Every Man for Himself

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A dysfunctional couple are unable to come to terms with each other. Their lives are played out between her all-consuming job, and his inability to dominate her, except sexually.

Submitted: November 27, 2011

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Submitted: November 27, 2011

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EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF!

 

Ivan was looking for his pyjamas. They weren’t where he had asked the maid to leave them. She never left anything in its place, only where she felt like leaving it.

“Magda, where are my pyjamas?” asked Ivan.

“Where they’re meant to be,” said his uninterested wife.

“Well they’re not where I like to find them. I don’t want to keep repeating what I say about my belongings. I always have to look for everything; my books, my pyjamas, my umbrella, and I’m fed up. Do you understand?” By now Ivan was getting desperate.

“Don’t get so hysterical. You talk as if the maid did it on purpose.” Magda was not listening to her husband’s complaints.

“Aren’t I right? Then tell me something. Why does she take notice of you and not of me?”

“That’s not true,” declared Magda.

“It’s not true! If I tell her I don’t want starch in my shirts, she does the opposite, because, according to her, you have ordered her to put starch in them. They are my shirts and I don’t want starch in them.”

“I prefer shirts with starch. They are not so elegant without it.”

“What does it matter to me whether or not they are elegant!”

“Well, I like to see you elegant, and anyway the maid doesn’t put much in them. Do you know what people say to me?”

“Who?”

“Some people who work with me. That I have a very elegant husband.”

“I bet they don’t even know my name.”

Magda went into the corridor and took out Ivan’s pyjamas from a cupboard.”

“Why are they there instead of in my chest of drawers?” asked an annoyed Ivan.

“What does it matter? Listen, Ivan, I’ve had a bad day, let’s change the subject.”

Ivan put on his pyjamas and got into bed, with sheets that matched his pyjamas. This mania of Magda! This week we are in brown and beige, next week blue. Everything is predictable.

This conversation between them was the most normal and common.

Magda have you seen my coat, my shoes, my ties,….?

For Ivan everything was a mystery as if his belongings, the maid, and even Magda were beyond his control.

Bathed, hair brushed, and dressed like a good boy, Ivan got into bed and began to read. The table lamp projected the only light in the bedroom, directly onto the book he had in his hands. It was a detective novel. Ivan enjoyed trying to guess who the murderer was, and this type of book was a mental relaxation for him. He went to bed early every night before Magda so that he was able to get the most out of reading before the arrival of his wife, who entered the bedroom like a whirlwind talking about this, that, and the other, breaking the peace that Ivan longed for so much. It was impossible to read with her nearby and that was one more reason to go to bed early. Many nights Magda brought work home from the frozen food company where she was the queen of the publicity department. The fact that, because of this, he couldn’t switch on the television didn’t put Ivan out so much, a few years ago he had discovered that the only place where he felt was safe from being annoyed by Magda was in bed.

Ivan was feeling more and more relaxed with the heat from his own body and the pillows piled up behind his head. He was in his glory. The novel was working out fine, one of his work-mates at the bank had recommended it. He was right, thought Ivan, it has a very good development. Let’s see if I can finish it tonight. The detective in the novel had questioned all the suspects. Who was it? Ivan continued avidly. Who was writing the anonymous letters? It was so comfortable in bed that sleep managed to overcome him and against his will, Ivan had no alternative but to switch off the lamp and put the book on the bedside table.

Magda interrupted the tranquillity on entering the bedroom. Lights were switched on, water was being run in the bath, the racket of the opening and shutting of drawers and cupboards, and then the noise of splashing water as Magda bathed. The sleeping Ivan heard nothing. When Magda got into bed Ivan was far away in dream world, far from her.

 

“Ivan, as you were asleep last night when I got home, I didn’t want to wake you up to let you know that we have a date at Sara’s next Saturday.”

Ivan was having breakfast when Magda informed him. Without raising his head he said, “I suppose you told her that we’d both go, didn’t you?”

Magda, who was on the point of leaving the kitchen, answered without much interest, “Of course I did.”

“That’s what I thought.”

“We’ll talk later, Ivan, goodbye.” And she left.

Ivan murmured, “See you later.”

Ten minutes later Ivan left home and went walking to the bank. Magda had the car.

