Written by Rob
“Arthur! Arthur, where are you?” Miss Granville’s screech echoes down the stairwell for the umpteenth time this morning.
“Coming, Miss Granville.” Arthur calls back from the scullery. He puts Miss Granville’s shoes down that he was polishing and onto the counter, wipes his hands on a rag, and trots down the hallway and up the stairs, trying hard to ignore the nagging arthritic pain from his knees. Miss Granville is sitting in her wheelchair, facing the window, overlooking the back garden and lawns. She is proud and straight, if wrinkled and old, with piercing blue eyes.
“What were you doing, Arthur?” Miss Granville demands.
“I was polishing your shoes, Miss Granville,” pleads Arthur.
“Don’t you take that tone with me, Arthur,” snaps Miss Granville. “Why are you so behind with your chores this morning?”
Arthur knows there is no point in trying to suggest overwork, so he offers, “I seem to be a little slow this morning. I didn’t sleep very well.”
“Well, you need to buck your ideas up. I need you to go to the animal feed place at Harmstone. My partridges are nearly out of seed. Then there’s my bed which is needing clean sheets. I’ll bet yours needs changing too. And could you pick up some salmon for lunch whilst you’re down town? Oh, and my dry cleaning should be ready by today. I will be needing my best shawl for the W.I. lunch tomorrow. Now, I’ve noticed the lawns need a trim, Arthur. I hope you’re not going to let them get tatty, you know, like you did last Spring?”
Arthur begins, “no, I won’t Miss Granville,” but she cuts him off, with a chop of her hand.
“Look Arthur! My partridges are here again. Aren’t they just the most beautiful creatures you ever saw?” Her voice has softened, her speech taking a dreamy tone, as she lays her head to one side, clutches her hands to her bosom, and gazes lovingly to the far side of the lawn. Three partridge have hopped out from under the rhododendrons and are pecking at the grass. “Oh, I do love them so.”
“Lucky partridge,” says Arthur, bitterly.
“How dare you speak to me like that?” Miss Granville screams, her face contorted like an old newspaper. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself, you ungrateful wretch, and get about your tasks. Never was a woman more cursed with a husband than I am with you. My mother warned me – how I wish I had listened. Now get out of my sight, or you’ll not have time for the ironing before you need to make lunch.”
Arthur collects the bird seed from the agricultural supplier in Harmstone and buys an air rifle with telescopic sight. The following afternoon, after dropping his wife off at the W.I., and when he was supposed to be cleaning her bathroom, he sets himself at the cellar window with his new gun. He only needs to wait ten minutes or so before two partridges hop into view, pecking at the seed he has spread on the lawn. Arthur’s first shot produces a flurry of feathers, as one bird runs in a tight circle before dropping in an ungainly heap, whilst the second flies away, rasping loudly.
Arthur is weeping uncontrollably “Oh, my, my. What have I done? Those beautiful birds. They never did anyone any harm. I must be mad. She loves them so: I must be. But God help me: I’m so lonely.”
Rob’s Half Hour Challenge entry was written last month under the theme Servant. We thought it fit quite well into April’s Simple Pleasures, but it also gave us some lovely dark comedy with a wicked twist. Poor Arthur, at least he didn’t shoot his wife – was that your original thought as well? If you liked Rob’s HHC, make sure you check out some of his other work, including “Thy Tears Wash” and “Smile“.