Welcome to this week’s Authors in the Sun with a dark tale from Marilyn Brouwer……
About Marilyn Brouwer
After some dreary years in the Civil Service, Marilyn realized her dream of living in Paris. She arrived in Paris in December 1967 and left in July 1969. From there she lived in Mallorca, London, Oman, and Dubai, where she moved with her husband and young son and worked for Gulf News, Khaleej Times and freelanced for Emirates Woman magazine. During this time she was also a ground stewardess for Middle East Airlines. For the past 18 years they’ve lived on the Isle of Wight.
Link to a recent article by Marilyn on Bonjour Paris website.
Pedigree Chump by Marilyn Brouwer
He started eating the day after the wedding.
Beatrice had booked a cruise for their honeymoon. She’d heard that cruises were romantic, something to do with the small cabins and big oceans she supposed and dressing up and dining at the Captain’s table. The cruise had been a surprise wedding gift for Gregory; she’d given him the tickets in the limousine after the ceremony.
“Wonderful” He’d enthused stroking the tickets as if they were living things “I hear there’s non-stop food, midnight buffets, afternoon teas………..”His eyes had taken on a dreamy quality that Beatrice could not quite recall ever having noticed before.
Gregory was simply the most handsome man Beatrice had ever seen and Beatrice would never forget the first time they’d met four short months ago. She was being presented with a business award for female entrepreneur of the year. A dull affair really; a few members of the local press, local businessmen, dignitaries from the Chamber of Commerce and the Lady Mayoress who’s proportions were so vast, her mayoral chains of office were almost lost in the folds of her neck and chin. Beatrice had shuddered inwardly at having to stand next to so much uncontained flesh and only hoped the make-shift stage would hold up until she’d finished her acceptance speech.
Gregory had been lounging against the door frame at the back of the room, urbane and immaculate in a pale grey Armani suit and raw silk shirt. He never took his eyes off her, and as she walked the length of the conference room (to an agreeable amount of applause,) Beatrice had felt herself beginning to blush for the first time in twenty years. Gregory had held the door for her with a sexual indolence, making sure his hand brushed against Beatrice’s sensible suit jacket for just a fraction too long.
“Anyone who can make a success of a business called ‘Precious Pooches’ deserves a bottle of champagne at the least.” He had closed the door to the conference room and blocked Beatrice neatly between the wall and his body. Not that Beatrice particularly wanted to go anywhere, the faint scent of his aftershave and nearness of his hard, finely proportioned chest had made Beatrice unaccustomedly feel quite faint.
Gregory was ‘something in the city,’ too boring to go into on their first meeting. Whereas Beatrice, clever, pretty Beatrice running her own company with a turnover just hitting its first million…. Gregory had shaken his head in wonderment at her cleverness and pressed his knee ever so slightly harder into hers.
Beatrice had never drunk champagne before. Her father would have turned in his grave. Clive Woodstock and Son -Family Butchers since 1890. The sign was still above the shop, although it was no longer a butcher in the truest sense of the word, nor was there a ‘son’. Her father had been the last Clive Woodstock. The birth of Beatrice, with no offspring to follow had been a bitter disappointment to a gruff, no nonsense Yorkshire man expecting a boy to carry on the family tradition.
But Beatrice was nobody’s fool. If her father wanted a son, then that’s what she would be. So Beatrice watched and learned. Carcasses and blood and buckets of innards held no fear for her, she had no pre-dawn nightmares of Larry the Lamb gambolling in pastoral bliss one minute and smothered in mint sauce the next. Beatrice was a born pragmatist, and when her father found her balancing on a stool practising carving up a T bone steak at the ripe old age of seven, Clive Woodstock re-evaluated the seed of his loins on the spot. And it was Beatrice, years later, when Clive Woodstock was on the brink of going out of business due to “them bastard, sanitized, undercutting supermarkets and all them bloody vegetarian idiots” who came up with the solution. Saved his bacon as he would tell anyone who would listen. (Beatrice’s father had never been famous for his cutting wit.) Her father had almost turned in his grave BEFORE he was dead when he heard out Beatrice’s proposal. They were standing side by side at the cutting bench in the back room, both of them as fleshless as a pair of Yorkshire whippets, when Clive Woodstock first heard Beatrice’s blasphemous words.
“DOG FOOD!” Clive Woodstock dropped the bloody saw in horror. “DOG FOOD! FANCY BLOODY DOG FOOD AT THAT! OVER MY DEAD BODY”
“It was all your idea really dad.” Beatrice continued calmly and delicately cutting and preparing a rack of lamb, before looking up and patting her father soothingly on the arm. “What did you say to me this morning? What do you say to me everyday?”
