Ahead of the paperback launch next Tuesday 12 June I’ve recorded some extracts from Housewife with a Half-Life!
If you prefer, here is the text of my readings…
How Susan is a Housewife with a Half-Life
‘You said you’re here to look after me?’ Susan said as he lowered his tea cup. ‘But that’s my job, looking after everyone else. Why do I need looking after?’
‘There’s been some trouble, an anomaly, you might not even be aware of it,’ said the Fairly God Father. ‘You’re stuck in a relativity and you can’t get out of it.’
Susan nodded, she’d always had an inkling and now that he’d put his finger on it, it kind of made sense.
‘You’ve noticed then?’ he paused, ‘You’ve heard of the Schrödinger’s Cat experiment?’
‘Of course, experimental physics is my hobby. It’s an idea used to explain quantum mechanics. A cat is closed into a box with a radioactive element. At the moment a particle decays, some poison is released and kills the cat. But it’s impossible to predict when it will happen so no-one can be sure if the cat is alive or dead without looking.’
‘That’s as close to clear as you are going to get,’ said the Fairly God Father. ‘What we needed to do was look into your box so to speak.’
‘You just thought you’d pop in and check? Well you can see I’m perfectly fine. Things couldn’t be better. I have 2.5 children,’ she said, patting her belly, ‘well two children and half a mind to have another, a four bedroomed semi-detached home in a lovely well-manicured estate. I even have a washer dryer.’
‘Yes,’ he said gloomily. ‘I was going to warn you about that.’
Susan smiled. ‘I’m beginning to get the idea that you worry a little bit too much. Perhaps you’d like to read one of the self-help books I have on thought stopping, they’re ever so good. You can’t let your life be stymied by fear, you know. And by the way you have a little bit of jam on the end of your nose.’
‘The trouble is,’ said the Fairly God Father, wiping his nose, ‘that while you are caught in this relativity, we think that you are breaking down.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘We’re not sure exactly how it’s happened but we think that throughout your life time as you’re travelled through time and space, you’ve left elements of yourself behind in other dimensions. Your physical substance is disintegrating in sympathy. You are a Housewife with a Half-Life. The half-life is how long it’s going to take you to disintegrate by half. I’m sure you’ve heard it said before. “I’m not half the man I used to be.”’
‘Yes, but I’ve never heard it in relation to a woman.’
‘That’s the problem. It’s very rare. It’s not commonly known, but women are what’s keeping the universal fabric intact. All that multitasking and intuition, they are constantly weaving threads. We think that you’re the knot that’s keeping everything together but now the knot is fraying and,’ he swept his hand across his brow melodramatically, ‘and if we don’t sort you out…’
‘What?’ she said, putting her cup back into the saucer, ‘universal devastation?’
The Fairly God Father frowned. ‘Have you noticed anything unusual yourself?’
‘Well yes,’ she said, ‘I do seem to be stuck in a rut. Sometimes I wonder if there is really anything outside the four walls of this house. I seem to be doing the same thing over and over again and all the days blend into one another.’
The Fairly entity had taken out a notebook and was writing in it with a stubby pencil. He nodded for her to continue. ‘It looks like we’re right then. You are stuck in a temporal prison. That’s the way it is for a Housewife with a Half-Life. Everything is the same. You are stuck in groundhog.’
‘It can’t be all that bad!’ Susan said smiling. ‘I mean there are small changes. For instance yesterday I made roast chicken, today we’re having lasagne.’
‘People always make that mistake. They think that a temporal loop means everything stays identical. But there’s the question of entropy, chaos within a stable system. Just the mere fact that you are disintegrating will distort the timeline. These tiny differences give the impression of change but nothing really changes, does it? Can you even distinguish one day from the next?’
Susan put down the teacup. There was a milky rim around the edge. She put her hand on the tea cosy to feel the pot. ‘No, you’re right. Sometimes I don’t even know what month it is. You wake up in the morning and Christmas ads are playing on the radio. And you think “No! That can’t be.”’
The Fairly God Father nodded.
‘But, hang on,’ Susan added, ‘you said time isn’t moving. But the year is moving on, Winter follows Autumn.’
‘Yes I know. Time isn’t moving for YOU,’ he answered.
Susan shook her head, blinking. ‘Now you’ve said it there are all these things that have hit me. Why I miss people’s birthdays. Why I get ready to go out with the girls and then find out the night out was arranged for two weeks ago. Why Nigel and I schedule conversations and they never happen.’
