Copyright © 2016
Published by Bright Tomorrow Books
All rights reserved.
Lynda Nash is a fiction writer and occasional poet. She writes with humour and pathos and the short and even shorter fiction in this book are a taster of her work. Enjoy.
Spooning With Alan
About The Author
When we met Alan was thirty-five, a quantity surveyor with a collection of vinyl records that stretched from floor to ceiling and a head of hair like Lee van Cleef. For the first few months we were together Alan adored me. He adored my turned up nose, my wonky smile, the way I read a map upside down. Quirky he called me.
Alan, too, had his share of idiosyncrasies – most of which I could live with – like his penchant for old drums skins and the way he always read the last page of a book first. It was his ‘obsession’ that was harder to tolerate and would prove to be our downfall.
You see, Alan liked spoons. Actually, he didn’t just like them – he loved them, held them in reverence like religious artefacts. Large ones for draining and serving; smaller ones for soup or dessert; old-fashioned table spoons with tarnished edges; rough wooden spoons – curry-stained and splintered – egg spoons and teaspoons, medicine spoons, grapefruit spoons and plastic spoons from service stations. Out of this list, teaspoons were his favourite. One lived permanently in the coffee jar and another in the sugar container and I was instructed not to remove either.
I had no feelings for cutlery one way or the other. I had no obsessions either, though I liked cats. Actually, not liked – loved. So, if Alan could live with my devotion to my domestic short hairs, I supposed I could live with his fondness for scooping utensils.
Alan, on the other hand, disliked cats. Actually, not disliked – hated. He complained of fur balls on the carpets, dead mice under the kitchen table and half-eaten meaty chunks stinking out the kitchen. Each night when we went to bed he’d hoist one or another purring pussy from his pillow (they always chose his side of the bed over mine – I think they were trying to tell me something). He’d then spend fifteen minutes with a Dirt Devil sucking up bits of twig and leaves and soil. Unhygienic, he called it. Totally disgusting. How on earth could I allow them in the bedroom let alone let them sleep on the bed? In the bed, I corrected him, tucking the duvet under Willow Puss’s chin.
Cats in the bedroom, with their sly, blinking eyes made Alan uncomfortable having sex. They’re watching us, he said, and it puts me off my stroke. He’d glance over his shoulder on every ‘in’ and on every ‘out’ he’d swing his leg and try to push one or other cat from the bed. If he succeeded there’d be a plop and a mewly groan, but within seconds the puss would be back on sentry duty. And god help Alan if the covers slipped off his feet…
Alan was rubbing antiseptic on the teeth marks in his left toe when he gave me an ultimatum – cats or sex. It was silly really, I mean, did he honestly think I’d choose the latter? Sex with Alan was an Olympic event – and I was no gymnast. Some rogue DNA had caused his foreskin to grow two inches longer than his penis and I, somehow, was supposed to hold it back with my hand while still trying to lie flat on my back. I felt geriatric. It gave neither of us much satisfaction and I was pleased to not have to bother.
Rosetta, Alan’s sister, had warned me before I moved in that her brother had ‘certain fetishes’. She didn’t elaborate and I, being new to the area and unused to the ways of the Welsh, naturally assumed they were sexual. ‘Take no notice of him,’ she said. ‘And if he mentions onions just ignore it.’ But it wasn’t the absence of sex, or me chopping onions on the breadboard that caused the final nail to be hammered in the homemade coffin of our relationship.
A few years prior to us meeting outside the Odeon cinema, Alan had worked abroad. In some Arab country where beer was outlawed and sex was only permitted with virgins or goats. He didn’t smoke, so consequently he had money. A lot of money. To tempt me to join him in unwedded bliss he’d leave his bank statements in strategic places, such as on top of the toilet, on the cooker, on the passenger seat in the car. Your wealth does not impress me, I told him (secretly hoping he’d buy me a diamond ring. Or at least a new coat.). I’d rather marry a poor man for love than a rich man for money. This was true, though it took me a long time to forgive him for letting me buy drinks on our first date. Alan agreed with the Poll Tax because it was cheaper for him to live. Alan was tight. The bank statements, it seemed, were just for show.
