I had forgotten about the rest until now.

My friend looked nice sitting on the old cushion in the old chair, trying it out for size. She’ll put some life into those old things. I know she will.

©2019 Allison Wright
[279 words. Total time: 11 minutes]

Clarity

“She’s just like you!”

We met Tom and Sally at a small restaurant in Encinitas, California. Tom had picked us up at the airport, but I had yet to meet his wife, son, and sister, who joined us shortly after we had been seated at a large round table. Sally, who had been previously described to me as introverted and awkward, engaged me quite vividly, asking me all kinds of questions about where I was from, what I was doing and the like — the kind of polite scrutiny you would expect upon meeting people for the first time, especially when you’re about to marry their closest friend of thirty years.

After a while I excused myself to go to the restroom — in no small part, to give everyone the opportunity to gossip. My fiancé had been doing this every time we met his friends on this trip: as soon as I left, he would say “So? What do you think? Isn’t she awesome?” I liked that little ritual even though I was slightly embarrassed by the flood of compliments and awe I would receive by proxy when we got home. And this time was no different.

Back in the car, my fiancé told me how Sally — as soon as I was out of earshot — in a moment of clairvoyance had blurted out the one sentence that we keep quoting to each other to this day:

 “She’s just like you!”

To this day we are not sure whether she meant it as a compliment or an insult. But whichever it was, she couldn’t have been more right.

[267 words]

(c) Anett Enzmann 2019