‘By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken and to dust you shall return. Amen.’ Father Smogg makes the sign of the cross over the coffin and throws a handful of dust into the grave. The service is over.
congregation gathered here to pay respects to the recently deceased
looks relieved. Thanks God this was short, Lucinda reads in the
mourners’ faces. They’re filing past her, shaking her hand, telling her
how sorry they are, wishing her luck, then quietly leaving with a kind
word or two about her husband she’s sure nobody really means. Soon only
the front row, the neighbours and the business associates who owed the
dearly departed money, are left. There’s a wake to go to.
death of Lucinda’s husband brought joy into Lucinda’s life. She herself
would later say that Tony’s demise was the beginning of the life she
was meant to have, the life she had always secretly wanted but never
told anyone about ‘cause there was no point in bringing it up while she
was married to Tony. Tony himself would not have disputed her claim, had
it ever been made, ‘cause essentially, Lucinda’s opinions didn’t
matter. At the time of his death, Lucinda’s feelings, desires, needs and
wants were the furthest thing on his mind as Lucinda had long ceased to
interest him in any tangible, material way; after fifteen years of
marriage he simply viewed her as a handy household pet, well trained and
with predictable responses, and he’d have been much surprised to know
that Lucinda was unhappy in their relationship. The idea to ask her had
never even entered his mind.
Tony was a man of simple desires. Set in
his ways, he saw his life as a chain of meticulously planned and well
executed orderly events designed to keep him happy. In this scheme of
things, his marriage was nothing but a well-oiled cog in the clockwork.
idea of marriage was straight forward. An old-fashioned kind of
husband, Tony expected an obedient wife, a home-cooked meal and a clean
house. He worked hard for what he got, Tony did, and what he got he
deserved — a clean house, a home-cooked meal and an obedient wife. Apart
from this, his one desire was to be left alone on the weekends.
weekends were spent watching footy. Lucindaah! Tony would shout from
the living room where he lay on the couch cracking nuts. Bring me a
beer, will you? And Lucinda jumped to it ‘cause that’s how it was from
the day they got married to the day Tony died.
The day Tony died was a
Sunday. Traditionally, Sunday in Tony’s household was a day of rest.
For Tony, who spent it on the couch in the same manner he spent his
Saturday — watching footy. For Lucinda, Sunday traditionally was a busy
and aggravating day ‘cause there were Tony’s shirts to iron and his
favourite dinner to cook — a tedious, drawn out affair with piles of
food made just the way Tony liked it and starring homemade sausages,
which Tony insisted Lucinda cook from scratch.
The day Tony carked it was no different, for either of them.
‘Lucindaah!’ Tony shouted from the living room where he lay on the couch cracking nuts. ‘Bring me a beer, will you?’
the kitchen, Lucinda, emitting a sigh, rolled her eyes heavenwards.
Elbows deep in sausage meat, she’s busy, busy kneading these stinking
sausages Tony insists they have every Sunday.
‘Lucindaah!’ shouts Tony. There’s an intensity to his tone, this time. ‘The beer! NOW!’
closes her eyes briefly, gathering herself, gathering her determination
to grin and bear it for the good of the afternoon, herself, Tony and
their wretched existence together, and all these Sundays she has endured
for so long. Only a few hours and it’ll be over, she tells herself;
only the footy, the dinner and the evening movie to get through, she
thinks projecting herself into the future, into Monday, when she will be
alone, cleaning the house and making a home-cooked meal on her own in
the welcome, luxurious peace and quiet of Tony’s absence.
in the living room where the curtains are drawn against the afternoon
sun, Tony’s lying on the couch, watching footy on television and
precariously balancing a bowl of peanuts on his beer gut. It isn’t an
easy task; Tony’s bulging belly button is seriously in the way and may
soon cause the bowl to topple and the peanuts to spill. So Tony’s being
careful; he wouldn’t want to have Lucinda sweeping up the mess in the
middle of the first half, just as it’s getting exciting. So he’s being
careful, hardly daring to breathe, waiting for his beer to arrive. The
game goes into a commercial, a beer ad of all things, which reminds him.
‘What are you doing in there, woman?’ Tony shouts, grabbing onto
the bowl of peanuts just in time. His massive belly button, obscenely
huge and almost translucent but for the few grey hairs — yeah, Tony’s
getting on — sprouting there on the sides and down his belly, moves,
propelling the bowl upwards and to the side. So Tony catches it and puts
the bowl down on the coffee table. He sinks back into the couch, and
fumes, steaming with anger and vapor ‘cause he is annoyed and ‘cause it
is hot in the room.