His book was in his pocket. Opposite the bank there was a café, he went in and ordered a coffee. The plot was getting all mixed up. Ivan’s eyes devoured the words. What emotion! The hero had taken a girl to the theatre and to a restaurant; therefore it couldn’t be them who had killed the architect’s secretary. The last pages. Ivan looked anxiously at his watch, he just had time to finish the book. Of course, it had to be the lawyer’s sister who had sent the anonymous letters to everybody in the village, but, who killed the secretary? The architect had killed her seeing that she, the secretary whom he was madly in love with, didn’t respond to him. He had no other solution but to kill her. Why had the lawyer’s sister sent anonymous letters to everyone? Because she was in love with the architect and didn’t want to lose him. The girl and the hero? Well, they got married.

Ivan got to the bank just in time. His desk had several drawers and he put the book into one of them. Ivan had kept all kinds of books, world maps, holiday brochures, naturism, and on how to keep yourself in better shape. One of Ivan’s dreams was to remove all his clothes not just on the beach but at home, too. But with a wife like Magda who had a mania for everything matching this was impossible. Once when Ivan had suggested the idea to Magda she had replied, “What if there’s a fire?”

“A fire? There’s nothing inflammable here. This is a building of metal and glass. You’ve made a mistake.”

“Well, anyway this sleeping in the nude, I don’t fancy it. A nightdress and pyjamas matching the sheets is much nicer. Don’t you think?”

“Thank goodness we no longer live in the garden of Eden,” said Ivan.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because there was nothing there that matched, yet everything was in perfect harmony.”

Thinking like that, Ivan saw that there were many things that matched but nothing was in harmony.

The post that day brought one more brochure and a letter addressed to Ivan. It was lunchtime and Ivan had gone out to eat something, he never went home until seven in the evening. When he began to receive brochures and maps, Ivan had rented a post office box, out of sight of the eagle eyes of the maid and Magda. He opened the letter. It was an invitation to attend a meeting of those people interested in naturism. The meeting was on the following day. That would be a cocktail, canapés, a chat by one of the organisers, and a film about their activities. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to go, nevertheless I should. What am I to say to Magda? It doesn’t matter, I’ll think of something. Ivan returned to the bank and put the letter in his pigeonhole.

 

“Excuse me, Sir, you mustn’t eat now.”

Ivan was taking a steak out of the fridge. “Why mustn’t I eat now? I’m hungry and this is my home and my food. Correct me if I’m wrong. Then I’m going to eat.”

“I’m sorry, Sir, but they are orders from Madam. She rang me to tell me that she would be arriving home late with a couple of men from the office to work on something, and wanted the dinner to be a bit special, and she told me categorically that I must stop you from eating beforehand.”

Ivan had prepared some chips to go with the steak .”Look, this is my business. You should confine yourself to cleaning and not getting mixed up in other people’s lives.”

“Yes, Sir, but Madam said……”

Ivan didn’t let her finish, “Madam won’t say anything. There’s nothing to say.”

“Very well, Sir.”

“Good, now we understand each other better, you can make me a salad, please. Not too big. And fry me two eggs to go on top of the steak.”

“Yes, Sir.” The maid shook like a jelly while she was finishing Ivan’s dinner. What was Madam going to say? Will I lose my job? After having promised her that I wouldn’t let her husband have dinner. What am I going to do?

“Dinner is ready, Sir.”

Ivan went to the dining-room and the maid followed him with the food on a tray. “Put it down over there, please.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Do you know how to say anything else apart from ‘Yes, Sir’ or ‘No, Sir’?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“You don’t know how happy that makes me, I thought you had some kind of an affliction.”

“Excuse me, Sir.”

“Nothing. Nothing. I’ll take the plates to the kitchen.”

There was a programme on television that Ivan liked very much . When Magda was working late, which was normal with her, Ivan had dinner and watched television. The programme was ridiculous but it made him laugh. It was a type of competition for new singers, comedians, magicians, impersonators. Recently a singer had appeared who was extremely bad but who had a fantastic figure. She was everyone’s favourite, including Ivan. She had a silly face, thought Ivan, but with a body like that no one would expect her to have a brain. Ivan finished his dinner and lit a cigarette. He was happy. There was still an hour before Magda’s arrival home. The programme over, he left the plates in the kitchen. The maid was finishing the preparations for the dinner. “Are you off now?”

