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A Book at Bedtime

by Cornelia 

Posted: 03 September 2010
Word Count: 1059
Summary: A rewrite of a domestic comedy story I posted recently.

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‘I swear you’d have optics fitted to wine bottles if you thought you could get away with it, Clive. You really are the meanest host when it comes to pouring drinks. Take care with that sandwich plate; it’s the last of the wedding set’

Clive had offered to take charge of the washing up at the end of the dinner party, but from past experience Janice knew it was best not to accept. Besides, there were one or two things she wanted to say.

She emptied the water in which she’d washed the crockery and turned on the hot water tap. Clive jumped back as a jet of water hit the edge of the washing-up bowl, and then steadied himself against the fridge.

He took a clean drying-up cloth from a drawer and appeared to be considering his answer before he turned to face his wife.

‘Well, there was no point in everybody getting drunk, was there? Linda was driving, as usual, and Jack always feels he has to drink her share as well as his own. You know what he’s like when he’s had too much.’

‘Too much?’ Janice stretched a rubber glove then let go with a loud snapping sound. ‘Not much chance of that, the rate you were pouring. It was more likely we’d all die of thirst.’

Clive opened a cupboard door and checked the contents. Having satisfied himself it was the right one, he began slowly piling plates and dishes onto shelves, matching sizes by holding them up.

‘And I couldn’t believe what you produced from the sideboard – I’ve never seen wine glasses so small. I don’t know what Jack and Linda must have thought. I told you, when we cleared your mother’s place, that we should send most of the kitchen stuff to Oxfam. It was like drinking out of egg-cups.’

Clive was concentrating on putting cutlery into a drawer, trying to keep spoons separated from forks. Why had Janice chosen a design where they looked so similar?

‘It didn’t help either that you kept disappearing. I wonder why we bother giving dinner parties at all. The idea was to celebrate your boss's birthday, not alienate him! ’

‘Disappearing?’ Clive turned, a fork in either hand. ‘Well, if I can’t answer a call of nature in my own house without being interrogated…’

‘You’d better make an appointment to get your prostate checked. ’ Janice squirted liquid into the bowl and swirled it round with her hand. ‘I hope you’re not up to your old tricks.’

Janice swirled the water again then opened the door to the cupboard under the sink. ‘Did you remember to get the washing up liquid Clive? It was on the list but I can’t see it here. Now what can I use inst...Oh!’

Janice was thrust aside as Clive suddenly darted in front of her and began to shift the bottles and boxes on the shelf. Then, his face reddened by the effort of bending down, he produced the flask of green liquid and put it on the draining board.

‘There you are. Panic over!’

‘I wasn’t panicking.’ Janice moved back to her place in front of the sink and raised a tiny cut-glass goblet so it glinted in the light, before plunging it into the water. ‘Even Jane Austen's women would find it a challenge to get drunk with these.’

She suddenly turned to look at her husband. ‘And what do you mean, I know what Jack’s like when he’s had too much?’

Clive examined the plate in his hand as if trying to detect flaws in the pattern round the edge. He straightened his shoulders and looked at Janice.

‘You know quite well what I mean. He becomes rather too friendly, if you ask me. Plus he laughs too much at your jokes, which we’ve all heard before.’

‘Well, I’m just amazed he tolerates your meanness with the wine. Especially as he provided it.’

‘There was no call to repeat that joke about could you borrow a saw because the top half of your glass wasn’t really serving any purpose. As for the wine he brought, he can’t complain. He certainly didn’t bankrupt himself buying it. I re-corked it and slipped it into Linda’s bag as they left ’

‘You did what?’ Janice slapped the gloves down on the draining board and removed her apron. ‘Right, that’s it! I’ve had enough. I’m going to bed and you can finish up by yourself.’

‘Oh… alright, yes, that’s fine, dear.’ said Clive. ‘You must be feeling tired after all that banter.’ He stretched an arm to turn on the radio as he turned to the sink. ‘I’ll just see if I can catch tomorrow’s weather forecast’.

‘There could be a storm brewing’, muttered Janice, as she left the kitchen.

She made her way, scowling, up the stairs. Then, passing the book-case on the landing, she stopped to straighten a brown leather-bound volume of Dickens. Something clunked.

‘So that’s why he kept disappearing! I was right. Mmm…' Janice lifted the book to examine the gilt lettering on the spine. Great Expectations. How appropriate’.

