AIDA AUSTIN: Maybe, I think, just maybe tonight I’m in luck

I’M sitting at the kitchen table, staring at a blank Word Document when my husband returns from town.

He removes a carton of milk from the fridge door shelf and pours milk into a glass. Afterwards, he places the milk carton into the saucepan cupboard. This is odd. This is odd for anyone, I think.

There is something peculiarly energised about his movements around the kitchen. There’s a weird spring in his step. My daughter enters the kitchen. 

“What are you looking so excited about?” she asks him.

My husband is humming feverishly and doesn’t reply. Perhaps he’s done something stupid, I think hopefully, glancing at my Word document; my column depends not only on my own stupidity but the stupidity of my loved ones. 

I look at my Word document more positively. Maybe, I think, just maybe tonight I’m in luck. He finishes drinking his milk. 

“You’ll never guess what,” he says. 

“What?” my daughter says.

He opens the fridge to retrieve the milk. 

“Where’s the bloody milk?” he says, “I had it, just this minute.”

“In the saucepan cupboard,” I say.

“Who put it in there?” he says with crazy eyes.

There is something over-energised about the manner of his movements now, something slightly out-of-whack. 

“You look really weird,” I say.

“Weird?” he says, starting to laugh, “weird how?”

I do not like this sort of laughter. It bears the mark of something grave. Something grave, I think, for me.

I close my laptop. 

“What have you done?” I say. 

“Nothing,” he says. 

“You look like… you’ve swallowed a helium balloon,” I say, “and it’s trying to get out.”

“You’ll never guess,” he says. 

I go cold; this all points towards my husband having done something more than merely stupid. I look at him nervously. 

Yes, I think, this behaviour is highly specific: this behaviour is pointing towards him having volunteered me for something I would rather die than do. 

Like the time he gave my name to the president of an amateur dramatics society, a fact I discovered when I was at home, just minding my own business making macaroni cheese, and someone called to tell me how thrilled she was to be able to offer me the lead part in The Importance of Being Earnest.

“Whatever you’ve signed me up for, I’m not doing it,” I say. 

“But why…”

“Because it’s either something I’d rather die than do, or something bizarre that definitely won’t have been planned by the light of reality…”

“But…” “

In fact you will have planned it by the light of its exact opposite…” 

“Such as what?” he says.

“Irrationality, unworkable ideas, wishful thinking, pure fantasy or your favourite philosophy: “seizing the day.”

“I haven’t signed you up for anything,” he says. 

“Promise?” 

“Promise.” 

“You swear? 

“Swear.”

It seems we might be back to “merely stupid”. 

I look at my laptop with renewed optimism. Maybe I’m still in luck. 

“I was in the pub,” he says, “and this woman came straight up to me.” 

“What woman?” 

“In charge of picking contestants,” he says, “for “Strictly Come Dancing.” 

“THE REAL ONE?” my daughter shouts, “THE ONE OFF THE TELLY? BUT HOW DO THEY KNOW ABOUT YOU?” 

“For god’s sake,” I say, “talk about the light of reality. He means the Clonakilty one.” 

“Strictly Clon Dancing,” my husband says, “she asked if I’d take part.” 

He starts throwing shapes around the kitchen. My daughter tries to escape the kitchen. He grabs her by the hand and starts throwing her around too. 

“So what did you say?” I say, “does she know you’ve had a hip-op?” 

“TEN WEEK’S TRAINING. STARTS IN TWO WEEKS,” he shouts, throwing my daughter into the fridge door. She leaves the room and takes the stairs. 

“APPARENTLY, ALL I HAVE TO BRING WITH ME,” he shouts after her, “ARE SHOES THAT GLIDE.” 

“GET ME MY PINKLE-WICKERS [sic],” he shouts up at her from the bottom of the stairs, “I THINK THEY’RE IN THE WICKER BASKET.”

“What about your hip?” I say. 

“Sod my hip,” he says, returning to the kitchen, “I’m not going to let that stand in my way.” 

“What,” he says, suddenly executing a full turn on one foot, “do you think of my pirouette?”

I open my laptop.

I’m in luck.


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