Dinner in Edinburgh
Euphemia McTaggart laid the oak table for dinner. She would have nothing common in her house and nothing from Ikea. Ikea was where Glaswegians went for cheap furniture and cheap fish and chips. Her end-terraced villa - in what she termed one of Edinburgh’s leafy, genteel streets - warranted nothing but the best.
She took a deep breath, anticipating a shiver of pleasure at the scent of the polish she applied to her antique furniture twice a day. She coughed and spluttered. Findlay had opened the windows again. She hated open windows. The stench of curry, chop suey, haggis suppers with salt ‘n’ sauce and the demon alcohol oozed into her clean air. She reached up and shut out the city.
Euphemia placed silver cutlery on floral patterned mats and called to her husband.
“Findlay! Dinner will be served in one moment. Please come to the table.”
Findlay appeared on cue. Euphemia smiled. He’d insisted she get rid of the tasteful brass dinner gong and, after a few terse words, she’d acquiesced. The first time he hadn’t heard her call, she’d put his cold tongue and green salad in the bin. He’d been punctual ever since.
Findlay sniffed, wrinkled his nose and puckered his top lip. “What are we having?” He placed a napkin as flat on his lap as the starch would allow.
“Liver and onions, pickled cabbage and tinned new potatoes.” She watched him grimace. “Something wrong?”
“No. It’s just that I fancied some fresh vegetables for a change and maybe a nice wee piece of steak.”
“Steak? Are you mad? Have you seen the price of steak? We’ll have no extravagances in this house.”
They ate their food in silence, the way Euphemia liked it. After dinner, she allowed television for one hour so they could watch the news. Later, she crocheted new antimacassars for the leather Chesterfield while Findlay assembled extensions to his model railway village.
At nine o’clock Euphemia rose, yawned and announced her intention to retire for the night – it had been an arduous day.
Findlay sidled up to her, slipped his arm around her waist and whispered into her ear.
Euphemia shrugged off his hand, placed her hands on her hips and glared at him. “What date is it today, Findlay?”
Findlay blushed and looked at his feet. “July 28th, Euphemia.”
“And did we, or did we not, have bedroom activity on July 4th?”
“We did, Euphemia.”
“Then you’ll have had your sex for July.” She turned on her very flat heels and marched out of the room.
Left alone, Findlay became aware of the carriage clock’s relentless tick on the marble mantelpiece. He got up and opened all the windows. If he breathed deeply enough he was sure he could smell life. People - probably in Glasgow - were having fun, spending money, dancing, maybe even having sex more than once a month. He trudged back to his plastic, glue and paint.
Ach, well, it would be August soon.
* * *
Karen Jones is from Glasgow. Her work has appeared in several print anthologies, in magazines including The New Writer and Writers’ Forum, and in various ezines, most recently in The Waterhouse Review and Up the Staircase. She was short-listed for the 2007 Asham Award and took third prize in the 2010 Mslexia short story competition. One of her stories received an honourable mention in The Spilling Ink Short Story Prize 2011 and another took second prize in the Flash 500 competition 2012. Three poems (she’s not sure how that happened) have appeared on Every Day Poets.