Tony’s sweating like a hog though he’s not
wearing much, just a pair of old Y-fronts which, due to their age and
Tony’s reclining pose, are tightly drawn over his tiny small penis but
sagging under his great big ass, right under the stain that just won’t
go, no matter what Lucinda does with it in the wash. She’s long wanted
to replace these unsightly undergarments but Tony won’t have it, is
sentimental about them ‘cause they’re his favourite undies to watch
footy in, so what’s your problem, woman? asks Tony whenever this topic
arises between them, which is often, nearly every time it’s hot. Even
today, though Lucinda has said nothing, Tony knows she’s thinking about
his underpants ‘cause she’s got that grimace on, those pinched nostrils,
which disapprove of him. And the beer is still nowhere to be seen.
gets up, determined to get some answers. She’d better have a good
excuse, fumes Tony, ambling towards the kitchen. Maybe she’s dead. She’s
awfully quiet in there… thinks Tony, calculating the chances in all
seriousness ‘cause it’s really the only thing that would go some way
towards explaining why his beer has not arrived.
The kitchen door is
ajar. He gives it a shove with his foot and pokes his head tentatively
into the interior, expecting to see a calamity of some kind. But nothing
out of the ordinary has happened in the kitchen; Lucinda’s carrying on
as she always does on Sundays, making sausages.
She has a nerve, Tony
thinks, flaring his nostrils into his own disapproving grimace. He
could give her a piece of his mind, he could, but he’s determined to
rise above it this time ‘cause it’s Sunday and he doesn’t want to spoil
his mood; after all, it’s his favourite day — the footy’s on, he’s
wearing his favourite undies and he’s gonna have those yummy sausages
for dinner. Just thinking about the sausages makes him happy; Tony’s
tension is easing and he’s taking a deep breath to savour the kitchen
To Tony, the sausage meat Lucinda’s making smells delicious;
it’s raw and pungent, it smells like a fart — which reminds him… Tony
recognizes an opportunity here and decides to get his beer himself. He
waddles over to the fridge, opens it, peers in, farts (audibly), takes a
bottle out, shuts the fridge door, farts (louder this time), twists the
bottle top open and takes a swig. Farts again, a long and drawn one
with a stink so strong and unpleasant even Tony’s surprised. He didn’t
realize he had it in him, this early in the day, and he looks over his
shoulder at Lucinda to see her reaction. She’s busy with her meat
grinder, looking like death warmed up.
‘What’s your problem?’ he
asks, annoyed at her silence. Stupid cow, has no sense of humour. God,
she’s getting on, thinks Tony, noting the lines around Lucinda’s tightly
closed mouth, the slight sag in her jaw, the crow’s feet around her
eyes. She’s putting it on, too. Tony lets out a sigh of disappointment.
And she used to be so bonny, thinks Tony, remembering a much younger,
much bonnier Lucinda when she was a perky-breasted young thing who used
to make him laugh. Ah, but she’s long gone, thinks Tony, looking at
Lucinda’s closed, disapproving face.
‘You got something to say?’
Tony asks. He might just be spoiling for a wee little fight to enliven
the afternoon. Tony likes to argue with Lucinda; it gives him the
opportunity to tell her a few home truths, to really let her know how
he’s feeling about her these days, and for good reason too. But today
Tony is feeling a wee bit tired. Maybe later, thinks Tony, multitasking
in the middle of this contemplation; he’s glugging his beer and
scratching his ass — right on the stain — and managing all this time to
scrutinize his wife who, he knows, is quite aware how he feels about her
these days. ‘I thought so,’ he mutters when Lucinda declines to
comment; instead she opens the pantry, turning her back on him,
defiantly it seems to Tony who’s filing this gesture of disrespect for
later. He knows Lucinda’s transgression, her turning her back on him,
will cost her dearly later on this evening when they finish their Sunday
with a wee little argument. Tony will triumph of course; poor old
charmless Lucinda will cry. Tony’s quite looking forward to it but right
now he has other diversions on his mind so he leaves and returns to the
living room, to his sanctuary where the curtains are drawn, the couch
is still warm and the second half is about to start.
In the pantry,
Lucinda breathes a sigh of relief. The sight of Tony makes her literally
sick and the sound of his voice makes her want to drown herself. But
Lucinda has developed a coping mechanism over the years; a moment of
silence in the pantry is all she needs. A transient thought of a life
lived long ago and left behind flits through her consciousness; she sees
herself as a young girl, pretty, carefree, laughing on the arm of a
handsome young man (not Tony), going out to spend the day in the company
of people she likes. But it is a transient thought and it stays true to
its nature. Lucinda wipes her hands on her apron, grabs her good luck
charm necklace and begins the ritual. She fingers her charms, one by
one: the heart, the unicorn, the book, the star, the clock, the bicycle,
the seahorse, the thimble… Lucinda’s fingers are looking for the
thimble, her most recent acquisition, the newest and biggest charm she’s
had but it’s gone. Oh dear, I’ve lost the thimble, but what can I do
about it now? I’m gonna have to look for it later, sighs Lucinda and
goes on with the ritual, fingering the next charm, a tiny pair of ballet
slippers — for the baby girl she used to wish for — and taking deep
breaths. She’s feeling okay now; even the feel of those ballet slippers
doesn’t upset her; she’s grown out of that desire. In fact, Lucinda’s
grateful there’s been no children born to her out of this marriage, and
she counts it as a blessing. It would have been awful bringing up
children in this household, Lucinda thinks every time her fingers touch
the tiny silver shoes, and it gives her comfort. She’s calm now and
quite determined to get through the afternoon. Lucinda gathers the few
remaining ingredients to finish her sausage mixture and leaves the
A few hours later, the Sunday dinner is taking place. Tony
and Lucinda sit in the dining room — at opposite ends of the long dining
table acquired long ago right after their wedding when things were good
and children (lots) were on the cards — eating their dinner. The room
is filled with the setting sun and the background noise of the Sunday
night news. Tony’s chewing is front of house — unmissable, unpleasant
and crucial to the proceedings; the intensity of Tony’s chewing
indicates his level of enjoyment of the much anticipated Sunday dinner. A
lot depends on this and Lucinda knows it. She’s eating her sausage
though she’d rather stick to the mashed potatoes and the Brussels
sprouts; she loathes these sausages but it would be unwise to let it
show so she doesn’t. Lucinda has wised up over the years and for that
reason Tony does not suspect a thing; he’s chewing furiously, wolfing
down his eight’s sausage and his third helping of mashed potatoes, and a
pile of Brussels sprouts saturated with gravy, and he’s doing all
right; he’s in heaven, things couldn’t get any better except he’d like
another beer. He gives Lucinda the nod and bangs his fist on the table
to get her going. His mouth, his stomach and his lungs are full to
bursting; Tony’s unable to speak as usual at this point, but nothing
needs to be said. He wants his beer. Lucinda knows, is quite aware of
the routine so she puts down her cutlery and leaves the table.
