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Home of the Future
by Lesley-Anne Bourne

Chapter Twenty-nine
Dangerous Mountain Roads/Renovations Can Wreck Marriages

Renga could hear the froth of her cappuccino somewhere to her right. The song had just ended, but another seemed to be attached, clicked into the first, like the plastic necklaces Patrick had ordered not long ago for the store.

Pastel-coloured smooth plastic infants, about the size of Renga's baby fingernail, were packaged in perfect-sounding cellophane child-sized packets.

The colours of the LITTLE KLIDS (click and kids combined) bags would attract anybody, thought Renga trying to justify to herself something she couldn't identify the first time Patrick had shown her the new toy.

He was always bringing home toys for her to check out. It had started when they were first married and Renga had said she wanted some toys to make her office at the university seem less intimidating, less stuffy. She'd been remembering how she'd been afraid to go to any of her professors' offices when she'd been a first-year student. Afraid of all the offices except Glenn's.

Why was that? she thought without looking at the catalogues Patrick had handed her from which to select. She was remembering a particular years-ago late afternoon, early evening, when, on the small sofa in the office, she had stretched out at the same instant that one of Glenn's hands found her right breast, and the other hand found its way up her skirt, removed her underwear, and had taken up residence inside her as if it had always known the way and had known she wouldn't mind.

She shook her head.

No, you don't want these catalogues? asked Patrick.

Renga remembered what they were talking about and said quickly, No, it's not that, really.

She didn't think why she didn't talk about Glenn with Patrick more than the first one or two times when they'd both talked about their earlier loves or earlier attempts at something resembling love.

It's so hard to tell from looking at them, she said, meaning the ordering material.

Couldn't you just bring home a sample when you get stuff in the store?

Patrick had agreed that would work too. And in not much time her office had not just her framed doctorate and the frames leading up to it, but plants, two tasteful lamps, the usual desk and chairs, and a good selection of tiny cars, wind-up animals, and miniature furniture whose designs she loved.

She had hinted at the small train set located in the store, under the glass-topped counter. Customers couldn't miss the tiny metal set, about the length and width of a twelve-inch ruler, which ran chuggingly around and around a delicate steel track, complete with flashing train crossing signs, green and red warning lights, and raising and lowering crossing gates. As they waited for their transaction to be completed at the cash register right above and to the right of the wonder of Danish engineering, three out of four Lyon's Magic Toy Box patrons would ask, How much?

(Three-hundred and twenty-five.)

(Plus tax.)

Renga could see that Patrick struggled trying to reply. She could see that he did really want her to have it. But she could also see that as a business decision, giving her the train (the only one in stock) (it had to be special ordered) would not be a smart business move.

Before he had to answer, Renga couldn't bear making him choose and she said, Oh, but wait, come to think of it, my desk is already crowded and the train would be too noisy.

She was thinking the whole time she said this about how the sound on-off switch was actually on the tiny man standing under a tree as the train passed.

* * *

Chanel was back with a small white cup and saucer.

A beautiful classic design, thought Renga.

She wondered who was responsible for the first tiny vessel humans drank caffeine from.

She imagined a Danish engineer whose first name was Borge. She pictured his hands as architectural and design masterpieces in their own right. Fingers not too long, the top of the hand smooth with a freckle or blemish or two marking the surface, maybe a scar. Fingernails not fussed with but even and smooth from the kind of work they did. Putting together, manipulating to make things fit, rounding edges, making the straightest line.

The straightest line would be a bridge, wouldn't it? thought Renga, taking her cup and staring into the frothy liquid.

Hadn't a newspaper since she'd been away from home had a photograph of the bridge connecting Danes and Swedes?

A blue grey rendering of shadow and span and cable? Grainy water.

The Oresund Bridge, Renga said, nodding her head.

Chanel was taking the cup back after Renga's sip and must have thought she'd said something expressing gratitude.

You're welcome, Chanel said as if tasting the words while unsure of her fork selection.

You would like? she said as a question while she ran her fingers through the conditioner in Renga's hair and talked to the mirror.

Well, began Renga as if she'd said, This is what I'd like to be, before it.

Well, she began again, and thought, I'd like to begin again.

I want to go short, she said finally and loudly so as to be heard above the beat which was louder, mimicking a heart beat in the song, she thought.

Tainted Love.

She'd liked that song a lot when she bought it in highschool for Sebastien who was now married to Janet and they had six kids, two sets of twins. Renga wondered what the other two kids would feel like, outnumbered.

Sebastien could be seen every evening giving the stock report on the national news. Renga would watch his lips move and think how she hadn't really understood him back then either. She wouldn't probably have thought of him, or known of his remarkable odds with children, if not for the practice of patter the news producer had obviously enforced at the end of each newscast between the talking heads responsible for news, weather, sports, and money. That covered just about everything in life, didn't it?

