The first story in my 5pm Fictions collection is ‘Life in the Old Dog’. I was asked recently to read one of my short pieces (plenty of choice – there are 250 in this collection alone!) to the members of one of the local theatres, Moulton Theatre. A friend had read this recently as practice for being a voice over artist (he has a great voice) so I chose this one. I hope you like it…
Life in the Old Dog
Condoms. Why are there condoms in your handbag? You look at the outside again to make sure it’s your bag. You knew it was when you opened it and the rest of the contents are yours, but these certainly aren’t.
Your mind races for clues. The only other person to go near the bag was Albert and he’d have no use for condoms. As far as you’re aware he’s never cheated on you and anyway, he’s so short-sighted and deaf he’d never notice or hear if anyone was… what’s the phrase the youngsters use today?… ‘hitting on’ him.
You’re always so fastidious about leaving your bag unattended, ever since being cautioned at the airport when Albert took you to Paris for your fortieth wedding anniversary. Not cautioned, he’d say, warned, but it felt like they were the police, with their uniforms and polished shoes.
Today, the only time you went out was to go to the supermarket then the garage for petrol. You’d filled the trolley while Albert sat in the café then you’d filled the car with unleaded while he queued to pay. Then he’d thrown the receipt and some chocolate in your bag. The chocolate you’d picked out when you’d got home, put it to one side on top of the washing machine while he parked the car, and that’s when you’d found the condoms.
The receipt, you remember, will explain all. Petrol… chocolate… condoms. So it was Albert. You look up to the ceiling to avoid the tears you know you want to cry, but you won’t give him the satisfaction. You know he’s not bought them for you, you stopped having babies years ago, so if they’re not for you…
The threat of tears turns to welling anger, and you have your arms crossed when he walks into the kitchen from the garage.
He looks at the contents on top of the washing machine and smiles. “Great. Fancy some?”
You frown so he continues. “Chocolate? It’s Fruit & Nut, your favourite.”
“And these?” you ask, holding up the packet of condoms.
“I know,” he says. “I’ve tried giving up. I didn’t think you’d mind if I only got a pack of ten.”
“I’ll make them last. I chose a different brand to normal.”
“These are supposed to be better for you.”
You’re about to throw them at him when he continues. “Low tar.”
“Cigarettes. I shouldn’t, I know.”
“These aren’t cigarettes, Albert!”
“No, Albert. These are condoms.”
“They are? Why did she give me condoms?”
You burst out laughing at his pained expression, like the little boy you remember from school.
Albert winks, takes your hand and leads you upstairs.