I had a bit of a low a couple of weeks back. Fred had not got his job yet, the bills were piling up, the money was running out. A friend from uni had been round with her daughter who is doing a diploma in Engineering. I saw that she will spend her life being highly sought after to design bridges or something equally wonderful. My confidence in all my artsy-fartsy decisions suddenly imploded and I saw things afresh.
I thought: WTF have I been doing encouraging my kids into the arts? Why would you do that? Fred and I will die and they will be left on this Earth with no money. Oh, bollocks, I thought, why did we not do Kumon Maths instead of rehearsals for the Sound of Music? Trips to the theatre could have been trips to the Science Museum. My choice! How did I manage to be so misguided for litrally twenty years? I have not been living in the real world! People did try to tell me this, but I didn’t listen.
Look at all those years spent in darkened theatres, rehearsing, performing, gigging, dragging your double bass through the mud or heaving it onto trains. I thought Tabby would sail into drama school due to those years. Ha! Shows how little I knew and how much I was bolstered by self-delusion.
I am not a practical person. Odd, because I do love stirrup leathers and nosebands, throat lashes, saddle soap and hoof picks, but I suspect this is due to one of my past lives. But I wondered then, during this crisis, if I should have been MUCH more balanced in valuing all branches of knowledge, rather than allowing my default setting to surface. (Maths? Ugh!)
A couple of weeks later I have recovered. I’m still a bit shaken but I still believe deep down that the Arts fill in the gaps, support our souls, allow us to access lost parts of ourselves and nourish our connectedness one to the other.
Anyway, on to the business of the moment: Shardonnay, Part 4.
Chapter 7. Not an Easy Job.
One day Shelley an me we was in Baroosh and she comes out with, ‘You is getting a fair amount of money, Shardie, for not very much work.’
‘Oh, like, SOO not true!’ I shot straight back. ‘Oh, my god, I can’t believe you just said that!’ Ooh, me indignation got me chokin on me pain au chocolate. Course what you gotta remember is, Shelley’s bloke can only get it up once a day, so maybe she were a touch jealous of all the cash what I were getting. ‘It’s a lot of work, Shelley! And it’s awkward, as you well know. Nicking sperm day in day out, without the person finding out? Skill required! People say blokes never want to indulge in conversation after having an orgasm? That’s like sooo not true! Matt’s always trying to get me to talk or lie there and cuddle. How long can you cuddle with a gob-load of spunk? You try it, it ain’t easy.’
I stopped talking for a long slurp on me latte. But I got more to say, this here is me pet subject! ‘And then I keep worrying like the little darlins are gonna die if they don’t get their chance to be shot up someone quick!’ I can’t help it, I let loose a big cackle at this. I am just so funny, I can’t stop laughin at me own jokes. And honest, I ain’t being funny or nothin, but that sperm is well fizzy in yer gob. You can like feel it being alive, and eager to get crackin in its little race!
But it weren’t easy. Often Matt would grab me as I were headin off. ‘Oy, come back here,’ he said, his voice husky and warm. ‘Don’t go rushing off.’
With a big valuable mouthful of sperm whatcha gonna say? Whatcha gonna do? I would make a cooing little moany sound and nuzzle his neck. Then, very carefully, I went off and flushed the loo so he would think I had had to go. Then I rushed downstairs to spit into me jam-jar.
Another time he sighed, out of the blue, as he’d just shot his load: ‘You know, Shardie my darling? I know you’re quite a lot younger than me but….do you think we might be ready to start having children?’
‘Mmm, mmm?’ I said, wiggling my eyebrows. I rushed off to spit, charged over the road and came back to nip that little idea in the bud! Thing is, no way were I going to get into that trap. Long boozy lunches’d be out of the question with kids. I’ve seen em the mums with babies and toddlers. They can’t have a proper chat with their mates. They’re always hunched over in the caff, feeding em, fussing over em. Them babies always start to cry. And OMG all mums with kids, don’t they just let themselves go? They forget to make up, they forget to dress! It’s like the kid sucks all of the life out of em! No way, Jose, that’s what I say.
For sure though, I were too bloody smart to tell him that. ‘Sure, my love, let’s think about it,’ I soothed. ‘I’ll come off the pill in a few months, eh?’
He went all soppy at the thought. Ugh, doncha just hate it when a man gets soppy. ‘What will we call our little baby?’ he simpered.
I rolled my eyes (to myself of course.) ‘Oi, give us a bloody chance, mate! Don’t go puttin the cart before the orse!’
Chapter 8. The Horde Come Knocking
So one day, just before Christmas, I were halfway through painting a ‘statement wall’ in my bedroom a pale mauvey violet, when the doorbell went. Cursin and swearin, I got down off of me ladder, went downstairs and opened the door. OMG if it weren’t a whole horde of the little buggers, a dozen or so of em, all ages like from about six to fifteen. The lip, the purple flash, the white hair, I’m tellin ya, this lot had it all. I stared at them like I’d seen a ghost. So odd to see, like all developed in the flesh, that tiny thing what you just held in your mouth for one brief minute.
‘Jesus Christ! Where did you come from?’ I muttered.
