I wonder what happened to Davenport

January 28, 2012


Domestic life has always been the butt of humor. There is something funny and comforting about the ongoing contentions between man and woman. One of my favourites when I was young (and still is) was The Thin Man Series.

It is all based on a set of rules. Domestic life. Unfortunately the rules haven’t been written yet. And so we bungle our way to old age. And then realize at some point, in the Home, that we might have linked up with the wrong girl (or guy). I wonder what happened to Davenport.

This morning I dropped my wife off at the hair dresser. She gave me a kiss and said, ‘you are a gentleman, aren’t you.’ ‘That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,’ I responded.

This story is based on the golden rule. ‘She is always right.’ It is part of a series of stories I wrote in my book Women Gone Mad: Part One.

……………………………………………………………………………………

THE POINT SYSTEM

 

I knew she had arrived home by the sound of the brakes on her Honda. No one else applied their brakes in quite that fashion. It is a kind of jerk then a shriek like she’d run over the cat.  There was a courteous nod as she stepped in the door, her shoulders slouched, her briefcase dangling on the end of her arm, which she set down on the stairs to be retrieved later. Her heavy footsteps plodded consecutively up the steps like a slovenly drum roll.

“How was your day?” I asked trying to stay upbeat and perky.

One of the kids upstairs was playing their CD player loudly. I am used to it, have in fact become immune to all adolescent noises. She has not. Her eyes rose to the ceiling.

“I’ll get you an aspirin,” I said, rushed to the washroom for drugs and on my way yelled up the stairs for Brian to turn his music down. Brian did not comply. I hadn’t expected him to respond on the first shout.

“I’ll heat up your dinner in a minute,” I said as I handed her a glass of water and a bottle of aspirin.

She fell into a chair in the living room slipping off her shoes.

“The kids and I have already eaten,” I said. I knew this would lose me points but Debbie was going out and Brian was starving. Of course Brian was always starving so this would hardly carry much weight with her, but I was hoping that she would see how impractical it was for all of us to eat at the same time.

“Debbie went out with Laura,” I yelled as I slid down the hallway. “She said they were studying for a history exam tomorrow. I took it for granted that she was lying. No doubt they’re going to the mall to check out CDs and boys. Don’t worry. Laura’s a dog. The boys won’t be pestering them much.”

I turned into the kitchen where I shoved a plate with pork chops, mashed potatoes, and string beans into the microwave. I grabbed a small tossed salad and a bottle of soda water from the refrigerator and put them on the table. By this time she has come out of the living room and taken her place at the table. I cleared the table of the dirty dishes and hurriedly put them in the sink.

“Would you like a glass of wine with dinner?”

Not hearing any answer, I poured a glass of Ontario red table wine in a glass then turned and shouted once again up the stairs to Brian to turn his CD player down. I didn’t expect a response on my second shout. I returned and placed the glass of wine in front of her. She smiled with gratitude. She had that weary look of utter despair in her eyes. I wondered if it was the right time to talk.

“The tests came back,” I said, taking a seat opposite her at the table.

She nodded and sipped on her wine. The bell rang on the microwave. I rushed in and grabbed the plate. It was too hot. I knew she was famished by now and was almost at the edge of exhaustion, but the food was too hot and she would have to wait. This would cost me points. I blew on the food as I carried it into the dining room, but I knew it was a lost cause.

“It’s hot,” I said hoping that by warning her I would have deflected some of her irritation at having to wait for dinner.

“I’m not that hungry,” she said. “I had a bite before I left the office.”

That was strange. She’d never had a bite before she left the office before. In one sense I felt relieved because I would not lose points over having served too hot a plate. On the other hand, why had she eaten? Was she getting tired of my cooking? I knew I was.

“What were the results?” she asked.

“What?” I asked still pondering over her lack of appetite. She’s always hungry. Not that she’s overweight. That has never been a problem for her. No matter how much or what she ate, she never put on weight. It has made her the envy of all the girls in the neighborhood. I have told her this on many occasions and it had been a wonderful way to accumulate points.

