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Iris

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Feb. 25th, 2012 | 06:08 pm

“Morbidly obese,” the new doctor had said. She was a short-haired, stocky woman, probably had a gym bag under her desk. He had meekly accepted her assessment and walked down the pavement and around the corner before hailing a taxi and struggling into the back seat. They passed the high street green, where bright flags of irises and hyacinths ringed the stone fountain. Briefly, in the mirror, the taxi driver gave him Look #1, what kind of flaw in a person’s character would allow him to become so fat? but Theo barely noticed. It wasn’t the first today and it wouldn’t be the last.

Iris understood. Iris never looked reproachful when he suggested takeaway or had seconds or added a pint of Häagen-Dazs to their weekly order, though she asked him to walk to work, “At least twice a week, dear, little by little.” For Iris’ sake, he always made it to the corner.

The taxi dropped him two streets away. One street, tea, one street, there. The plan. With a little rest in between.

The waitress brought his tea grudgingly, with Look #2, fat people shouldn’t eat at all, and if they did, they shouldn’t look as if they enjoyed it. Theo over-tipped, a flaw in his character, he thought, the worse the service the more he had to prove he wasn’t a terrible customer. He was tempted to tell her fat wasn’t infectious as she picked up the bill without looking at him, as if turning her face away would erase him from the area, leaving a twenty-seven-stone-sized hole in the fabric of reality.

Across the street, the shop window was painted for Christmas, still. Elves bearing presents, twists of holly curling around the edges of the plate glass. Iris had painted it. Iris, whose clever fingers could make ten different cat’s cradles to quiet the most unruly child on the bus, Iris who loved Kit-Kat bars, and sang French folk songs in the bath. Theo nodded to the shopgirls through the window. He wanted to tell them it was OK to scrape it off, he wouldn’t mind, but he was glad he hadn’t yet.

One street. There. Theo stood across the road and admired the sign, The Wheel and Stone, a mill by a stream, waterwheel almost turning even in paint, the grindstone propped against the mill. Iris had painted a tiny purple-blue flower, her namesake, in the corner, “Better than a signature,” she said, flushed and laughing from compliments when the customers saw the new sign. “Eh, you’re reinventing The Wheel!” Bob Macy had shouted, repeating his feeble witticism every time he came in, and every time Theo stood him a pint, because it made Iris happy.

She’d planned a new menu, with toad-in-the-hole and curry like everyone else, but also with gorgonzola and fig salad, and things like “coulis” that he had to admit he didn’t understand, what was wrong with a bottle of HP? But gastropubs were the thing now, and perhaps they would reinvent The Wheel, perhaps Gordon Ramsey would come in a coach and they’d cook for thirty television audience diners at once under the glare of reality cameras and make a bit to put by.

Theo sat on the bus stop bench across from The Wheel. The herb garden was flourishing either side of the front door, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, like the song, and not just for show, for little sprigs of garnish and sometimes as part of wildflower bouquets in the mason jars Iris had found in her grandad’s garden shed. They’d bought The Wheel together, with money from the wedding, which had been eleven stone ago, when he could still rent a suit, when Iris made all the invitations with flower petal paper and little yellow ribbon roses and they’d walked together to the post office to drop them.

The bar manager, Elsie, waved through the window at him, and Theo waved back from the bench. Today he would go in, he was sure of it. Today he would heave himself to his feet and cross the street, perhaps not even praying to be hit by a lorry, a big one that would take him out all at once and still save the driver. Today would be a new day, and not a late-closing day when the pub was robbed, not a day when the “young punks” (as the West Sussex CID called them) took everything handed over and, just for fun, lined up two customers and Bob Macy and Iris—Iris who loved kittens but not puppies and sang alto in the choir and planted tomatoes where she could see them from the window and remember to add them to the salad—lined them up “execution-style,” as the papers said. Today, he was sure, would be the day, when he would again walk in the door where Iris would never come out.





whipchick promises to write some funny again next week.

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Comments {51}

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similiesslip

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from: similiesslip
date: Feb. 25th, 2012 11:28 pm (UTC)
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A great reminder that murders are not statistics but rather people who "loved kittens but not puppies and sang alto in the choir and planted tomatoes where she could see them from the window and remember to add them to the salad."