‘Ah yes, well Nigel, that’s a different matter.’
‘How do you mean?’
‘He actually exists most of the time in a parallel dimension to yours. He can only get back over at certain intervals. It’s that ships that pass in the night phenomenon.’
‘Oh yes. Sometimes we feel that we never really see each other.’
‘That’s because you never really do. And sometimes when he’s here, do you feel that he may as well not be because he’s not really responding, not really on your wavelength? That’s because he’s just bleeding through from the other dimension. He can only half hear you. He’s trying his best but there is so much interference that he can only pick up a fraction of the decibels and about half the meaning. Sometimes he says something back to you that makes no sense, as if he hasn’t really been listening.’
‘Yes!’ said Susan.
‘Now you know why. His energy is able to physically manifest in this dimension but his full mental and emotional faculties cannot bridge the divide. He leaves some of them behind.’
She thought of Nigel, her husband, pale pallor, thin, in his business suit, staring into space. Sometimes she waved a hand in front of his face and he didn’t see it.
‘Gosh,’ she said, aligning the butter knife with the side plate.
‘You know Susan. This might be a lot for you to take in all at once. But if you have another cup of tea, you might be okay. Most things around here are not what they seem.’
Fairly Dave meets Susan’s mother
Susan’s mother was super, super just like Susan. Her name was Geraldine and she had the same coiffeured gentility as her daughter. Her face, for some reason, reminded you of pancakes and honey and her smile was like blueberry pie. Her hair was chestnut brown and her eyes a bright emerald. She was also an eyebrow raiser. And the eyebrow was raised.
Geraldine considered herself an enlightened kind of person. Her favourite books were those that described a variety of people and cultures she had never had chance to meet. At the book club she always recommended triumph over adversity books from war-torn dictatorships. She had educated herself in diversity by watching confessional relationship shows in the afternoons. There was no my-boyfriend-slept-with-my-granny-and-married-my-sister scenario she wasn’t familiar with. But when it came to your own daughter out alone, as she had been, mid-morning with a strange man, and indeed he was an extremely strange man, you couldn’t help but wonder…
Susan made the introductions as Pluto and Rufus held one each of their Granny’s hands and swung themselves like fairground boats.
‘This is Fairly Dave,’ Susan said.
‘Oh I see,’ said Geraldine, her eyebrow lifting even further. ‘Are you in a rock band?’
‘You’re thinking of someone else, mum. He’s a sort of……’
‘Therapist,’ said Fairly Dave and Susan thought she could see a flash of orangey purple that was unmistakeably shame. Fairly Dave didn’t like lying.
‘Well yes,’ Susan said. ‘I’ve been falling apart a bit recently, in fact half of my head is already missing and,’ she tried to make her voice gentle, ‘it’s only going to get worse.’
‘You’re sick? She’s sick?’ she said looking from Susan to Fairly Dave.
‘Well not sick exactly,’ said Fairly Dave. ‘I’m, er, working with her on it, developing a programme.’
‘You never told her the bit about the apple face men!’ said Rufus. ‘Or when we were sucked into a hole.’
‘Ah yes, the Whole,’ said Fairly Dave, quickly. ‘That’s what I work with to do the um, you know, healing.’
‘I’m into holistic,’ Susan’s mum said nodding. ‘I do Yoga every morning and meditate at night. I drink green tea and give myself a liquid detox every January. And I eat a lot of porridge, with those, thingumys – what are they called Susan? Sprinkled on top, you know…’
‘No, no, it’s got an x in it. Oh yes! Flax seeds, it’s a superfood you know. Oh,’ she said turning to her daughter. ‘Susan, I had no idea. You should have confided in me.’
‘What does Nigel think about all this?’
She read Susan’s face. ‘You haven’t told him.’
‘Well you know, Nigel. It’s hard to pin him down sometimes… How’s Dad?’ Susan asked, changing the subject.
‘Pottering round in the shed as usual.’
‘That’s good,’ said Susan, serving the soup. As she ate she felt the welcome warmth travel along her gullet. If she could see her insides, would it look like the soup was travelling through the gaps in her body? By putting her faith in Fairly Dave she had prevented herself from thinking about the truth that she was in mortal danger. There were a lot more important things than whether she had shaken the dust of her antimacassars. But she hated to let the housework slide. The more mess and grime there was around her, the more she felt that her mind was descending into chaos. She may have to travel the universe to save herself, but it was important that she made the beds before she left.
Sorry I can’t embed the links. Enjoy!