Silly bit of it
‘Where the heck is it?’ Peter muttered. He frowned in contemplation while scratching his scalp through tufts of pepper grey hair. The quirk was a throwback to his childhood. It was an involuntary action which occurred whenever he was in the depths of concentration or nearing the brink of irritation. Marlene often teased him about it and, more often than not, gave out to him for messing his hairstyle.
‘It’s got to be here somewhere.….Urrrgh!’ Frustratingly he knew it was time to call in the cavalry.
‘Mar?’ It was his wife’s turn to cook dinner, but that could wait.
‘Mar?’ She was always pretending not to hear him; he knew what she was up too.
‘MARLENE?’ he eventually bawled down the stairs.
In the kitchen, Marlene’s grip tightened on the paring knife. She closed her eyes, ground her teeth, and took a deep breath before answering. ‘What?’
‘Have you found it yet?’
Peter had been tearing up the house for the best part of the morning searching for it. In truth, she gave up looking for it hours ago, but to appease him she feigned examining draws and presses when he was within visual range only to return to whatever it was she was doing the moment he left. She knew it was perfectly acceptable to have the person you loved annoy the hell out of you from time to time. Peter did exactly that on the odd occasion like that morning, or whenever things did not go according to his plan, or whenever his team lost a game, or whenever he came down with a dose of sniffles. But she loved him all the same and made a point of annoying him in equal measures.
Placing the paring knife on the chopping board, Marlene picked up a semi-naked carrot and mimicked strangulation. Since that morning Peter seemed to be making an extra effort to annoy her. Marlene was fed up and decided, as was her right, to frustrate him even more. ‘Have you tried the sock draw?’
‘How about the shelf in the box-room?’
‘The storage cartons under the stairs?’
‘Yes!’ he snapped.
‘The garden shed?’
‘What would it be doing in the garden shed?’
‘I don’t know. I’m just asking.’ Marlene strained to keep the humour from her voice.
‘No! I have not tried the garden shed. I never bring it near the garden shed.’
‘What about the bathroom cabinet, have you tried there?’
‘The old tea-chest?’
‘Have you tried under the bed?’
‘Of course. What do you think I’ve been doing?’
‘I don’t know… Did you try the airing cupboard?’
‘Are you joking? Do you think I’m some kind of idiot to keep it in the airing-cupboard?’
Now that she had her fun, Marlene picked up the knife and finished undressing the skin from the poor carrot. ‘No, Peter. I don’t think you’re an idiot…a pain in the ass, yes!’ She added.
‘I heard that.’ Peter barked down the stairs.
‘You were meant too.’ Marlene smiled as a sense of victory washed over her.
Upstairs, Peter shook his head before returning to the task at hand. Bloody airing cupboard. Think, think… he thought as his scalp was well and truly raw by scratching.
‘Hey Peter, what do you want it for anyway?’
‘What?… What do I want it for?’ he wondered. The reason for needing it had long since been outstripped by the principle of finding it. She would skin him alive if he couldn’t remember. ‘Ahh, just for something, okay. Just let me look for it first and I’ll tell you then.’ He hoped it was a good enough response until he remembered his initial plan. Once he found it, he knew its purpose would accompany its discovery. Peter, however, had another problem: there was nowhere else left to search except the airing cupboard. Relenting, he took off his shoes and tiptoed across the landing. He would be damned if he was going to give Marlene the satisfaction.
As Marlene scraped the vegetable peelings into a brown compost bucket a satisfied grin spread across her face. She was positive she heard him tiptoeing about, and if she knew their house as well as she figured there was only one place he was heading. ‘I thought it wouldn’t be in the airing cupboard,’ she called up.
Damn! ‘I’m not looking for it there,’ he shouted back hoping she believed his lie.
Marlene wrung her hands on a towel and snuck up the stairs. ‘Gottcha!’ she yelled.
