UKArchive ID: 19056thegeeza
Originally published on March 30, 2007 in Fiction
This is my effort on Rupe's prose workshop challenge. The supplied text is in bold. Words: 1,510.
Death had little immediate impact on Rachel’s daily routines. She remained in the family home. She even continued to work. As the Instigator said, with typical vulgar cheerfulness, ‘There’s no point letting a little thing like that stop you from earning.’
However, gradual changes were afoot. In the evenings she, along with several other candidates, attended Orientation Classes. The Instructor prepared them for the challenges that lay ahead; for the transition into the realm of eternal dreams.
‘I feel liberated,’ said Holly, putting her hands together and letting them drop between her legs. ‘Truly liberated.’
The five women looked at her open-mouthed, waiting for more.
‘That’s it,’ she said. ‘I’ve no more to say.’
‘Okay,’ said the prim and pretty class instructor, pausing for dramatic effect. ‘Truly liberated. Thank-you … Holly.’ She scribbled on her pad, her slender fingers holding a silver pen. ‘Truly liberated,’ she whispered, still writing. She looked up sharply. ‘Who’s next?’ she said through a sickly smile.
All was still.
‘Okay, Maude. Tell us about the end and tell us how you are going to exploit your golden future.’
The oldest woman in the room turned carefully to each woman in the circle, a grotesque grin held rigidly in place. They could see the lop-sided and yellowing teeth behind the scarlet pink lipstick. She stopped at the instructor, opened her mouth and nothing came out.
‘What’s wrong, dear?’ said the instructor. ‘Cat caught your tongue?’
Maude stared back, transfixed.
‘Come along, don’t be shy, now. We’re all friends. We’re all in this together,’ said the instructor, singing the final sentence at an unnatural pitch.
The old woman nodded slowly.
‘Was it your husband?’
The old lady remained still, apart from the rapid movement of her swollen tongue.
‘Did your husband –’
‘Yes,’ said Maude. ‘He did.’
There was silence, as the perky instructor and her shiny red corporate lips turned to fully face the old woman who badly needed a bath. Engage your client. ‘Can you tell us more?’ said the instructor, Miss K Perkins of Raynes Park.
‘Yes,’ said Maude.
Again, silence. ‘Please … please share with the group. You are all here on account of your husbands and what they did to you. Each one of you had some filthy and disgusting man toss you aside like a broken doll. A worn and unloved broken doll. You need not be afraid. You are all the same.’
‘I found out,’ said Maude, looking at the door, ‘that he was … with … another woman.’
‘Good grief!’ said Miss Perkins. ‘Really? And at your age!’
Maude looked down and nodded. ‘Yes.’
Maude gripped one hand with the other and looked up. Miss Perkins’ small breasts were heaving up and down very quickly, the white frills of her brassiere just visible behind her black blouse. Maude pictured her pale skin, baby smooth to the touch.
‘I told him that it was not right,’ she said. ‘That he shouldn’t do that.’
‘More power to his elbow,’ said Miss Perkins quietly, writing on the pad. ‘How old is he?’
‘Heavens above,’ she said. ‘Tell us what happened, Maude.’
‘He told me that he was going to leave me and go and live with … this other woman.’
‘How did you find out he was with another woman, Maude?’ said Rachel.
‘They were in bed, having sex, when I came home from bingo,’ she said.
‘Good grief!’ said Miss Perkins. ‘So you saw them … at it?’
‘She was riding him like a cowboy,’ said Maude.
‘Oh,’ said Miss Perkins. ‘I see.’
‘When I first opened the door, I thought she was killing him. Strangling him. You know.’ She paused. ‘I wish that she was.’ She paused again. ‘She was naked, though … so I realised what she was doing.’
‘Oh,’ said Miss Perkins. ‘So … what happened then?’
‘She started screaming,’ said Maude.
‘Because you had found them?’
‘No. She was having an orgasm.’ The group fell silent. Holly looked down and failed to completely suppress a giggle. ‘Her breasts were very hard,’ said Maude. ‘Not like mine.’
‘Okay. Let’s move on. How did it all end? How did you come to be here?’
‘She had a bath. She had a bath in my bath. Those perfect buttocks, those legs … in my bath.’
‘Yes, but how did –’ started Miss Perkins.
‘That dirty cunt had a bath in my bath!’
Miss Perkins flushed red. ‘Okay, Maude. Well, let’s leave it there for now.’ She turned away quickly. ‘Rachel, do you want to tell us what happened to you?’
Rachel continued looking at Maude for a moment, then swallowed hard and cleared her throat, looked around and smiled. ‘Okay. Right. One evening when my husband and I were sitting down to eat – ’
‘She even used my towels!’ said Maude, looking up, tears falling down her cheeks. ‘She fucked my husband … in my bed … then washed herself … and then left.’
They all looked at the old woman, dressed in grey and green. Her saggy tights gathered in rolls just above her swollen ankles. ‘Then he got rid of me,’ she said. ‘Fifty years of marriage and he got rid of me and no one cares.’
