The Pregnant Widows Club, a novella, part two
Chapterella Two: The Tocking
Spree Fortesque had the cellaphone that day.
She hated phones. It wasn't a life-long thing, just something
that popped up soon after her pregnancy was proclaimed.
She had odd things for chocolate-covered raisins and grape-flavoured
seltzer water, but they were nothing compared to her fear
and loathing of phones. Her husband had died in the wars before
he knew she was pregnant. She hadn't told his family, either.
She didn't think it was any of their business. But she lived in
fear that they would find out and ring her up to give her an
earful. She had truly loved the Sergeant and she had no idea
that his feelings were any different. His posting was almost up
when a spate of "friendly fire" sent him home in a bag. She had
refused to attend the funeral or receive his medals, some of which,
can you countenance it, were awarded posthumously! It was his own lads that did him in,
and she wanted the whole lot brought up on charges. But the MOD
said officially that it was just "one of those things".
She'd like to shove "one of those things" right up...
So she was stuck with the cellaphone. She vacillating between
hiding it so that she couldn't hear it too well or keeping it
with her so that she could end that hideous noise quickly and
take a gander at the caller ID to see if she could divine which
unsavoury character it was disturbing her rerunning of her Bab 5
DVDs with the sound off and the Mandarin subtitles in place.
When Iridella rang, she wasn't in the best of spirits, either.
They'd closed the office for some odd holiday involving the founder's
dog's birthday and though she'd been invited down to Brixton
for the celebration, she couldn't muster enough disgust to
actually refuse. She just didn't go.
So she'd woken at the usual time, the damned cat across her face.
She chomped his belly and he rolled off over to where Scrod's
side had been, disturbing some books and old Beanos.
The automatic drip coffee thingie had somehow reset itself to
another time zone again, so she had to go about reprogramming it
twice before it proffered a dribble of sad goo.
She hadn't been to market, so the cupboard was bare and the fridge
begging to be carted down to the kerb.
She ate some Hazelnut spread on some half-turned French bread
and boiled a egg that she had found behind a half-eaten carton
of wheat-germ-enhanced Lithuanian Yoghurt.
The damned cat chased a bird in the back garden. He needed the exercise.
She had never been too assiduous about feeding him, as all the
old ladies and gents in the neighborhood were always tossing him
scraps. She wished he'd move in and try to smother one of them.
Somewhere around one, she found herself staring at the wall.
She supposed she'd better call that PWC thingie. She'd hardly
have time at work and she was fortunate she'd remembered it.
She found the card stuck to the floor of her briefpurse with
the effluvium from a half-gnawed Mars bar. She wiped it off
with a used tissue and picked up the phone. Put it down. Picked
it up again. Put it down. Suddenly forced herself to dial it,
before she gave in and gave up, and found herself bursting into
When Spree finally hit the answer button, she was sprayed in the
ear with the sound of weeping, kinda like an asthmatic mule.
Her first instinct was to cut it off. Then she said,"Who the hell
is this?" and began to cry herself.
Iridella tried to blow her nose and wiped out half of what Spree said. "What?"
Now Spree was snuffling. "What? What do you want?"
"I've been told to call here by a Dr. Spleen."
"Oh, snuffle, snort, that's all right, then, isn't it?"
"I, snuffle, sniff, slurp, suppose so."
"She thought you needed us?"
"That is the gist."
"Has it just happened? Is that why you are crying?"
"Um. No. I'm not really comfortable talking about it to a disembodied voice..."
"M'Dear, you are talking to a very embodied voice. About seven
months along, looking like the winner of an Orson Welles look-
"Ah. Sorry. Are you, um... too?"
"Yes. The army. You?"
"Oh, my. They do find ways, don't they? When can you come round?
I'm on season three of Bab 5."
"What is a Bab 5? A group?"
"Listen. Shut up. I've got food. Two couches and a pile of DVDS.
All right? The group doesn't fall together until about six this
pip emma, so we can get to know one another. Here's the locational vitae..."
Iridella didn't suppose she'd ever really
come to like Spree, with her over-sized housedress with a Disney
print on it, or her bright pink Doc Marten baby boots. The flat
was nice enough, with photos quietly framed on the walls and mantle,
afghans with biblical scenes tossed over the chairs and couch,
the fish tank with a couple of desultry grass carp and the snake
tank with some sort of sleeping thing in a corner next to a small
pile of delicate bones.
