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A Hundred Gourds 4:2 March 2015

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Claire Everett - UK


Screw Threads


"Women, I'll never understand them."

The plaintive chorus from the Song of Men, handed down through the generations.

Sons come of age to the strains of it on their fathers' lips. Leaning against the bar, they resign themselves to the burden of what is imparted as a truism: the female is an altogether different species; she is, by virtue of her sex, overly complicated, overly sensitive, inclined to hysteria ("those Victorians didn't whip their wombs out for nothing, you know. . .") and, in summary, wholly unfathomable ("so don't even think you can be some kind of trailblazer, lad, and show us all how it's done.") The newly-initiated is full of questions, most of which begin withwhy? There's a sharp intake of breath, heard whistling through the teeth, but no real answer is forthcoming. It's something to do with the way we're wired, it seems, although the specifics will not be pinned down by any thinking man's finger any time soon. And so, moustachioed with the foam from a pint of Best, woefully, they shake their heads.

homegrown sweetpeas
in a jam-jar vase
Mum’s lifelong knack
of making do . . .
Dad’s, of making amends

My daughter is at odds with her boyfriend. Nothing serious. A tiff.

“He thinks I don’t like him seeing his friends. That’s not true. I just think that as he says he wants to see me later, it would be kind of nice to know what time that might be, otherwise I can’t make plans of my own and I’m left dangling – Fine if we don’t see each other today. If I know, I can do something productive rather than sit around twiddling my thumbs. You understand, don’t you, Mum?”

I nod, muss her hair a little, kiss her cheek. I think of my grandmother, who, with three young children already and the baby almost weaned, used to feign deep sleep the second my grandfather’s belt buckle clanged against the bedstead and his trousers hit the floor. Better that than trying to explain. Then there was that time my parents rowed yet again about money. Dad took himself down to the pub for a pint which quickly turned into several, and was late for Sunday lunch. Usually, Mum would have kept his meal warm for him, but instead she put it back in the oven and burnt it to a crisp. Dad tottered home, sat down at the table and found a captive audience in me and my two older sisters. He devoured every last morsel, even attempted to mop up the gravy (which would have been best served in slices) with a crust of bread. You could fair see the steam coming out of Mum’s ears when, after smacking his lips, he asked her if she’d done something different – “It has a certain je ne sais quoi?

The ping of a text message. My daughter sighs.

Until now, my other half hasn’t appeared to be listening. But now he looks up from the task in hand and declares, “You know, we’re simple beings, us men. As long as our basic needs are met, we’re happy –"

“Touché.”

Did I just think that, or say it out loud?

“it’s a bookcase,”
he says, “how hard can it be?”
the poor man
blames Ikea . . . the packer . . .
and last of all, his tools

the fine art
of disregarding
the instructions --
another botched job
to add to the collection



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