23 February 2018

The Housewife's Tale

Reuters, 11 September 2185.
A sheet of paper, believed to contain a fragment of the lost novel by Margaret Atwood, The Housewife’s Tale, has been discovered by academics from Oneworld University. The fragment is reproduced below.

Notes for Editors
1. Margaret Atwood was a twentieth-century Canadian novelist.
2. A housewife was a married woman without formal employment.
3. Marriage was a contract under which the parties promised not to sleep with other people.
4. Paper was a wood-based material used to record text.

I awake. The room seems to be brightly lit. I realise it is morning.

There appears to be sunshine entering the bedroom. I had forgotten there was such a thing as sunshine.

Sunshine has often been considered male, as it is an external agent which makes things swell and grow. My friend Lynda used to say she hated sunshine.

My husband George is stirring next to me. Suddenly I feel something hard prodding me. Do I like it? I am not sure.

« « «             » » »

There is something faintly ridiculous about the male organ. I have become jaded about all those fumblings and thrustings, those wifely duties that we were always told would be so exhilarating — liberating, even. Or have I?

Lynda once said that you can get used to anything. But I am starting to feel I have done enough of that sort of thing.

« « «             » » »

It is later. I am in the kitchen, scrubbing carrots. As I look at the carrots, I realise how bright they are, how orange. Agent Orange. That was the name of a poison, used in the Indochina wars, which gave millions of people cancer. The shape of the carrots makes me feel vaguely nauseous.

George comes into the room. He gazes at me kindly, like a grandfather, or a benevolent uncle. I could almost love him at times like this. He does not look at me like most other men, always on the verge of thinking “bitch”.

« « «             » » »

I have a memory of an incident that happened years ago, after I first met George. Or was it last week? He, Lynda and I were sitting in a cafe drinking tea. George went to the toilet, and Lynda whispered something to me, I think it was about foundation cream. When George came back, I sensed he knew Lynda and I had been talking. But he never referred to the incident. We have never discussed it, and I now regret that. The resulting gap between us has become a festering wound, a source of reproach.

Men. One thinks they want love, but ultimately they just want to dominate you. But I am tired of being dominated. Love — what is it, when you get down to it, but gropings and thrustings? You can keep it.

« « «             » » »

Later, George and I are at a restaurant. Suddenly I catch a young man’s eye. I can tell immediately what he wants, and I suddenly realise I want it too. I am filled with a terrible hunger. I must have him. I am willing to risk everything — marriage, status, home. I am about to do something foolish. I wonder if George has noticed anything, but he is blithely studying the dessert menu.

Then a waitress moves between me and the man. When she has gone, the man is still looking at me, full of eager anticipation. But the moment has gone, and I have lost interest.

« « «             » » »

Time is like a boat powered by a dodgy motor. You cannot resist its motion, though you sometimes have the illusion of being given pause to reconsider, to change direction.

When I was a child, my mother used to warn me never to

[end of fragment]