Clive Woodstock’s brow darkened. He was cautious of his daughter, he knew never to underestimate her and if he could have articulated his feelings he would have admitted to a fierce pride in her abilities. Beatrice WAS the son he’d always wanted…..except, except she was a GIRL. It was a bugger, it really was.
“Well girl, I don’t know what I say to you everyday, except two sugars and mek it strong, but what I do know is I never said nowt about turning my shop into a purveyor of bloody fancy dog food”.
“And cat food.” Beatrice had remonstrated mildly. “Don’t forget the cats. And what you say everyday dad,” Beatrice put the lamb to one side and stared at her father intently, “what you say everyday is that people spend more money on meat for their pets than they do on themselves. And special cuts at that! Sirloin steak for Mrs Arbuthnot’s schnauzer, chicken breasts for Mr Dingle’s Siamese. God! Even Millie Trupp will only buy the best mince for that revolting flea ridden mongrel she’s got!”
Clive Woodstock retrieved his saw and wiped off the sawdust without looking at Beatrice.
“And just think of all the waste dad…” Beatrice always left the clincher until last.
”What about the waste?” Clive Woodstock was already in the bag, trussed like a Christmas turkey.
“Exactly dad,” Beatrice said happily, “what waste?”
And so, Beatrice started Precious Pooches. At first the food was bottled in the back of the shop, (Beatrice although acknowledging this method to be impractical in the long run) loved the irony of her dog and cat meat packaged like baby food. Special labels were made depicting most breeds of dogs and every variety of cat in chocolate box poses. (Beatrice’s dogs never inspected themselves or sniffed around lamp posts and her cats didn’t scratch or howl under windows.) Then Beatrice bought a little van, had it painted in Harrods’s green livery with gold lettering: PRECIOUS POOCHES and CLASSY CATS and began home deliveries. Clive Woodstock lived just long enough to participate in the opening of the Woodstock canning factory but unfortunately passed away before Beatrice was approached by a leading supermarket chain that paid her handsomely for the exclusive rights to stock her pet food.
Beatrice had had no time for romance. In truth, she was not the most appealing of women, tall and angular with her father’s no nonsense approach, all she knew of romance was what she read in the trashy magazines on her fortnightly trips to the hairdressers-Beatrice’s one indulgence. (Clive Woodstock’s one vanity had been his full head of hair, like father, like daughter.) But Beatrice knew a handsome man when she saw one, and Gregory Winterbottom was most certainly a handsome man. And Beatrice was lonely. Beatrice was bowled over. Beatrice was besotted. Beatrice could not wait to become Beatrice Winterbottom.
On the second day of the cruise Gregory got up at 7am and headed for the buffet. Beatrice found him an hour later and onto his third plate of bacon, eggs, sausage and beans with a side helping of waffles in syrup.
“Oh my!” She said, a trifle nervously, “You have worked up an appetite.” And Beatrice, although vastly inexperienced in matters of a sexual nature, HAD still read those magazines and knew that not a lot of his energies had been expended on her.
Gregory continued to eat all through the cruise. Gargantuan lunches, huge afternoon teas and dinners so obscenely large that the only time they were invited to the Captain’s table, the Captain, half way through the second course, feigned illness and fled to his cabin.
Beatrice tried tactfully to tackle Gregory about his appetite when one morning in their cabin his shirt button flew off and hit her in the eye.
“I think we’ll both have to go on a diet darling after this cruise, won’t we? I expect I’ve put on quite a few pounds.” Beatrice had tried unsuccessfully to push out her almost concave stomach.
Gregory eyes had raked her body up and down, an unpleasant sneer on his face. “You could certainly do with putting on a few pounds,” he said spitefully, “but as for me,” (and here he slipped his hand into his shirt where the button had popped off and slapped his gut cheerfully) “as for me, I’ve still got a long way to go.”
Beatrice couldn’t wait to get off the boat. Couldn’t wait to get back to some semblance of normality. Surely when Gregory got back to work he’d stop eating? Beatrice didn’t know how he’d fit back into his beautiful suits, his bespoke shirts. (In truth, she was wondering if he’d even fit back into the Z3 sports car that she had adored from the very first evening he’d taken her home.)
When Beatrice came home from her first blissful day back at the factory she was surprised to see the lights already on in the house and Gregory slouched on the sofa, his shirt straining over two small but discernable rolls of fat, his tie and briefcase discarded on the rug.
