by Ruth Geldard
Holding the baby in one arm the girl walks from the kitchen to the unused dining room. She picks up a chair and carries it awkwardly back to the kitchen, where she sits and feeds the baby. She does this three times a day, every day. She doesn’t like the dining room: it feels wrong, there is a strange, indefinable, ominous smell, and a cupboard alive with silver fish.
Today begins like all the other days and proceeds normally until lunch time, when she goes to get the chair with the baby as usual. As she moves to pick up the solid wooden G-Plan chair with nylon stretch cover, before her hand can make contact with the backrest, it launches itself, with violent and unnatural force, to the end of the room where it smashes against the wall and becomes abstract in its deconstruction.
The girl stands motionless, but inside, her startled heart prepares for the worst. She waits to see what will happen next. Nothing. She hugs the baby tightly and looks at the pile of jetsam that was the chair, already not believing what she has seen. How will she tell her husband? She knows it will make him angry, everything makes him angry. She feeds the baby in the sitting room.
Later that day near the time she expects him home, she puts the baby in its cot. She likes her out of the way when he comes in, until she can gauge his mood. She is peeling potatoes when the door goes. She can tell by his footsteps that he is agitated, and her body responds with an automatic charge and increased alertness. Someone has upset him at work, it has made him angry, it wasn’t his fault. His words ratchet up in increments of self-fuelled resentment. He begins to totalise all the slights he has ever suffered at the hands of all the ignorant people, including her, who ought to know better.
A pilot light ignites in the centre of her chest, an inflammation that reminds her body of all the other times that were not his fault.
And now as she peels potatoes he circles and stalks her with predatory tics. He spits out filthy words. In a moment he will start with a push which will lead to a shove, until punches rain at random. Here it comes. And later, he will cry and tell her again, “It’s not my fault.”
But today is different. She cannot bear the tension in the waiting, and wishes it was over. She hears the baby stir and, unexpectedly, the potato peeler in her hand takes off, a slow motion missile. He sees it coming, but it catches him a glancing blow on the wrist, raised in protection. He steps back, shocked, and stares at her, lost for words, not believing. It’s only a little nick but she has seen something in his eyes and she knows things will be different now.
Ruth Geldard comes from an art background with regular exhibitions in London and the southeast. A master’s degree in Fine Art led to a move into creative writing, and she has since kept a blog on Artists Newsletter, an international artists’ forum, where she has had hits in excess of 60,000.
Her first short story, An Uncertain State, was shortlisted for the Fish International Short Story Prize in 2014. Her first published story, The Parrot Dress, was included in an anthology by Labello Press in 2014. The Parrot Dress has also received the Sapphire Award for ”excellence in contemporary narrative” and is currently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The Ghost Cow was published in the Momaya 2014 Review.
Ruth lives by the sea with her partner, and writes, makes and teaches from her studio on the southeast coast of England. You can see her artwork at http://www.ruthgeldard.com/ and follow her blog at https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/all-kinds-of-everything-2.