“Yes, Sir, when I’ve washed up your plates.”

Ivan went to the bathroom to prepare his bath. The maid left and when she had gone Ivan got into the bath.

That night he was sleepier than the night before, in spite of that, he had enough energy to start a new novel. Like a mummy in its sarcophagus Ivan was in the bed. With the excitement of starting out on a new adventure, a journey to the unknown, he opened his book. It was about a woman found electrocuted by curling irons. It was somewhat silly, but Ivan liked to follow the development to see how the writer got to the final dénouement.

The door opened brusquely and Magda appeared, “What’s all this?”

“Hello, darling. How are you?” Ivan knew very well how Magda felt, but every so often he enjoyed playing the part of ignorant and innocent.

“Don’t play around with me. Why are you in bed?”

“At times, Magda, you ask the silliest questions. What do people usually do in bed?”

“Don’t try to shake me off. I’ve brought home two work mates to have dinner and work on a job from the office. And you’re in bed! I don’t believe it. How can you show me up like that?”

“I’m not showing you up. It’s better like that. You and them working, and me in bed reading, without annoying anybody.”

“How can I introduce you in pyjamas?”

“You don’t have to introduce me. I have nothing to say to them nor them to me. Now, Magda, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get on with my book.”

Magda closed the door and Ivan, relaxed against the pillows, heard Magda’s voice, “My husband’s gone to bed.”

One of the men said, “Then maybe we should go home. We’ll finish up the work another night.”

“It doesn’t matter he’s used to this, it’s all the same to him,” Magda said, very sure of herself.

Very much later, when Ivan was sleeping, Magda got into bed, Ivan turned over and cuddled her and started kissing her.

“Ivan, I’m tired, I’ve been working hard all day.”

“Yes, I know. You’ve been in the dining-room since nine and now it’s two o’clock in the morning. If you have time for them then you also have time for me.”

Instead of answering, Magda gave a yawn.

“Come on, Magda, buck up. Give us a kiss.”

“I’m too tired.”

“I don’t understand you. For five hours you haven’t been too tired for your work, but now that you’ve arrived here, suddenly you have a deep drowsiness that you are unable to dominate. I don’t ask for much but I get nothing from you. What would your work-mates say if you told them that you were tired?”

“Please, Ivan, stop being so tiresome.”

Ivan gave her a kiss to shut her up and then made ‘love’, with Magda being very half-hearted about it, which didn’t bother Ivan at all. For one brief moment Ivan had been able to control his wife. He turned over and straight away he was deep asleep.

 

Ivan didn’t remember how he had arrived there nor when. What is this place? He was sitting with his arms around his legs. There was no light. The floor was hard, cold, and slippery. He was afraid to move in case he harmed himself. How long have I been asleep? There was no sound, no smell. What an atmosphere! Sterile, cold, the only living thing was Ivan. Am I alone? I can’t stay sitting here, I must try to get out.

He stood up and with his arms and hands stretched out in front of him explored the interior of what he thought must be a cave. Walking extremely carefully over the surface as if he were walking on ice, Ivan slowly moved forward. At the last moment, when he thought there was no end to it, his hands touched something. The wall. How strange! It’s like the floor smooth and cold. Ivan slid his hands along it. If I keep going I’ll come to the opening. Then he realized that it was a never-ending wall. He stopped, and with his body against the wall, and his fingers reached up and around, touching it, trying to find something somewhere higher up: a door, an exit, something different from this cold and lifeless surface.

Ivan had no knowledge of how long he had been walking but it seemed a very long time. He was tired, his feet and legs ached, and he decided to sit down with his back against the wall.

He suddenly felt himself falling backwards. The wall he’d been leaning against had disappeared. Something made him look upwards and he saw Magda’s malevolent eyes staring at him. He realised she was holding a cup and he was on the saucer. ‘She wants to squash me!’ he thought, and ran as fast as possible to escape.

 

Ivan woke up in the darkness of the bedroom, his heart was still beating rapidly. What a dream! Trapped under a cup and Magda wanting to crush me. Well, I’m not going to let her.

