June 2024, 3rd: Selective Listening

Jess leaned against the doorjamb looking at her husband of more than thirty years performing his Sunday morning ritual. A large mug of tea sat beside him, and the weekend newspaper was spread across the coffee table and the three-seater lounge where he sat. As she considered whether now was the time to interrupt, George shook one page and began to fold it into a neat rectangle. This indicated he had found an article he wanted to read. No doubt another of the right-wing conspiracy theories his favorite paper promoted, salving his need to justify his own redneck notions.
‘There’s something I want to tell you.’
‘As you can see, dear, I am reading the paper at the moment. Can it wait?’
‘This is something I am sure you will want to hear. A juicy bit of gossip.’
‘Ahumm.’ George was obviously still only half listening and had started reading the article.
‘You remember Mary and Jack?’
‘You know, Mary Abernathy. You called her Buttons.’
‘Oh yes, Buttons.’ George smiled, obviously remembering fondly his own wit. Mary always wore very conservative clothes and cardigans buttoned from neck to waist. George once commented on the cardigans and decided to nickname her “Buttons”.
‘Anyway,’ Jess continued, ‘They are getting a divorce because Mary has been having an affair.’
‘Really? Hmm. Who’d a thunk it, hey?’
‘Gina told me that Mary told Liz that she woke up one morning and decided she needed a bit of spice in her life.’
George laughed. ‘I guess you would, married to that bore, Jack. Now listen to this Jess, here is a bloke who believes that all these people becoming vegans these days are part of a Chinese conspiracy to weaken Western societies.’
As he read out the article in his loud, irritating voice, Jess sat at the dining room table deep in thought. Sometimes she felt that life was passing her by in a parade of daily rituals. George worked all week, Saturday they went shopping together so he could control the spending and Sunday he read the paper. As for Saturday night sex, that dropped of the list years ago. Jess worked two days a week, volunteered two days a week and the rest of her time was spent cooking, cleaning and gardening, with the only escape being reading and watching travel shows. It was all so mundane. She could understand where Mary was coming from.
‘Spice George.’
‘What did you say?’
‘So, you agree a bit of spice is alright?’
‘Yeah, everyone needs a bit of spice. Especially if you are a vegan!’ chortled George.
Several months had passed when Jess was watching her favorite early afternoon soap on TV. She heard the front door bang and was surprised to see George storm into the lounge and fling his car keys on the coffee table.
‘Is it true?’
‘Is what true dear?’
‘Have you have been having an affair with Pasquale, that Italian baker from down the road?’
‘Who told you that?’
‘His ex-wife did, that’s who. She said she doesn’t care, but she felt I should know.’
‘So, who told her?’
‘He did I guess.’
‘Hmm. I wonder why he did that?’
‘Well! Is it true?’
‘Well yes, George, actually, it is. But you gave me permission to do something like this you know.’
‘I gave you permission?’
‘Yes, when I was telling you about Mary Abernathy, you agreed a bit of spice is all right.’
‘What? Hang on …yes… oh…. but, for heaven’s sake Jess, I meant cardamom on your cauliflower, or something, not a bloody Italian in your bed, you ridiculous woman.’
Jess saw red.
‘Yeah. Well, you are lucky I opted for just a dash of oregano and not lashings of Chinese Five Spice!’

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