Peter was rummaging through some linen when she startled him. Panting, half from the fright and half from embarrassment, he dropped the linen to the floor. ‘Mar, you can’t be sneaking up on me like that. Not with my blood pressure.”
His expression of panic only made her laugh louder. But all joviality waned as she reached the bedroom. ‘Look at the state of this!’ she exclaimed while threading carefully over the contents of several upturned draws. Clothing, papers, and an assortment of keepsakes and tokens of their individual and shared life together were strewn about the carpeted floor and bed. Marlene shifted some clothing and long forgotten bank statements to one side of the bed and sat down. The mattress’ protest went unnoticed as she rested herself. ‘I’ll tell you this! I’m not cleaning it up. Do you hear me, Peter?’
‘Stop fretting. I don’t expect you to clean up my mess. Besides…’ he entered the room and for the first time actually noticed the piles of jumbled belongings that accumulated on every flat surface m. ‘…sorry, Mar. I didn’t know it got this bad.’ His jaw slackened and his hand was once more occupied in the task of cranium scraping as he figured out where to begin tidying up. ‘Sorry,’ he groaned again apologetically.
‘Come ‘er you mug. Will you look at your hair, it’s worse than the room.’ Marlene shoved more debris to one side of the bed making room for him.
Resigned to the faith all was lost, Peter conceded with a tut. He dropped his hand from his scalp knowing she was probably right about his receding strands. He gave her hand a gently squeeze and sat beside her.
‘What’s so important about it anyway?’
‘Nothing…nothing, and that’s what’s annoying me. I’m searching out of principle of finding the blasted thing.’ Their eyes locked in a gladiatorial moment of battle. Then the struggle to keep up such a serious demeanour over something so trivial was useless. They both began to laugh. It was short-lived as Peter’s eyes swept the room again.
Marlene knew it was futile to stop him. Conceding she asked, ‘When did you last see it?’
‘Just before I put it away,’ he said smugly, gaining a little bit of heart with the reply.
‘Funny.’ Marlene threw a meaty arm around his narrow shoulders. He leaned into the warm embrace, heaving an exaggerated breath.
After a moment of silence Marlene spoke, ‘You know, if you do find it you should throw it out. It’s an ugly piece of junk.’
‘Nonsense! It’s been in my family for years. It’s practically an heirloom.’
‘It’s a piece of crap. If you listened to me a month ago you could’ve had five of them for the price of two. But no. You’re like one of those hoarders at times, I swear.’
‘I wouldn’t expect you to understand, It’s a man’s thing,’ Peter added the footnote with a sneer.
Marlene took her arm off his shoulder and turned to face him. Her eyes narrowed. It was the usual quite before the storm. Peter waited for the onslaught.
‘Oh! No, no, no, no. No, Peter. You’re not turning this argument in to a sexist quarrel. I’m on to you, mister,’ she waggled an index finger inches from his face. ‘Every time you run out of answers you always play this card. Well, I’m not fallen for it.’
Peter grinned widely. ‘Nearly had you.’
‘No,’ her anger subsided. Then, tilting her head slightly, she looked into his eyes, ‘you have got me.’ She nodded to the bed.
‘Now, Marlene, don’t be giving me that look. I know that look.’
‘So you should. You’ve got the same one. Come ‘er and kiss me.’
As they kissed they simultaneously collapsed back onto the bed. Suddenly, a scream of agony erupted from Marlene as a spasm of fiery pain shot into her lower back.
Coming to her aid, Peter jumped off her and rolled her onto her side. Her hand rubbed the tender spot of her back. ‘Ooooch, what the F was that?’
‘Don’t move,’ Peter advised tenderly. He gently leaned over her. ‘Oh, Marlene. You little Dixie. You found it.’
There on the bed, concealed beneath doctor bills, sports socks and a sweater she thought she lost, was Peter’s treasure. Giddy with joy, he snatched it up off the bed and raced down the stairs leaving Marlene crumbled in two on the bed. ‘Oh, to hell with it!’ she cursed.