At rest, Magda didn’t look like the woman who was so admired in the company. Ivan thought she looked rather simple. To be honest, nobody is at their best when they are asleep. Magda, do you know you sleep with your mouth open. With his thumb and forefinger Ivan closed Magda’s mouth, she moved and he took his fingers away. Her mouth fell open again. Magda, there’s no remedy for you. You are a lost cause. You are not going to squash me. As it was nearly time to get up, Ivan went to the kitchen. On seeing the cups and saucers he lost his energy to do anything and went back to the bedroom where he prepared his clothes for work and went to the bathroom. It was to Magda’s great surprise on waking to see Ivan dressed and saying goodbye.

 

Ivan read more than usual, due to the fact that he had a long breakfast in the café. He was in a good mood when he entered the bank.

Clients normally have a fixed day to go to the bank. Retired people depending on the first letter of their surname; others depending on where they work. Ivan knew more or less who he would see on a Tuesday or a Friday. From his post behind the glass screen the only view that Ivan had of his clients was from the waist up. The elderly ladies many times only managed to show him their heads. The fat men leaned their swollen stomachs against the counter. Their was one client with an enormous bust who regularly wore low necklines. On many occasions Ivan had to resist the temptation to drop a coin down her generous cleavage.

The tellers had their favourite clients, the ones who gave them no trouble and who never wasted time. Ivan had his: an elderly man, who lived to inform anyone who would listen the winning number of the national lottery; a woman who appeared to have all the weight of the world on her shoulders; an elderly couple who looked like two China dolls; and the last one was a woman who was married, according to the ring she wore, and who smelled like a real woman.

 

What a surprise he had that afternoon after leaving the bank to go to the meeting. As he entered he saw a familiar face. For a moment Ivan was unable to place the face and then he remembered the bank. Of course, she was a woman from the waist up. That’s the bad thing of not being able to see people from head to foot, when you meet up with them in a different place it’s difficult to recognize them. The meeting was held in a naturism and vegetarian centre. Ivan had never attended before but something in Magda’s attitude had pushed him to go there. The atmosphere was quite agreeable and apart from his customer he didn’t know anyone else.

Ivan went up to her, “Excuse me, aren’t you a client at the bank that’s opposite the café?”

The woman stared at him straight, and said, “Yes, I am a client there. Why do you ask?”

“It’s because I’m a teller there and I’ve seen you a few times. I’m Ivan and you?”

“My name’s Petra.”

Ivan shook Petra’s hand. “The reason I’ve approached you is that it’s the first time I’ve come here and wanted to know what it was like, etc. Have you been here before?”

“Yes, a couple of times. It isn’t bad. The talks are quite interesting and the films, too.”

“Have you been to any of their hotels for a holiday?”

“Not yet, but it must be interesting. They have places to practise yoga, painting, music; they don’t have anywhere dedicated just to naturism. That’s the best thing about this society.”

Ivan was on the point of asking Petra what interested her when a bell rang.

“It’s the signal to enter the projection room.” Petra lead Ivan towards the door and they went into what was like a small cinema.

The seats were very comfortable, and Ivan felt great pleasure to have Petra at his side, that way he didn’t feel new there, neither alone nor strange. “Petra, do you know many people here?”

“No, I don’t, but everyone is very friendly. Don’t worry, we are all friends here.”

“That’s what I thought.”

In the darkness of the room, Ivan observed Petra a few times but she kept her eyes on the screen. The film dealt with the experiences of a group that had passed a month living in rural houses in the mountains. What they had learned about themselves and the other members of the group. The countryside where the film had been made was delightful. Tall trees growing beside streams, and an intense blue sky. But above all the cleanness of the place. Ivan was quite impressed. How often had he desired to spend a holiday in such a place, and Magda took no notice of what he said. She preferred instead to go to a luxury hotel in a tourist resort at the height of the summer season, when he would have liked to visit somewhere like in the film. Ivan was unable to resist asking, “Petra, would you like to have a holiday in such a place?”

The woman, about whom he knew absolutely nothing, replied in a yearning voice, “Of course.”

Now he knew her a little more. Petra liked the mountains.

When the film was over there was a talk with the participants of the film. It seemed that everyone had the same questions. Ivan and Petra stayed in their seats listening to the questions and answers.

Petra stood up, “I’ve got to leave.”

“I’ll accompany you,” Ivan offered.

They left the room and went towards the street. In the entrance there was a poster announcing an excursion for the following Sunday. Ivan stopped to read it. “Are you going on the excursion?”

“I don’t think so. My husband doesn’t like those things.”