The tallest boy, the one I knew already, with creamy skin and the bluest most startlin eyes you ever saw in yer life, holding the hand of a little girl in a furry hood, stumbled over his words: ‘Um, please, could you tell us…maybe…does our father live here?’
‘No,’ I hissed. ‘I told you before. You probably ain’t got no father.’ (‘Little bastards,’ I thought to meself.) ‘And me husband ain’t got no kids! Can’t you just get that in yer thick head?’
I felt a hand round my waist. ‘Darling?’ said Matt. ‘Who are all these people?’ He surveyed the throng and turned back to me. ‘Are they carol singers?’
OMG I nearly wet myself trying not to laugh. ‘Yeah, yeah, they are,’ I said firmly. I turned to the kids. ‘Go on then, sing!’
The horde’s mouths dropped open as they feasted their eyes upon me husband.
‘Yes, go on,’ he encouraged them. ‘I’m sure it’ll be lovely.’
This seemed to spark them into life. They drew closer to each other, clutchin one another by the hand.
‘Whatever you say,’ said the tallest one, looking straight into Matt’s eyes. The kids exchanged glances, and started to sing: ‘Lead us, Heavenly Father, lead us…’
Bloody Hell. I felt my face goin red. I were gonna laugh out loud. I managed to keep it in. My husband, do you know what? He din’t even get it! He listened, kind of entranced, cos, I ain’t gonna lie, their singing weren’t bad. I’d even go so far as to say, it were nice. At the end of the song, Matt reached into his pocket and pulled out a fiver. ‘What are you raising money for?’ he asked the boy.
The lad looked dazed. He stared around him wildly. His eyes alit on that little girl what were holding his hand. ‘Orphans,’ he burst out with. ‘Yes, little orphans.’
The little girl smiled up at him. God, she were a bit of a looker apart from the fact she din’t seem to have no eyelashes. Same cheekbones, but a reddish tinge to the hair pokin out of her hood.
‘Oh, OK,’ said Matt, absently. ‘Thanks very much.’ He looked at them, puzzled, because they was all just standing there staring at him like they’d been brained or somethin. ‘Run along,’ he said briskly, ‘and keep singing’ he added. ‘You never know, you could turn professional if you worked at it.’
They was still all staring at him with a deep longing, like they was all on the point of saying somethin, but didn’t quite know what to say. They was hangin on his every word, that’s for sure.
‘Yes, well, just….never give up! That’s my advice to you!’ said Matt cheerily. ‘That was lovely, thank you,’ and he shut the door.
We went into the kitchen and put the kettle on. ‘They were a bit odd, weren’t they?’ Matt mused.
‘Nah, looked pretty normal to me.’ I said. ‘Now, I been thinkin about painting the units in here a sort of pale green……’
‘Shardie! They were! They were very weird. So blond. So pale. So intense! Didn’t you think?’
‘Nah,’ I replied. ‘They’re just after making theirselves a bit of money. Don’t worry about them.’ I massaged his neck as he sat there at the table. ‘Come on, let’s watch something on Netflix.’
I din’t know what to do about them kids. I were frankly at a loss. What could I do? Sometimes me mum says, ‘Shardie, sometimes there ain’t nothing you can do. If there ain’t nothing you can do, there ain’t nothing you can do.’ She’s right. Sometimes there just ain’t no way out. I realised it were only a matter of time until one of them kids got brave enough to tell me husband face-to-face that he were their father. But…how on earth did the little buggers find out? Had they felt it in their bones? Surely their mothers wouldn’t of told em.
Truth were, from my point of view, the best thing would be just to wipe them kids off of the face of the Earth. I thought about maybe asking em in the next time for a big jug of poisoned cocoa. Loool. Just thinkin about it makes me die laughin! It’s not as good an idea as it sounds though, as someone would probably trace it back to me and I don’t wanna end up in jail, I got things to do, places to go….
I thought maybe the best thing were to move. Move away somewhere where they couldn’t track us down. I started looking at properties in Scotland, Wales, as far away as I could get, like Wick. Matt thought it very strange, but I just told him I had a strange hankerin to live in the country.
But you know, I suddenly remembered that I had decided I weren’t gonna be bothered with, what was it again, oh yeah, ‘consequences’, so…..I just weren’t. I just din’t think about it. I blanked the whole bloody thing from me mind. Whenever I started thinking, like ‘OMG what is going to happen here?’ I just made myself stop it and thought about happy things instead, like what colour statement wall I wanted in the bathroom and what lovely ponyskin wedges I wanted to buy next time I went London and the like. And when I did think of it in the middle of the night, I thought to meself, ‘At the end of the day, Shardie, it’s one big planet what we’re livin on. All them kids and me, we can learn to share. It don’t have to be a matter of me or them, them or me. We can co-exist like them native Americans had to when them explorers turned up.’ Pocahontas didn’t go shootin that John chap with her arrows when he turned up, now did she? No, she snogged him instead! Well, that’s one way of dealin with intruders!
And I weren’t so fast to open that door neither. I’d learnt me lesson. Several times in January the horde or some of em came back and knocked. I din’t answer. I just breathed real quiet, tiptoed to the peep-hole and peered out at them. Ugh, horrible creatures. It were a bit spooky really how much alike they was one to the other. Them fuckin cheekbones. Honest to God, sharp enough to cut.