Gertrude: the long way home

Gertrude hauled her purchases home along the long, well-known dirt road. She kept as close as she could to the edge, sometimes having to pick her way through the discarded rubbish strewn along the way; to step past the rusting Coca-cola cans or the squashed Red Stripe. Boxes and wrappers bleached by the sun skirted the road with their dry leaves or else formed a grey mash after the rains had fallen. Every now and then, a tree cast its shade thoughtfully over the villagers on foot with their heavy bags, their chickens hanging upside down clucking away at a nervous premonition, or the children who grew tired along the way and tried to play up. The villagers on foot. Weren’t they all. The sun lashed down on Gertrude as she stopped, put her bags down for a fraction, changed them over and picked them up again. She wished that for once, just for once, someone else would put this hour-and-a-quarter stretch behind them. Two strapping brothers, but it was always her. They’d lie around doing nothing, sit back with a beer in the hand or else be off gallivanting somewhere whilst she, she had to work like a horse for them. Buy and fetch and carry and cook. Wash and iron. Sweep and wipe. Polish and pluck and peel. And there was no use protesting. She was her mother’s only girl. Their father had upped and left as they all did sooner or later, having been brought up with very little respect for their female counterpart, and immune to the notion of responsibility. And if by some chance you found yourself with one of the good ones, you’d have to beat the other women away with a stick and plague yourself daily with the thought that today someone else might have won him to her. So you question and you dig for secrets and sooner or later he can´t stand it anymore so he ups and goes anyway. Menfolk. Sought and coveted and pampered and loved. Attacked and hated and forgiven. Menfolk. Soft as a raw egg and no woman will respect you. Hard as a stone, you’ll find those who like it, but every woman – every head in a scarf, every heart in a chest, every bottom in a tight skirt – was on the lookout for a piece of toast – hot and rough but melting in your mouth. Toast, golden brown, coated with a spoonful of honey to run down the side and stick to your fingers… Menfolk. Laugh, flirt, drink beer. Spit. Strut. Slap. Sing. Fall into a chair and wait for dinner. Pull you close. Touch your breasts. Ride you. Love you. Leave you. Need you. Menfolk. What else was there to do but to resign to them, yield up one’s flesh and string together the precious happy moments, like pearls; resign and yield whilst you still could, and afterwards to collect your due in the perfumed balm of sisterhood.

 

from Long Time Walk on Water, available at:
Amazon US   Amazon UK   Amazon France   Amazon Germany   Barnes & Noble   Smashwords and Waterstones

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