by Ella Risbridger
Claud and Mimi were going to Canterbury. Claud was driving. Mimi was looking out of the window; ploughed brown field after bright yellow field after green grazing field. Fields and fields, and the occasional village. What would it be like, Mimi wondered, to live in a village cut in half by a motorway full of trucks and lorries and people like her and Claud in their green Volvo? She was free to imagine this for plenty of time, because Claud and Mimi were not speaking. They had not spoken since Luton, and then it was only to argue about whether to get lunch; Claud had a phobia of wasting money, and particularly on food from service stations (“Think of the germs, Mimi!”)but Mimi said she had developed a phobia of the damp cheese sandwiches she had made at home, and could they please buy two nice convenient salad pots from Marks & Spencer? Claud had won: he usually did. They had sat in the car in a layby, watching the rain drizzle down the windscreen, eating the cheese rolls and drinking weak tea that tasted of metal and off milk. Claud had blamed Mimi for the odd tea. It was the flask, that was what it was, thought Mimi.
Before Luton they had spoken twice- once about the weather (Claud had blamed Mimi for making him drive in the rain), and once about the point of going to Canterbury (“It is ridiculous, Mimi, it really is. Canterbury? Canterbury? Two hundred and fifty bloody miles! Why can’t those ungrateful nieces of yours come to Sheffield?”). Claud had never liked Mimi’s sister, or her daughters, Sarah and Emma, Mimi’s nieces (“bloody hangers-on, Mimi, we’re better without them”), but despite his best and persistent efforts, Mimi had not managed to kick the familial habit.
There were fields of animals now. A field of sheep. A field of cows with their babies. Mimi had wanted babies, but Claud had not; Claud had won. Mimi wondered what it would have been like to have a baby of her own. Emma and Sarah had been lovely babies, but surely Mimi (the beauty to Minette’s brains, according to Mummy) would have had prettier babies still? Imagine if they were going to see their own daughters and grand-daughters instead of Minette’s. There was a field of pigs. “Happy pigs,” Sarah used to say.
“Happy pigs,” said Mimi.
Claud had been thinking none of this. Claud was tapping his fingers in a rhythmic manner on the steering wheel to Radio 2 (Claud’s choice) and thinking of the sheer waste of money and time that was driving to Canterbury in order to visit two women with lives of their own. Not my bloody family, thank God, thought Claud. Claud was against family life, against the whole ridiculous hypocrisy of pretending to hold crying children and needy old people and wailing women in affection. Claud had realised this, not long after their marriage, and therefore that it had all been a big mistake, getting married to Mimi. Now he could not even remember what she- or indeed he- had been like then. They had been married twenty years, or something like that. Mimi would know, but Mimi was sulking for some incalculable feminine reason. No, marrying Mimi- or anyone else- had been a mistake. Marriage was what had led him here, spending money like there was no tomorrow, driving down the M1 in the pouring rain.
When Mimi said “Happy pigs,” he was so surprised that she had spoken (he had almost forgotten she was in the car) he turned to look at her for one brief second, and in that brief second the lorry driver in front, two pints of IPA over the legal limit, braked hard to let a Fiat through. Claud, looking at Mimi, had only time to say “What?”, before the green Volvo smashed into the lorry, and spun off the road, and over the barrier, and into the drainage ditch.
Ella Risbridger doesn’t like writing about herself.