A short story I wrote a few years ago, when wheels on furniture were very popular. I'd love to hear your reaction....
The wheels of the chair caught on the carpet as he pushed himself forcefully back from the desk. He knew they knew. Although his PA was normally good with a confidence, he realised this was an exceptional circumstance. Julia would have been the third recipient of the office email after Mark and Jane, and then it was out there for all to see.
‘That’s strange,’ he mused as he watched Julia walk by with a snack. She was normally a chic pea and carrot wrap type of person. Why was she waving the wrapper at him? It was a chocolate marshmallow ‘wagon wheel’. Not her usual fare.
And then he realised. ‘A cruel act,’ he thought.
He had not been himself lately; had in fact lost half a kilo in just three days, and his face was pasty and expressionless. His normally bright and cheerful persona was non-existent. He felt he was a non entity to himself and those around him. Pulling at his tie to loosen it, he began to go over the last couple of months again, to try and see where he might have salvaged the situation with Catherine.
She was an independent, seemingly cheerful wife. In fact now he thought about it, perhaps she had been a little too chirpy of late.
Catherine had started redecorating a couple of months ago. She loved renovating the home and he agreed to her doing whatever she wanted, after all she was drawing a good income for herself, so why not? This latest project had been a little different though.
‘She started attaching wheels to everything,’ he had explained to his brother six weeks ago over lunch. ‘Apparently it’s a current decorating fashion to attach wheels to the bottom of furniture. Perhaps it makes for easy cleaning, or a way of changing the décor without much effort, or maybe it’s an expression of our temporary, fluid, existential way of living now.’
‘Well, I guess they are at least removable when the novelty wears off. It’s not like painting the walls fuscia pink life my wife,’ Edward had laughed, trying to lighten the tone but wondering if Catherine had overdone her dietary supplements.
‘I came home one evening, sat in my chair, put my feet on the coffee table as usual,’ Richard went on, ‘and the table slid out from under my feet, leaving them to thump to the floor. My heels still hurt.’
He rotated his ankles in memory thinking that perhaps he should visit his physiotherapist. They were still quite painful.
‘Another evening, a few days later, I sat down to dinner and thought I must have suddenly shrunk,’ he continued to Edward. ‘The table was ten centimetres closer to my chin – wheels again.’
He hadn’t told Edward anymore. He was concerned enough about Catherine’s behaviour but until he knew more, sympathy or the lack of it from family was something he didn’t need right then.
In fact, within the month there were more wheels on the bookshelves and settee.
‘Very chic,’ she assured him.
The barbecue had wheels, and now there were plant container caddies with wheels. The plants were ficus, topiaried into a ball shape on a long thin trunk. He had watched with amusement as, before sitting down to dine out on the terrace, she had at the last minute fussily completed what he thought was her vision of a romantic setting; moving plants around to effect.
Walking quickly with one hand around the trunk, just under the balled head, Catherine would whiz the pots effortlessly on their small well oiled wheels from one area of the terrace to another, and then when satisfied, motion to him that dinner was ready. He had felt touched by her efforts.
On a particularly warm and balmy evening, she wheeled these two humanoid plants up to the table, to accompany them as they dined.
‘I should have taken that part seriously,’ he remembered with regret, ‘but she did have a very amusing and weird sense of humour at times.’
On reflection, he realised that he should have noticed a lot more changes in Catherine, but detecting and understanding personal signifiers was never one of his strong suits.
Her behaviour continued to oscillate between humorous and strange. The possibility of a medical problem did occur to him but was dismissed as unlikely. Katherine was much too organised and sensible to let that happen.
However, the day before yesterday certain patterns of behaviour became clearer to his now confused mind. Instead of putting on her business suit, Catherine came into the kitchen wearing her jeans, jumper and flats. Before he could ask whether she was having a day off, ill perhaps, or was it a public holiday that he’d forgotten, the horror unfolded in slow motion. Catherine pulled her new turquoise and tan luggage along on its little wheels, clunking over the tiles, then smoothly on the carpet, then clunking on the tiles to the front door.
He would always remember clearly the rhythmic clatter sounding so unbearably loud combined with the soft padding of Catherine’s shoes. And it would be impossible to erase the memory of that strange little smile as she turned to him for the last time before quickly putting her shoes into the roller blades and rolling down the hill to the train station.