Alan had an ex-girlfriend called Lou. Lou had an ex-boyfriend called Mike. Mike had an ex-army mate called Francis who used to play tennis with my ex-partner’s mother. And so the rumour got around that I liked rich men with extra skin and a cutlery obsession. A secondary rumour suggested that Alan killed animals with a pellet gun – especially cats – but I found no proof of that.
One thing about Alan that I did like was his zeal. Alan was eager – not to spend money, but eager to collect tat, eager to drink lager, eager to listen to 1970’s records, eager to eat road-kill, eager to please his friends. His friends talked about me. Kick ‘er into touch, they advised him. Tell ‘er you don’t want ‘em mangy moggies in the ‘ouse. I spat in their tea.
I began to think of Alan as a weasel for not defending his corner.
Sometime after the sexual ultimatum I felt liberated enough to adopt a kitten from the local animal shelter. A tiny black and white male I called Escher. Alan first encountered Escher in the bathroom having a pee and missing the litter tray. And it was after this incident that spoons began appearing in places that were once spoon-free. Teaspoons mainly: the box of washing powder acquired one, the flour jar, the jam jar, the pickle jar, the compost bag. Anything that could be spooned got spooned. At first it was oddly amusing. Then it became annoying. Then I just saw it as downright stupid. So one day, while he was at work… I washed up.
At six o’clock Willow and Escher were sitting on the kitchen counter watching me pile chicken pieces in gravy into their bowls, when Alan returned. Exhausted after a day behind a desk, the first thing Alan did was fill the kettle. And there on the draining board, upturned and glinting in the florescent light, were several rows of sparkling spoons. Alan made a high-pitch shrieking sound not unlike a badger caught in a snare and I froze, temporarily, a tin can in one hand and a blue and red ‘spork’ in the other like an advertisement for Whiskas. The air became thick with curses and cutlery as Alan hurled spoons like a knife thrower on whizz. The cats fled in a flurry of fur and claws.
Later at the Royal Infirmary, after emergency surgery that had lasted three hours, the night nurse informed me that a centimetre to the left and the spork would have pierced the retina, but, apart from a little scarring, Alan should make a full recovery. He lives alone now. Walled-in by the spoils of his wealth. Or so I’ve heard.
After that first check, we hid our contraband under the floorboards or behind loose skirting; in potted plants or stuffed animals. We bought air-fresheners. Those who could afford to, installed extractor fans. We kept the windows open in all weathers – but that in itself became a tell-tale sign. Soon, any open door, vent or window would warrant a call-in (the idiom ‘were you born in a barn?’ took on a deeper meaning). Grassers received free electricity tokens and a weekend ‘pass-me-by’. Seasoned grassers – Puff Prowlers we called them – were guaranteed grammar school places for their children.
We tried to out-smart them: did things under the bed covers; inside cupboards; in bunkers constructed from car bonnets. Blackout curtains were banned. The ‘illumination’ curfew was adjusted to allow for daylight saving. Street lights were switched off, permanently. We felt our way around dark corners; learned the angle of furniture as if blind. There was a baby boom, of course, but those statistics were swept under the NHS carpet. Wards had empty beds, waiting lists had halved, the tax payer and the elderly were jumping for joy – supposedly. Actually, we couldn’t see the benefits.
Your health is of the utmost importance, we were told. Think of the money the country is saving. We know what’s good for you. Every month became Stop-tober. QUIT AND WIN A CAR! Several people adopted the habit just for that. But there were no winners – or if there were, their names were never published.
I can still see my husband in the gully, trying out his ‘smoking shelter’: a tin box, with two layers of wire mesh that fitted over the face and hooked over the ears. The cap on the end allowed air to flow in and out, but concealed the orange glow. The metal became hot, but it was worth a few burned fingers, he said. It looked like something from Dr Who. The contraption was confiscated after his arrest and is now on display at the Museum Of Fresh Air.
One morning, during a particularly gruelling session with a group of five-year-olds, my teenage daughter asked her supervisor at TLC (Tobacco Learning Centre) ‘Why don’t they just stop making them?’
The supervisor – a woman in her sixties with a hacking cough and a husband on the council – laughed.
… if you swim to the right you’ll see the school. It’s built from salvaged materials and has a nursery with a tyre gym, and Maris, you’ll never guess, but the main hall is the hull of the Lucy-Tanya. So? What do you reckon?’