“I’ve been made redundant.”
Beatrice’s heart sank, but she remembered all the advice in her hairdresser magazine’s problem pages..
“Poor darling, don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll find another job really quickly.” She’d accompanied this with an encouraging and she hoped sympathetic kiss on Gregory’s forehead.
“Oh, I don’t think so,” Gregory had looked up at her calmly, “I don’t think it’s going to be easy at all.”
And Beatrice, for all her inexperience, knew the difference between defeatism and a threat.
The weeks passed. Gregory made neither any attempt to get a job, nor any attempt to resume sexual relations with Beatrice. The latter was a cause of great relief to Beatrice. By now Gregory was unrecognisable to the man she had married. The Armani suits, silk shirts and linen jackets hung in useless mockery in Gregory’s wardrobe. Gregory’s habitual attire now was track suit bottoms and increasingly larger nylon football tops. (Even Beatrice, a football virgin, and sickened by Gregory’s grossness, could not fail to find the irony in Gregory wearing Beckham’s No 11 shirt) There was no talking to him. Beatrice had given up. It was hard enough looking at him; let alone having to talk to him. The sofa was indented to the shape of his body, stained with ketchup and curry sauce, scratchy with crisps, damp with lager. Most nights Beatrice cried herself to sleep. Had she done this to him? Was she so hideous in womanly ways that he had taken comfort in food? If only her father were still alive. He would know what to do. So as Beatrice grew thinner, Gregory just grew.
Beatrice never knew if it was a pure accident or a little malevolent spite on the part of the trainee who washed her hair. (Beatrice had never liked her, she dug her fingers too hard into her head and popped gum in an insolent manner-Beatrice had stopped tipping her in silent protest) whatever, after Beatrice had been shepherded under the hair dryer, the little trollop had sashayed over and thrust a magazine at Beatrice. Before Beatrice could say it wasn’t the normal one she read, Trollop Tracy had turned and walked away. Sighing loudly, Beatrice began to flick the pages. The lead story on page three almost stopped her heart where she sat.
SLIMMER OF THE YEAR- THIS MAN LOST 18 STONES!!! And there in glorious Technicolor was Gregory-Gregory before-(Dear God! thought Beatrice, he was even bigger than he is now) and Gregory after his weight loss wearing the same Armani suit and holding up a pair of track suit bottoms that he (and a small tribe of pygmies) had lived in. Beatrice felt physically sick. The copy blurred in front of her eyes.
Unemployed Gregory Winterbottom won this year’s Stupendous Slimmer of the Year Award walking away with a Z3 sports car, a wardrobe from Armani and a cash prize of £5,000. When asked what his next goal was, the irrepressible Gregory replied laughingly, “To meet a rich woman and start eating again!” Only kidding, I’m sure!
Beatrice couldn’t read the rest, hardly remembered leaving the hairdressers, driving home. But she did remember the magazine. She threw it at him with as much force as she could muster.
“Now I know why you married me, what I want to know is what you want to get out of my life?” Beatrice looked at Gregory with sheer loathing. “Or should I say, how much?”
Gregory burped loudly and moved the plate of sausage rolls from where it was resting on his stomach onto the floor.
“Half the factory, Beatrice. Half of Precious Pooches.” Gregory rubbed at a grease spot on one of his chins. “Or half a million pounds. I know that’s what the bank is going to lend you.”
“But that’s to reinvest in the business, Gregory you know that!” Beatrice cried desperately.
“Your choice, Beatrice. Half a million pounds or divorce, and then I’d take half the factory anyway.”
Gregory knew that Beatrice could never, ever bear to lose her factory.
Beatrice collapsed onto the armchair opposite, ashen faced,
“Alright Gregory, you win, but I want you out of here, out of this house, every trace of you gone. Come to the factory tomorrow night with your suitcase and every single piece of your FAT belongings and I’ll give you your money. However I want a signed document that I’ll have drawn up by my lawyer tomorrow, then that’s it, not a penny more. Don’t ever think of coming back. O.K.?”
The next evening after Gregory had gone, Beatrice, exhausted, went back to her office on the top floor of the factory and opened a bottle of champagne. Gregory’s signature stared up at her from the legal document on her desk. Beatrice took her father’s old zippo lighter from the desk drawer and carefully lit one corner. Her father would have been proud of her. Very proud. An extra two hundred kilos of prime dog food, absolutely free.
And no waste.
My thanks to Marilyn