Dinner at the Cobram Aussie Rules Club

A short story from Mark published as a blog.

Author: Mark Seymour.

Date: 14 September 2009.

Original URL: http://www.markseymour.com.au/blog/?p=19


Article Text

“What do you feel like Darl?”

Maureen was fidgeting. She fingered the stem of the wine glass.

“I’m worried about her.”

He looked up from the menu. Watched her ring encrusted hand twirl the glass. There were liver spots on the back but her nails were painted a lovely burgundy gloss. He gazed at the line of her bare arm, the gold amulets, the gold necklace, large hoops hanging from her ears.

“Yep. He thought. “She’s still got it.”

She’d had her hair done a lovely tint he thought, also in burgundy, to dilute the grey whisps that were beginning to appear. She was still striking, the fine bones, large brown eyes. She understood elegance, loved soft muted tones. She chose her clothes meticulously, often changing blouses, skirts, several times before they walked out the door, asking him what he thought. It all looked good to him. They’d been married for twenty-five years and she’d never stopped watching what she ate. She was still slender. Jogged every morning. Ate her supplements religiously. But at 52 the fineness of her, the elegance was turning brittle. The flesh was slackening under her chin. Tonight she was tense, watchful. She looked gaunt. Then again, he thought, she was always tense. He was forever on egg shells. Whatever it was that was keeping him there, it wasn’t the sex. She wouldn’t let him near her unless she was half tanked. Maybe it was Natalie.

“What about her?” he said as he re-filled her glass. She drank it immediately.

“She’s moody… won’t let me give her hugs.”

“So? She’s nineteen. You’re all over her. Give it a break. She’ll come good. She’s training bloody hard. I was a mess at her age. Don’t worry. Nat’s alright…. Always lands on her feet.”

“I’m not ALL OVER HER. And yes, she is nineteen, living by herself for the first time, and we’re five hours away. Why the hell are we back here? On that bloody ranch?”

She leaned across the table and stared at him.

“Think about it. And don’t start blathering on about ‘tax’…”

He watched her hand raise the glass to her lips, that were still full and soft. At least they hadn’t changed. Her lips. He remembered them on him, couldn’t think when.

She backed off. Looked out the window. The sun was almost gone. It’d been a golden day, cloudless, warm. The eucalypts along the edge of the river were bathed in gold, and beyond them the scrub, dusty and orange. They were up high, in the dining room of the Cobram Australian Rules Club. Friday night. Their once-a-weeker, together. She’d insisted on it, years back. Good for us she’d said.

“We should get her some nice furniture. That flat is so depressing, poor darl.”

She had another sip.

“I saw a lovely suite in the freedom catalogue….”

She gazed out the window again. Lost in the catalogue he thought. Bits. She loved them. More bits. He waited. Furniture. What next? He’d learned that. It’d taken years. Never pre-empt. Until the next outburst.. then respond accordingly with light-hearted dismissal and then if the anxiety escalated, back off, and then finally agree. A lounge suite. How much was that going to cost? Money was never an object. He earned it. She spent it.

And he was a good earner. Renderings. They were a cash cow. He was up to his fourth transport licence. He’d borrowed and paid off the first loan in a little over two years, eighteen years ago. Amazing. Then he took the brakes off. When he realized how much cash flow there really was in the meat industry he went for it. The new house in Doncaster. The kids all set up. Trust funds. A grandson already. His eldest daughter’s first. And now this. The Olive farm. Cobram. Butfucksville but there was something about the place. The weather was magic. The locals were easy- going. Generous. He started humming.

“Stop humming…” she hissed, looking round the room.

He stopped.