Friday, April 23, 2010

Mortgage Stress

After George leaves for work I reach up to the medicine cupboard and feel around for the familiar box containing my contraceptive pills. I lift it down. Empty. There must be a repeat script left up there somewhere. I feel along the back wall and find nothing. I get a chair from the kitchen table, stand on it and lift every thing down, one by one. I look at the oven clock. It’s 5:00pm on a Saturday. There is no chance of getting a doctor’s appointment until Monday. However on Monday there is a team planning day and it would look rude not to be there.

I wander past the note in the hall, on my way to the study that reminds me that Mama-Grey our cat is due for her flu shot, fortunately just the far side of next pay day. While the computer is warming up I realize that the washing machine has stopped. I walk to the bathroom and press the button with its electronic beeps to set the rinse cycle. The computer it is still ‘thinking’. I look at the pile of ironing which has been accumulating since Monday, sigh and walk to the hall cupboard and take out the ironing board. While I’m setting it up the password screen comes up so the ironing is abandoned momentarily. My e-mail advises me that Jacqui Tang has sent me a message. I log into my social networking site and discover an invitation to a party. I’m excited until I realize that it’s a sexy lingerie party and guests will be expected to buy some. I wander into my bedroom, almost tripping over George’s runners on the way and sort ruefully through the worn contents of my top drawer. It’s a party I can’t afford this week so it’s easier not to reply.

The balance of my main bank account is worse than expected. It contains twenty one dollars and thirty cents. That’s enough to cover my script if I can survive until Thursday on what is in my purse and my other bank account which has about $100 in it, hopefully. My mobile phone beeps twice. There is a text from George.

Not on new roster. Last shift tonight. Going for drinks after work.

Luckily that’s only one of George’s three jobs. At least now we’ll have alternate Saturday nights together.

I’m intent on having a quiet weekend. Staying in and saving money is my new motto. There won’t be any more café brunches with eggs and coffee. Home-made is best. I pull the vacuum cleaner out of the cupboard and push it around making no impact on the lumps of dirt, fluff and cat hair on the floor. The head must be stuck again. I sit in the hallway and attack the mass of dust and hair that is clogged up inside. It finally has a clear airway. I turn it on, nothing. I flick the switch off and on. Nothing. This time it is broken for good. Retrieving the carpet sweeper is a definite possibility.

On Sunday morning George is very excited about my plans to stay in. He has one thing on his mind as he brings me coffee and croissants in bed. I don’t have the heart to tell him about the script. He is feeling miserable about losing his job at the café, and needs cheering up.

It’s a busy week. Deadlines are looming and my calendar is full. I don’t get to the doctor until Wednesday night after work. I sit patiently as dozens of people troop in get their flu injections and leave. After forty minutes my doctor has not made an appearance. I ask at the desk.

“She’s just with a patient. You’re next.’” The receptionist says kindly.

It doesn’t hurt to ask. The nurse calls another family. An hour and a blood pressure test later I’m out. Script in hand at last I race into the chemist.

“The system’s down” the assistant tells me when I offer my card. “You will have to get cash.”

My pills are sitting in a little basket just out of my reach. I cross the road and go to the automated teller machine and attempt a withdrawal. The machine tells me that it is not currently dispensing $20 notes and asks me to please request another amount. There is only $20 in the account. I walk down the street, see a bottle shop and go in knowing that in addition to the $20 there is enough left in the other account to buy a clean skin bottle of red wine and some organic orange, dark chocolate. I buy them both and asked for twenty dollars cash out as well. Cash in hand I head back to the chemist and complete my purchase.

At home George and I celebrate having more time together by drinking all the wine and eating the chocolate. We have a great night. At lunch time on Thursday when my head has cleared I realize that my packet of pills is sitting still wrapped in paper on the kitchen bench. It wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t agreed to go with Ruth to her poetry reading on the other side of town after work. Later at home the kitchen light bulb has blown, and George agrees to get new light bulbs in the morning. Mama-Grey wakes me at 5:00am. In the dark we forgot to feed her. Turning to cut her packet of food open on the bench I see the taped, white package. By then it’s too late. I don’t know it yet but I’m already eating for three.


  1. Ah, that last sentence packs such a punch!

    Such a grim life depicted for these two people who seem not to know how to get control and direct their lives.

    And now twins are to be added!

    Nicely portrayed slice of life story. Made me feel compassion for her.

  2. From the beginning we know where this will end, but wow, I enjoyed the whirlwind of her life.

    This character, with a little tweaking, would be a truly humorous and fun one to follow. You might be onto something here.

  3. I agree with Marisa and Peggy. Your depiction of this character is well done. I've met people like this. I do think it teeters between humor and a grim slice of life. You could make this funny like a Janet Evonovich/ chicklit type thing or completely tragic. It all depends on what we believe happens next.

  4. This is a character I definitely have sympathy for; in fact, I've been in her shoes in some ways. I agree that you could make this more humorous or simply follow the poignancy of the story. I think this is my first time reading your work, Amanda. I'll look forward to reading more.

  5. Oh bugger. Just when you think it can't get any harder...twins!

  6. Wow. I really enjoyed this. You did a great job of depicting a distracted, overwhelmed mind--in little details (moving from the computer to the washing machine to ironing back to the computer...)--and in "larger" ones such as the process of not taking the birth control pills. Despite the various activities (and non-activities), the tone and feel have the steady cadence of inevitability--PERFECT for this character's narration!

  7. Great details of a chaotic life! I figured a pregnancy was going to happen, but twins? Ouch!


  8. Wow, the voice in this is great. And then the last line - POW!


  9. My head is swimming for her. We are always so busy, it's easy to forget things that we were stressing about moments ago. I really enjoyed this write, and I look forward to reading more of your work.

  10. I really enjoyed it. I could feel her distraction, bouncing from chore to chore (I do that). Well done.

  11. Hard look at a tough life. This is real and that's what makes it all the more intense. Good job.

  12. Dallas Area Christian Alliance Blog??????? Heh.... my, my, Amanda, you must have used the word contraceptive in your post!!!! LOL
    I LOVED your story.. it was like Bridget Jones grows up and Mark is poor and they're REAL people... loved the breezy, fun tone. Great job!!