Ivan looked at her, “Are you married?”

“Yes, I am. And you?”

“Me, too.”

“If I don’t leave now, I’ll be late home.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t want to create problems for you. I’ll call a taxi.”

Ivan got Petra a taxi. “See you around. Good night.”

“Good night, and thanks.” Petra shouted to him from inside the taxi. Ivan watched the taxi till it had turned the corner. What a pleasant woman! Pity she’s married, still, never mind.

Ivan went straight home and on arrival had to face a bad tempered maid. “Good evening, is the dinner ready?”

The maid, who had been reprimanded by Magda, said, “Yes, sir, Madam wants to see you as soon as you arrive.”

Well, well, as if I were a naughty boy. I wonder what the queen of the house and the office wants.

Ivan opened the door to the living-room. Magda was sitting at the table covered with books from the office. When she heard the door open she raised her head. Ivan stared at her, “Hello, Magda. Working?”

Magda, didn’t answer the question she gave him one back, “Where’ve you been? The bank closed two hours ago.”

“Round about.” Ivan didn’t have the slightest intention of telling her the truth for fear of Magda’s reaction.

“What do you mean by that? Round about. If you don’t want to tell me anything, I have something to tell you. First, you’ve made me wait for dinner.”

“Don’t be silly. You don’t have to wait for me.”

“Of course, you’d like me to behave like you did last night. Well, I’m not going to. There are rules in this house and they must be obeyed for the smooth-running of the home. Don’t interrupt me. I haven’t finished. The next time I bring someone home I want you to be with us. And don’t annoy the maid. You’ve made her very sad with last night’s behaviour.”

“This is my house, Magda, and you shouldn’t speak to me like that. If I wish to go to bed early, I shall. You always have your head in books from the office but you never have time for me or anything else.”

“You have a nerve. I work very hard and don’t receive one word of gratitude from you, only reproaches. There are many men who are jealous of you for having me as a wife, I’ve been told that in the office. ‘Magda you are a wonderful woman and wife. Your husband is lucky having you.’"

“Where are all those lovers?”

“Don’t be vulgar. You know what you’ve got to do. I don’t understand you.”

“That’s true. Good night.”

“And dinner?”

“What’s wrong with the dinner?”

“It’s ready to eat.”

“Well, eat it.”

Ivan left the living-room and went into the bathroom. What a pity Magda didn’t own hair tongs like the woman in the story, maybe she could electrocute herself, were Ivan’s thoughts.

In bed Ivan thought about Petra. Who was she married to? Did they have children? Did she like him? Ivan slept very well that night in spite of not having dined nor having received an answer to any of his questions.

 

The rest of the week passed slowly. Petra didn’t appear at the bank . Magda was more intransigent than ever and for the second time he had managed to get her under his control and, what’s more, the new novel hadn’t had the result that Ivan had hoped for! On Friday, Petra arrived at the bank at the last moment.

“I wish to deposit these cheques, please,” she smiled.

When Ivan returned her bank book, he said, “I finish at two.”

“Fine, I’ll wait outside for you.”

 

Ivan took Petra’s arm, “Did you get home all right the other night?”

“Yes, very well, thank you. My husband arrived home a bit later.”

“Where are we going to have lunch?”

“If it’s OK with you, I know a small restaurant near the park It’s run by one of those who go to the meetings.”

“That sounds like a good idea.” At least he wouldn’t run into Magda.

The restaurant looked onto the park. An ideal spot for speaking in confidence.

“Are you going on the excursion on Sunday?” Ivan asked.

“It’s possible. I don’t know. If my husband plays golf, I’ll go on the excursion. If he stays at home then, no, I shan’t go.”

“When will you know?”

“Tonight, I suppose, or tomorrow.”

“I’d prefer to go with you as I don’t know anyone else.”

“But that’s not an inconvenience.”

“It’s that I don’t fancy going alone. I don’t know why, but I always find myself alone.”

“On excursions there’s no reason for you to be alone, there’ll be people there like you.”

“Yes, I know. But I still prefer to go with someone I know, like you.”

“Will your wife go?”

“No, my wife won’t go. She’s always too busy. Besides she doesn’t like the countryside.”

“My husband doesn’t like it either. His idea of the countryside is the golf course.”

“Then what shall we do?”

