“Your sister in law is getting on your nerves?” I prodded, pushing away a gruesome dental catalogue.
"Yes yes, this is not the half of this matter. We can make a screwball comedy of it someday my darling" she wrinkled her nose "This story will end with me standing up naked and slapping somebody, though of course that never happened. First I tell you the latest episode and then we fix the ending to our liking".
"First I must explain to you of Thomas's family, who are essentially kind true people and make care to watch me attentively when I visit. The mother she has many horses brasses and gilded pictures of the family children on the hearth. The father says little and seems to like me. The brother is big and successful, also silent. The brother wife is amazed to meet an foreigner who likes HP Brown Sauce. She has many animals in her house and she shrieks with laughter when I make a language mistake. At a typical family meal the sister or mother say to the little kids,'You eat up those crusts or you'll stay as short as Layla'. Sometime she ask me why I use such long words like cinamatography or apathetic. Every week we must do the same thing of go to the shopping centre to window shop before buying some plastic food to make the children grow bigger than me. Always I go because I love Thomas and because maybe I do not understand the family ways, coming from a small family.
Then last weekend I was sick during a family visit and I went to bed early in Thomas's teenage room. He must have said to the parents "Let's not go to the shopping centre tomorrow or maybe he said we go back early to London", something like that.
The next morning, very early and grey, I am innocently sleeping in my dreamworld and have heard a sound of the television being loud then make quiet again. Over and over and then some whimpering and footsteps running quickly upstairs. The door swings open and Thomas's mother throws herself in. Really, Harriet it was something akin to maybe The Phantom of the Opera. His mamma shouted: "Thomas I can't take anymore of this'. She was red and wet and all her words was being mangled by this hysteria.
She say "I j jjj just wanted to say that it's not my fault that she's short. It's not my fault that she's short and it's not my fault that your sister in-law keeps dogs. I'v vvv ve tr tr tr tried so hard to be friendly and welcoming and patient but I would have thought that she could put her distaste aside for long enough for you to see your own nieces. I may not be very smart or very educated but I think it's just plain selfish of you to come here, sneer at the dogs and the shops and refuse to eat the food I cook for you and refuse to go to the shops like you're too good for all of it because let me tell you sonny Jim, YOU'RE NOT'.
She was talking round and round and I was just naked in the bed, with no English words to use so early in the morning and I wait for Thomas to respond. She shout again 'You said stop calling her short WELL I'VE GOT NEWS FOR YOU SHE IS SHORT!! You don't want to go shopping you say well that's what we do for recreation.' Then she tell us to get out and for the first time I agree with her and I nod and start to dress and throw my things in my bag. All of this she say to Thomas and seem not to see me at all - like she is having a night trauma and is not really awake. To Thomas she say "Every time you come here you just cause rifts". Then Thomas suddenly leap over me, luckily wearing his boxer shorts, and he point in the face of his mother like these American daytime shows and he begin to shout too. He shout:
I've heard enough of this. Don't you barge into the room when we're in bed and talk about my girlfriend like that.
Then he start to bring up strange things I have never heard them mention, totally irrelevant to this conversation. Was very strange - really. He say "I don't care that you don't like my beard. I don't care if you think I need a haircut. I don't care that you think my job doesn't pay well enough. I don't care that you think I'm too old for renting." We was all surprised by this. It was the answer to a different question.
Then the mamma start to cry and he feel very bad and he start to hug her in the boxer shorts. At this point I find my voice at last and I say strongly:
"Now we go Thomas, I have pack my bag"
and he say - you never guess Harriet, he say "Well maybe we could go to the shops for a little while" - now we are getting angry with each other and we start to bicker while the mum slump down against the wall and set to weeping. Now comes the father and he clears his throat, I expect him to end this little drama but he say in a small high voice
"Layla I just wanted to say I was very offended when you went to bed during the coverage of the remembrance service on the television last night. This is a date of national importance to us and it is therefore discourteous not to observe it."
At this point I start to smile and almost laugh and I say "Very sorry Mr Adamson", and I say "Ok we go to the shops when you want Thomas" and I say "No matter the dogs Mrs Adamson I will take a pill against them".
This is why, Harriet, we end it differently in the screwball comedy, you see? And when I have this tooth propped up Thomas and I will travel as planned and I will suffer no pain in my nerves, you understand?
Jennifer Poole is a politico, music afficionado, blogger, traveller and honorary New Yorker. She lives and works in London. Kenn Goodall is a long time collaborator on Mercy publications and nearly a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. He likes drawing and feels indifferent about living in London.