View 9 – Geoff ‘frames’ Jules
My wife, Julie, is a complex person. I’m not good with words. She read me a poem once by some English soldier in World War I. Said those blokes wrote well not just because of their education, but because they saw their world falling apart. Emotions closer to the surface. Less of the English ‘stiff upper lip’ she reckons. Anyway, something in that poem stuck with me.
“The refugee uncertain at the door
You make at home…”
“For should your hands drop white and empty
All the toys in the world would break.”
Reads real well too. Had a proper education. I was busy rounding up sheep. Back when I was a kid they’d cut their nuts off and I’d eat ’em hot off the corrugated iron over the fire. Ate the ants in me sandwixhes too. Hungry little bugger. Dad used to say he wasn’t game to throw a roo’s leg my way in case I started gnawing on it. I remember he told the blokes who saw him shootin’ galahs that he was trying to find the bastard who told the others about the milo crop. Mum didn’t like us shootin’ galahs. Julie’s like that. Soft about animals. Goes all maternal. Bought her home a baby hare to raise. Bloody went out and pulled up grass, mixed it in the blender with watery milk and fed the little blighter with a marsupial bottle. Damn thing followed her like a puppy. No fool though my Jules. Let him go when he was grown and literally hangin’ out to mate.
“Look at that”, she said. “It’s a donkey’s only skinnier.”
I had to laugh.
Dunno what she sees in me really. She say I’m a good man and they’re hard to find. But then she also says hard men are good to find. I like that. ‘Hard men are good to find.’ She’d had a rough time before we met up. Lost her child and her man. Nasty accident. She doesn’t like to talk much about it.
What’s it mean though eh? A good man? Julie takes off Elise and says, “In The Big Picture, the larger scheme of things, good men are rare.” Like I’m a, whad’d’ya call it, endangered species, which Jules reckons is right. Gets me randy when she talks like that. Mind you, pretty much anything Julie does get me barred. What can I say? I love the woman. Sometimes she drives me up one wall and down the other. She’s right about one thing though. She’s never boring. It’s like having a tiger by the tail. All soft and purry and cuddly. Next minute I’m gettin’ my bloody head bitten off!
Does any bloke ever really understand a woman? I don’t reckon we do. Gotto go. I can hear the car. Even if I couldn’t the damn dogs can. They’re already floggin’ the floor with their tails, noses pushing at the door to get out. She’s been having lunch with one of her literary friends.
“Hang on a minute Jess. Your mum might need a hand with the groceries”
View 10 – The Family Snapshot
Julie pulled into the curb. The welcoming committee waited. Two dogs, flags waving, silly grins in place. Her gorgeous girl – Jessie. And Geoffrey. Safe Geoffrey.
“But what’s behind it all?” She could hear Elise nagging at her. Simple, Elise. Fear, love, obligation, and all the rest of life’s unfathomable complexities.
Jessie saying, “What’s for dinner, mum, I’m starving.”
“Toes on toast. Yours.” Old family joke. Hers.
Geoffrey hugged his wife. “Nothin’ like a bit of toe jam.” Another family joke. His.
“Yuk! I’m outta here.” Jessie running upstairs, long hair flying.
No good telling Elise. She’d never understand Julie’s Big Picture.
Snap! Freeze Frame!
Geoffrey, Jessie, Julie and assorted family pets.
View 11 – Black and White
The waiter climbed behind the wheel of his Mazda and sighed. It had been a long and busy day. Good for business. He thought of Peter and the two women he’d recently brought in to the restaurant. So very different and yet there was something… some likeness. Sisters? That’s it! Had to be. Flickering semblances, shadows of one on the other’s face. Certain gestures. Same music different movements. Elegance versus ersatz.
He could imagine the elegant one at home. A divorcee with a couple of well-bred children, probably in charge of her own business, a lot like himself. Seeking a diversion and perhaps some comfort in the arms of an older man. An intelligent bachelor with superb taste. Perfectly understandable when one looked at it that way. She’d probably had some no-good husband… No! She was too smart for that. Young widow then? There was an air of sadness… Perhaps she’d come in by herself and they could talk.
View 12 – Shutter Open
Six people walked in together to claim their table. Geoffrey and Julie thanked Peter and his gracious wife, Anne, for bringing the wines. Gary and Elise spoke to everyone but each other and the waiter stared dumbfounded. These people were all wrong for each other. Although… Peter and Anne were charming to each other. Real warmth there. No use denying it. And Geoffrey and Julie… a mystery. He seemed so… so provincial. As for Gary, well the waiter fervently hoped His Rudeness would order soup! There was Elise, overshadowed by her sister’s sunshine, overpowered by her husband’s boorishness. It was she who was the castaway. The waiter’s sentimentality was aroused even as he chastised himself for it.
A sudden burst of laughter erupted from the group. Elise flushed.
JULIE: Elise you simply cannot fix everyone and everything. We are who we are.
GARY [placing a conciliatory arm around Elise’s shoulders]: You can’t shoulder everyone’s burden.
PETER’S DRY VOICE: A bloke tried that once. Crucified!
ANNE [gently]: Peter! [she smiles warmly at Elise] Your timing is…
PETER: Bloody appalling. As always. Sorry Elise. Take no notice of me.
JULIE: Good advice [chuckling and watching Geoffrey smile].
GEOFFREY: They take no notice of us anyway Pete.
[The men laugh as the women exchange conspiratorial glances.]
ELISE: I wish you’d at least try and understand, Gary.
[GARY shrugs as he removes his arm from Elise’s shoulders]
JULIE: I’m not sure we ever really understand anyone. Least of all those closest to us.
PETER: Hear hear!
ELISE: But surely we can try and see… well… something larger than our petty concerns.
GEOFFREY: Surely our ‘petty concerns’ are the very essence of our lives.
[Stunned silence as everyone contemplates this unexpected philosophical turn of phrase from the usually reticent Geoff. The waiter pauses to rethink his previous evaluation of this weather-beaten fellow with his gentle eyes]
WAITER: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Would you prefer our standard menu or the big… ah… the blackboard specials?
[A lightning exhange of eye contact between the two women]
ELISE: Ah… I think the big blackboard menu with the specials. Don’t you Julie? [laughter in her voice]
JULIE: Definitely. You see, we like to have The Big Picture! [Sincerity in her voice, mischief in her eyes]
[A moment’s easy laughter in which the waiter feels included]
WAITER: As Madam says then. The Big Picture. It’s always reserved for the specials.
GARY: Good. Because Elise here is special. [Giving Elise a quick hug]
PETER: And Julie’s so reserved. [Wry smile]
Snap! Freeze Frame!
Elise blushes. Julie laughes. Peter, Anne, Gary and Geoffrey toast them both.
“To The Big Picture.”
(Poem – Love Poem – Nims)