Little Red Light

Co-authored by Luke Waldrip

The sun’s gone behind the hills by now and tufts of amber-coloured clouds drift high in the deepening sky. It’s hot. Every living thing outside looks thirsty. Eddies of tiny insects swirl above patches of dirt and dead grass on the nature strip and the rhododendrons by the mailbox are wilting.
I pull into the carport and turn the engine off. The air in the car stales immediately.
Scott opens his door. ‘Thanks for driving Honey.’ He leans over and gives me a smack on the cheek. Tannins mingle with hot air.
‘No problems wine breath,’ I say, pecking him back.
‘You said you didn’t mind if I had a couple of glasses.’
‘Just teasing,’ I say. I manoeuvre my belly around the steering wheel.
His gait is slightly unsteady as we walk to the front door. Dry leaves crackle under our feet. He stands back as I find the right key.
‘Oh man,’ he says. ‘Is it ever going to rain?’
His arms encircle me. I smell his cologne. Feel the scrape of stubble against the back of my neck.
‘Stop it. I’m trying to open the door.’
He eases off slightly, pushes forward again. The lock turns. The door swings open with a groan of swollen wood. We both stumble in laughing.
He gives my boobs a squeeze then lets go.
‘I’ll go wash the dishes.’
‘Very funny,’ I say. I turn around and kiss him. This time properly. I can taste steak and chocolate. ‘I just wanted to say “Happy birthday” birthday boy.’
‘Thanks.’ He hugs me back. ‘Unfortunately you should call me birthday old man, not birthday boy.’
‘Don’t be silly. Thirty-eight isn’t old.’
‘Try telling that to a twenty-one year old.’ He draws me closer to him, his hand holding onto my bum. He kisses my forehead. I feel his breath in my hair.
We stand here in the darkened lounge room. The fridge hums. The clock ticks.
When I move to stroke him he’s stepped away. He turns on the lounge room lights and bends down and takes off his shoes.
‘Need a hand with yours?’ he asks.
‘Actually yes.’
I lean on his shoulder.
‘Ouch,’ he says. ‘They look sore.’
I scrunch my toes back and forth on the rug, enjoying the air between them. I look down at my feet, at the thick red indented lines that run across their tops.
‘For the rest of the pregnancy I think I’ll be sticking to ugg boots,’ I say.
‘I don’t blame you.’ He puts our shoes in the chest by the door and heads towards the stairs. ‘I’ll see you upstairs, OK Hon?’ he says.
I stand here. Uncertain.
I go to the kitchen and pour myself some iced water.
I hear the creak of footsteps on the landing. Then the toilet bowl splashing. Moths batter on the kitchen windows’ glass. I rinse my cup and put it on the rack and turn off the main lights and go into the downstairs bathroom.
Once I’ve gotten rid of my too-tight clothes I comb my hair, brush my teeth and wash and dry my armpits. I stare at myself in the mirror. I lean in.
My foundation is caked. Powder has melded with perspiration to form a congealed goo in the centre of my chin. Around my eyes the eyeliner has run into the crevices and flecks of mascara stick to the bags.
I sigh. I wring out the cloth and place it over my face.
The water soothes my skin. I open my eyes. The world’s all white. I suck in a filtered humid lungful.
I take it off. I rinse and wipe, rinse and wipe, until instead of being caked with goo, my face just looks blotchy and red.
I make a twisted cone with a clean corner of the cloth and swirl it around in my navel.
I feel a kick.
‘Sorry bub, have I woken you.’
I look down at my belly. My stretch marks are becoming more prominent. Long, thin, irregular purpley lines. Not a lot I can do about them. Not a lot I can do about my new dark brown line either. The one which runs from my mons and up over the curve of my belly to where it peters out just beneath my breastbone.
My nipples and areolas are also changing. From the baby pink they’d always been to a deeper, darker brown. And my breasts are getting bigger too. I already feel uncomfortable with the extra weight.
Ugh! Gross!
I examine it in the mirror. My nose wrinkles.
Double Gross!
I hadn’t noticed it before. A short curly black hair growing just under the left nipple like a refugee pube.
I reach for the tweezers and pull it out. ‘Ouch!’
My nipples harden. I check carefully. There’s no others.