‘We care,’ said Holly, tilting her head, looking at Maude.
‘Yes,’ sang Miss Perkins, writing on her pad. ‘We all care. But Maude, you see … it’s a new beginning for you. You can do what you’ve always wanted to do, realise those dreams. Think about that.’
‘I never went on top, in all our years of marriage,’ said Maude, still watching the floor.
‘I see,’ said Miss Perkins.
‘I want to do that. That’s my dream,’ said Maude.
‘Okay,’ said Miss Perkins, smiling, turning back to Rachel. ‘If you could carry on.’
‘I never screamed like that in all my married life,’ said Maude. She looked at Miss Perkins. ‘Have you?’
Miss Perkins touched the side of her head. ‘Have I what, dear?’
‘Screamed so loud, as each nerve-ending shakes with the force of an earthquake, that you wanted to burst?’
Miss Perkins’ jaw dropped.
‘That’s what it looked like, from where I was standing,’ said Maude, lowering her head again.
‘Rachel?’ said Miss Perkins.
‘Yes?’ said Rachel, distracted.
‘Please carry on,’ said Miss Perkins. ‘And don’t stop.’
Rachel looked confused.
‘Don’t stop for anything,’ said Miss Perkins.
‘Well, when it … happened. I decided to stay in the family home. Why should I have to go?’ said Rachel, looking around. ‘Right?’
‘Yeah, right!’ said Doris. ‘Why the fuck should you?’
‘I bet your husband didn’t have a whore wash her filthy and contaminated body in your bath, though,’ said Maude to her shoes.
‘I was upset,’ said Rachel, ‘but I wanted to carry on as normally as possible. I didn’t want to let him win. I didn’t want him to know I was broken inside.’
‘Bastard!’ said Doris.
‘Slut!’ shouted Maude. They turned to look at her. She sneered. ‘Not you,’ she told Rachel. ‘I mean that bitch that humped my Fred like he was a piece of meat.’
‘He trivialised it all,’ said Rachel.
‘How so, dear?’ said Miss Perkins.
‘When I told him that I was going to carry on working, he told me that a little thing like that shouldn’t stop me from earning.’ Rachel shook her head. ‘“Little thing” he said it was.’
‘My Fred was little,’ said Maude. ‘He used to call it “His Beast”.’ She shook her head. ‘Chipolata.’
‘How can he say it’s a little thing?’ said Rachel.
‘Well, some people see it as something that you do for a while, then you move on and do something else or do it all again.’ Miss Perkins paused and looked around. ‘Phases,’ she said. ‘People see it as one phase after another. It’s part of life.’
‘He said he met her on the internet. I mean where else would he find some twenty odd year old slag that would want him? Who would want that bastard? Who?’ said Maude. She looked up. Her eyes were wide, the broken capillaries pulsating with every thump of her saggy chest.
‘He was just … ambivalent. He didn’t care,’ said Rachel.
‘Fucking internet,’ said Maude.
‘When I wanted to talk to him, he would just sit at his computer … he didn’t want to listen. He didn’t want to communicate.’ Rachel licked her lips and cleared her throat when she had finished speaking. She wiped at her misty eyes.
‘Well, sometimes, we just have to let go. Marriages start and marriages end. You have to look forward now, Rachel,’ said Miss Perkins. ‘Reach for the sky and enjoy your life. That’s what we’re here to help you to do.’
‘But why didn’t he care?’ said Rachel. ‘Why did he do it?’
‘Fucking internet,’ said Maude. ‘Full of beasts and cock-sucking perverts.’ She stamped her foot as she said the last word. They all jumped at the noise and saw that the shoe that had hit the ground was much bigger than her other one.
Archived comments for Maudlin
Seebaruk on 30-03-2007
Quality, I wish all old people were as foul mouthed and funny as Maude 🙂 Fucking Internet indeed. Great story, had me laughing, and good to see Raynes Park (my current residence) get a mention too
I'm not really sure why Raynes Park came into my head, actually!
Poor old Maude. She had a tough time. Glad you liked it and laughed. I didn't know if it was funny or just rubbish! I thought it was funny, but I tend to laugh at the wrong moments, so hard for me to gauge. Cheers. Steve.
Rupe on 30-03-2007
I thought the dialogue was excellent - you've caught the different voices very well. I particularly liked the contrast between the Instructor's gradually crumbling professionalism, Maude's cracked, strident confessions, and Rachel's timid attempts to say her piece.
I thought Maude was a horribly accurate sketch of a certain kind of old person who's had a disappointing life, is nearing the end & no longer cares about social niceties or what they say.
I don't think you needed to say ' prim and pretty class instructor' - the primness comes out in her speech anyway. Prettiness is more debatable. Is it relevant in the context? Demure, maybe?
It wasn't clear to me in what way Rachel, or any of the others, had died as such. I don't think it matters though - I'd chuck away the beginning, start with Holly, and then you've got an excellent dialogue piece.
