Stanley and the Women

Stanley and the Women by Kingsley Amis Read Free Book Online

Book: Stanley and the Women by Kingsley Amis Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kingsley Amis
tried to analyse it in
the old days, but could still get no further than being nearly sure it
consisted physically of a slight permanent rounding of the eyes and raising of
the eyebrows plus the top teeth being a bit sticky-out in the English mode. In
those old days it, the look, had been one of her great attractions as far as I
was concerned, along with things like her breasts. I had not known then that
the thick and thin in question was not what she would be at my side through but
what she was prepared to battle through to get her own way. On the other hand
there was nothing deceptive about her breasts, not then anyhow. Not much about
them could be made out today through the top part of her faded dungarees. They
and the polka-dotted handkerchief on her head gave the idea that she might be
just going to get down to stripping the paint off a door or even hanging out
the washing, whereas in fact she would have been easily as likely to be going
up in a balloon. There was all that to be said and more, but sitting in the
same room with her I found it impossible to be simply glad I was not married to
her any more and not to flinch a bit at the thought. Stopping being married to
someone is an incredibly violent thing to happen to you, not easy to take in
completely, ever.
    Funny
old Nowell. Nowell? It was amazing, but in all those years I had never realized
that of course that was wrong. Nowell was to do with Christmas — there was a
carol about the first one. Noel was her name but she or her mother had just not
been able to spell it. There were cases like Jaclyn and Margaux and Siouxie
where no one seriously imagined that was right, but this was different. Nowell
was like Jayne and Dianna and Anette where somebody had been plain bleeding
ignorant.
    I sat
on and the bloke in the fancy jacket talked on. What he was saying must have
been extremely important, because so far he had not had time to notice I had
turned up. After a minute Bert came in carrying a glass with a blue-tinged
liquid in it, perhaps drawn off from the insides of some appliance. I saw now
that his glasses were similarly tinted. He looked over at me round their sides
more than through them.
    ‘Listen,’
he said, ‘have a … er … Do you want a drink?’
    As a
matter of fact I did, but I was not going to have one with him. ‘No thank you,’
I said.
    He
thought that could not be right and spoke more loudly. ‘I said do you want a drink.’ When I refused again he slumped down on a padded corner-seat some distance
off. The little girl, who had followed him into the room, clambered up beside
him in a complicated, drawn-out style and started leaning against him and
rolling about all over him the way some of them do at that age with men in the
family, not sexually quite because they leave your privates alone, but sexually
all the same because you would have to take it like that from anyone else. In
the meantime the kid watched me from under her eyebrows as though I had to be
half out of my mind with jealousy.
    After a
bit of this I started to feel restless. I went over to Bert and said, ‘Where
exactly is Steve, do you know?’
    He
lifted his arm up slowly to point at the ceiling. Nobody tried to stop me when
I went out of the room. I reckoned to find Steve laid out in one of the
bedrooms and walked up to the top floor, stopping on the way for a pee. The wc
had a fluffy crimson mat round its base and another on its lid in case you
wanted a comfortable sit-down. The place led off a bathroom with pine panels
round the bath and one of Nowell’s classy loofahs, looped at the ends to help
you do your back, on a bright brass hook behind the door.
    Steve
was in a bedroom that had large windows, no curtains, bare lemon-yellow walls
and the late-afternoon sunshine streaming straight in, so it was never hard to
see what was going on in the next few minutes. I thought of Susan’s description
when I saw he was not only not asleep but not even in the sort of

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