Before our births, void of choice, we became part of the story,
During our lives, with a choice, we can't escape the story,
After death, abandoned choice, the story continues to seep.
- Andrew Mansell

The Depressants

Claire woke before the alarm beeped and remembered to switch it off. The shower was neither hot nor lukewarm; somewhere in between, exactly to her liking. Her clothes were unruffled and her shoes polished. She walked towards the kitchen with expectancy that something had to change; something had to go wrong and spoil this perfect start to the day.

No, not just yet, her thoughts were quelled. She was taken aback by Chris, who had let her porridge cool enough to dollop honey on without it turning to a fast running sap. He poured her coffee and kissed her. His fresh breath persuading her to inhale deeply.

‘Enjoy the rest of your day,’ he said and smiled broadly. ‘’I’m off.’

Claire watched as Chris seemed to glide across the gleaming floor tiles. He left, closing the front door gently. Claire then looked towards a rattling of dishes near the sink.

‘Good morning,’ she said.

Paul washed. ‘Hi mum,’ he said.

Carolyn dried. ‘Morning mum,’ she said.

They finished their job and Paul asked, ’can we watch the cartoons?’

‘You know the rules about school mornings.’ Claire sighed then sipped on her coffee, wondering why rules mattered.

‘But mum,’ Carolyn said. ‘We’ve made our beds, got our lunches ready, done our homework, practised the piano, let the dog out and look – when you’re finished breakfast the dishes will be done.’

This is amazing Clair thought. It’s not even Mother’s day. She glanced around the house and it really was so clean. ‘Oh, alright,’ she finally said. ‘Just this once.’

Twenty minutes later Claire only briefly looked in the mirror although she could have stared forever at her face that seemed to have less signs of aging than yesterday. She only had to call once for Paul and Carolyn to get their school bags and be in the car, ready to go. Claire had no problem finding reverse. The four speed gearbox of the Commodore was not in a crunching mood for a change. Claire parked, for the first time ever, in the kiss and go space right near the front gate of the primary school. There was no need even to watch Paul and Carolyn into the gate; they were already there.

Further down the road, cars left plenty of space for Claire to merge the Commodore onto the highway that took her to work. Not one semi trailer whooshed past her or hounded her rear bumper as they usually did. She sat comfortably on the speed limit, all the way to the highway’s end where she got a green light. Several empty car spaces waited her in front of the office, even the boss’s large space was vacant.

Inside the office, the atmosphere was cheery as if it was the office Christmas party. The boss wasn’t coming in and before Claire could sit down in front of her screen she’d been told, through faces of joy, the boss’s father was ill, his wife had left him and he was in hospital after suffering a heart attack. Claire couldn’t decide which excuse seemed to be taking things to far; instead she wondered when the day would turn bad.

At lunch time, the usual gossip was replaced by a carefree or rather careless attitude towards everyone and everything. Claire became engrossed in reading a food magazine that extended her lunch break to well over an hour. Back at her desk, nobody had sent the usual email requesting something urgent and no notes summoned her to anybody’s office. The internet had no impediments with all social media sights being unblocked. Claire surfed to the local supermarket and ordered fresh rump and vegies for a slow cook recipe for a stew that had taken her eye and teased her taste buds. By the time Claire took the time to look around the office, she had the strange feeling of doing overtime. It wasn’t that she was working late, everybody else had left early.

Claire comfortably beat the rush hour traffic back in time to pick up Paul and Carolyn. You guessed it; she parked in the same space, right near the school gate. At home Paul and Carolyn got stuck into their homework. Once done, they played outside with the dog as Claire prepared dinner. The rump was tender, easy to dice, the potatoes juicy and firm, the carrots crunchy and the zucchini seemed as though it had just been picked. As Claire chopped the onion not one tear was shed. She still waited though, waited for something to go wrong.

While the slow meal stewed away, Claire made herself a cup of tea and sat down near the radio. The love songs were not sloppy, the pop songs seemed as though they would last and the classics played like they were new again. She was in no hurry to get up as the recipe said the slower and longer the better the flavours would spread.

Chris got home on time for a change and was first to compliment.

‘This is amazing’, he said.

‘Sure is mum.’ Carolyn said.

Paul was too busy eating but mumbled and nodded his head.

‘No problem at all,’ Claire said, feeling as if in some sort of happy trance. The day couldn’t finish off without one thing going wrong, it just doesn’t happen. Claire thought about crossing her fingers but settled on crossing her knees.

Chris licked his lips and had no trouble scraping the baking dish clean. Afterwards, he was happy to attend to the dishes. Paul and Carolyn offered to help but Chris politely shooed them. Paul went to his room to read and Carolyn played Mooshi Monsters. Claire took a long bath in water that stayed exactly right forever it seemed. It has to end here she thought as she waited for her hands to wrinkle – they didn’t.

Claire thought about watching a movie but concluded if something bad happened while watching an unreality, badness might become contagious and somehow jinx the reality of her own day. Claire didn’t have to ask nor Chris demand. They made love. Shortly after, they both fell asleep.

Chris didn’t snore but a minute after midnight Claire woke. She had to find them. She looked on the bedside table and then in the bedside draws but they were not there. She went to the bathroom, checked in the cupboard, no sign of them. In the kitchen, the lounge and high cupboard in the laundry she found nothing. Back in the bedroom she woke Chris and asked,

‘Where are they?’

‘Where are what?’ Chris said in a sleepy voice.

‘The depressants.’ Claire breathed heavily. ‘There will never be another day like yesterday.’


Andrew Mansell, July 2013.


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