Yet, the TV and the fridge were large, the atmosphere was pleasant,
and she didn't have to say much after Spree tossed her the cellaphone
and said,"You deal with the beast."
Spree had relieved her of her Inverness, tossed it on a hat stand
in the foyer and directed her to a really comfy high-backed chair
with Isaac being threatened by his father on the altar printed on it.
Spree talked and talked and talked. Iridella watched the TV.
She didn't speak Mandarin, but it was kind of fascinating watching
the Gwai Lohs chattering away while the characters sped beneath.
Soon, she had a decent smelling bowl of some sort of red stuff
with beans in her lap and some Saltines to dip in it. She could
imagine worse ways to spend an afternoon.
Near on five thirty, the door was knocked. Spree waddled to open
it and pregnant Bobby strode through, disengaging her belt and
emptying her pockets into her hat before shoving both under the
couch and sinking into it with a sigh. "Hullo!," she ordered,
her cheap yet sturdy eyeglasses winking in the glare from the large TV.
"Hi," offered Iridella.
"I'm Beth," said the singular force on the couch. "What'd your's
get it from?"
"Oh, well, you're startled. I'll tell. Mine had one of them hereditary
bugs, only pops up it's ugly head every fourth generation or so.
One day he's running around, tenting his shorts like a randy pup,
and the next he's a deflated shadow of his former self. Took all
of three months for the Almighty to pull the chain. Greatly re-
gretted and all that. And you?"
"It's a bit of an embarrassment, Beth, hon, her joe got swilled up
and tried to cram his auto into another car's dashbox," said Spree.
Iridella almost spit out her mouthful from the sudden hilarious
nature of Spree's comment.
"Don't choke, dearie, you gotta watch Spree, she's got a mouth
like a tap! Don't tell her anything you don't want your worst
enemy to hear, as she'll spit it out like she was under
interrogation by Homeland Security."
That was supremely amusing to Iridella. She couldn't stop giggling.
Beth gave a startled look at Spree, her dark hair with bird's wing
highlights seeming to stand a bit.
"It's probably healthy," said Spree. "When she rang up she was
sputtering like a professional mourner."
Soon, all three were giggling. Spree had to take the bowl away
and Beth had to stand up because she was cramping.
An half an hour later, the door was knocked again, opened on it's
own, and disgorged three women in various stages of gravidity.
One wore a dark-figured serape, motorcycle boots and a Bell
skid lid. She was black, of the irridescent sort, with a blonded
Marilyn Monroe hairdo and a Celtic tattoo on the palm of her hand
as she proffered it to Iridella. "I'm Iris O'Toole. Mine was taken
putting up sign sheets on a billboard in very calm weather. We never found
out what happened. His partner looked away, then looked back.
No Jack and then a crash as he encountered the toolbed of the
service lorry an hundred feet below. Yours?"
Iridella blinked and shook her hand. She supposed she aught to get
used to it. "Um. Got drunk and played chicken with the car and lost."
"Oh, my. They are inventive, aren't they?"
Next came a very pale older girl with green hair, piercings
in places Iridella would never have imagined, and a pentagram
tattooed on her forehead. "Hi there, I'm Sandy. I'm in travel
management for an international oil company. My sprat's father
got electrocuted while trying to wire up a new dehumidifier for
his lutherie. We used to do a booth at Renn Fests and he sold DIY lutes."
The third was much older than the rest, in her late fifties. She
was dressed severely and held her pocketbook before her as she
stared at Iridella. "Who's she, then?", she demanded, her violet
eyes peering through narrow frames.
"Oh, put a sock in it, Ivylynne,"ordered Beth. "Just another lost
waif. Have a seat, you old bitch."
Ivylynne found a stool by the breakfest bar and perched uncomfortably.
Iris wagged her finger at the bulbous stick figure and said,"Don't
mind her. She'd been married for a donkey's with no issue. Her
Dan had a heart attack and the medicos did a complete checkup
for the first time in his life. He came home hale, hearty and horney,
for this, if you can imagine..."
Ivylynne displayed some universal sign language, albeit with a
surprising hint of a smile.
"Whatever,"continued Iris,"had kept his swimmers at bay was gone
and she experienced the eternal bliss of conception a week or two
before he decided to go play tennis in the sun and got redunded
"Hmm," said Ivylynne. "And he wasn't even as good as the garden lad..."
Everyone laughed at that.
Iridella felt at home for the first time in her life.