THE MARRIED COUPLE
Egor fixed Matilda with his two small grey eyes and lifted one eyebrow, which he mistakenly thought made him look intelligently quizzical, and sighed.
â€œIt is a well known fact,â€ he said with that quiet over-confident voice of his, â€œit is well known that when compared to us men you women really do have quite tiny brains. It has been scientifically proven to my own satisfaction that there never was a woman born who was good at anything other than making babies, and she even needs a man's help at that!â€
â€œYes, sir,â€ whimpered Matilda. â€œOf course you're right, sir. I'm sorry, sir.â€
â€œIn fact,â€ continued Egor, â€œin fact I'm sure I'm right when I say that the day they taught you women to read real books was the day when the slippery slope began. Ever since then, Matilda, my dear, we've been on our way down, and the end will come, you mark my words: the end will come and it will be all because women think they've got more than sentimental mush in their heads when real men know they haven't!â€
â€œI'm desperately sorry, sir,â€ whimpered Matilda, bobbing up and down in the hope the movement would give added truth to her words.
â€œNow, Matilda, while I'm away I want you to forget that you can almost read and can probably have a fair crack at signing your name and remember instead that you are the wife of a Very Important Personage, that is me. Now who is the very important personage, Matilda?â€
â€œYou, sir,â€ she whispered. â€œI'm sorry, sir.â€
â€œAnd while I'm away at work you can do a bit of work of your own. Furniture doesn't get polished on its own, you know, and vegetables don't peel themselves. There's plenty for you to do while I'm away, quite enough for your little mind to concentrate on. And when I get back home tonight I might treat you to a glass of sherry. Just the one glass, mind you, for if the contents of your sweet little head get lost in too much alcohol, nobody knows what will happen. It's too horrible to contemplate! And if you cook me a really lovely dinner with nice rich gravy I might treat you to something else when we go to bed, and you know how you look forward to that, don't you?â€
â€œYes, sir.â€ she breathed, still bobbing up and down.
â€œYou see, Matilda, I need to go out to work. I need to earn the money for you to spend on your pretty make-up and the hairdos you like having. It's for you, my hollow-skulled little angel, not for me! I work long hours to make you happy. Now, kiss me goodbye and promise to be a good girl while I'm gone. And remember the little chores I've ordered you to do. And the gravy. Make it onion gravy and I might let you do it twice!â€
â€œOnion gravy. Sir: yes sir,â€ she whimpered, and then watched him go. Then, as he drove out of sight the phone rang. She smiled for the first time that day and picked up the receiver.
â€œAh, Smothering-Smythe, is that you?â€ she asked into it, her voice suddenly changed and positive.
There was a muted rumble from the other end.
â€œHe has, has he? Really, Smothering-Smythe, I don't know why you keep that man on.â€
Another muted rumble from the other end.
â€œYou don't have to do that!â€ she almost barked into the phone. â€œYou really don't! If he can't cope with the work you'll have to demote him or fire him! We can't have a man like that as a drain on the business! My last book's going into a fifth edition, which is nice, but I don't want to have to subsidise the man's incompetence! It's not easy writing a best seller when you've got an Egor breathing down your neck telling you how useless you are!â€
A third muted rumble followed by a nervous muted laugh.
â€œOh, if you have to fire him I'll find something for him to do,â€ she said, and smiled. â€œAfter all, he seems to have a fetish for dusting and he keeps mentioning onion gravy. That should give him something to get his teeth into. It's all right, Smothering-Smythe, you can fire him! After all, we don't need his money. We can manage really well without it, and a good firing might give him time to pause and think about things.â€
She hung the phone up, and smiled to herself.
â€œBetter get back to the computer,â€ she told herself, â€œbest sellers might be a cinch to write, but they don't write themselves. But at least I won't have to keep it a secret from Egor any more! Won't he get a shock when he discovers who his favourite crime writer really is! It might even be a crime letting him find out!â€
And she laughed all the way to her computer, and switched it on.
Â© Peter Rogerson 23.04.12