“I shan’t know what I’m going to do until tonight or tomorrow, depending on what my husband has decided to do.”

“What do you do when you’re alone?”

“Sometimes I’m bored, or I make things. The worst is at night. I don’t like sleeping alone.”

“That hasn’t never happened to me. My wife and I always sleep together in spite of our differences.”

“Why didn’t she come with you the other night?”

“Work. She has a very important post in a frozen food company.”

“Yes? And she has to take work home?”

“Yes, she does, many nights, and even whole weekends.”

“Don’t you say anything?”

“What can I say? She has a good job and she earns a lot of money.”

“Well, I say things, such as I’m fed up with finding myself alone at the weekends. My husband also brings work home at times.”

“Petra, do you work?”

“I make dolls, cushions, lavender bags. Things that are sold in gift shops.”

“I don’t see that quite as work, it’s more like a pastime.”

Petra said nothing.

 

Ivan felt satisfied with his day. That night, alone in bed, he thought about what had happened. For the first time in ages he had had a conversation with someone. The clock struck one in the morning. Ivan yawned and closed his book. The flat was as silent as a tomb. Magda was still working. He switched off the bedside table lamp.

 

When Ivan awoke the next morning there was no sign of Magda, but from the state of the pillow, that it had been used. Ivan went to work before the maid’s arrival. As it was Saturday the bank closed early, and Ivan decided to ring the centre about the excursion. A voice answered, “Good morning, may I help you?”

“Can you tell me if many people are booked for tomorrow’s excursion?”

“Yes, quite a few names are down, but there are still empty seats if you’re interested.”

“I might want to go. Anyway, I’ll wait for a bit.”

“Don’t wait too long, just in case you leave it too late for a place.”

“No, of course not. Thank you. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”

Ivan was puzzled because he didn’t want to go on the excursion without anyone to talk to. The worst thing was he didn’t have Petra’s phone number. The indecision was awful. Better to go home and see what’s going on there. On getting home, he didn’t have to make any decision.

“Ivan, I’ve been waiting for you. We’re going to spend the rest of the weekend with some of the people from the office. You don’t have to do anything, I’ve done everything. We aren’t eating here, I’ve booked a table at a restaurant. We are meeting up with the others there.”

Ivan had a lot to say, such as ‘I prefer to go to the mountains and lie under the trees, feel free, and at peace with myself.’ But remained silent. He knew beforehand what a weekend would be like with Magda as the queen over her slaves and the other spouses would feel either indifferent or completely bored out of their minds. At least he had a couple of new books which he would take with him.

Magda was all smiles and happiness. Of course it was at these weekends where she could stand out from the rest, even away from work. Magda wasn’t going to run the risk of losing her impeccable reputation.

As could well be imagined the weekend was a total nightmare.

“You’re Magda’s husband, aren’t you?” “You must be very proud of her.” “Your wife is incredibly bright.” “What style!” Ivan never responded to this adulation of his wife. These people didn’t interest him at all and he didn’t understand why he had to put up with them. When he was able to, he escaped to a quiet corner. At times, he stayed in the bathroom to read, on other occasions he complained of having a headache. The men in the group were like masculine Magda’s and the women were gossips. Ivan thought about Petra and was curious to know what she would be doing and if she had gone on the excursion.

 

On Monday Ivan woke up in a state of mixed emotions. He had forced Magda again and she had screamed, but he had been indifferent. Whenever it happened like that he felt a small satisfaction of having dominated her for a few minutes.

Petra arrived at the bank and Ivan asked her about Sunday.

“Of course I went on the excursion. Why didn’t you go?”

“I couldn’t. My wife had arranged something else. What was it like?”

“Very beautiful. We went to a spot with waterfalls, trees, and as the weather was fine we had a very good day. I don’t understand why you didn’t come. You would have enjoyed it.”

“I’ve already told you. My wife had organised something else. OK.”

“What were you playing? Happy families? Don’t you think you’re rather old to be playing at pleasing the grownups?”

“What are you insinuating?”

“You are a child who wants to please your mother even though you don’t love her, and you even feel indifference towards her, but you lack the courage to confront her. In notes of one hundred, please.”

Ivan was unable to concentrate, he realised he had lost his only opportunity of finding someone he could talk to and who would listen to him.

