by Ms. Baroque
by Ms. Baroque
"What? What did I do now?"
"Who said it was you! I just banged my toe." And she bent down and nearly wept with it.
"Oh for God's sake," he said. "We're late, you know what my dad's like, it won't be worth it. Come on, Lardy." His affectionate nickname for her. It was better than "wide load." His mother was nice.
"Do you mind! I can't even walk, I'm a cripple, and all because of your stupid hideous ugly chair," and she whacked the chair as hard as she could.
"What, you couldn't look where you were going?"
"I did look! DUH! I just didn't SEE it!" She sounded lame and she knew it. She was lame.
Tears leapt in all directions. She gave the chair another whack and sat down on it, crying hard. It was an ugly chair, made of some almost orange wood, and its covers were some kind of scratchy material with strange hairy bits sticking out. It was the colour of his mother's tights.
Its feet - which supported a little mechanism that made it like a rocker - stuck out an inch or so beyond where you might think, but nothing could be done: it had to stay where it was so he could sit in it and watch the football, the cricket, the snooker, the rugby. She covered her face and bawled. She wasn't fat, and her toes had been cold all morning with the heating off and no more change for the meter, and she always looked where she was going, and his dad would have thought the whole toe-stubbing episode was pretty funny. He was always one for a joke.
"Oh Lardy," Gus sang in the other room, "the trouble I've seen... Oh, Lardy, the trouble I've seen!" He came in, grinning, then stopped. "Oh, Lardy," he said, and stooped down. He cupped her toe in his cold, thin hand and held it still.
The station was noisy with echoey hubbub. In a cavern, in a canyon, and her shoes were number nine. Her toe throbbed in its boot and her eyes had that puffy, just-cried feeling. She knew they'd feel like it all through her father-in-law's birthday lunch.
She held Gus' hand as he pulled her towards the platform, feeling panicky and fragile. A couple of foreign students milled around at the top of the concrete stairs.
"Don't trip," said Gus, and started down. He was eight inches taller than her. Straining to stay together, a human train, they manoeuvred to the bottom, where there seemed to be a little clearing.
A girl, dark-haired and angry, stood there at an angle to her boyfriend. He shouted Spanish that made her stand crying, silent, rigid-faced. Mascara ran down her cheeks.
Gus tugged, the train was coming. Suddenly the Spanish girl spoke: "Mario, you are full of shit!"
Years later, even after they had split up, they still liked to talk about the Spanish girl and Mario.