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Joan tottered in from work at half past twelve this morning and said: “Well?”
I looked up from There’s Always a Price Tag by James Hadley Chase and said: “Well what?”
“Well, for a start, it’s well past midnight.”
“How did it go at the clinic?” I asked.
“Have you made up your mind?”
“Look,” I said, “I don’t see what’s wrong with the status quo. We’re both perfectly happy.”
“Will you or will you not marry me?”
“Joan, this just isn’t fair.”
“It’s perfectly fair. You’ve had years to make up your mind. Will you marry me? Yes or no?”
“And if I say No?”
“Then we split up.”
“But I don’t want to split up. I like living with you. I love you,” I said.
“Does that mean you will?”
“No, look, wait. Joan. I need more time. Why can’t we just carry on as we are?”
“Because I want to get married and have children - and you don’t.”
“Well, I know I don’t now, but I might - later on.”
“That’s not good enough, Ralph. I want an answer, yes or no, now.”
I glared at her. My teeth clenched. So did my fists.
“Look,” I said, “I know it may sound pathetic, but I really can’t make up my mind and ...” (I summoned up some wrath) “... I don’t see why I should have to make up my mind about something I don’t want to make up my mind about.”
“Let me put it this way, Ralph. You don’t have to do anything. But I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I am, as of this moment, going on hunger strike.”
I thought this was very funny and started to laugh.
“I am going on hunger strike, Ralph.”
“Alright,” I said, “You do that.”
She said she would, and then she went to bed.
Hell’s bells. I mean, really.
At nine o’clock this morning, when Joan awoke, she poked me in the ribs and said: “Ralph, can I have breakfast?”
For a moment, what with having been woken so abruptly, this struck me as a ridiculous question. Then I caught her drift. I remembered that she was on hunger strike.
There came a knocking at the kitchen door. I slipped out of bed. It was Orson, popping up from down below. Orson came in, sat down at the kitchen table, and I put the kettle on.
Enter Joan from the bedroom.
“Well?” she said to me, and: “Hello, Orson.”
“So, how’s tricks?” I asked him.
“Excuse me,” said Joan, stepping into the proceedings and grabbing them by the scruff of the neck. “Ralph. I want to know whether or not I can have my breakfast.”
“What’s it got to do with him?” asked Orson, reasonably enough.
“I’m on hunger strike,” said Joan.
“It’s true,” I said.
“Since when?” asked Orson.
“Since last night,” said Joan.
“Oh yes,” said Orson, “what are your demands?”
“The demands are that Ralph make up his mind whether or not he wants to marry me.”
I retreated to the loo, taking the newspaper with me, and installed myself beneath the Ceiling of Damocles. I was already bored with this hunger strike business, which, apart from anything else, was seeming more and more to me to be a joke in very poor taste. Channel 4 starts today. Whoopee!
We really must do something about the dry rot in our loo, or one of us is going to end up on the Channel 4 news. Man Killed In Bog Shock Ceiling Horror!
Joan was dressing when I re-emerged, and Orson had gone. I went into the kitchen and checked on the level in the Sugar Puffs packet. She did not seem to have used a bowl. The milk had not gone down.
“What have you eaten?” I shouted.
“I haven’t eaten a bloody thing, you blurt!” Joan’s sweet voice floated in from the bedroom.
I wandered in there and watched as Joan struggled into her clothes.
I said: “You’ll never do it”
“You’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” was Joan’s reply.
“No, I won’t.”
“You don’t believe me, do you?”
“Of course, I do,” said I. “Come on, give us a kiss.”
It was something in the way she wiggled into her skirt that got me going.
“Don’t start something you’re not prepared to finish.”
I had forgotten. But apparently she really did go to the clinic yesterday - and she really did have her coil removed.
“Really really?” I enquired.
“I’m telling you, Ralph. Now get this straight. There’s going to be no more idle fucking in this house. You either fuck to propagate or you fuck off.”
“Crikey,” said I.
“Crikey indeed,” Joan replied.
See you tomorrow for The Third. I can't wait!