“The test results,” she repeated.

“Oh yes,” I nodded. “Dr. Davy phoned up and said that he’d like to see us. Nothing to worry about. All the tests came back negative. Brian is healthy enough but Dr. Davy thinks that he has Attention Deficit Disorder. And Tourette Syndrome.”

“He told you that.”

“Yes. Well, I had to weasel it out of him. But that is his diagnosis. He wants us to bring Brian along.”

“Why do we have to have an appointment with him if we know the results of his tests?”

“Medication. We have to decide on some medication for Brian.”

She shook her head and began to pick at her food. I wished that if she wasn’t hungry she wouldn’t touch her food. I could have put it away for lunch the next day.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“I don’t want my kid taking drugs,” she explained as she picked up her knife and began to dig into her meal. Now, what was I going to have for lunch tomorrow?

“Don’t you think we should discuss it with the doctor?” I asked.

“What’s there to discuss?” she asked as she washed down her beans with a swallow of wine.

“Why did you eat before you left the office?”

She pointed her fork at me.

“I think they’re going to offer me a partnership,” she said, her mouth filled with food. Her appetite had returned. I turned away. I couldn’t stand watching someone talk with their mouth full.

“You look worried,” Betty said to me the next morning as I hung some sheets up on the line. I love the smell of sheets freshly dried in the wind. They don’t have that musty smell of sheets from the dryer. Betty was my next door neighbor and like a sister for me. We had gone to college together. She had studied urban planning while I was in theatre. We met while double dating. My best buddy who later married Betty was dating her while I was going out with Betty’s roommate. I can’t remember the girl’s name, but it was our first and last date. Betty and I, on the other hand, became fast friends and ironically ended up buying houses next to each other.

“Nothing,” I smiled. I don’t know why I lied. Betty could always see through me.

“Michael, I know you better than that.”

I pinned my last sheet on the line and stepped over to the fence that separated our lots.

“I think my breasts are getting larger,” I said.

Betty howled with laughter. She had one of those infectious laughs that made you feel as if the whole planet was in good spirits.

“Do you and Doug still talk?” I asked once Betty had gained control of herself.

“You know Doug as well as I do. If more than a dozen vowels pass through his lips in one day, it means he’s been drinking. But we communicate in other ways.”

I glared at Betty. Ever since her and Doug  had begun to date, I had envied their relationship. They seemed to have the perfect melding of the female and male of our species.

“Are you having sexual problems again?” Betty asked.

“We go through the rituals but there isn’t much fun there.”

“And you’re following the point system?”

“I try,” I sighed.

It was Betty who had introduced me to the point system. It was a system in which one performed actions or deeds for the other party in a relationship so that later one could trade in these accumulated points for favors of one’s own. Betty called it the Adam Smith system of love-making. How could you argue with success?

Betty raised her eyebrows. I gave her an account of the incidents of the previous day, the good, the bad and the indifferent.

“Doesn’t sound like your breaking even,” Betty said.

“Don’t I know it,” I said shaking my head. “I always seem to be in the red with her. It’s not as if she says anything but I get the impression that nothing I do quite pleases her. And the harder I try the more irritated she appears. And the kids don’t help. As soon as she steps in the door they’re on her for one thing or another.”

“She feels under siege,” Betty suggested.

I nodded.

“Lot of pressure at work?”

I nodded. “They’re making her a partner.”

“That’s too bad,” Betty said shaking her head. “Worse thing that happens to a marriage is promotions. She’ll be expected to work longer hours now.”

“Longer hours,” I groaned.

“Of course there’s more money. But then there are more expenses. A cottage will really set you back.”

“A cottage!” I cried. “I don’t want a cottage. I hate cottages. Hated them when I was a kid. Mosquitoes and card games. And there’s still housework for me. I’d rather go to a hotel. At least I get someone else to serve me.”

