Monday 10 December 2018

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: Fire, fury and Flakes…


Illustration: Ben Hickey
Illustration: Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

The wife is furious. - I'm telling you now, she says. She repeats these words every time she opens a press, looks in, and slams it shut. We're in the kitchen, by the way.

- I'm telling you now.

She's staring into the cutlery drawer. I can hear the teaspoons whimpering. The drawer's a bit bockety, so she can't slam it shut.

- I'm telling you now, she says, and she looks at me. - Whoever took it will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

Someone's after robbing her Flake.

- I'll get you another one, I say.

- I don't want another one.

- It's no bother, I say. - I'll be back in five minutes.

- No!

She takes a breath, holds it - lets it go.

- No, she says. - No. Thanks.

I'm being a bit brave here.

- It's only a Flake, love, I say.

She looks at me.

- I know, she says.

Then she gives the cutlery drawer an almighty kick.

She sits down. I think she's hurt her foot - and her hip. But I know: she'll wait a while before she'll admit it.

- One little thing, she says. - A treat for myself.

- I know.

- And it's gone.

- I know, I say. - It's not fair.

She's looking down at her foot.

- Is your foot sore, love?

- No!

- Grand.

- Yes! It's very bloody sore!

- Oh, I say. - Right.

I'd get down on the floor and rub the foot for her but it would seem a bit biblical or something - something the Pope would do. And I've a feeling she'd kick me. So, I stay put.

But it's terrible, seeing her upset.

I see an upset man and I'll know why he's upset, immediately. His team has lost, his dog has died, he's just seen the state of himself in the jacks mirror. I can read all men - except myself.

I see an upset woman - I'm mystified. I haven't a clue. But I try my best.

- Is it the change, love? I ask her.

- What?

I'm already regretting this.

- Well, like, I say. - Is it the change?

- Jesus, Charlie, she says. - I'm 60!

She laughs but it isn't a happy sound - at all.

- Why didn't you ask me that. Jesus, years ago, she asks.

- There's only the one then, is there?

- One what, exactly?

- Change.

She stares at me.

- Just the one, so, I say. - That's handy enough, isn't it?

This time her laugh actually sounds like laughter - her laughter.

It's my favourite thing about her. The first time I saw her I thought she was lovely. Then she laughed and - Christ - I felt like I'd been thumped in the chest by an angel.

Anyway, she's laughing now because of something I said, and that makes me the happiest man in the kitchen. I'm alive - I'm the same man I was 40 years ago, making the same woman laugh.

But she's not happy - I can tell. She's going to say something. There's a little crease just above her right eyebrow that shifts slightly when she's getting ready to talk. It's been joined by a few more creases since the first time I noticed it, but I still know the one to look for.

- I just feel… I don't know, she says now. - A bit hard done by.

I know how she feels. But I don't say that. I learnt that lesson years ago. Thirty-seven years ago.

- Oh Christ, I'm in agony! she screamed.

- Same here, I told her.

She grabbed my arm and squeezed. We were in the Rotunda and she gave birth to our eldest ten minutes later. If you look carefully, you can still see the bruises on my arm.


- And I'm right to feel hard done by, she says now.

- You are, I agree.

- I'm not a selfish woman, Charlie, she says.

- No.

- Sure I'm not?

- No, I say. - You're… listen. You're the least selfish person I know.

She smiles.

- I hid that bloody Flake so I could have it while we were watching Riviera, she says.

Riviera's a load of s***e but I keep the review to myself.

- It's silly, I know, she says. But… Some louser's after stealing it and it's not bloody fair.

The house was full earlier, countless kids and grandkids. She fed them all. She was the perfect granny, the perfect mother. I'd nearly cried, looking at her with the grandkids.

- It's crap, I tell her.

I take her hands and lift her from the chair. I hug her and kiss her face.

- I love you, I tell her.

She slides her hand into the back pocket of my jeans and squeezes my a*** - or, where my a*** used to be. And she feels something in the pocket.

- What's this? she says, and she takes it out.

Oh, s***e.

It's the Flake wrapper.

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