This story is by Marien Oommen and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The day, just about to crack into a splendid dawn, the clouds were all fired up with an orange glow. It was bound to be a good day.
MataHalli stretched on her bed. On the floor, her Havanese stretched his paws, getting ready for his morning run.
Her early morning resolve was to get her daughter meet the guy. Get married. Settle down. Have babies. She could endure no more kicks.
The village back home was at her neck, harassing her endlessly. The girl was of marriageable age, why is she still single? Do you know what can happen to single women these days?
So Mama found a man. Except all she knew was, he was a man.
‘‘He’s a young. Well raised, of a good stock. He’s tall. Betty, please go ahead and meet this chap for dinner, an ice cream, or go to the beach. Do something.” Mama said.
Betty knew it was wise to obey. She agreed to go out with him for lunch.
They chose the simple beach restaurant down the road.
Too focused to feel shy or embarrassed, they got straight down to the nitty-gritty.
Weather, job, political leanings covered. Then they tackled the domestic stuff.
“ What do you have for breakfast? What do you like to eat?” That was a deal breaker. She was not getting up early morning to cook long drawn out meals of idly and dosa for any man.
“My mama makes sausages for me every morning,” he said. “Mama always makes breakfast for me.”
Namby-pamby! No wonder you’re chubby! Betty thought to herself. Why should mama make breakfast for you?
Get your own breakfast, man.
That was the last meal she’d have with him, Betty decided, while trying to swallow the creamy grits that got stuck half way. Between teeth and gullet.
Lying in bed that noon, she couldn’t decide if this was a worse monster than the earlier one who cast aside his girlfriend and child as a forgotten chapter in his checkered life. To please his aging parents.
He had no guts to tell them he had sired a child.
Betty was totally disgusted when he confessed to her about his short-term liaison with Veronica.
“Go marry her, that girl. Be a dad to the kid,” Betty said with her calm demeanor.
That was the end of that phone call.
The third guy had no hair. She could read his thoughts as it reflected on his shiny scalp. He didn’t like the Serena Williams type of women. Bold, brash.
“Ahhhhhhaaa,” Betty Bu almost snorted. Here was monster of the third degree. Men who desired to suppress women kind.
Sometimes you see a world filled with monster men. A lot depends on how you view them.
When MataHalli first encountered the monster priest, Betty was in her tummy. She had requested maternity leave towards the end of the year. The Jesuit father who had hired her, reached under the table, picked out his cigar and before lighting it, bellowed as loud as he could.
“Why didn’t you say you were pregnant when you took the job?”
“ I honestly didn’t know at the time.”
“You got the job in March. Expecting the baby in November. NINE months. You should’ve known!”
When she returned to work after her pregnancy, her table and chair were given off to a junior.
Then came the letter. Fired.
But mama could be ‘monster mama’ too. MataHalli’s methods were sometimes harsh. Her stand for truth and justice seemed draconian. For she loved her family most dearly.
She had her issues. Every time she felt bullied, she’d buy a fashionable item to remind her that in stony silence lay her victory. Then her eyes slanted in a monstrous gleam.
Her youngest could read her moods like a magazine.
Yesterday while driving out to the airport to meet family from Philly. They were running late, Mama nagged, grunted, and then snorted.
After an hour of dressing, Roxy had emerged wearing the same black tee shirt she’d worn for the past ten years.
“ Is this why you took so long? You coulda gotten ready ten years ago.”
“Maaaaaaaa, stop picking on my clothes. Like you dress in Valentino.”
Betty changed the topic for peace.
“Mamz, finally you stopped snoring at night. Love your cpap?”
Papa needed his cpap to sleep without snoring. The doc had prophesied he’d love it more than mama. Nothing could be truer.
“Yeah, two sleeping scuba divers!”
Mama would mimic Ed Sheeran, ‘Darling, just dive right in, follow my lead’ every night as they strapped the curly wire attached to the monstrous cpap machine, around their faces, for a peaceful night of sleep.
