Tea and Biscuits
by Louise Jackson Read author interview March 15, 2004
I’ve been trying to pick the poppy seeds from my hair, one by one. Brushing proved useless, the more I dragged at the seeds the more my hair knotted. But I don’t have time to sit and fiddle like this. I’ll cut them out. I have work to do.
Scissors? Not where they should be. Graham never returns anything to its rightful place; he thrives on untidiness, becomes confused when I declutter his study or re-arrange his sock drawer. The only part of our home that he is meticulous about is his rose garden. He contained a secluded, south-facing plot that adjoins the boundary walls, and at the weekend he disappears through the archway to work there. He works hard, and the roses are beautiful now. He tends them so well.
This morning, I scattered my remaining poppy seeds over Graham’s blooms. Next year the whole garden—and the surrounding fields if the wind and the birds have their way—will be one big sea of poppies. He’ll have a fit.
Oh-oh. I may have been a little impatient with the scissors. I’ve made a hash of my hair. I shouldn’t have allowed my concentration to wander, but not to worry, the hairdresser will rectify it. He isn’t my regular stylist, but he did come highly recommended and I’ve heard he is very good at what he does. A few layers, perhaps a well-placed curl or two, should do the trick and make me presentable again. Heavens, look at that. He might have to take it shorter than I’m used to, to hide that gap. I’ve never had short hair, not even at Uni. I wonder how different I’ll look?
Well, it doesn’t matter. Graham won’t notice the missing chunks. I don’t think he’d notice if I shaved the whole lot off and tattooed a portrait of Queen Nefertitii on the back of my head. His mind is otherwise occupied these days, intent on one thing and one thing only. Besides his roses, that is. She works in his office, and yes, she is his secretary and she is younger than me.
God, lunchtime. I’d better clear all this hair off the table. Time flies and I’ve wasted enough as it is. I want everything to be finished by the time Graham comes home this evening, but before I make a start I think a nice cup of tea is in order. I crushed all the pods earlier, so just a little for the brew right now. I’ll be prudent and not have too much when there are still things to do or I’ll be in poppy-doppy land for the rest of the day. Come on, kettle, hurry up and boil.
Weeks ago, long before I realised he’s been seeing her, Graham told me her name is Fiona. Or ‘Fee,’ as she prefers. Quite an apt nickname, but Graham obviously hasn’t yet reached the stage of reimbursing her for her services if the way she dresses for work is anything to go by. When I watched them enter the restaurant yesterday, her coat was somewhat shabby, to say the least.
Peppermint or anise, anise or peppermint? Anise to mask the nasty taste, I think. I’m not in a peppermint mood today, and this infusion is mild. I’ll make a start on the biscuits while I’m here. Good preparation is the key to success, and I always prepare well. Last night I prepared things very well, extracting more than I’ll need for later, but I still have to take care—today it is vital I do not under-judge my ingredients.
i don’t want to move. optimum opium opium opium, soil running through my fingers tinting my skirt, my hair, my skin to the most amazing of colours, shades of brownish-goldish-reddish-orangey-yellow, the colours of life, warm when the blue-grey-white skies chill me to the bone. earthy-earth-earth, life giver-death keeper, you won’t keep me, you loamy old bugger you. down there, blanketed by soil, who knows but you’ll recreate me as a glaring trumpet petunia in an old man’s flower bed, like graham and FEE-fi-fo-fum i smell the blood of an englishman, happy ever after, ever after happy, happy tea, happy tea, will i see the flames when they burn me? i will rise up to a cloud, a cislunar un-existence, floating, floating,
Concentrate, concentrate. Oh God.
I hate it when I get like this. Graham blames it on the tea. Bastard. He’ll be blaming a lot more on the tea by tonight. Shit, look at the time. Focus! Concentrate, you stupid cow, or you’ll never finish in time. He’ll be home at six. Okay, make a list of what’s still to be done.
Stake foxgloves before they topple
Extra water for the tinies
Burn ‘Confessions Of An Opium Eater’.
Vaccuum (downstairs only)
Write note for Graham
Everything else is ready. All my arrangements were finalised yesterday and there’s nothing left to do after my list has been ticked off except plate up my biscuits. Oh, I almost forgot. Silly me.
You might like to have a wander through the garden. The poppies have gone, you’ll be pleased to see. ALL the poppies have gone. I counted three hundred and eighty four, all with big, fat pods. When you thought I was asleep in the spare room last night, I was busy preparing them for today.
Do come and sit with me. I’ve made a bed in your rose garden, a sweet-sweet petal bed, perfect for relaxing on to appreciate the delights of tea and biscuits on a beautiful day like today. Forgive me, but I don’t think I’ll save any for you.
P.S. The undertaker will arrive to collect me at nine thirty tonight. Don’t—DO NOT—telephone another company. I chose this one because they have a fabulous hairdresser.
About the Author:
Louise Jackson writes fiction and poetry, and is a submissions prereader for Cadenza. She lives in England with her two children and their genius pet hamster, Harry.