Emmanuel is settling into a lazy life of retirement, but his wife has other plans for him
RISE and shine,” Grace said, as she put the mug of coffee on the bedside table beside her husband. Grace had decided she’d try the cheerful, positive approach first. If that didn’t work, well, she had other methods up her sleeve. One thing was certain, she wasn’t putting up with Emmanuel’s nonsense for one more day!
Emmanuel opened one bleary eye and peered over the top of the duvet.
“What’s going on?” He sounded confused. “It’s much too early! It’s still the middle of the night!”
Grace pulled back the curtains. Bright sunshine flooded the bedroom.
“Come on, up you get! This is the first day of the rest of your life!” There was a hard edge to her voice now.
“Have a heart, Gracie!” Emmanuel whined. “For 40 years, I’ve got up at the crack of dawn. Monday to Friday. Isn’t that enough? Can’t I just have a lie-in in peace? Please.”
He pulled the duvet over his head. But Grace had no intention of leaving Emmanuel in peace. It had been two months since he’d stopped working, and she was sick of his retirement lifestyle.
He lay in bed until all hours, calling constantly for another cup of coffee or some toast or a lemon drink. Then he spent the rest of the day following close behind her while she did the housework, talking non-stop, getting in her way, wanting her attention.
Or he sat slumped in his favourite chair watching the sports channels that blared from the television at full volume – soccer, rugby, cricket, golf. Even skateboarding! What did he care about skateboarding? This whole retirement thing was driving her around the bend.
Grace had made up her mind. She wasn’t going to put up with her hubby’s lazing around and annoying her any longer. Enough was enough! It was time to put her foot down. She’d come to a decision and she was going to stick to it.
“No, Mr Emmanuel Rebatho Matenge,” she spoke to the top of the duvet. “I’m not letting you waste another day. If you can’t find a way to spend your day doing something worthwhile, then I’ll organise it for you. So here it is – I’ve written down a list of chores that need doing.
“There are plenty of projects to keep you busy. Have your coffee, get yourself dressed and then you can get busy.”
Emmanuel’s face reappeared above the duvet. Both eyes were wide open now, in a little-boy look of horror. “List? What do you mean by list?”
Grace produced a large piece of paper from her pocket and slowly but purposefully unfolded it. She’d sat up late into the night before writing out this list. It had needed a lot of careful thought.
“First, there’s the backyard shed. It needs a good clean-out. There’s 20 years of rubbish shoved away in there. I bet strange creatures are living in the back corners. And when you’ve finished that, my old kitchen table needs a coat of varnish – you’ve been promising to do that for five years. That will keep you busy until lunchtime, and then, after lunch, I thought . . .”
“Have a heart, Gracie!” Emmanuel interrupted her with a deep frown creasing his forehead. “I’ve spent 40 years at the factory, working rain or shine. Getting up in the dark. Giving my employer his pound of flesh. Earning every single rand I got paid. Surely I deserve some rest and relaxation? ”
But Grace wasn’t a woman who gave in to little-boy frowns and excuses. She’d brought up three sons – and they hadn’t got away with much either, even though they’d tried the same tricks.
Thebe, Samuel and Alphonse. She was proud of the way she’d handled them through their boyhoods and teenage years. Today, all three were fine husbands who seldom annoyed their wives.
No, she knew how to deal with men. Firmness was the key! She yanked the duvet off the bed and Emmanuel knew he was well and truly beaten.
IN JUST half an hour he was dressed and on his doleful way across the backyard to the shed. He was muttering under his breath about being unappreciated in his golden years, kicking at the sand like a child with a bad temper.
From the kitchen window, Grace noticed something strange. Emmanuel had his cellphone in his hand, which immediately made her suspicious. Her husband didn’t like his phone. It had been a retirement present from their youngest son, Alphonse. Normally, Emmanuel left it lying on his bedside table, or he forgot it in his jacket pocket, or let the battery run flat, much to Alphonse’s despair. But now he was clutching his phone like his life depended on it.
When her husband was safely inside the shed, noisily pushing old boxes and rusty tools around, Grace dried her hands and moved quietly across the yard. She hid behind a bush near enough so she could listen in to what was happening in the shed.
Her suspicions were right! Emmanuel was on his cellphone, complaining to his friend, MP, who had retired from the same factory 16 months ago.
“Eish, a list, MP! She wrote down this list of jobs for me on a big piece of paper. Chores, she calls them. I mean, it’s not right, is it? It’s not fair. After 40 years of getting up and working every day. You
know what that was like! Now I get a list to keep me busy. Did your Polelo ever do this to you? . . . No? Well, I’m sure you can see how wrong it is. Come on, MP, you have to help me. What can I do?”
GRACE tiptoed back to the kitchen to finish the washing up. She had a good idea about what would happen next – he was as predictable as clockwork. Sure enough, Emmanuel appeared at the door, looking wide-eyed and innocent. She recognised that look – it was the look all three of her sons had given her when they’d done something naughty and were hoping to get away with it. Not that they’d ever stood a chance.
“Grace, Gracie my love, there’s a problem . . .” Emmanuel began. “Oh yes?” “Yes, MP just phoned . . .” “Really? Strange, I didn’t hear your phone ring.”
“Yeah, well, um . . .” An expression of panic flickered across her husband’s face. But he soldiered bravely on.
“Anyway, Gracie my love, MP was planning to go fishing with a friend today. Down at the dam. But now this friend can’t come. Arthritis or something . . .” “Oh yes?” “Yes. MP’s really upset. He was looking forward to it so much. But he doesn’t want to go alone, poor guy. Fishing on your own isn’t much fun. You understand? Anyway, he’s asked me to go along.”
“But Emmanuel, you don’t know how to fish. You’ve never fished in all the 37 years we’ve been together!”
“Well, MP said he’d teach me. I mean, I can’t let an old friend down, can I? Not after all the years we worked together. Not after all the times he covered for me with the boss. That wouldn’t be fair, would it?”
Grace had her fists firmly on her hips now. “What about letting me down? What about all the chores that need doing? What about that shed? I’m telling you, Emmanuel, its driving me up the wall. Every time I look at it, I get the creeps. And if you guys are fishing, you’ll be away all day! Am I right?”
“Have a heart, Gracie!” Emmanuel screwed his face up into a little-boy plea of desperation.
“I’ll do the chores tomorrow. First thing. Promise.”
“Yeah, right. I’ll believe that when I see it.”
After several long, silent moments, she slowly dried her hands on her apron and finally relented.
“It’s your choice, Emmanuel. You’re a grown man. So, I suppose you must make your own decisions,” she said with a weary sigh.
EMMANUEL scuttled out of the kitchen as fast as his legs would take him. He grabbed his jacket and rushed out of the house – before Grace could change her mind. She watched through the window as he reversed the car at speed, narrowly missing the cat who was taking a morning nap in the sun. Within seconds, he had disappeared up the road.
Grace shook her head in the same way she’d done over the years handling the antics of her three sons. Then she made herself a cup of coffee – the expensive kind that she kept for special occasions.
She settled herself into Emmanuel’s favourite chair and switched the television on to her favourite channel where a tearjerker movie was just about to start.
She was definitely, absolutely, positively not going to waste a whole peaceful, glorious Emmanuel-free day doing housework!
“I love it when a plan comes together,” she said, smiling to herself as she slipped the chore-list back into her apron pocket, ready for the next time she needed a day off from her retired husband.
‘If you can’t find a way to spend your day doing something worthwhile, then I’ll organise it for you’