The Pregnant Widows Club, a novella, part two

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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-

alike contest!"

"Ah. Sorry. Are you, um... too?"

"Yes. The army. You?"

"Drunk driving."

"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

by God."

"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.

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