enters the kitchen. The room is ablaze with light. The setting sun had
snuck in through the open window while she was gone and worked its magic
to surprise her. And Lucinda is surprised; the space looks so pretty,
so warm and inviting, so full of light, Lucinda feels so… she doesn’t
know what she’s feeling but knows it’s good and she wants to keep on
feeling it. She takes a couple of steps and now she’s in the middle of
the room, feeling good. A gust of wind shuts the door behind her, not
loudly, only just so. It would be an easy sound to miss if one were not
Lucinda didn’t hear it. She stands in the middle of her
kitchen — that drab, dreaded room in which she spends most of her time —
thinking how pretty the orange glow, thinking she’d like to look out
the window for a bit ‘cause the sunrays dancing about the walls are
making her dizzy. But Tony wants his beer, the little voice inside her
head whispers, is tugging on her conscience, so Lucinda takes a
reluctant step towards the fridge. Just then, she hears something.
hears music and it’s coming from the window. It’s pipes and drums and
trumpets; A marching band! Lucinda exclaims and rushes to the window to
look. It is a marching band, complete with pipes and drums and trumpets,
playing a familiar tune. Oh, when the saints go marching in … Oh, when
the saints go marching in …
There’s red uniforms and silly hats; How
pretty! Lucinda exclaims. There’s children running alongside the band; a
crowd has gathered and it seems the whole street is out in full force.
Lucinda is intrigued; she sticks her head out the window and forgets,
for the moment, everything else that’s going on in her life right now.
her life right now Tony is getting hot under the collar, back in the
living room where his Sunday dinner is in progress. He’s down to his
tenth’s sausage and getting low on the gravy. The Brussels sprouts are
few and far in between, and Tony’s throat is dry. Very dry. Tony’s
Sunday is not going according to plan.
Where is that hag with my
beer? fumes Tony, chewing furiously, wolfing down his tenth’s sausage.
What does a man have to do to get a drink in his own house? Tony
grumbles, feeling dry, full to bursting, thirsty and disrespected, on
top of everything else. I’m really gonna have to sort her out; Tony
bangs his fist on the table with a tremendous force. The gravy boat
jumps, falls off the edge of the dining room table, and shatters to bits
on the polished parquetry. A small but dense stain is spreading towards
the carpet’s edge; dear Lord, it’s reached the fringe! The carpet is
‘Lucindaah!’ Tony roars just as the marching band
passes by his front lawn. The din is deafening. Tony shoves the last
piece of sausage and potato mash into his gob. ‘Lucin—’ Tony chokes. He
chokes on the word, the sausage, the potato, the gravy that’s run out
and the beer he never got. It’s the real deal, Tony is dying and it’s
going down like they show it in the movies. First, he grips the table
with both hands, bends over, tries to cough it out. No sound comes.
Next, he lets go of the table, grasps his throat with both hands.
Nothing happens. He keeps on choking. He’s choking on the sausage, the
potatoes, the gravy that’s run out, the beer he never got and every
single thing that’s ever made him angry and hateful, and it all comes
down to one thing: Lucinda!
Tony’s eyes begin to bulge; it really
looks like he’s in awe of the objects surrounding him; the plate, the
cutlery thrown carelessly over his napkin, the bowl of potatoes, the
bowl of sausages… The veins on Tony’s forehead are pulsating; his head
is swimming and his last thought is about to occur. Sausages… thinks
Tony, sadly but without regret, who would have thought? He keels over,
pulling down the table cloth. The man crashes to the ground like a sack
of beans, sags like a bag of wet clothes and lies still, blue-faced,
slack-jawed and with eyes wide open, at the foot of his dining table,
wearing nothing but a pair of threadbare, stained undies.
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