At least it sometimes felt to Renga that that's pretty much everything she and Patrick had to talk about.

The bridge had been mentioned in Sebastien's money talk. The three billion dollar project which had started in 95. An underground tunnel, an artificial island, a cable stay bridge.

Who wouldn't want to live there? Renga thought one night when Patrick had apologized for going back to the store.

You can come with me, if you want, he said sitting down beside her on the sofa and standing up at the same time. Bring your marking. We'll get hot chocolates on the way.

Renga had wanted to say yes. In her head she did say it.

But Patrick must not have heard, because he had quietly gone and she was watching an old highschool boyfriend (very brief) talk at the end of the news hour about his two sets of twins.

If I'd made that career choice, she said standing up to go make tea and to open a can of chicken-and-salmon slices for Agnes, I'd be talking about YOU.

I'd be let go, she said, under her breath so the cat wouldn't hear.

Was she letting Patrick go?

She turned up the thermostat, overriding the timer and waiting for the huge radiators to gently clang on. She thought she should bleed them but was putting it off.

A ten-mile link joining the two countries. Nothing else like it in the world, she told herself in her best announcer's voice.

Maybe we should go see it.

Why would I think that? Renga asked the pile of ungraded exams piled on the diningroom table she and Patrick never used for eating.

You're the only things keeping us here, she tried joking to the stack, and in the process of trying to punch an imaginary arm, she knocked the pile onto the floor.

Not as if we have kids, she said, kneeling.

Putting the leaning tower of paper back together exam by exam, Renga thought about how childless couples appeared in magazines and books.

ChildFREE, said some self-help books.

Beautiful, rich, having sex. The magazine ad's unmade bed suggested the latter and showed the couple also read a New York paper which you could have home delivered NOW FOR THE SPECIAL PRICE.

Travelling. Flying Business Class. Driving luxury cars. Owning a second house on a lake.

What are we doing wrong? asked Renga who had opened the first exam and had begun the act of evaluating.

* * * * *

Chapter Thirty
Rocky Mountain High/Siding On Older Homes Can Be Difficult To Match


Yes, said Renga more sure of this than she'd been of anything recently.

She nodded to convince Chanel.

You are certain?

Renga had to think about that.

Really, she thought, what does certain mean?

She mentally listed things in her rapid-fire manner which was firing more rapidly after more caffeine. You couldn't be certain when you bought another pack or two of LITTLE KLIDS that you didn't already have the particular plastic infants which were enclosed. You couldn't be certain the redhead in the pink dress, the curly-haired brunette in sleepers, or the blond feathery-pigtailed diaper one, wouldn't show up again in subsequent purchases.

There were hundreds of KLIDS, said the packaging.

COLLECT THEM ALL, you were told in no uncertain terms. JUST KLICK YOUR LITTLE KLIDS TOGETHER FOR AN INSTANT FAMILY, the bright letters instructed.

There was no mention of having the same KLID twice.

Wouldn't that confuse a child or two who were just trying to get a handle on the birds and the bees? wondered Renga after she'd become hooked on the strand of KLIDS she was making since being introduced to the new toy by Patrick.

He had handed the Lyons' Magic Toy paper bag to her a bit tentatively, Renga almost thought. And she could guess why --- for a long time after he'd told her about his vasectomy, there had been no toys. Not in the house. The store of course continued on as if the world was exactly the same as before, as if everyday there was a new and better toy that could not be lived without. But Renga and Patrick had agreed without much discussion to take a break.

Renga knew that Patrick missed bringing her home these surprises, which were always a success. Patrick had said the companies should hire her as their test market if they wanted to always feel they were on the right track. It turned out though that sales didn't always correspond to Renga's delight, which the couple reasoned must mean simply that she was easy to please.

Somewhere during this initial readjustment a bookstore had moved in next to the toy store, and Patrick would instead arrive home with foreign magazines for her, the latest publications, which owing to trends happened to be about architecture and the design of things to come.

Renga knew that, in a sense, Patrick was to blame.

Without the toys and their painful reminders, there would have been no bundles of publications. Without these glossy welcoming pages, there would have been no sperm.

Speaking of sperm, she thought, holding her hair between her fingers to show how short, she would have to ask someone about the smell she'd noticed repeatedly on the way to the dininghall.

It wouldn't be easy.

I don't think so, said Chanel.

Renga looked.

Lots of women think they want this when they really don't.

For a moment, just the briefest moment, Renga thought she understood Chanel to mean that women think they want to have children when they really don't.

Lesley-Anne Bourne is still west-bound, one hopes.


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