Personal stuff, not tech, some fiction

The Sure Cure

This piece was written as a quick exercise based on two writing prompts: sentences plucked at random from books, with the aim to write something that connects the two. Normally these are quite throwaway, little warm-ups to get me in the mood to write, but I like something in this story. It’s not finished, and I might not finish it. But it’s fun.

“Did you know coffee grounds are a sure cure for baldness?” His booming voice came from the kitchen, and even though I couldn't see him, I knew exactly what he was doing: holding the empty coffee pot at a 45-degree angle, staring intently at the mucky grounds at the bottom, and pondering whether to fish them out and spread them across the glossy patch at the crown of his head.

I say at the crown: the reality was that the default state of his head was hairless, with only a fringe above the ears indicating he had once had long, flowing, amazingly sexy hair. It was the first thing that attracted me to him and the first thing I loved about him that disappeared.

“I said, did you know that coffee grounds are a sure cure for baldness?” he marched into the living room where I was trying to write, coffee pot in hand. It was, as predicted, tilted away from him. There were toast crumbs in his ridiculous moustache, the one I had been trying to convince him to get rid of for about twenty years. It made him look like a banker.

“Yes,” I mumbled under my breath. “Now can you please go away and leave me alone while I try and write.”

He puffed his chest out, face drooping as he realised I really wasn't interested in either the grounds or the state of his head. “Oh. Sorry.” He turned and wandered back to his spot in the kitchen, the place he always stood. It's not just that everything he did and said was entirely predictable. Perhaps after 30 years of marriage, that was something to expect, even to embrace. I knew couples our age who celebrated these little rituals, and even loved each other more for them.

It was his complete lack of awareness that I had changed and how much I didn't want him to be there, being exactly the same for the rest of my life.

“Are you getting ready?” came another shout from the kitchen. “We need to go in ten minutes, and you're not even dressed for the funeral.”

Annoyingly he was right. I had been lost in the writing, the work which was now sustaining us in, as he said “the style to which we have become accustomed” after he took early retirement. He took the role reversal easily, me now the breadwinner, him the semi-useless domestic help.

Twenty minutes later, we were in the car, the one that he insisted that I should be a passenger in even though his driving was getting increasingly worse. He claimed it was down to him needing new glasses. Of course, actually, just getting new glasses was beyond him: the calls and letters from the optician were ignored, the glasses he had increasingly perched on the end of his nose as he looked over them to read. It was another thing which made me dislike him.

We pulled up at the cemetery and got out. Another friend gone, another family with their loved one torn away by time. And here was I, wishing it was him. My life had been a long series of waiting games: waiting for him to want to marry me, waiting for a baby to appear, waiting for our child to leave home so I could have some peace. And now waiting for him to finally do the thing which most mattered to me: dying and freeing me from his everyday annoyance.

By the graveside, the children clustered around their mother. They were holding hands at the funeral: a tiny gesture of love and care. Would anyone hold hands at mine? He wouldn't be there to see it (I was very sure of that), and our daughter had no siblings to hold hands with. Perhaps my sister would be there and give her that simple human gesture of love. If she bothered to come, of course. My sister and I were best described as “not close”.

I wanted him gone. Why wouldn't he do the decent thing and just die? Some days I even fantasised about taking that into my own hands. Bludgeoning him to death with a leg of lamb, which I would then feed to the detectives investigating his murder. Tying him up in a warehouse full of explosives with a timer, then calling the police and sending them to the wrong address.

Batman. Was that from Batman? My head was always full of other people's stories and endings. Perhaps that was why I found it so hard to write my own.

No more watching “Murder she wrote” at 2am with a bottle of wine open for me.

I made up my mind: I would cure him of his baldness for good.