She deftly removed a half-full bottle of vodka hidden behind the row of books, then entered the bedroom and looked around.

She tip-toed over to the other side of the room, opened the sash window and placed the bottle on the window sill outside, before drawing the heavy curtains.

‘That’ll teach him!’ She chuckled as she turned back the bedcover.

Downstairs, Clive turned up the radio to disguise the sound of his rummaging among the boxes and bottles under the sink. After a few moments, he emerged clutching a bottle of multi-purpose cleaner. At least, that was what it said on the label.

‘Phew! That was a close call', Clive reflected, as he put the bottle on the table and took a tumbler from the cupboard.

'Got to keep ahead of the game’, he told himself. At least the book decoy had worked - brilliant idea to use an old hiding place. Janice would never know it was water in the bottle. And she'd even believed the left-over wine story. He'd retrieve that from behind the sofa later.

Clive drew up a chair and adjusted the volume knob on the radio. He poured himself a large drink and settled down to listen to the weather forecast.

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Comments by other Members

Desormais at 11:01 on 03 September 2010  Report this post
I like the way you've changed the storyline here Sheila, much better.

Cornelia at 11:36 on 03 September 2010  Report this post
Thanks, Sandra. I know your online time is a bit limited just, now so I appreciate the encouragement. Happy sailing.


Katerina at 13:19 on 03 September 2010  Report this post
Sheila, this is much better

The ending is no longer ambiguous - and I like the bit about clive using the bookshelf as a decoy, very clever.

I like all the little hints you've put in here too, such as Clive realising Janice was getting close to discovering his drink when she was looking for the washing liquid.

Love her comment about the storm brewing, it made me laugh.

I envy your talent for writing humour as I'm rubbish at it!

Couple of typos -

matching the sizes by comparing before he put them in
should this be 'by comparison', or 'by comparing them'?

He's retrieve that from behind the sofa later
should be 'he'd'

Well done

Kat x

Cornelia at 13:39 on 03 September 2010  Report this post
Glad you like it, and thanks for pointing to the errors.

I read a lot of humour, Kat, and I watch a lot of comedy on TV. I think that probably influences me quite a bit for dreaming up plots and writing dialogue. It's the mode that seems to come most naturally to me ;humour's almost a religion in Lancashire.

It's a fine line, though - some people could find the situation in this story tragic, especially if they've had bad experiences with alcoholism. At first, I had the idea of Clive's AA 'buddy' turning up as a surprise ending, to ask why he'd missed an AA meeting, but decided that would be a bit near the line.

I decided to make it into a kind of game Clive was playing instead. I know from personal experience that drunks are a devious bunch


fluffyduffy at 15:08 on 04 September 2010  Report this post
Hey Sheila,

I remember the first version of this story, but am I wrong in thinking that the first version had the wife as the one with a drink problem?

Anyway, I really liked this version. I thought the dialogue was great and quite funny and the whole story moved along nicely. Do you have any plans for this story?



I'm sorry if this comment seems a little vague but I've just escaped for five minutes. My husband is wandering around with the drill looking for things to fix while the girls are screaming at each other over some toy or other. All fun and games in the Duffy household today :)

I wouldn't worry about the theme of the story, I think you've written in such a humorous way that it detracts from the serious-side of the subject.

Cornelia at 09:44 on 05 September 2010  Report this post
Thanks, Alana for taking the time out to comment.

Yes, it was the woman with the problem at first, then I thought maybe the pair of them. As I needed to strengthen the ending I thought it would add a twist if Clive had been using the book shelf bottle as a decoy and hiding alcohol under the sink.

I'll print this off so my husband can giver it a final once-over for typos. I'm thinking of Take a Break Fiction Feast.


JaPe at 11:16 on 06 September 2010  Report this post
Much better this time Sheila. I enjoyed the hints scattered through the story that don't quite make sense until the end. Very clever rewrite.

I agree that there's a thin line and that alcoholism isn't a joking matter. I think you're right not to have included any reference to AA as that would imply a serious problem without resolution rather than an amusing story. I was left with the impression that Clive enjoyed a drink and didn't like sharing, but I didn't feel that his drinking was out of control.

Very enjoyable read and like others I enjoyed the humour.


Cornelia at 11:58 on 06 September 2010  Report this post
Thanks, Janet. I'm going to send it off today.


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