Simon is a middle-aged academic, and his wife Fran is a local government official. They don’t have any children, partly through choice, but mainly because they haven’t been able to on the few attempts that they made, both deliberately and non-deliberately.
Simon has arrived back late from work, cycling, and he slips through the back door quietly, as if that may somehow mitigate his late arrival. “Sorry I’m late Fran, how was your day?”
“Hmmm, so so… yours?”, said Fran, her eyes glued to the TV and her words coming between bites of a pizza.
“Apart from the nagging feeling that I’ve achieved nothing despite not stopping since 8.45, it was great. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m even doing the right stuff, because I don’t have time to properly plan my workload.”
“Don’t worry about it, I’ve never planned mine. Ever. Somehow I get through the day!”
Simon has been putting away his cycling equipment carefully, his methodical approach to tidiness and life in stark contrast to his state of mind after a day at work. “That’s because your a civil servant, and you’d have to go an a round-the-world trip without permission to be laid off,” Simon replies without thinking properly. As the gears of his brain return to the conversation, he hastily adds “unless there’s restructuring of course.”
“For fuck’s sake Simon, haven’t you noticed that there’s a fucking Tory government in power squeezing the lifeblood out of local governments that were practically impotent anyway”. Simon hadn’t got away with his late arrival, and all he had managed to do was temporarily avoid nucleating an unstable situation, until he insensitively forgot about all the lay-offs in the council. Or, perhaps Fran had cleverly avoided blowing her top at his arrival, and had waited to make him feel that it was something else that had stoked her anger, not the persistent issue of late hours at the office.
“Why were you late anyway? I sometimes wonder why we’re married when we see so little of each other.” Simon was also a leader at a local Cub Scout group. The other leaders really liked him because he was organised, sporty and outdoorsy and, above all, male. Fran knew that he was planning a special camping trip for the cubs, but wanted to put pressure on him to minimise his time. Why did he want to run a Cubs group if he didn’t have children himself? Did he regret not having children?
“It’s just the workload. To be honest, I’m thinking of giving up my Cubs roles so that I – we – can have some time to ourselves.” Simon knew that his workload was impossibly high, and that Fran could never trump that. Obviously, separation or divorce could easily trump minor job quibbles, but Fran was a surprisingly inert character over the long-term considering her personal volatility. He also knew that the Cubs group was a slight soft point for Fran for whatever reason. Perhaps she liked seeing him in a fathering role?
“That can’t happen. Obviously. You need to sort out your workload soon. I can’t be waiting here for hours with the food getting cold. You could at least have texted me to let me know.”
Food? Pizza cooked from frozen doesn’t count as food, thought Simon. “Yeah, sorry, I will do” mumbled Simon has he fumbled with a triangle of slightly greasy, very rubbery pizza.