The Pregnant Widow's Club, a novella
Chapterella One: The Ticking
On odd days, Iridella Spone was despondent. Otherwise, she was
just plain expectant.
The funeral had been just long ago that it was fading, and the
reason for the funeral had become a fact. Her ex-husband, as she
now thought of him, had pretty much done himself in, but he wasn't
going to take her with him. Or the child.
She acknowledged many things about, um, Scrod and his influence on her
life, most particularly the life in her tum, but she refused to let
his memory or his absence to do any more than completely unsettle her
for moments at a time, crying copiously and silently, before she
straightened up and went back about her life. She worried about the
effect that her worrying would have on the fetus, which she had
nicknamed "Hitchhiker" because she couldn't keep saying "it" and
she had specifically forbade her obstetrician from telling her
what brand the child was. She didn't believe in old wives tales,
but she hoped that the grief and the consternation and the crying
would not unsettle the child.
She had no illusions about a bright fluffy mother and child scenario with
the Hitchhiker. She had helped raise a few bairns in her neighborhood,
so, no illusions. Yet, this one would be her's. Well, and his,
but how long would it take the child to ask about his Dud or to
notice his absence? Wow, if she did a really good job of parenting,
would it even matter?
The pressing thing, outside of trying to figure out what she was going to
do in two months, was to deal with the legalities. She had never
quite come to terms with the fact that her drunken husband had
plowed their only six month old new car, the first either had ever had,
into another new car full of drunken louts, and he alone had died,
not believing in restraints, while the five other sots had survived,
in various degrees of damage, owing to their use of seat belts
and registering a higher blood alcohol than Scrod had.
They also came fully equipped with lawyers, one of them being the
nephew of prominent barrister. She, on the other hand, once the
Police and the Insurance company had shook her hand and their heads,
had to take whomever she could get from a Legal Aid society.
In the end, she was declared innocent of any culpability,
as he was a strong-willed successful sort
and she was his University sweetheart, cute, pert, pure and as unsullied as
the... and preggers, to boot. The surviving louts and their lawyers
went on to tackle the local council for sloppy signage and the
makers of the two automobiles for somehow not engineering the
vehicles to deal with the natural propensities of dipsomaniacs
at three in the morning on a Sunday after a Manchester loss.
Somehow, she had learned that Scrod's creditors, employers and
bankers regarded the year 2004 as an anomaly of space and time
and they were resolved, however quietly, to take over
her husband's estate as if it were, in fact, 1904. She was not
completely at sea in such attitudes, having been to a rather
backward public school for half her education. Her parents were
close to useless. They had their own life to ruin and they kindly
suggested that since she had married the sot against their not-
inconsiderate indifference, then she had to lie in the bed he had made for her.
Then there was work. Her immediate supervisor in the St. Cicelia
Sanitary Napkin marketing office was a bitter old bitch who held
wondeful parties after hours, told the truth to no one and was
honest about it, and whom, having once been a breeder herself, her
springoffs now off adding their own bile to the gestalt,
had no sympathy or tolerance for working mothers-to-be, or,
in particular, young widows. "You're lucky to have work," she said.
"Back in the bad old days, when womens didn't work, the loss of
their spousal unit was a hard blow. But it made them tough, it
made them reach and it made them dig deep into their bowels and
see what their guts were made of!" Her husband was alive and well
and had just retired from his third self-started firm.
Oddly enough, this kind of faux-Royal Marine Sergeant philosophy
actually made Iridella's days easier. When she broke down at her
desk, someone threw a box of tissues at her, another threw a digestive biscuit,
and the bitter old bitch brought her a strong cup of Jasmine tea
without a word.
Then she went back to work trying to find cheery ways to coerce modern women into buying their product.
It was when she had one of her moments in the Health office,
waiting her turn with the tummy prodder, that a Mental Health
administrator, there with her hubby and her protuberance, suggested
that a visit to a grief counselor or a counselor counselor, possibly
of the sort with the letters after her name, would be a good idea.
The officious pregnant lady in the Labour business suit, with
pressed pleated skirt, scribbled on a card and gave it to Iridella,
making her promise to "get some help".
She subsequently discussed the possibility with her obstetrician,
a severely smiling Chinese/Turkish fellow who spoke with a odd
Auckland/New Delhi accent. He said he had been unaware of her
"moments" and he thought it would be a good idea for her to
bare her soul to a professional, if even a cleric.
This set her back a bit. She had been to church on and off over
the years, but she had never quite had any confidence in the
mental capacity nor the comforting abilities of a minister.