It killed any feeling of romance that was left in the couple. Kaput.
Later that evening, they walked towards the restaurant, Les Halles. The young Japanese receptionist asked if they had any reservation. Papa answered in a loud singsong voice, “No reservation”.
A fortyish couple, quite obviously in love with each other, was seated at the next table.
Papa was in high spirits. They had finally located the French restaurant, made famous by Anthony Bourdain, where he used to personally supervise the menu.
MataHalli had this bizarre interest in her surroundings. Her eyes were naturally drawn towards the couple. They were holding hands; he was massaging her knuckles and tendons tenderly. She was responding with equal fervor.
Oh this was getting hot.
Both were picking at the salad with their free hands and drinking wine with the same hand. The other rendered useless, entangled in the cords of high passion.
For artful dexterity, take 8 points, MataHalli mused.
Finally the food arrived. Papa’s hands were firmly on his fork, cutting slice after slice of the succulent Filet de Boeuf with Béarnaise. Most definitely he wasn’t squeezing Mama’s tendons or knuckles with great passion. Instead he gazed lovingly at the tenderloin dipped in sauce on his plate.
Not at mama’s eyes.
Suddenly Mr. Romancer got up to go to the men’s room. The bespectacled Lady Love turns towards MataHalli dreamily, her chin cupped in the palm of her hand.
Hmmm looks a bit old, Mata thought. Not bad for her. To get a man at this age.
The woman seemed to be in the seventh heaven of delight from her glazed expression. After a while, the man returned and planted a deep kiss, pretty long drawn out, it seemed.
Mama was staring unabashedly now.
“My young girls with impressionable minds shouldn’t be seeing this,” Mama mused, while picking at her ‘Magret de Canard, sauce grenade’- slices of roast duck with pomegranate sauce.
Mama slanted her eyes sideward. They were on their third glass of wine.
She whispered, “The couple next to us, is deep in love. Look at them. NO, don’t look now. Okay, look now.”
Random surreptitious glances get thrown their way.
Half way through the food, they hear raised voices coming from the amorous table. He is accusing her of something, and she is retorting now. His lips are pursed. She sounds teary. Their hands are clearly disentangled. Knuckles dropped.
Another glass of wine.
Monster guy shouts, “But I have the money.”
She retorts, “O yes, you are the financial manager.”
He says, “But you look older than me. 20 years older.”
She snaps back, “But you act like you are 17.”
The free movie, right next to them, was getting stormy.
“Girls, it’s NOT fashionable to eavesdrop. But hang on; this is a movie with real life actors. Not as good as Jersey Boys. No singing or dancing.”
Folks at the other tables were drawn to the loud voices. Lover boy pours himself another glass of the good Cabernet.
Papa wants to tell some news now, make dinner table conversation – about a similar dish he ate some years ago. He is shushed at once, rather unkindly.
How else can one hear the bitter end of this eavesdropping saga?
Someone suggests doing the Mr. Bean act and moving the table closer to them, under the white tablecloth.
Finally, leaving an unfinished dinner, the Angry Birds stormed out before anyone got to see the conclusion of this high drama.
MataHalli’s monstrously wicked eavesdropping taught the young ladies, with impressionable minds, something to remember for a lifetime.
It’s not about the wooing, the hand massaging, or the deep eye penetration in the game of lasting love.
It’s not the wine you drink to impress your partner.
It’s not the deep cleavage or the size of your wallet.
It’s not about pretending to like football and baseball just to impress the man.
Marriage is about real lasting love, willing to compromise, to sacrifice, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse.
It’s being honest with each other, and loving with all the imperfections, bumps, warts and all.
There’s a monster in every soul waiting for redemption. Tread carefully before it gets to you, my child.
‘The day, thou gavest, Lord, is ended.’ Mama hummed as the check came.
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