Spoiled for choice by Eileen Bennett

Fiction

Eileen Bennett

Eileen Bennett is an experienced writer, editor and teacher. Her career spans over 25 years in media with an eclectic focus on lifestyle, business and spirituality in a number of private and public sector organisations. Eileen has a keen interest in Social Media and technology.

SPOILED FOR CHOICE

by Eileen Bennett

“Where are you going?”

“Out!”

“But it’s raining.”

“So I’ll get wet! What do you care anyway?”

There was no answer to that. Not anymore.

Susan pulled the door hard behind her but it caught in the mat and what should have been a dramatic slam became a pathetic, muffled thud.

“Not with a bang but a whimper” Eddie said as he adjusted the crumpled mat and closed the door carefully. From the tiny window he watched Susan splash through the puddles on the boreen. Even dressed in wellies and a rainmac she was impressive looking – tall, slender and elegant with an air of confidence and self-possession that Eddie had never encountered in people his own age. Compared to the woman he’d been sharing this cottage with for almost six months, his contemporaries seemed like shallow, foolish schoolchildren.

Susan’s three dogs ran from the woodshed to join her. The sight of them made Eddie angry.

“You big, stupid, pampered ugly strays – I hate your guts!” He shouted through the antique lace curtains, knowing he couldn’t be heard, as the dogs followed their mistress, wagging their tails, looking up at her adoringly, begging for recognition, for love. At that moment his contempt for those dogs and their fawning gratitude reached a new level and he despised them utterly.

Eddie knew what would happen next – what always happened when she walked out on their disagreements. Susan would stride the length of the South Beach, march up the steep path to the bench on the Head made for lovers and tourists and sit taking deep, cleansing breaths.

Good air in. Bad air out.

Then, after gazing thoughtfully out to sea for a while, she would stroll calmly back and everything would be forgotten.

There were several things he could do now and Eddie considered them all.

He could follow her to the Head, sit near her – but not too close – contemplate the ocean with her and walk in silence beside her all the way home. She liked that when he tried it before. She said she felt he was giving her the space to be angry and was being supportive of her emotions.

That was good, she said.

He could make a pot of soup. That had worked well too. She said it was warm and welcoming and nourishing and helped her feel positive about herself.

That was good too, she said.

He could run her a bath and add aromatic oils – something calming, something sensual – have towels heating on the radiator, a bottle (or two) of wine chilling in the fridge, a big roaring fire in the living rooms and candles everywhere.

This was Eddie’s personal favourite because it always resulted in frantic sex. And afterwards, Susan would hold him and rock him and tell him how happy they were together, how right they were for each other, how Fate had ordained that they should be united – in body and soul. Forever.

Eddie couldn’t put a name on what he was feeling at that moment but suspected that something closely resembling the last straw was moving into place. The novelty of being Susan’s toy boy had worn thin. There was nothing new and exciting in his life anymore and he longed to break free.

He sat in the armchair, then stood and walked around the room. Suddenly everything about the place irritated him: the African sculpture Susan had haggled over in some colourful bazaar in some colourful city Eddie had never seen; the hand-woven blanket given to her by an American Indian woman with a name Eddie thought only existed in Westerns; the temperamental old stove he had to coax to life every day; the whole half-natural, half contrived rustic look and feel of the place; and, most of all, the photographs. Some were framed and hanging on the walls; others were pinned to doors and curling at the edges.

Susan wearing a broad-brimmed hat standing beside a dusty Aborigine man. Susan on an elephant. Susan with a llama. Susan at the Trevi Fountain.

“Arty farty as be-fucked!” was Doyle’s reaction the first time he stepped inside this cottage.

“Arty farty as be-fucked is right!” Eddie said to the walls. “And I’m sick of the sight of you.”

He walked up to a large framed photograph of a tanned and healthy Susan smiling from underneath a large sombrero.

“And I am especially sick of the sight of you!”

With his left hand he steadied the imaginary gun that the fingers of his right hand were forming. He lined up his shot carefully, aiming for the point at the top of Susan’s nose where her eyebrows almost met.

“It’s you or me, pardner” he drawled in his best cowboy accent. “This town aint big enough for the both of us hombre.”

He sat again and ran both hands slowly through his hair, along the back of his neck and over his face, bringing them to rest in the praying position in front of his nose. He thought of Doyle and Mac and the Great Adventure they had all started together barely six months earlier.

“We’ll take a year off and see the world!” Doyle had said after they graduated. “Then we can get all serious and settled.”

But on the way Eddie had met Susan in a pub in a small west of Ireland village and ended up more serious and settled that he ever imagined possible while Doyle and Mac went on without him.

Chopping firewood, cutting grass, fixing what needed fixing, keeping Susan warm and comfortable and satisfied – that was Eddie’s role.

He sighed.

