Jeannie Van Rompaey

Straight Talk

Straight Talk contains stories and monologues.

 

Poem: Fear of Fifty and Sixty and more….

 

It’s all downhill now. My breasts point the way.

Someone took a photograph of me the other day.

I was pleasantly surprised. Blonde hair, blue eyes, good figure, open smile,

Then realisation hit, like a progammed missile.

 

The young woman, I now understood, with a rush of adrenaline

Was not me at all but my daughter, Madeleine,

“For a moment I thought that was me,” I cried.

My friends smiled. “You are a bit alike,” they lied.

 

Poem: Football Fan

 

My wife’s a footie fan

Can’t take her eyes off Beckham’s legs

Is mad about the man.

 

When the ref sent him off, she cried,

Said it was a  travesty.

Please let him back on, she sighed.

 

Look at that, she cries,

And doesn’t mean the goal

But some bloke’s thighs.

 

When I watch Miss World she shouts and screams

Don’t look at them.

I’m the girl of your dreams.

 

Tells me she’s got all the same bits as they

Just distributed a bit different.

Same with me and them footie players, I say.

 

She laughs. I very much doubt that.

What can she mean?

I’ve got all my bits though I am a trifle fat.

 

Besides she adds, Footie is a sport.

And Miss World? I ask.

Miss World is a disgrace is her retort.

 

Poem: Husband’s Blues

 

Ten years we’d been together

Before I felt the weight of him

And knew he intended to stay.

 

Before that his lightness appalled me.

 

He talked of autonomy, of being his own person, dreaming his own dreams.

But I want to share your hopes, your sorrows, your griefs, I said.

His dark, haunted face spurned my advances.

He retreated to a cool, dark place

I could not breach.

 

I overheard him speak to another woman,

an intimate moment at a party, he not aware I was near.

He spoke of his life as a habit, a trap,

work from nine to five,

home each night,

same old routine, same worn out rituals.

His fear, he said, was to die here, in this northern clime,

where cold winds blew and little sun seeped through.

His main fear,

to die in harness with same job, same house, same thoughts –

Would he have added same wife if he dared?

 

He dreamt, he said of an escape to white-sand beaches

where he would stretch out his weary bones in the sun

til they bleached to burnt out skeleton.

 

This is not my husband, I thought,

But a stranger

who feeds on dreams of death.

 

But I would play his game, use this information to good effect.

 

That night I wound him in a shroud

of cool white sheets,

whispered sweet songs of death in his ear,

shared his need for change, made him my own again.

 

Now he shares his deathly dreams with me

And I comply, pleased to live with him

in a sun-bleached land where we can set out our bones

in rows to dry like fossils,

relics of our indulgent, melancholic life together.

 

And if he wants to go to Alaska instead

I’ll go there too,

Prepared to put our love on ice

For eternity.

 

Monologue: The Novelist

 

What exactly do I want you do? Photograph me for the book jacket of my new novel.

Naturally I want you to show me at my best. Attractive, dynamic, intelligent – you know the sort of thing. I want an image of myself that will arouse feelings of admiration and respect from my readers. I have great faith in your ability, in your expertise. I wouldn’t have chosen you as my photographer if I didn’t believe in you. I know you will make me look fantastic. Not too old. My readers like to be pleasantly surprised by the youthful appearance of their favourite author.

I do realise I am not quite as young as I used to be and that you can’t work miracles, but I do think I have worn well. Tell me, which is my best profile? Right or left? Yes, I am well aware that there is a slight gap in my teeth on my left side, but I hadn’t exactly anticipated grinning. A slight, wry smile, I could manage. But no teeth. I don’t want to look like Roger Rabbit. A subtle, ironic lift of the lips to one side will suffice.

I would like you to create a look that hints at the depth of my perception, of my unsurpassed insight into human nature, as revealed in the novel. A philosophical pose and yet not a pose. A natural stance. Oh and not too intellectual. I don’t want to look like a stuffy academic. That puts people off,

A bit of glamour wouldn’t come amiss. I’ve brought my make-up box and a travelling wardrobe full of clothes and accessories. What are your feelings about a scarf at the neck? (Pause) Suitably arty or just too fussy? What did you say? It would hide my double chin? I haven’t got a double chin. It may look as if I have in this light but…. oh I see, you were joking. I’m not too hot on jokes….

Is it a humorous book? I wouldn’t call it humorous exactly. No. You haven’t read it then? I sent you a proof copy. What? You don’t have much time for reading. I suppose not. You can’t read in a dark room waiting for negatives to develop. Ha,ha! My turn to make a joke!

I can tell you the plot of the novel if you like. It might help you to encapsulate the right mood for my portrait. It’s about a woman, Laura, who was overweight as a child, had a hump on her right shoulder, was bullied at school so she grew up with very low self-esteem.

No, it’s not autobiographical. Whatever gave you that idea?

Anyway, as a young adult, she inherits some money and decides to reinvent herself. She undertakes a programme of diet,exercise and cosmetic surgery, undergoes therapy and begins the search for her own identity. She becomes more and more beautiful and confident until she is ready to fulfill her destiny. What’s that? To and wreak a terrible revenge on the girls – now grown women of course – who bullied her so pitilessly at school.

What does she do to them? Oh you’ll have to emerge from your dark room and read the book to find that out. You can’t expect me to disclose the ending or nobody would ever buy it. Mind you, the ending is not frightfully important. It is Laura’s journey towards the discovery of her own self-worth that is the most significant part.  It’s a a psychological novel. I owe a lot to Freud. No not Emma Freud. Nor  Clement. Oh I see, another joke. Ha, ha.

Well, now you know what the book is about, shall we make a start? You can take a few shots of me in this dress and then I’ll pop into your bathroom and change into my blue. Or maybe the red. That might highlight the dramatic qualities of the novel. The passion of Laura’s quest. What do you think?

How many photographs do I want? Only one. It’s just a case of producing exactly the right image. If you take lots of pictures, I can select the one I like the best. That’s the way I usually work. I trust you are happy with that.

How many sittings do you think we’ll need? Only this one? I had five or six before with Hendersons. And even then I can’t say I was entirely satisfied with the result. Hence the change of horses so to speak, trying you for size. Mixed metaphor. Joke. Ha,ha.

To tell you the truth, Hendersons were fully booked, couldn’t fit me in. It was their suggestion that I tried someone else.

Actually, it was Mr. Henderson himself who suggested you. Wasn’t that incredibly charitable of him – to recommend me to a competitor?

Well now, where exactly would like to put me?