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The International Writers Magazine: DREAMSCAPES

It isn’t Going to Rain
Tessa Foley

Seventies furniture. It's always an issue for me. I'm appalled by it. I never understood the idea of a room in brown slash beige oblique orange that might impress the neighbours whose purple egg-shaped chairs were the talk of Acacia Close the week before. It also seemed that flimsiness was born in the seventies. No weight in the everyday. No gravitas.
It started back then, but it thrives now. I flick through meaty catalogues today and nausea marches on me whenever I find an example –a flat-pack, shrink-wrapped, chip-backed shelf-stack. I can look at it for a matter of seconds, before I am feeling head-cocked sick. I feel ill at the breakability. I can almost feel the shiny, thin wood in my hand and feel how it bends and groans, snaps and pops.

They are responsible of course. They always are, aren't they? An unhappy couple who I thought were always right even when they dropped the toast. They must have meant to do it. A lonely, slightly skew-whiff woman and an ageing, frustrated man with no one to manipulate except each other. It's possible they vented their petty anger by buying shitty furniture. The table comprised of a great glass disc on a chrome, suckered stand. The tan leather and cold-edged dining chairs dubiously stained after a few years of having young kids knocking about.

It was by this "sitting up" set of questionable taste that I stood one afternoon, as a child, with the male one, as he sealed orange Tupperware boxes. An excursion was imminent. A fresh air food-fest. It was an uncommon occurrence and a welcome one. He was hurried in his movements. Short and starting like a wind-up toy.

"Is it going to rain?" I asked him. I looked at the sky as I peered around brown, huge-flowered curtains, and saw no sun. He didn't look. He just continued making sharp, flat noises as he assembled the al fresco lunch. And he didn't look at me when he offered a disinterested:
I don't remember why the argument started. It's a black-tinged blurry farce unravelling whenever I picture it. It's one moment I can see in clarity, but it's so heavy. So heavy perhaps because no one else remembers it. It might be that fights came like mealtimes between this couple and one is easily forgotten. It might be that only I was hurt by it. It might not even have happened.

It did happen. The "she" , red-faced-sobbing in to her hands, sat hunched in a knitted z-shaped chair. Both parties felt guilt, but that wasn't stopping them. I remember no words. I always imagine sulky words from her, irritated words from him, then indignant words from her and an eventual heel-digging from him, killing all thoughts of picnic and peace.
A stand-off it was. He and I at one end of the lounge-diner. The woman and a tiny toad-shaped toddler crouched behind her at the other. An outsider might have viewed it as a simple division. Respective loyalties of the two children, but I never thought of it that way. I think the positioning had no chance to change because everything began so quickly. Comically and quickly.

She was twenty feet away at least. It didn't bother the he-parent. I think he must have smelt a challenge. Her face brightly beaconised, a target, but one that anger had swayed him from actually hitting, but try he did, in the most ludicrous fashion.

He pulled a lid from a Tupperware box and roughly scooped soggy sandwich in to a flailing lob at the "her". It was a difficult act to judge as a pre-school count-out-louder. First I reached ecstatic heights as I saw him throw food. How much fun!!

But how the heart can plummet in less than a second when a single liberating act turns to one that crawls and snakes and sweats. I saw the first sandwich hit the wall in three deliberate parts: two triangular slices and one wadge of buttery egg. The debris surrounded the little sister and the female, but nothing hit them.

When I looked back to the male, preparing for another shot, his arm was pulled back messily as if he were shying bloody tomatoes at a stock-locked medieval drunk. And the feeling of elation that had turned to sheer blind panic had now turned in to frantic disgust. He was out of control. HE was out of control. The thought made me ill, staggering ill.
The desperate thought occurred that if he had no missiles, that if he had nothing to throw, that this madness would stop and I began to lever out the remaining sandwiches and push them in to my mouth. They didn't taste like food. I felt as if I were chewing my own insides, but I carried on, thinking I had the means of making peace. I tasted stone and coldness and swallowed the upset down.

My efforts however were revealed to be even more small and pathetic when he, having to combat my little fingers to grapple for the food, snatched up a lightweight wickery coffee table and slung it the entire length of the room.
He missed again, but the coffee table lost its purpose. The rectangular surface had popped from the bracket of the legs and the winding reedy binds had unfurled leaving, of all things, staples all over the floor.

Today, the shattering of egg, wicker and wood just about linger with the one witness old enough and uninvolved enough to remember it. Today, furniture is still made shoddily. And today, I know I best leave the snap and stick home accessories to the seventies and maybe just use the floor if I want somewhere to rest my cup.

© Tessa Foley October 2007

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