|The Trials Of Summer
Ellen didn't mind the mosquitoes but she did mind all the people that turned up on her doorstep wanting to be fed. Her husband invited them over every Friday through July and August. He said it was a barbecue, and of course he manned the barbecue, because it was a man's job, barbecuing, and therefore he said Ellen didn't have to do anything, and therefore Ellen couldn't complain at the fact that he'd invited all these people over.
People that she'd never met and never wanted to meet. People that she had met and didn't want to meet again. People that she'd met and quite liked, but not enough to have them traipsing through her hall every Friday night, their dusty shoes dirtying the carpet.
And although Tom took charge of the barbecue, flaming it up like a Viking funeral ship, throwing on steaks with slashings of red sauce and tipping the steaks onto paper plates, although Tom did all that, which he called cooking, it was still down to Ellen to buy the damn steaks and paper plates, mix the salad, clean the hall carpet, and make sure there was enough toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom. None of this counted as cooking, so she couldn't complain.
She also bought the beer and wine, made sure it was chilled beforehand, washed out the wine glasses afterwards, tidied up the sitting room for coffee after sunset, and ran around the garden with a black plastic bag in the dusk picking up discarded paper plates smeared with steak blood and honey mustard dressing. The day after, she cleaned out the barbecue pan, more cow juice burnt into metal. But as Tom was cooking, she couldn't complain. After all, how many husbands take responsibility for the meal when guests come?
There were guests with too small shorts on too large stomachs. There were guests with too loud voices for too small opinions. There were guests who brought their mistresses, and guests who brought their dogs. (Paw prints on the hall carpet, thought Ellen). There were guests who were vegetarians, so Ellen had to whisk up an omelet in the kitchen, watched by the vegetarians' thin pale faces as they insisted that she used only free range eggs. There were guests who were important and guests who were padding. Tom's boss was important, and Ellen knew him, he had a face pink as bacon and a laugh like a donkey, but some of the important people she didn't know, and would clean their plates away into the black plastic bag too soon while Tom glared at her. There were guests who had summer houses in the Hamptons, and Ellen only had the vaguest idea of where the Hamptons were, but she tried anyway and asked them if sunrise came earlier there and whether the maids were any good?
There were guests who smoked cigars smelling of dead bodies and guests who reminded her of her mother and guests who all looked the same. When every guest had gone home, Tom looked at her, or not so much at her as just past her, over her shoulder to the still smoldering barbecue outside.
"There," he said. "That was easy wasn't it?"