A Kind of Peace

(750 words)
“Hello, Darling, did you have a good morning?”
“It’s half past twelve.”
“Yes, I know it is. Is that a problem?”
“I’m due at the dentist at two and I asked you to be back by twelve. I wanted to pop round to my mother’s first.”
“For God’s sake. It’s only a twenty-minute drive to your mother’s and twenty minutes to the dentist. You can still spend an hour gassing.”
“No, I can’t. She’s got to go out at one. That’s why I asked you to be back at twelve. Don’t you ever listen?”
“Sorry, are you sure you told me?”
“Of course I’m sure! Now I’ll have to go afterwards, so I’ll be pushed to pick the kids up.”
“I can pick the kids up.”
“No, I want to make sure they get home in one piece.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I drive up to the limit ‘when it’s safe to do so.’ I don’t dawdle along like you, holding up a bloody great queue of traffic!”
“Anyway, I need to speak to Miss Hughes, it’s best I pick them up.”
“What about?”
“What about!”
“Look, when we were kids, no one went running to a teacher to moan about being bullied. It was part of growing up.”
“Yes, and look what happened. It turned us into a nation of neurotics.”
“Better than a nation of kids without any discipline, or respect for their elders.”
“Respect’s something you earn, not something you deserve for … for just being alive.”
“Don’t be so bloody ridiculous!”
“Look, I just want to help him. Surely you can understand that. Even with your stupid, narrow-minded thinking!”
“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”
“Look, OK, I’m sorry. I’ve had a shit morning, since you asked.”
“I thought you were going to your art class.”
“I was. It was cancelled. I forgot to check Facebook. I only found out when I got there. Dawn had left a note on the studio door.”
“What happened?”
“Oh, her mum’s in hospital again. She had to visit. So she says. A couple of hours wouldn’t have made much difference I’d have thought.”
“Perhaps she’s worse than you think?”
“Hah! Are you kidding? She’s made of cast iron, that one. Anyway, then I went to Tesco’s and that stupid Mrs Rheingold was there. You know, that ghastly Jehovah’s Witness person. Keeps giving me their leaflets. Well, she was banging on and on about Jesus and the Bible. In the end, I just told her to shut up.”
“Oh dear.”
“Yes, she didn’t like that. Said she ‘hadn’t come to Tesco’s to be insulted.’ I admit I lost my rag. Told her to get lost and that I didn’t want to hear another quote from the bible as long as I lived.”
“Well, thanks for landing me in it. I’m playing golf with Frank tomorrow!”
“How was I to know? Anyway, you said you can’t stand her either.”
“Live and let live.”
“Easier said than done when she’s not in your face. Anyway, you can tell Frank I’m sorry. Tell him I had a bad toothache. That I didn’t mean it.”
“So I’ve got to lie on your behalf now?”
“Oh, come on, it’s hardly against your nature!”
“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”
“You know what I mean. That … that floozy in your office. The one with the big nose and big tits, Natalie!”
“Look, that’s over and done with, ancient history. I promised ….”
“Look, Oliver, I’m totally stressed out – you shagging that bitch behind my back, Stephen being bullied, my friend’s mum seriously ill, Mrs. Jehovah’s Bloody Witness! I don’t know how much more I can take!”
“Look darling, calm down. Just sit down, relax. Here drink this, it’ll help …. Now, look, I’m not seeing Natalie, I promise, Stephen will be OK, he’s strong and he’s got lots of friends, Dawn’s mother’s got the best care she can get, she’s every chance of pulling through and Mrs Rheingold will have forgotten about it by tomorrow. Come on darling, don’t cry ….”
“OK … OK … Ollie, look, I’m going to go and lie down for an hour.”
“Good idea, you have a nice little nap. You’ll feel better.”
“Can you come too?”
“Keep me company … you know.”
“What, you mean?”
“Well, I can’t remember the last time, can you?”
“Come to think of it, no. Well, we are married after all … I suppose.”
“For better or worse! Come on, Oliver darling, before I change my mind!”

Featured in the book, To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. II: 88 Little Stories

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