‘Oh, I don’t know, Shad. Do you think the girls will like it here?’
‘They’ll love it – I’m sure they will. Who wouldn’t love a tyre gym?’
‘Do the children wear uniform?’
‘Of course. Why wouldn’t they?’
‘And how do they write?’
‘Oh, come on, Maris, you must have heard of indelible ink? Let’s move on. The headmaster said we shouldn’t go in too close. He said, scuba gear disturbs the kids and the nippers take hours to settle again. Take a left, here. Look, they’ve got a Greggs. Girls’ll be happy.’
‘What about McDonalds?’
‘Not at the moment. But it won’t be long. This is a new town so we’ll be moving in at the right time, you know, before it becomes fashionable and house prices go up.’
‘How new is new?’
‘It was founded in 2014 after the wettest winter on record. It took a hundred and fifty deaths before the first inhabitants changed their breathing habits.’
‘You made that up.’
‘I read it on the net.’
‘That’s the same thing.’
‘Don’t be cynical, Maris. We need to move and this seems like a decent enough place.’
‘They call Caerphilly decent…’
‘It might well be but do you really want to live near your mother?’
‘I’d rather live by mine than yours…’
‘Please, let’s don’t fight… See, that’s where I’ll be working – the Centre for Finance, Industry and Transport – in that concrete block over there. Plenty of scope for climbing the ladder. Without C.F.I.T. the town would grind to a halt. I’ll be doing the paperwork for the inter-continental rail network. Hey, they have solar powered broadband, you know. Rumours suggest wealthy sediment holders are also investing in natural gasses and are in competition with the Atlantis CO2 Society for first pipeline rights, but I can’t verify this.’
‘You sound like a tour guide. Are they paying you to sell this to me?’
‘Maris, love. I just want you and the girls to be happy. If you don’t want to live here I’ll have to rent a flat and come home on weekends. If there’s no overtime. Why don’t you try it? For me. You’ll make friends easily, you always do. Hey, paddle over here and look past the scrap merchants. Do you know what that silver building is?’
‘No – that’s about a mile north.’
‘A chicken farm.’
‘Now you’re being facetious. You’re looking at The Museum of Experimental Art. It’s constructed entirely of shopping trolleys. After lunch we’ll go inside and have a swim round. It’s got a great section on contemporary painting and ceramics.’
‘Don’t be daft – this is the wrong lake. But there is a stylised portrait of Michael Phelps holding his gold medals.’
‘Thrilling. Let’s go shopping. What’s the shopping centre like?’
‘Actually, it hasn’t been built. Now, before you say anything, there are plans, and they do have a second-hand shop, Grown Out, Thrown In, that should keep you going.’
‘Great, I’m sure the girls will love wearing old boots…’
‘What I was saying before about making friends… there’s the Women’s Institute. Ironically it’s made from Calor gas bottles… Get it? Women. Gassing. Oh, Maris, please smile.’
‘My mask is hurting and this oxygen tank is giving me a bad back. Can we go now?’
‘But there’s so much more I want to show you.’
‘Gee, Shad, I’m bursting with excitement, can’t you see that?’
‘Shall we go and eat, then? You’ll feel better after a sit down and something to drink. I was told The Fin and Flipper do a nice roast duck with locally grown veg. Their keg ale is a bit on the briny side, and the lager’s watered down, so best stick to shorts. Ray in accounts says the locals call the pub The Grime and Slime because it’s covered in green weed. When we go in be careful not to touch the walls. But if you do, don’t put your fingers near your mouth.’
Elodea is a genus of aquatic plants often called waterweeds.
Dr Lynda Nash lives in Caerphilly where she teaches Creative Writing and produces ebooks Find out more at
Not As Pointless As You Think (short fiction) Deadstar Publishing
Not As Pointless As You Think (audio version)
Ashes Of A Valleys Childhood (poetry collection) Mulfran Press
Danny Down The Drainpipe (picture book) Candy Jar Books [+ http://www.candy-jar.co.uk/books/dannydownthedrainpipe.html+]
High School Zombies
A taster of short and shorter fiction. Find out how spooning affects Alan's life. See how people cope when living in a nanny state. And what happens when dry land is not the only place to live.