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These pages are a collection of stories from the Writer's Group at Box Hill U3A.


More Deadly Than The Male

Elaine was spooning the last of Jack's lunch into his mouth, when the doorbell rang. "Just coming." She sang out.
   It was her next door neighbour, Jean.
  "The taxi's on its way love. I'll leave you a back door key in case of emergencies."
  "Oh ta. I'll pick up the mail and keep an eye on the house as usual. Have a great time in Tassie, the pair of you and give my regards to Josie. I'll bet the baby will have grown since you last saw her."
  Jean felt like saying, "I would be more surprised if it hadn't." But knowing that Elaine had a habit of stating the obvious, kept her mouth shut. After all she was lucky to have such a good hearted woman living next door, so she said she'd have to run or Jack would start yelling for her.
Elaine went back to finishing her chore. After the soup was finished, she gently cleaned around Jack's mouth and wheeled him out into the back garden. She looked around and thought how sad Jack would be if he could realize what it was like now. Before his illness he had kept it in tip-top condition. It had been his pride and joy. A gardener had been brought in and had changed most of the lovely flowerbeds to grass so it would be easier for Elaine to maintain. She positioned his wheelchair under the large gum tree. When the sun came up it would give him some shade. Tucking his blanket round him she said the sun would soon take care of the slight chill in the air. As usual there was no noticeable response, but she still talked to him always wondering if any of it got through. That was the problem with an insidious illness like Alzheimers. She knew that things would only get worse and had wondered for a long time now what the eventual outcome would be, but it was no use worrying about the complexities of life.
Noticing that a few autumn leaves on the liquid amber tree were trying to hang on she marvelled at the cycle of life that would see the sap rise again in the spring, when new growth would burgeon forth to dress the tree in its spring splendour. The shrill noise of the phone broke into her reflections and she hurried to answer it.
  "It's Harry. All set for tonight?"
  "It's all going according to plan so far. Jean just called in with the spare key. They'll be gone for four weeks."
  "Good. I'll meet you at the boathouse around seven. It should be getting dark by then. You won't lose your nerve will you? I'll be there for you, so don't worry."   "I'll just be glad when it's all over," Elaine remarked before she put down the phone.
  She thought what a pity it was, not to be able to do her usual stint at the opportunity shop. It would have taken her mind off things. Helping out two afternoons a week had given her a welcome break, as she was able to leave Jack next door with Jean when it was convenient. It was there that she had met Harry. He seemed to take an interest in her, which was flattering to a seventy year old. He was ten years younger than her and a widower. One afternoon the shop had been obliged to close early due to some unforeseen electrical work and he had offered to drive her home. "Better still," he'd said, "Why not come to my place for a cuppa. Your friend isn't expecting you back just yet."
  She'd found the freedom exhilarating and they enjoyed each others company so much that they'd both given up one of the afternoons at the shop to be together for a few stolen hours. His excuse to the shop had been that he was moving away from the area, and needed a bit of time to check out new houses. Elaine told the woman in charge that it had become inconvenient for her friend to have Jack for two afternoons.
  She must have fallen asleep, as the clock showed half past four. Racing outside she needn't have worried. Jack was fast asleep too. She brought him in and put on the T.V. He seemed to like the pictures. He didn't understand what it was about, but that didn't matter. It kept him amused for a while. The doctors told her that his dementia would get progressively worse and then he would need twenty-four hour care. They'd been through the alternatives with her, but she dreaded the thought that she would have to put him into permanent care. However she knew that something would have to be decided for him.
  She made some corned beef sandwiches. She always found it easier to feed Jack these and tried to get a cup of tea into him without spilling it. She'd put some sleeping pills in the tea so he would remain docile. Whilst wiping the corner of his mouth he stared at her. She thought he looked like a melancholy spaniel with those soft brown eyes and it startled her for a minute. Surely he hadn't sensed what was going to happen. It unnerved her momentarily. The plan was fool proof and she mustn't even think about not going through with it. It would spoil everything. Looking at the clock, she saw that it was just gone six. Better get started. She took Jack's old cap and a warm scarf from the hat stand and put on her winter coat.
  "We're going for a nice walk dear. I'll get your thick woollen cardigan."
  She wrapped him up warm, put on his cap and scarf, locking the front door as they went out. Looking down the street she was pleased that no one was about. When they came to the end of her street she turned into the main road. Still a way to go. Eventually they came to the park. It had been made on the site of the old Quarry and was quite large with paths and seats and was a popular place for picnics in the summer. The council had turned the empty quarry into a small lake that was popular with model boat enthusiasts. There was a small building at the side of the lake that was used as a clubroom for their monthly meetings. Someone had said that it looked like a boathouse, and so the name had stuck. It was here that Elaine had agreed to meet Harry.
v She pushed the wheelchair round the back and found him anxiously waiting. "Thank God they've all gone home," he said. "Is there anyone about in the park?" She replied in the negative.
  "Well we'd better get on with it then. We must both do it together as arranged. You can see that can't you. It wouldn't be fair otherwise."
  They pushed the chair out near the edge of the lake and Harry unbuckled the safety strap. He lifted Jack out of the chair and laid him on the bank. Harry had brought a sandbag and he tied it securely round Jack's ankles. Together they pushed him over the edge into the lake. There was a loud splash and as the poor old devil sank to the bottom a few bubbles came to the surface. They stared at the water, which had closed over. There was no sign that such a violent and merciless act had taken place.
  Elaine showed no feeling of remorse, and there was too much still to be done to become complacent. Harry picked up lack's cap and scarf that they had remembered to keep and put them on. Climbing into the chair he let Elaine pull the blanket up under his chin. Soon she was on her way home. Turning the corner of her street and seeing the coast was clear she hurried along. She had almost reached her house when Mrs Nosey parker from three doors down sang out. "Fancy taking Jack for a walk this time of the night." She was having a smoke in the front garden as her husband had banned cigarettes from inside the house.
  She approached the pair and Elaine quickly pulled the blanket a bit higher up so it almost covered Harry's face.
  "I couldn't get out earlier but thought a bit of fresh air would help him to have a good night's sleep."
  "You'd better hurry and get him home before he catches his death."
  Elaine could have done without a remark so close to the truth and was relieved to get the chair and Harry inside the house.
  Nosey parker went in and told her husband what she'd just seen. "Mind you" she said, "It must be very difficult for her."
  She was right of course. Not only had it been a physical and mental strain on Elaine, but she had forgotten what it was like to be thought of as a woman. When she and Harry became friends, it wasn't only the small gifts he surprised her with, it was the way that he made her feel. She had discovered that it was not nearly soon enough to give up on the physical pleasures that she'd been without for so long. He wasn't exactly a 'Toy Boy' and she was definitely no `Cougar' but they'd both discovered that life wasn't finished for either of them yet.
  Harry would have to keep under cover for a week and then it would all be over. He'd sold his house and car in readiness and bought a property in Queensland. Elaine was only renting so that was no problem. It just remained to put Jean's spare key in her letterbox with a note to say that her and Jack had decided to move to Queensland. She explained that an aunt had died and left them a house. It had all been done in a hurry.
  Early in the morning, one week later a removal van arrived. Elaine had been spending the previous weeks offloading small stuff to the op shop. What remained was soon loaded and the van was on its way. The taxi arrived soon after, to take them to the airport. Harry was wheeled out in the chair in case any neighbours were about, and they were on their way.
  Elaine thought it had all gone well. She would still claim Jack's pension to be on the safe side. Harry had private means. She would keep the chair. You never knew when it might come in handy again.

Pam Carpenter