Glad you liked Maude. I quite liked her myself by the end.
"Demure" could well be a better word.
I never said they had died in their physical forms - I was trying to play on the "dying" of their marriages - and the reader can decide for themselves if they're physically dead too. It must not have come across, as another comment is mentioning physical death - unless the piece was read with pre-loaded expectations of physical death, which would be fair enough, given the circumstances. When trying to think of something not in keeping with the narrow path set at the beginning, the"staying in the family home" made me think of divorced people who do that (which set me off).
But agree that the beginning is not required. Second time running I did that - don't think I'm cut out for being inspired by an opening! I prefer an image.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Rupe.
e-griff on 30-03-2007
I thought this was excellent, especially the interplay of the dialogue between the personalities so cleverly woven in. All in all a fine story.
My only observation is that really, it owes little to the opening lines in my opinion. 🙂
Thanks, John. Think I agree re: your last sentence (as per my comment to Rupe, above). Glad you liked it!
delph_ambi on 30-03-2007
The opening gave you a great idea for a story, but as others have said, the given opening doesn't have much relevance to what happens subsequently, so if you were to use this one anywhere else you'd be best off dropping it.
Great dialogue. Completely convincing. Clever the way you manage to get the conversations going across each other without it ever becoming confusing.
Yes, I agree re: the opening. (see comment to Rupe, above). Glad you liked it - and glad I managed to convince you re: Maude as she's a little bit ... unusual!
josiedog on 30-03-2007
Seebaruk said it, but I'll say it again, bloomin' quality. I properly laughed out loud.
That dialogue could go any where, it stands ob its own.
What an old bird she is.
"Riding him like a cowboy.." is where it starts for me, and then it just keeps on coming.
I was gonna whinge about one line, but I misread it: I thought you'd written "...her saggy tits gathered in rolls around her ankles..." but luckily I went back for a second look.
Yes, the letters "gh" could have dropped for an attempt at an exaggerated joke couldn't they? However, not my intention!
Glad you laughed - as I said to Seebaruk, I didn't know if it was funny or just odd nonsense. There are Maudes crawling all over Croydon on Thursday mornings when the pensions are paid out...
Thanks for reading and commenting.
bluepootle on 30-03-2007
Lovely dialogue, and very adeptly handled. I can't imagine why a 20 year old would get together with a 77 year old though. It bothered me. Maybe you could give a little bit more description to Maude to make this work - is her husband very rich? Or lowering the age wouldn't seem to affect the story too much.
Rachel comes across weakly compared to Maude: you could beef Rachel up and make this more of a confrontation. I suppose what I'm saying is that I loved the idea of the room of murdered wives, and I wanted more about their viewpoints, rather than just Maude's. Still, Maude is highly entertaining!
Yeah, could knock some age off - wanted it to be a real big difference to give the "yuk" factor, but perhaps too much. The piece of fluff could've been much older, as it's only Maude's jealousy and anger describing it. Might make him sixty, or so? (Any futures readers wondering - the husband was 77, if you see he is now younger).
See comment above about murdered wives - they could be - but I didn't say that! (I think). Not unless I pre-loaded something without realising, or you (and others did) assumed they were dead for the challenge. This bit may not have worked, as I was trying to turn the living-dead existence thing into a kind of analogy about divorce. I was trying to be too clever, probably! (Although a room of murdered wives would be an interesting Oprah...)
Thanks for reading and commenting, BP. Glad you liked the dialogue.
RichardZ on 02-04-2007
Maude's definitely the star. 🙂
You managed to get her constant stream of interjections just right, so that I did not get confused as to who was speaking.
Thanks, Richard. Thanks for reading and commenting.
KDR on 13-04-2007
Like a lot of others, I thought the dialogue was brilliant and the characterization of Miss Perkins and Maude was equally good. Maude probably deserves another story to herself, tbh! 😉
Doing this late, and just woke Becky up by laughing at the 'saggy tits' comment posted above, because I misread it the same way. So that'll be me in trouble...
Like some others, I thought these were actually dead women, murdered by their husbands. Probably says more about how my mind works (even if I'm not alone, which is a comfort).
As for the link to the opening lines...the only one I'd worry about is the 'eternal dreams' stuff. The rest of it is obviously is a class of some type. Perhaps 'Orientation Classes' for the recently divorced could be some new 'New Labour' initiative? Why it would ever come about is something I'll leave to you. 🙂
Yes, Maude's character probably could give some mileage. Thinking of her being sent to Blackpool on an old folks' week away... that'd be an experience and a half (for Blackpool).
I think people perhaps assumed they were dead (and perhaps they were?) because of the nature of the opening paras and the challenge itself. I think it'd be a bit tame for a New Labour initiative - almost sensible and worthwhile. They're more likely to implement something along the lines of benefit schemes for plants with bent stalks, acid-affected raindrops or councilling for suicide bombers that bottle it at the last minute.
Thanks for reading and commenting!