Peter awakes at six forty-five and stretches. He rolls out of bed onto the floor and goes through a routine of sit-ups, press-ups and other ups designed, he reckons, to get the blood flowing. When the red corpuscles are roaring around his body at the speed of light, he dons a track suit, lets himself out of the front door and goes for a two-mile sprint around the block. After an invigorating cold shower, shave and what have you he dons a ‘onesie’ and repairs to the kitchen, via his wife’s bedroom, giving a sharp rap on her door announcing the start of the day. Donning an apron, depicting a basket of prunes, he starts to prepare a pre-ordained breakfast of broccoli, goji berries and garlic for himself and a bloody Mary for Phyllis. Phyllis, meanwhile, in an adjacent bedroom, is still considering the outrageous proposal Clark Gable suggested in his Cannes villa. She is oblivious to alarms, bangs on her door, or consciousness of any kind.
Peter and Phyllis have been married for twenty years; they are childless, mainly from the want of not trying. Peter was made redundant four years ago from his job as chief nutritionist at a chocolate pudding factory due, he maintains, to a sharp divergence of ideals with the managing director, the sales director and virtually all the other directors. The loss of earnings from Peter’s employ mattered little. Phyllis was earning three times as much as her husband due to her vast output of published novels and adoring readership among the sexual fantasist genre of ladies in suburbia..She had been an avid writer for as long as she can remember but it was the realisation that by imbibing a certain herbal substance before bedtime that her resultant dreams of a particular intimate nature and noted down immediately upon waking could be turned into a cash cow and Peter took on the role of a house husband.
Half an hour later Phyllis finds her tryst with Clark Gable well and truly disrupted by the sound of a vacuum cleaner bashing the skirting boards and doors of the landing. She sits up rubs her eyes, curses through clenched teeth and reaches for a notebook. After ten minutes as the sound of Peter’s cleaning exploits recede she puts pen to paper and tries to recollect the fascinations of the night. Nothing, nix, zilch, sweet Fanny Adams. It’s all gone. Up in a cloud of dust into the bloody vacuum bag.
The resultant meeting of two minds when they meet in the kitchen twenty minutes later is icy, to say the least. Phyllis has downed her bloody Mary and has another one ready.‘That’s the third bloody time this week,’ says Phyllis , clutching a tattered dressing gown around her shoulders with one hand and reaching for her third cigarette of the morning with the other. ‘You bastard.’
Peter, looking down at his wife from a chair on which he’s standing in order to reach the dark recesses of a wall cupboard top with a feather duster. ‘It’s got to be done my dear,’ he says, ‘your health is my concern,’
‘Bollocks,’ replies Phyllis.
‘Never mind them, says Peter, ‘hurry up and finish, I’ve got a shopping list to do and the beds to make.
Phyllis grabs her drink, cigarettes, notebook, and shuffles into her study. It has been cleaned and tidied by Peter. She can’t find anything. The phone rings, it’s her agent. ‘Morning,‘ says Phyllis.
‘Good morning,’ says her agent,’Phyl dear, it’s about the, you know the story line about the transvestite in the sauna.’
The only line that Phyllis is interested in at the moment are the railway ones she could tie Peter on. ‘What about it?’ she asks.
‘Well, I’m rather worried that we may be breaking the bounds of plausibility.’
Peter enters complete with feather duster.
‘Piss off’ says Phyllis.’
‘Well really,’ says her agent.
‘No not you,’ says Phyllis. ’It’s him, the answer to a dustman’s prayer.’
As lunch time approaches Phyllis goes to the door, listens intently for sounds of activity and hearing none creeps soundlessly into the kitchen and out through the back door into the garden. She goes behind a stone wall gently dislodges a stone and extracts a half pint glass. Two yards further on another extracted stone reveals a bottle of gin. Pouring a good measure into the glass she replaces the gin and makes her way surreptitiously to the greenhouse. Underneath a six foot yucca she feels for a bottle of tonic water and tops her glass up. Sitting on a pile of compost away from prying eyes she demolishes the beverage, replaces the evidence into their hidey-hole and makes her way back indoors, feeling half human again.
By mid-afternoon, after another trip to engage the garden’s flora and fauna, she is qwerty bashing with renewed zeal. Peter is nowhere to be seen and all is well with the world.
At five o’ clock Peter re-enters, this time with a whole salmon in his arms. ‘You remember Joyce and Henry are coming for dinner tonight,’ he says, ‘ I’ve laid out your pink twin set on the bed, it will go nicely with your mother’s pearls.’
‘What!’ says Phyllis, deflating like a pricked party balloon. ‘Who the hell are Joyce and Henry?’
‘That nice couple that moved into number seventeen,’ he looks askance. ‘You must remember, we met them at the local resident’s association meeting last week.’
‘I have never been to a local resident’s association meeting, whatever that is and don’t intend to start now.’
‘Oh,’ says Peter, scratching his head, ‘I must have gone with someone else.’
‘You buffoon,’ says Phyllis. ‘Ring them up and say I’ve got a dose of the clap and it’s highly contagious.’
The evening wore on, Peter did a load of ironing whilst watching a documentary on television about carpet laying and Phyllis remained in her study imbibing great wafts of herbal essence and thinking. At bedtime, Peter made himself a malted milk drink and made notes of jobs for the morrow which he affixed with a magnet to the fridge door. Phyllis made her way upstairs, giggling with the anticipation of a night’s romp with half of Hollywood.
‘Good night darling,’ shouted Peter, ‘sweet dreams.’
‘You too,’ shouted Phyllis, with a smile, ‘you too.’