She didn't look forward to being preached at. She also didn't
look forward to being prayed for. She'd had enough of that.
She told Dr. Reilly that she thought she had better go with the
counselor with the string of letters, as she thought "grief counseling"
would probably be more than she could stomach. He shrugged, looked
at the card the lady had given her and wrote a referral.
She hadn't liked the counselor counselor's surgery much. It was
all the wrong colour, like Laura Ashley flopped over to the negative.
The chairs were okay. There was a place to put her feet up
amidst the odd fishing and yachting magazines on the old Queen
Anne coffee table.
There was music, but she couldn't tell what it was. The speaker
seemed hidden and warped. There were violins and some sort of
electronic instrument, but she couldn't find a melody. Finally,
she quessed it was some kind of Enoesque mood noise, of the
ambient sort. She preferred the gurgling of the water dispenser
in the corner, next to the dying palm.
Quite suddenly, the counselor was in the room with her, a tall,
quite pregnant redhead with sideburns and a large brass ring
through one eyebrow. She wore russet crosstrainers with gold
laces and she had two very large diving watchs on her vigourous freckled wrists.
"I think we'd better do this in here. I have no one else coming
in, the assistant is off doing some odd thing with her lover in
Acton, and I am simply tired of that stupid office of mine. My
former workmate decorated it out of the furnishings of a half-waterlogged
Victorian pleasure ketch and it still smells of lord-knows-what.
Now,"she said, plotzing herself in a chair opposite, kicking off
her shoes and relaxedly planting her bare crossed ankles on the table,
"Old what's her face, in her message to me, said she found you in
the 'strecian's waiting room having a to do. What's that all about?"
Iridella couldn't help herself. She had one of her moments.
Dr. Spleen just sat there, flipping through a copy of "Marlinspike
Review, the Weekend Sailor's Friend in Print, for 220 years", until
the bit had passed.
"Like I said, what's that all about?"
Iridella rummaged in her briefpurse and came up with a laminated
clipping about the drunk driving incident. She flung at it the
doctor as best she could. It landed between her corduroyed knees.
The doctor took it and read it, then flang it back. It missed and
ended up on the scarred oaken floor next to a soiled tissue.
"Well," she said. "That's about him. Where's your clipping?"
Iridella produced one about the trial and proffered it.
"Never mind. Put it back. Now let me tell you something. This is
your first sprout, is it not?"
Iridella nodded firmly.
"Regardless of what happened to dear old Scrod, or what might
have happened had he lived, you were likely to have these kinds
of fits anyway. Some mothers never do, some have them every time
they become gravid. We need to get to whatever grief or consternation
you hold for him and whatever distrust or dis-ease you have
about the upcoming and deal with them before you slip into
the post-partum phase, which will have it's own little cute
Shocked, Iridella nodded again.
"First off, I don't think I can do you a jot of good unless you
have some sort of support underneath you. Do you have friends,
sisters, old lovers, parents, church buddies?"
Iridella shook her head.
"Ah, all the friends you had in the marriage social circle were
his and since he's gone and killed himself, they want nothing
to do with you."
"I don't know," said Iridella. "I remember seeing some of them
at the wake and in the court seats, but outside of a card or two,
"Have you tried to speak to them, go 'round the old pub or anything
"Um. No. I didn't really like most of them, University grads who
found jobs in the City and such, and I thought maybe one or two
might think I was advertising my availability...y'know?"
"Ah, yes. Don't I know. I've just been through an amicable divorce, with the
better half getting custody of the teenager as long as he holds
himself to custodial visits with the sprout. His and my "old friends"
have been flapping around like moths to see if I'll give them a wink.
I'm supposedly a "good catch". I also got to keep the
yacht! Wanna see her?"
She pointed proudly to a large photograph of a rather ugly boat
that had "Hail, Fredonia!" painted in garish rococo gold-rimmed
lettering on the stern.
Iridella hated the sea. She didn't even like sea food. She started
to make untoward noises and Dr. Spleen swiftly skidded a plant
pot at her. Iridella was mortified as she retched into the rubber
plant. She thought, oddly enough, that it couldn't be any worse
The doctor gave her an number to call. It was for a support group
that the doctor kept calling the PWC, and giggling a bit, as if there
was a joke somewhere. She had also said,"Don't tell old-whats-her-face
that I sent you round. It's a little on the sub rosa. Not quite
part of the Ministry's agenda for people of your sort."
Well, that set Iridella to wondering.