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Reading Aloud

Johnie

I dreamt about Johnie last night, telling him I wanted to do better things for him than that. He replied in his Irish voice “that would be lovely”.

He had been to see us the previous day and brought us a large marrow out of his garden. I didn’t hear him knock on the front door. He came round the back having seen my husband through the living-room window. My husband was “snoozing” – a new word for me – in his rocking chair. Johnie apologized no end for having woken him up. He then came to the kitchen to put down the marrow and we bumped into one another. It was nice to see him. My husband joined us, and we stood by the kitchen door exchanging holiday adventures, he smuggling wine – quite by accident, of course – into this country and I telling him about my recent problem when travelling to Switzerland. He was relieved to hear it hadn’t been his company’s fault. My husband contributed his share by telling a tale of heat and mosquitoes encountered on a Greek island. For a week, however, he concluded, it had been bearable. Asked whether he had enjoyed himself, he said “yes”, asked whether he would go again, he still said “yes”…I offered Johnie a cup of tea, but he refused, being in a hurry, so he said. He lingered another minute or two and then left us. In the evening his wife was on the telephone inviting us to their house next day. Aldous and his wife were there, too. Johnie made us try his smuggled wine – a nice fruity Muscadet from the Loire – and nuts from the Persian Gulf. Aldous tried to engage me in arguments and voiced his disappointment about not being able to. Johnie concluded that the baits he had put out for me were obviously not juicy enough.

Aldous never misses an opportunity to ask about my book. I had prompted him this time by warning him to be careful with what he was saying – I was going to write it all down! He shut up for a second or two while Johnie wanted to know more. My husband, with a smile, informed everybody that I was busy writing number two. He had them alarmed, now. Johnie expressed interest in my writings. I shall have to satisfy him some time. Presumably he likes being amused like everybody else. He told me when he was flying to Paris next, but it was too soon for me. I asked him to keep me informed about later possibilities. He said he would. Somebody told us about Tolstoy, the great writer, not an easy man to be married to, just like Soandso and Socrates – and it’s the wives who get the bad reputation. Because who would criticize a genius! “Aren’t we all terrible to be married to?” Johnie asked with a sweet smile. The evening passed quickly and I suggested to my husband it was time to go. We took our leave, promising we would have another meeting, in our house, soon.