Alby Stone: Midsummer Nights

Copyright © 2013 Alby Stone

The place did need redecorating, he reluctantly allowed. And he’d have to see to it. It was the annual battle of wills and desires with the missus, the battle Ron always lost. Not that he ever put up more than a token resistance, a matter of maintaining the illusion of self-respect. He didn’t really mind the work – a bit of hard graft never hurt anyone, and he could rely on his mates to lend a hand, and they usually had a good laugh while they were at it, though Tom could be more trouble than he was worth. The bloke was a bit of an ass, after all. But he was a mate and it wouldn’t do to exclude him. It would be good to get together with Rob, too – Ron hadn’t seen him in an age and he was a good lad, especially when he’d had a few beers.

No, it wasn’t the prospect of work that got Ron down. In fact, he got a real kick out of seeing the finished article, those fresh, vibrant colours and that gorgeous smell the place had when it was done. The problem was the missus, her constant nagging and eternal criticism. Tania was never bloody satisfied, always finding fault and bitching that he’d missed a bit here, the floral design wasn’t floral enough, that was the wrong shade of whatever, had he remembered to do the bits upstairs he thought no one would see, and couldn’t he be trusted to do anything properly? Tania saw herself as some sort of domestic goddess, and like all tyrannical deities she brooked no argument and accepted no excuses. It was worse when she invited her mates over – that Mabel was a right pain in the arse and thought she knew everything, typical bloody health professional, always whingeing and moaning about something or other that the men hadn’t done right. The other girls weren’t much better, especially that Blossom and her three friends whose names Ron could never remember. Come to think of it, he didn’t even know where Tania had met them, only that they were always hanging around gossiping and stirring up trouble, usually for him. Silly mares.

Ron belched and scratched his belly, then took the ballpoint pen from behind his ear. As usual, he’d forgotten to bring a notepad so he jotted notes on a couple of cigarette papers. Colour scheme, rule-of-thumb measurements, a rough idea of how long it would take, how many cans of lager the lads would need to see them through the job… Not that it mattered. She wouldn’t be satisfied whatever the outcome. Ron made himself a roll-up, took a pew and lit up. He realised he’d forgotten where he’d left his can of Stella. Never mind, it had been nearly empty and there were plenty more where that came from.

He took a drag on his fag and sighed, remembering that time years ago when he and Tania had that big fight. That had been really bad – the domineering Tania bullied her friends into taking sides, somehow their men had been blamed for Ron’s perceived shortcomings, and the situation became confrontational and occasionally violent. It went on for ages, with the women not speaking to the men and the guys in turn holding Ron responsible for the abrupt cessation of conjugal enjoyment. Only abject, prolonged grovelling and fulsome apologies had ended the sexual embargo and restored smiles to faces. Tania’s smile had been enormous when the full extent of Ron’s capitulation was revealed. Never again, Ron had sworn, better never to climb up in the first place than to climb down that far.

Sometimes, Ron wished he was still single. Tania was a good-looking woman, there was no denying it, but had turned out to be not as nice after marriage as she had appeared when they were courting. Still, Ron supposed, that was life – everyone played a part until they’d got what they wanted and didn’t need to bother making the effort any longer. Tania’s temper tantrums could be frankly terrifying, but it was the perpetual nit-picking that had worn him down. She was obsessed with detail, wholly unable to see the wood for the trees. And every bloody year the place had to be redecorated for her sodding midsummer parties, nightmarish extravangzas of bizarre costumes and elaborate games of charades. Ron and his mates would be singled out for cruel treatment disguised as innocent jests – poor old Tom was usually the butt of particularly cruel jokes, while Ron and Rob rarely escaped with anything less than vitriol and humiliation.

On the whole, Ron would rather spend his midsummer nights in the pub, with his mates and the other characters, that fat bloke and his pal Harry, the bald geezer with the beard who reckoned he was a writer – or was he an actor? Bill something? Now those blokes knew how to have a good time. The last time he’d been there it had taken him nearly a week to get over the ensuing hangover. It had been a bloody excellent night though.

Yes, an excellent night. Ron laughed bitterly to himself as he stubbed out his exhausted roll-up. There wouldn’t be many of those in the next two or three months, definitely not at midsummer and not while he and the lads were busy redecorating in preparation for Tania’s annual ego-trip. Well, he really had no one to blame but himself for marrying the woman and he shouldn’t have been surprised when the magic had gone out of their marriage. He’d made his bed so he had to lie in it during the beerless, joyless nights. Still, he could always dream.

So, the usual browns and greens, with splashes of red, orange, yellow and blue here and there? Or maybe he should be daring, jazzing it up with purples and pinks?  No, he’d better stick to the customary décor. It would never do to make the missus even more upset than she had already decided to be. Ron sighed again and rolled another smoke. That was the trouble with fairytale romances. They always turned out grim.

 

With apologies to WS.

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