When I came home from work one afternoon, I discovered my aunt had turned into a carnivorous plant. Finish the story here.
This piece first appeared at Quart Short Literary Reading Nights in Adelaide, and was also performed at Salon REaD, an emerging literary salon in Brisbane (photos of the latter below).
‘That woman is a red pepper,’ was what he said.
‘A red pepper has such a strong flavour, that whatever dish it’s added to is overwhelmed, every subtle flavour supressed, and I have seen this woman often enough to know that every person who encounters her in conversation is, for a moment, totally absorbed by her presence, and while it can be interesting to lose oneself so completely in someone else, it isn’t long before you begin to feel smothered and afraid that you might never re-emerge at all—or, worse, that you will have to re-emerge by force, and because of this force, this obliteration, you will always carry something of her with you, like that one Tupperware container everybody owns, stained with pasta sauce, a sauce made of a dozen ingredients, and yet… smelling only of red peppers.
She had trouble sleeping and typically didn’t drop off till after midnight but at least when she had fallen asleep, she stayed asleep. This made it all the more infuriating when she was woken by her husband as he tossed and turned because it was warm or a dog was barking, or whatever.
One morning she awoke before dawn to a light, fluttering sensation on her left foot.
When she looked down, she discovered her husband leaning over, tickling her toe with the tip of his index finger.
Later that morning, over brunch with their friends, she said that if she was in a bad mood it was because of the antics of her husband only a few hours prior, and she explained the tickling.
A friend said it could have been worse, he could have bitten her foot, to which everyone laughed heartily.
Another friend said, if a man bites your foot then I think you’re headed for divorce, shooting a look at her own husband who turned bright red and suddenly took a keen interest in the tablecloth.
The laughter, which had been so easy, died away as everyone stared curiously at the husband who continued tracing the pattern on the tablecloth, while his wife picked up a knife, and slowly began buttering her scone.
She could never get over the loneliness that set in when visiting her friends overseas, as she listened to them discuss future events which would occur in her absence. How could her hosts and hostesses plan a life without her, when she, attending guests, made every effort to act as if life could not go on without them, as if they were her everything and would be until the end of time—or, at least, until the end of the visit?
It is never a bad thing to go to somebody’s house expecting a swell dinner party only to have the hostess and her husband descend into a shouting match whereby one or the other or both end up locked in the bathroom. It instils in the guests a strange sense of normality, a feeling that their own arguments perhaps aren’t so bad after all. The guests depart the party deeply satisfied though for a completely different reason than the hosts intended.
But this is only temporary.
As the guests move further and further from the event they will find themselves waking in the night and wondering if they would have the audacity to make such a scene; wondering how it would feel, just once, to let fly of the situation, to stomp their foot and slam a door in public. Aloud, they denounce it— ‘what a drama’ and ‘how embarrasing’ —and dismiss it from conversation, but privately this curiosity clings to their minds like cobwebs to the unused corners of the room.
Said the bride-to-be to her sister:
‘Mum wants me to have cake at the wedding, but I said, I hate cake! And she said you have to have cake at a wedding, and I said, I really hate cake. And she said, but what kind of cake would you have if you did have a cake, and I said I don’t want a cake, but if I had to have a cake I’d have a chocolate cake. And she said, you don’t have chocolate cake at a wedding, you have fruit cake. And I said I don’t want any cake! but she wasn’t listening so I’m probably going to end up with a fruit cake. God! I hate cake!’
Said the mother of the bride-to-be to her other daughter:
‘Your sister wants a chocolate cake at her wedding.’
She has noticed that couples shape each other like a river working at stone (if the stone could work back) and she is not sure she likes the way she is being shaped (or the way she is shaping).