This was sweet, sad, and thought-provoking, all at the same time.

And you describe grief well, that hushed hope that one day you will want to cross the street without praying to be hit by a lorry.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Mar. 9th, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
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Thanks - I'm glad you stopped by to read.

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Jessica

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from: kf4vkp
date: Feb. 26th, 2012 01:58 am (UTC)
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Powerful stuff that. Well done.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Mar. 9th, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
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Thank you!

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Holly

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from: minnesattva
date: Feb. 26th, 2012 03:55 pm (UTC)
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Such a strong voice to Theo's internal life (so much that I startled a little at HP, but then maybe that's what they call it darn sarf :) ).

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Feb. 26th, 2012 04:27 pm (UTC)
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Did I get that wrong? My best friend lives in Kent, and I dated a guy in Brighton, and I thought they called it HP but am I remembering wrong?

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A Sentient Being

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from: alien_infinity
date: Feb. 27th, 2012 08:19 pm (UTC)
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You have great details here. I liked this a lot. :)

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Mar. 9th, 2012 05:05 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! I was focusing on details when writing, so I'm glad that came through.

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Shadow Wolf Byrd

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from: shadowwolf13
date: Feb. 27th, 2012 09:39 pm (UTC)
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Aw :( Poor guy

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Mar. 9th, 2012 05:05 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for reading :)

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Dan

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from: muchtooarrogant
date: Feb. 28th, 2012 02:33 am (UTC)
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Poor Theo. You had me wondering whether he and Iris had simply broken up, and then you revealed the rest. Very sad, but nicely mixed with his loving memories of her and her talents.

Dan

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Mar. 9th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, I'm glad you came by to read!

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With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair

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from: lilycobalt
date: Feb. 28th, 2012 02:56 am (UTC)
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I thought your use of details to highlight all the little things that make up someone you love was excellent.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Mar. 9th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! I was focusing on details with this entry and I'm glad that worked for you!

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Kristen

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from: pixiebelle
date: Feb. 28th, 2012 04:55 am (UTC)
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The details here were amazing. That ending though? It really hit me hard. Very well done, beautifully written as always.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Mar. 9th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
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Thank you :)

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baxaphobia

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from: baxaphobia
date: Feb. 28th, 2012 02:02 pm (UTC)
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So melancholy. Beautifully written as always!

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Mar. 9th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
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Thank you!

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yuniebaby

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from: yuniebaby
date: Feb. 28th, 2012 02:54 pm (UTC)
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The ending hit me so hard it hurt. Such a sad piece, but so beautifully written.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Mar. 9th, 2012 05:07 pm (UTC)
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Thanks - I'm glad it had some impact, I was hoping for it!

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nodressrehersal

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from: nodressrehersal
date: Feb. 28th, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
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A very likable character of girth, like in Confederacy of Dunces. And we learn so much about Iris, too - delightful.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Mar. 9th, 2012 05:07 pm (UTC)
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Thank you!

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A Karmic Sandbox

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from: karmasoup
date: Feb. 28th, 2012 07:57 pm (UTC)
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I could feel her all throughout this piece, as I'm sure he can every moment. Well done.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Mar. 9th, 2012 05:07 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, I'm glad you got that from the piece.

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java_fiend

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from: java_fiend
date: Feb. 29th, 2012 02:52 am (UTC)
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Wow. This is so powerfully sad but so beautifully written. The grief you show us really resonates strongly and you make it feel so human. Really great piece of writing.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Mar. 9th, 2012 05:07 pm (UTC)
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Thank you very much :)

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unmowngrass

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from: unmowngrass
date: Feb. 29th, 2012 05:09 pm (UTC)
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"Wow" barely covers it this week; such a poignant, beautiful piece and extremely well crafted, well done :)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Mar. 9th, 2012 05:08 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, I really appreciate it!

I've very much enjoyed engaging in the comments in your piece on civil unions - it's fascinating to get other perspectives and I'm glad you wrote it!

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Wild Irish Warrior

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from: gingergirlslove
date: Feb. 29th, 2012 07:40 pm (UTC)
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Wow....amazing.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Mar. 9th, 2012 05:08 pm (UTC)
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Thank you very much :)

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