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Sauce Tartare and other stories

I was reminded of how a short story I wrote many years ago came about because of an overheard conversation in a cafe.  What reminded me was this news article in news.com.au today:

Woman pleads guilty to assault for tipping cuppa over customer's head

What on earth were these men saying that would make her react so violently and publicly?  There is a story right there!



I wrote Sauce of Rebellion about 10 years ago after I was sitting in the cafe at the Alexander Library.  I used to go there to do family history research, in the good old days before you could do most of the research online.  As I sat with my coffee, this older couple walked in and I was just fascinated by the relationship between them.  The incident that happened in my story, really happened, but of course, the rest is all made up.  It's how I imagined their life to be.

This is my story - in its very rough draft form - and after my weekend workshop, I feel confident to rework it and re-create it into something better.  Just shows that people-watching can offer a wealth of writing material.


Sauce of Rebellion

Bernie walks apologetically across the floor, listlessly following his wife, her voluminous shadow dominating him, even though he is much taller, he has a slim, comic, emu-like frame.   He dresses as She told him: brown trousers, beige shirt, soft, silent, leather shoes. The effect is a drab man, all shades of brown, like a sepia photo, left in a drawer.  You almost have to look twice to see if he’s really there, or just your imagination, a shadow from his past.
She waits impatiently beside her selected table, for him to catch up and pull out the chair, so she can sit and rest her bulk. Despite her size, she is well dressed, middle class attire – woollen skirt just below the knee, butter yellow silk blouse ruffled along the buttons, matching jacket to the skirt.  Tasteful and perfect, never just thrown on in casual abandon, dressing with care and pride.

Bernie slides into the chair opposite her, only now brave enough to lift his gaze to the tables that surround them.  Who will be witness to his shame today?  He doesn’t bother with the menu, she will order for him.  She motions for the waitress to approach.
‘We, young lady,’ she emphasises the word ‘lady’ with a raised eyebrow, ‘will have the grilled fish and salad.  Thankyou.’

She superciliously looks over the waitress, making up her mind in an instant that this young girl will end up a single mother with a string of loser boyfriends, which her husband’s taxes will support.  As the waitress leaves, a vacuum of silence engulfs the table, Bernie lost to his own world, and She scowling, tsk tsking at everyone and everything.
The waitress smiles as she places a plate of fish and salad before Bernie, serving him first in defiance, removing the smile before she places the woman’s food before her.

‘Can I get you anything else?’ asks the girl.  Spurred on by the waitress’s smile, Bernie looks up from his bland meal and asks if he could have some tartar sauce please? His wife glares at them both, not for a minute missing the smile shared, and tells him No.
With No ringing in his ears, Bernie gets up, walks to the condiments table, selects a sachet of sauce from a cane basket, and strides back to his chair – grinning inside.  It happened in an instant, nothing noteworthy to anyone else, a common occurrence, except to two people.  The tension was electric, Bernie, beginning to realise just what he had done: he had fired the first shot, and now his pistol was jammed, the enemy glaring at him across the table, a cartoon character with steam coming out her ears.  She just glared, as Bernie fumbled with his sauce sachet.  He tried to ignore the fury opposite him by putting all his concentration into opening the sauce. It was proving to be harder than it looked, the struggle becoming more than just an attempt to render sauce to his fish, it was to save face.

As She watched, She ran a monologue of instruction ‘here let me, I told you not to have sauce, not like that, give it to me’.  The diatribe continued, Bernie obviously flustered but determined to win this battle on his own.
He tried to get the corner to start peeling off, but it seemed to be stuck down fast, he was intently looking for an obvious corner to peel from, turning the sachet in all directions, when un-expectantly it happened. The sachet bent in half and squirted white thick sauce out like a bursting pimple.  Quickly, he looked up, coming eye to eye with his wife, a look of terror and fury and white gelatinous sauce, with little bits of green caper, on her face.  A blob dripped onto her yellow blouse, the oil making a shadow as it seeped into the material.  Bernie was losing control; a crack of a smile was threatening to enlarge into a grin, then a snicker and finally a laugh that took on a mind of its own.  Oh how good it felt, years of silence came flooding out in his laugh, releasing his bonds, an overwhelming feeling of freedom.  He didn’t care who saw them, didn’t care that his wife had murder in her eyes, and didn’t care about anything but this glorious moment, this rebellion.

Words : 737

© Jodie Sinclair 2012

 

 

 



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