I rub Biodynamic Beauty Lotion into my face and then Supple Skin Soothing Gel over my legs and belly. I finish off with Revitalising Almond Hand Cream and add a dab of Poison to my neck.
I leave the bathroom and go into the walk-in robe of the spare bedroom where I store my clothes.
I choose a pair of black satin lacy panties. They’re way too small.
I settle for a peach-coloured slip that still just fits.
As I go up the stairs I wonder if Scott’s already asleep.
He isn’t. He’s sitting up reading.
‘Boy it’s hot in here.’
He glances at me. ‘You can put the fan on if you want to.’
‘I think I will.’
I walk to the corner of the room. Bend over. Take my time to switch it on.
I straighten up and turn around. He’s not watching. Cool air blows on the back of my legs.
I go around to my side of the bed and get in. I curl up next to Scott and rest my head against his arm.
‘You don’t want the doona on, do you?’ I say.
‘I said you don’t want the doona on, do you?’
‘No. I guess not.’
I kick at it until it lies crumpled at our feet. I curl up closer. The fan hums on and on. Every fifteen seconds or so there’s a faint thunk as it reaches the end of its rotation and turns back the other way.
‘What are you reading?’
He tilts the cover at me, eyes still on the page.
‘What’s it about?’
‘I said what’s your book about?’
‘It’s a medieval whodunit where a monk solves some murders.’
‘Well at least I presume he does. Aren’t you going to read?’
‘Maybe in a bit.’
I start to play with the course hairs on his thigh.
‘Stop that!’ He jiggles his leg. ‘It’s ticklish.’
I look at the cars on his boxer shorts. I look at the framed poster of Prague on the wall. I look out the bedroom door. Down the hallway in the lounge room I can see the little red light on the TV glowing.
I swing my leg over and press my groin against his knee.
His eyes widen. He looks at me.
‘You’re not wearing undies.’
‘No shit Sherlock.’ I go to kiss him.
He kisses me back but I don’t feel any movement beneath the cars.
He breaks off the kiss, inserts his bookmark into his book and puts it down next to the lamp. ‘We should get some sleep,’ he says.
I touch his nipple. He flinches.
‘Don’t you want some dessert?’ I say.
‘That’s really sweet of you Honey,’ he says. ‘But we don’t have to just because it’s my birthday.’
‘Maybe I want to,’ I say.
He hugs me and scoots down so his head’s resting on the pillow. ‘Thanks Bunny,’ he says. ‘But it’s nearly eleven. I’ll be Dr Zombie at work tomorrow if I don’t get some sleep.’
‘Plus it’s really hot.’
‘It is.’
‘And our stomachs are nearly bursting. Or at least mine is.’
‘Mine too.’
He stretches for the lamp switch. He stops.
‘You’re OK with that aren’t you Honey?’
‘Of course I am.’
He pecks my forehead.
‘Love you.’
‘Love you too.’
The light goes off. The mattress moves as Scott settles.
I lie in the dark on my back. The lines of the clock radio cast a faint green tinge in the room. I hear the whine of a mosquito trying to get in through the screen.
‘What! The! Fuck!’ I yell. I switch the lamp on. I stand up out of bed and point at him.
‘What?’ He rubs his eyes and squints up at me.
‘You think I’m repulsive, don’t you?’
‘What?’ he says again. He sits up against the bedhead. ‘Bunny! What are you talking about?’
‘You think I’m fat and ugly!’ I scream.
‘Bunny. The neighbours —̓
‘Don’t you?’
‘No I don’t.’
‘I come to bed willing to make love with you and all you do is ignore me.’
‘I didn’t ignore —̓
‘Fat and ugly!’ I stomp my feet.
‘Hon —̓
‘Fat! Fat! Fatty, fat, FAT!’
‘Honey. Stop it. Seriously. You’re skinny and you’re beautiful.’
‘Well why don’t you want to fuck me then?’
‘I’m tired and I had a bit too much to drink. That’s all.’
‘We haven’t made love for ages. Not since …’ I look at the lamp and count. ‘Not since before the nineteen-week ultrasound.’ I point at him with both index fingers. ‘That’s it, isn’t it. You won’t fuck me because I’m fat and ugly and I’m getting even bigger.’
‘Stop that! Now!’
He gets out on his side and starts to circle the bed.
I back away.
‘You were the one who started it anyway!’ I yell. ‘How dare you give me mixed signals.’
‘I didn’t Honey.’ He reaches for me. I twist. I’m against the wall. He rests his hands on my shoulders. ‘Now I don’t want to hear any more of this OK? You’re the sexiest pregnant woman I’ve ever known.’
I glare at his chest. I clench my fist and hit it.
