Fic­tion

Em­manuel is set­tling into a lazy life of re­tire­ment, but his wife has other plans for him

DRUM - - CONTENTS -

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’

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