Our Imaginary Lives

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


A perfect picture but scratch the surface and see what you may find.

Submitted: September 21, 2017

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Submitted: September 21, 2017

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Our Imaginary Lives.

Look at us! Aren’t we the picture of perfection! It’s 1960 and life is sweet.

Dad, well, he’s the man of the house. The king of his castle. Out he goes to work every morning and home he comes every evening. So what if sometimes he gets back a bit late. When he’s home, he’s the focus of the house. Things will work around him. Any problems, take them to him; he’s sure to come up with the answers. Just make him comfortable, look after his needs and, most important of all, DO NOT annoy him.

Now Mom is the perfect wife and mother. She will spend her day happily cleaning and baking, making sure everything is kept just how he likes it. She will go out to the shops but always sticks to her list and looks for bargains; after all, that is her duty, to take care of his hard-earned cash. She will plan the meals around his likes, avoiding anything she knows he’s not too fond of. His dinner will be ready when he walks through that door; even if he is late it will be perfect. She will serve it with a smile and will keep quiet about any insignificant little worries she might be having. And won’t she try to look her best for his return.

Then there’s little Johnny. At six years old he’s off to school and making his parents so very proud. He takes part in everything, is showing excellent sporting promise, and his teachers, they love him. He always pays attention and always completes his work. He really is the perfect child. At home he runs to greet his father, then goes off to leave him in peace. He dutifully eats all the food that his mother puts in front of him, and is always ready for bed at 8 o’clock at night. Johnny does not ask to be bought this or to be taken here and there, but is always delighted when his father suggests an outing or buys him a gift.

Scruff is the perfect family dog. He’s small and he’s loyal and he’s devoted to his master. He has learnt to fetch his master’s slippers, to bring the newspaper, even to fetch his own leash. For once he is home, Scruff knows just who he owes his allegiance to. Mom might feed him, but Dad takes the lead. Once back from their short trot around the neighbourhood, during which he has not once pulled on the leash, Scruff will curl up at his master’s feet. What more could a dog possibly want?

That’s what you see and that is just the picture we want to make. But is it true? Or are we just putting on a show for you? Scrape away the pretences and banish all the lies and let’s see what we have left.

Dad goes to work where he is bossed around, but he doesn’t mind because he has the attention and the adoration of Maureen. And sometimes these attentions might lead to a late arrival home....He’ll just blame the trains. And his wife, who? Oh, her. Well, so long as she keeps things running smoothly and keeps him happy, that’s fine. Give her the housekeeping and if she is really thrifty she can treat herself. The rest of the money will go into his pocket or in to the bank where only he can get it. He’ll read his son’s reports, make sure he is doing what he is expected to do. So long as he does not cause any kind of disturbance, that’s fine. The dog, well, the dog’s been taught just who is the boss of the house. The dog will do him proud when he parades it around the street. Unlike his neighbours pets who will pull at the leash, bark, snap, soil the side-walk, his dog is well-trained.

Mom hides her tears and her disappointment in a carefully hidden bottle of gin. It does not matter if she looks a bit rough during the day; after all, no one sees her. She’ll smarten herself up before he comes home, and she’ll keep pretending that Maureen is just another work mate of his. She’ll indulge in fantasies of poisoning his food, of making him suffer, but that is all they will be. She will smile and simper, wear those outfits that he likes. She will not talk to strangers and she will always make sure that the bruises don’t show. It is almost as much a matter of pride for her as it is for him, to keep the beatings hidden. If she wants a treat, she’ll have to be careful – her husband would not take kindly to the scandal of a shop-lifting wife.

Little Johnny might be popular with the teachers. He has had a lot of experience on how to behave around adults for one so young. But his bullying ways have not made him popular with his classmates and the neighbourhood children. He is respectful to his father, at least to his face, saving his less acceptable comments for when he is playing alone in his room. When his father is home he can ignore his mother; after all, she now counts as little more than a servant. And when his father is at work he can be openly scornful, disrespectful and down-right nasty. He knows she’ll not say anything to the ‘boss of the house’.

And Scruff, well, he’s a bit of a quivering wreck. He has learnt what to do to avoid the hits and the kicks. He is thankful for the home, for the regular meals. Letting the master be totally dominant is a small price to pay.

So there you have it – the image and the truth. Take any picture, scrape away at it, and you may well discover that all is definitely not as it seems.

 


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