“And then there are the dinners with the other partners,” Betty continued. “You can’t believe how boring some wives have become sitting at home for twenty years.”

“Dinners! We hardly have time to see our friends. Why would we want to start socializing with the people at work?”

“How are you going to get back in her good graces?” Betty asked. “You’ve got to do something to jar her out of her nine-to-five rut. This could be a turning point in your marriage.”

I took a deep breath. What was I going to do? All of this seemed so far from the lives we had led when we were first married. We used to go to movies, the odd play, long drives in the country, browsing through used bookstores. Now all she wanted to do was come, put her feet up and watch figure skating on the box. I hated figure skating but felt obligated to watch. It helped accumulate points.

Betty smiled. She had an idea.

I rushed around for the remainder of that day to clear up all the business of the day. Then I managed to farm out the kids, sending Betty over to Laura’s for an overnight, and Brian to his aunt Eunice’s across town. Brian was more difficult to persuade than Laura, twenty dollars more difficult. That’s what child rearing had come down to in our household – bribes. I visited the grocery store and bought all the ingredients for a romantic dinner. She loved roast beef, especially the way I cooked it, juicy with the beef a rosy sunburn in the middle. I baked some tea biscuits from a recipe my mother had lent me, prepared some fresh broccoli and cheese sauce, baked potatoes, horseradish, and beets. I hate beets but she had a craving for them every few weeks and we hadn’t had them for months. The kids hated beets. Debbie called them gory. I set a small table up by the dining room window, with candles, a new tablecloth, a bottle of expensive Italian wine. I cued some classical music on the stereo, a tenor called Bocelli. Everything was ready for her arrival.

She was late. Time crawled along. I put the roast back in the oven. She liked her beef medium rare but she hated it cold. After waiting for half an hour I poured myself some wine from the house wine we always had sitting around. Neither of us was crazy about it, but it was cheap and did the trick on a Saturday night. Into my second glass of wine I began to worry. What if she had gotten into an accident? It wasn’t like her to be this late without calling. What if the car broke down? She would have phoned. By the time I finished the bottle of wine, I hardly cared why she was late, I just wanted her home.

Just as I was about to dip into the expensive Italian wine I had bought for our dinner, I heard the sound of the Honda turning into the driveway. No one else applied their brakes in quite that fashion – the jerk and then the shriek. There was a courteous nod as she stepped in the door, her shoulders slouched, her briefcase dangling on the end of her arm.

I stood at the top of the stairs looking down at her.

She looked up at me with a puzzled expression on her face.

“Where are the kids?” she asked, setting her brief case down on the stairs to be retrieved later.

“How was your day?” I asked trying to stay upbeat and perky.

“Unbelievable,” she moaned. “It was one rush after another. I thought I’d never get out of there. I hope you didn’t wait up for me to eat. We had a bite at the office.”

I turned toward the kitchen. She trudged up the stairs and stepping into the dining room, cried out.

“Oh, Michael!”

Stepping into the kitchen behind me as I sliced the roast beef, she put her arms around me and gave me a hug.

“This is so sweet.”

“Have a seat,” I commanded.

She did as she was told. I poured her a glass of wine, lit the candles, turned on Bocelli, and returned a few minutes later with our dinner.

“I’m not really hungry,” she smiled.

“Eat!” I demanded.

There was an awkward smile on her face. From across the table, it looked like a smirk.

She cut into her roast and took a bite.

“This is a little over done,” she said.

“A little over done!” I barked, reached across the table, picked up her plate and tossed it out the window.

 

THE END

6 Responses to “I wonder what happened to Davenport”

  1. Jane Thorne said

    David I didn’t have time to read this but I made time…I love your style and you had me hooked from the first few lines and I laughed out loud…it was the line referring to Betty ‘they comunicated in other ways’….this is great writing and humour..Jane 😀

  2. Jane Thorne said

    Another thought….how have you tried to re-invent yourself as a writer? Jane

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