‘Ughhh.’ He steps back.
‘You did.’
‘Did what?’
‘You did give me mixed signals.’ The lamp shade is hot against my side. ‘When we got home you were rubbing your dick against my bum and now you can’t even get it up.’
‘Bunny, it’s not like that.’ He glances at the window. ‘Just because I get an erection doesn’t mean we always have to make love.’
I go to slap him. He catches my wrist. I begin to cry. He cuddles me.
After a while he switches off the lamp and we lie back down on the bed. Front to front, face to face, forehead against forehead.
He massages my neck, my shoulders, my back. Our breaths mingle in a warm eddy between us. We kiss again. Properly.
I feel the cars start to move. I hook a thumb around his waistband and pull downwards. He starts tugging my slip up. We get tangled. We laugh and sit up in the dark and sort ourselves out.
The boxers and slip hit the floor with a faint whoomph.
I move my circled hand up and down. He pushes me back on the bed. He nips my neck.
‘Hello boobies.’
His mouth settles on my breasts.
He tiny kisses his way slowly downwards. I let my thighs fall apart. As his tongue runs around my navel I think of the curly hair, the tweezers, the fact I haven’t showered.
‘Ow, ow, ow! Let go of my ears.’
I don’t until he’s back at my level.
‘C’mon,’ I say. ‘Let’s wrestle.’
He supports himself on one elbow and looks down at me.
‘What’s the matter?’ I say. ‘Are you worried that I’ll fall pregnant?’
‘Very funny,’ he says. ‘I’m worried that I’ll squash you.’
‘Don’t be silly.’
‘I’m not.’
‘Yes you are,’ I say. ‘I’d offer to get on top but I don’t think my legs will hold out.’
He kisses me again. ‘We could just cuddle.’
‘Now you’re being stupid.’ I turn away from him, onto my side. ‘We’ve managed positions other than missionary in the past. I’m sure we can manage it again.’
He leans over. He tilts my head towards him. We kiss. He shifts upwards. We kiss some more. He moves. He’s kneeling at my shoulders now. Pushing pressure on my hair.
‘Ahhh … excuse me.’ I feel it touch my chin. ‘Stop it!’
He does. I can see the whites of his eyes.
‘I thought we were going to wrestle,’ I say.
He goes to kiss me. I turn away.
‘I just thought …’
‘Thought what?’
‘Maybe I could have a blow job instead.’
‘Forget it,’ I say. ‘My jaw’s sore.’ I open and close my mouth. It clicks. ‘C’mon,’ I say, dropping my head back down on the pillow. ‘If you don’t take this chance now you’ll miss out.’
There’s silence. I feel him watching me. ‘Just a sec,’ he says. He gets out of bed.
He goes into the bathroom and closes the door and turns the fan on.
He’s in there for ages. I’m just about to go check on him when there’s a flush.
He comes out. Penis erect and glistening.
‘Did you put Vaseline on your dick?’ I ask.
He makes a non-committal grunt and gets back in beside me.
We start kissing again. His warm oily glans presses between my legs.
I roll to the side as much as my belly will let me and place my hands down on the mattress and brace myself.
He tries to stick it up my arse.
‘Stop it!’ I yell. I kick at his legs. ‘What’s the matter with you?’
‘It’s my birthday.’ There’s a slight whine to his voice.
‘You used to let me.’
‘That was years ago. Before we were married! We’re not going to start that up again.’
I roll away from him. ‘I’ve had enough,’ I say. ‘I want to go to sleep.’
I feel him shift closer. He starts to fondle my bum.
I slap his hand.
‘Go away.’
He doesn’t. I feel his breath on my neck. A drop of sweat lands on my cheek.
I reach behind me. I reach for his scrotum and squeeze.

Maureen coughs. ‘So what happened then?’ she asks me.
I look at her click clacky balls-on-wire gadget. I look at her copy of Clinical Psychology in the bookshelf. I look at the snow globe on the desk.
‘We fought some more,’ I say. ‘Then I made him sleep on the couch.’
‘How did he take that?’ she says.
‘He was really angry,’ I say. ‘In the morning he told me about John.’

Little Red Light

Suvi  Mahonen

Surfers Paradise, Australia

  • Artist

Artist's Description

First published in Medulla Times
Reprinted in SOL: English Writing in Mexico and by The Drill Press
Featured in Defenestrationism :The Art of Throwing People Out Windows,
The April Reader Volume 20 and in The Rusty Nail
Available for download at Ether Books

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