Monday, February 7, 2011

The Bastard

The woman leaned against the kitchen sink, grinding the palms of her hands into the cold metal sides. Her shoulders hunched, her aching head as dry and hot as a termite mound pressing down her spine. She was smiling. Not because she was happy, but as a defense. Perhaps she’d get away with the disappointment, the anger, the hurt she was feeling if she didn’t let it show. Inside, though, the last few bubbles of hope that today would be different popped as listlessly as the ones sliding about on the murky dishwater. It was a Monday.

She bit her lip as she tried to figure out how the pattern worked: To most people, it would appear that she had a life that wasn’t too bad. Half-day job, shops on the way home, two children to be collected from school and then a bit of cleaning and cooking. That was enough to make up a life, right? And her husband, a man loud in front of friends, silent in the home, mostly. He wasn’t a bastard. And yet… in her head, she’d call him just that at the end of every sentence. Like some coffee, dear? dear bastard, Food alright, bastard? Your subscription’s arrived, bastard, she’d say, sliding across the plastic-sealed copy of who-the-hell cares digest, or whatever it was he liked to read. Truth is, she didn’t. She couldn’t actually call him a bastard, but the word punctuated her every thought about him.

But he wasn’t overtly horrible to her. He’d comment on her clothes. Haven’t seen that in a while, he’d say, his face an unreadable mask- unreadable, so she’d write lines of her own: Haven’t seen you looking so fat in ages, he’d say to her, in her inner-husband voice. He’d touch her hair, making her flinch. When the hell did you get so grey, he’d say, inner-husbandly, get some bloody dye and sort it out! My mates are gonna think you’re the kid’s granny! He didn’t actually say that, either, but just his touch would make her think that. And her personal favourite. The silent butt-cup: He’d stand behind her as she ironed his endless shirts, and cup her buttocks with his hands. Her inner-voice would almost scream at that point. Lard ass, fatso, bloody whale-pig-cow, the voice would shriek in her ear.

But he never said those things. Sure, he’d make little jokes over a braai, in front of their friends- but that was just foolish man-talk: the little jibes about breasts starting to hang too far, or about the way the flesh on her upper arms was no longer moving in synch with the rest of her arm. And the sideways glances at the younger mothers as their tops shifted, exposing flat bellies, when they scooped up their toddlers in their toned arms. That was maybe the biggest betrayal of all. The bastard.

And they’d lie in bed after the mild physical labour of infrequent and passionless sex, each staring at the ceiling. He’d be patting himself on his own stomach, a landscape which seemed to have avoided the mudslide of beer poured down his throat, and the slap, slap, slap would infuriate her. She wanted to fold up inside herself, climb into a little box inside her head like a contortionist and disappear. She couldn’t look at herself in the mirror- had to keep a gown handy, had to slip away in the dark to remove her make-up.

She stood at the sink, knuckles white as she clutched the sides, rocking a little. She felt a little scared as she watched the knives drying in the plastic container, their teeth bared, and looked away. Hopefully that series with George Clooney would be the viewing choice for tonight- she’d have to wait and see what the bastard chose. The bastard.


  1. In awe. One day your friends *will* lock you away in a room with beer and a laptop but limited cigarettes until you write us a novel... #justsaying

  2. Glad you enjoyed it.... Uhm, it wasn't based on anybody in particular, and nor was it any kind of insight into my personality. Dunno what the heck it was. Thanks for the offer of beer asnd a locked room, Yme.

  3. love your writing Scott as usual you know just how to set a scene, but this one was a bit too close to home for me. Stil awesome read. Yme i like the idea of the locked room!!!

  4. Thanks, Wenchy and K. Hey, K- I should have had a disclaimer- all fiction, no resemblance to any person, living or dead, etc, etc.


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