 

From time to time Magda took it into her head to have a party at home. The majority of the guests were her friends. Ivan had never invited anyone to participate in an evening full of ‘What a delicious dinner, Magda! I don’t know how you do it.’ When Ivan heard all this praise he could barely resist saying, ‘We have a woman in the kitchen’, or even better ‘if you’re interested I can give you the name of the caterer’. As usual, he said nothing, thinking that if they were so stupid as to believe that Magda was capable of organising or preparing all the food, then they didn’t deserve to know the truth.

 

“Ivan, what are you going to wear for the party?” Magda had gone into the bedroom while Ivan was trying to read a recently started novel.

“One of my best suits.”

Magda grimaced, “Which one?”

“Why do you have to know that now? Can’t you see I’m reading?”

“Yes, I know. I want to know what colour the suit is you’re going to wear so that it goes with the pink dress with the silver design I’m going to wear. I’ve bought some black lace gloves to be more elegant. What do you think?”

“How are you going to eat with gloves on?”

“They don’t cover all the hand only partially. Don’t distract me. Which suit are you going to wear?”

“The navy-blue one,” Ivan said without thinking, but it was the correct answer.

“Fantastic. Now my dress will stand out even more.” With these words Magda left the bedroom and Ivan went on reading.

 

The days following the conversation between Ivan and Magda, were dedicated to preparations for the party. All of a sudden the flat had to undergo a thorough cleaning.

Ivan thought it would be better to clean it after the party. Magda wanted a cleaner-than-clean flat and a husband wearing a well-cleaned and well-ironed navy-blue suit serving out the drinks. It was more like a practical joke all that preparation. Magda was not tight-fisted when it came to paying for everything. The money spent was not a subject of conversation, however, Ivan’s suit was.

“Have you taken your suit to the dry-cleaner’s?”

“It’s not dirty.”

“Even though it’s not dirty it’ll look newer if it’s recently cleaned.”

“That’s stupid! If I stain it at the party I’ll have to get it cleaned again. Leave it just as it is.”

“There are times when I just don’t understand you.”

Ivan went away thinking ‘only at times?’ and he made a bet with himself that she had never understood him.

 

Party day arrived and with it, the nervousness in the flat was unbearable. All day the doorbell never stopped ringing. Baskets and table centres of flowers filled the hall and the living-room. Trays of food arrived and the maid was in the kitchen preparing even more. The all-powerful Magda was dishing out orders to everybody. She only had to be on horseback to complete the picture of a general. Ivan missed all this because he had escaped to the bank.

As it was Saturday there were more people than normal in the park. Ivan hoped to see Petra. He sat down on a bench and from one of his pockets took out a new book and a bar of chocolate. It was midday, and he thought he would go to a restaurant for lunch and after? Who knew.

 

At half-past six Ivan returned home. Magda had gone to the hairdresser’s, the maid was still in the kitchen. Ivan didn’t even glance at the living-room. In the hall there was no room for anything due to the flowers and plants. Ivan lay down on top of the bed.

“What are you doing there? Get up, have a bath and get dressed for the guests. The first ones will be here at eight.” Magda had gone into the bedroom and woken Ivan from sleep. Magda’s face was red from the hairdryer. The funniest thing of all was the haircut. Ivan smiled.

“What are you grinning at?”

“Nothing. Thoughts.” Magda looked like a very large poodle, with a cluster of curls over her forehead. Seeing Magda with such a silly appearance made Ivan feel almost happy.

“Hurry up,” Magda left the bedroom.

 

It was twenty past eight. All the guests were in the living-room. To the question, “Where’s your husband, Magda?” She replied, “Making himself handsome.”

Magda went to see what was holding Ivan up. “ Ivan, the guests are here. Are you ready?”

“Yes, I’ll be out in a few minutes. Go back to your guests, Magda.”

“Very well. I don’t understand why you’ve taken so long.”

When Ivan could no longer hear Magda’s high- heels, he opened the door carefully and went out of the room. The kitchen door was shut. Silently Ivan slipped along the corridor. The living-room was full of people: ugly, handsome, speakers, and silent ones.

 

The door flung open.

Everyone turned round.

Ivan was stark naked!

In one hand he was shaking a huge bottle of champagne and in the other a magnificent erection.

He went up to Magda, “Where do you want me to put it?”

 


© Copyright 2017 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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