A big, black spider slowly making its way from behind the sombrero photograph caught his eye and he sat very still and watched it intently. It paused briefly when it reached the floor, as if to catch its breath or check for predators, before continuing its journey. Eddie waited until the spider was on open ground, with no possible means of escape. He leapt from the chair and pounced on it. Using first his right foot and then his left and then his right again he ground the creature into the wooden floor until all that was left was a faint stain.

“Ha!” he crowed triumphantly. “You weren’t expecting that you creepy leggy bastard.”

He felt better.

Knowing that Susan would not have approved of the senseless slaughter of a fellow creature was a bonus. He considered cleaning the stain but decided against it. It would always be there, he thought, as a reminder of that sweet moment when he resumed control of his life and only he – and the spirit of the spider – would ever know what caused it.

Now it was time for action.

He could follow her to the Head and push her off.

He could poison the soup.

He could drown her in the bath and chop her up into little pieces and feed her to those ever-ravenous dogs. Or better still, wait until after the sex, smother her with a pillow and then turn her into dog food. And maybe, after they’d devoured her, he’d mince the dogs and throw all their bits to the gulls.

The perfect crime!

He slapped his thighs.

“Decision time” he said.

He rubbed his palms together.

“The walk, the soup or the bath?”

He clasped his hands in front of his chest and chanted “the walk, the soup or the bath?”

He danced around the furniture singing “the walk, the soup or the bath?”

He had a good voice. Susan said she knew they were meant for each other when she heard him doing Leila at the Seaside Bar and Singing Lounge that night last summer.

He changed his tune and assumed a guitar playing stance.

“You’ve got me on my knees Leila….”

The unmistakable sound of the post van coming up the boreen stopped him short. He pulled on his jacket and went out to intercept jack. Experience had taught him that if Jack got out his van he expected to be invited in for tea as a reward. Susan’s cottage was his last stop and he’d be in no hurry to leave and would spend an hour or more boring Eddie with bits of gossip about people he didn’t know and had no desire to know. Susan loved his visits and his small town chatter. She called it ‘quaint’ and genuinely felt she was being granted an insight into the psyche of rural Ireland. If Susan was out of the house, Eddie often pretended to be leaving as the post arrived.

Jack was rooting through a large empty bag on the passenger seat. He pulled out a crumpled postcard and rolled down his window.

“I saw herself heading for the beach”

“Did you?”

“I was giving her your post but she wouldn’t take it.”

“What harm”

“Only a little postcard and she wouldn’t take it. Would have saved me the trip up here and all.”

He handed Eddie the card.

“It’s from those lads you came here with last summer. They’re in Australia now if you don’t mind. Bondi Beach no less. Having a great time by all accounts and earning good money too.”

“Isn’t it well for them.”

“Aren’t you the sorry young lad didn’t stay with them instead of burying yourself in this hole of a place? Still, love is blind and there’s no accounting for taste, as my old father used to say.”

“Bye now, Jack.”

“Going out are you?”

“Getting a bit of fresh air.”

“You’re in the right place for fresh air, young lad. We’ve always have plenty of that. Damn all else but any amount of fresh air. Though I wouldn’t say you’d get too much of the same fresh air when herself is in the house!”

Jack winked and seemed to be expecting an answer to his comment. Eddie decided to be generous and throw Jack a morsel, knowing it would shortly grow into a feast.

He put his arm on the roof of the van and leaned in toward the window.

“Between ourselves Jack I’m worn to a frazzle.”

“”Is that right now?”

“There’s days I can hardly walk. She has me nearly killed, if you know what I’m saying.”

Eddie winked at Jack and banged the roof of the van.

“Bye now Jack.”

He started to walk towards the end of the boreen. He waved at the green van as it raced passed. Jack was in too much of a hurry to pass on this snippet of the details of Eddie and Susan’s active sex life to notice Eddie turn and walk back to the cottage.

He stood inside the door staring at the picture in his hand of sunshine and blue sea and cloudless sky. He turned it over and read Mac’s untidy scrawl. Eddie could just imagine his friend sprawled on some exotic beach surrounded almost naked, nubile, exotic women.

Jack had already narrated all of what Mac had to say but down the side of the card, in Doyle’s tiny, precise handwriting, were the words “Come on down mate!”

Eddie smiled. That was typical Doyle. He didn’t say much but what he said always hit home, like a guided missile, and every word counted.

Eddie unpinned a photograph from the door frame – Susan at the Pyramids – and replaced it with his postcard. He chose two bottles of wine from the well-stocked rack and put them in the fridge. He built up the fire, tossed in Susan at the Pyramids and watched until the flames had crept up and consumed it. He turned on the water heater and spread big, soft, white towels on the radiator in the bathroom.

He lit all the candles and drew all the curtains.

And he sang on his way to the woodshed.

“You’ve got me on my knees Leila…”

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