View 1 – Jules ‘frames’ Elise
Three of her dogs run over outside the house. Pity the hinge on the gate needed fixing. The live dogs weren’t fixed either, so were pregnant or, if male, out a-hunting. Elise couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t let her drive my daughter anywhere. I didn’t want Jessie coming back broken, snapped off in places like a brittle twig. Elise the Manic Driver. One hundred-k’s down the main street through forty and sixty-k limits, careering up the backside of cars, braking, talking non-stop, dogs on her lap and between her feet, the road an interruption.
View 2 – Gary snaps!
A spray of dust and gravel clouded the rearview, and clotted the newly-washed clothes flapping fingers helplessly in the chilly breeze as Gary left in a huff.
“Bloody feminists! Separate rooms. Separate sex. I’ll give you bloody separate.”
His Big Picture was the Titanic sinking taking with it all bloody-minded, thought-policing, radical-left-wing-feminist-separatists. Elise especially. The wheels spun in the dirt and spiralled clouds of yellow clay as the car rocketed out of the driveway and onto the main road. The waiter, on his way to work in his clean cream Mazda, cursed the scowling idiot who pulled in front of him precipitously causing him to brake and swerve, and promised he’d spit in that particular driver’s food if he came to The Med.
View 3 – Elise in Colour
Elise’s tangled hair was showing grey at the roots again. Time for more dye. Her fingers twitched, further tangling the unmanageable snarls. How would she fit in the endless shuttle-busing of the kids (hers and whomever else she or they had picked up for a night or six), the grocery shopping, the washing, cleaning, and the inevitable sometime-or-other next instalment of the continuing argument with her less than better half.
Damn! She’d forgotten she’d agreed to work tonight. And there was lunch with Julie’s literary friend at noon preparatory to the launch. So many people needed her. Her time. Her energy. Her ability to see The Big Picture. It was her special talent – to stand outside of things and see the whole mess spread out before her, which she would sort for all those less capable than herself. Here a piece there a piece never any peace!
Already there were upwards of eight messages on the answering machine. She began playing them back but one of the children interrupted. (“Yes, freckle?”) Who did this one belong to? The machine chattered, clicked and burped its way to the end, cleared and rewound itself before Elise re-entered the room to collect her purse and car keys.
Damn! She’d left the stove on. Twenty minutes later her own two stormed into the olde worlde kitchen demanding she hurry or they’d be late.
Elise was busy wiping benches. She liked life tidy. She squeezed out the cloth and hung it over the tap, slammed a cupboard door shut, and heard something topple – an exclamation mark to her full stop. Oh well! No-one looked inside cupboards.
As Elise drove the kids to their various destinations she was aware of anger lashing inside her. An animal snapping and biting at itself trying to be rid of whatever lesion was causing it pain. Her foot automatically depressed the accelerator further.
How dare he!
Given until he had nothing left to give!
She applied the brake cursing aloud the idiot in the filthy cream and clay covered Mazda who insisted on sticking to the speed limit. One of the kids swore after being jerked against the seat belt. She laughed and passed the slow-poke ignoring the rear-view image of kids sticking out the tongues and the irritating image of the Mazda driver muttering unintelligibly.
Given until it hurt! Hurt who?
She’d worked four days a week while completing her Honour’s Year. He hadn’t complained when the money from the PhD Grant started coming in. A wife with a Doctorate was another thing entirely. Dr Elise Baker. Knowing full well most would assume the title belonged to him. Certainly not a wife with two kids of her own and God knows how many other people’s. Home was always a hive. Kids swarming or flying in and out carrying the honey of their kisses. Call them freckle or twig and they were happy. Nothing she did made Gary happy. Morose, taciturn, alternatively yelling at the kids or packing them into the car to take them off to Dubbo Zoo, the pool, the Creek or wherever. Returning full of complaints. This one said… That one did…
She almost drove straight past the last drop off point for the kids.
Hers. Sounding just like Gary. That tone. That look.
“Sorry.” Kisses and hugs. “Bye. Have a good time. Dad’ll have to pick you up. Got to work.”
“Jeez Louise! Why didn’t you say?”
Slumped shoulders accusing her.
“You always forget.”
Foot hard down. Hand waving out the window. Oh to be that young again. Time to fly. Chemist’s Coles. Then lunch with Peter.
(Next instalment – View 4 – Peter in the Frame)