Maureen's Story (Part Two): Life is like a Buffet Supper
Maureen's Story (Part Two): Life is a Buffet Supper
Maureen's Story was written to demonstrate how to use a single sentence as a prompt to construct a short story or poem. If you missed reading the original hub and the first part of the story you can read it at the following link: "How to Construct a Short Story Using One Sentence as a Prompt"
This is how the first part of the story ended :
Fashion was changing with mini skirts and briefer clothing hitting the catwalks and, in a vain attempt to attract Frank's attention and rekindle their marriage, Maureen began replacing her wardrobe with more provocative items.
One afternoon Frank phoned to say that he would be home on time for a change and Maureen was excited. She went to great effort to cook his favourite meal of roast lamb and vegetables, then applied makeup, and took the opportunity to 'try out' some of her new provocative wardrobe. A romantic evening was on her mind.
As her husband drove up and parked in the driveway Maureen met him with a seductive smile, plaid mini skirt, black knee high leather boots, and a figure hugging white satin blouse with the top two buttons unfastened.
Frank looked her up and down, his slight grin quickly turning upside down, "What the hell are you wearing Maureen?" he questioned, pushing past her, "For God's sake dress your age."
Maureen was shattered. Her cheerful smile was replaced by tear filled eyes as she stormed inside and upstairs to the bathroom where she hastily rubbed at her makeup, then angrily stripped off her new clothes and replaced them with one of her dowdy house dresses.
After regaining some composure Maureen returned to the kitchen but deliberately left the roast in the oven too long out of spite. Nothing was said as they sat at the table and picked tentatively at the charred meal.
Leaving half his food uneaten Frank stood up from the table, grabbed his coat and anounced gruffly, "I'm going out. Don't wait up for me."
Maureen's world was falling apart. Her beloved son was living away from home and her husband wanted barely anything to do with her. In front of everyone else she put on a brave face and immersed herself more than ever in the buffet dinner parties, although Frank no longer attended.
In November 1971 Danny graduated from college with an Arts Degree and, in a welcome moment of togetherness, Maureen and Frank attended the ceremony and both were happy and excited for their cherished son. Danny returned home with his parents for the holidays and a much needed break before applying for suitable teaching positions.His dreams however were soon to be dashed, as were those of his parents, when just after New Year an official Government letter arrived addressed to "Mr Daniel McLaughlin" and marked "PERSONAL."
Conscription (National Service Scheme)
Often known as conscription, the National Service Scheme was introduced by the Australian Government in November 1964.
Under the NSS, twenty-year-old men were required to register with the Department of Labour and National Service, they were then subject to a ballot which, if their birth date was drawn, meant the possibility of two years of continuous full-time service in the regular army, followed by three years part-time service in the Army Reserve. As part of their duty, national servicemen on full-time duty were liable for ‘special overseas service’ including combat duties in Vietnam.
As the number of men eligible for call-up far exceeded the number needed for military service, the bi-annual ballot determined who would be considered for national service. The ballot resembled a lottery draw, even to the extent, that the final five ballots were fully televised. Numbered marbles representing birthdates were chosen randomly from a barrel and within a month men whose numbers had been drawn were advised whether they were required for participation in the scheme or not. Those failing to register without an acceptable explanation were automatically considered for call-up as well as being liable to a fine.
Danny slowly opened the letter and after a quick perusal began to read it aloud to his parents. Maureen almost fainted as he read:
"Mr Daniel McLaughlin
I am writing to inform you, in relation to your liability to call-up for National Service, that you are required, in accordance with the provisions of the National Service Act, to submit yourself to medical examination before a medical board.
You are therefore required to attend for this purpose
at Brisbane District Employment Office, 24 Turbot Street
at 6.15pm on the Ninth day of February 1972
At the same time you will be interviewed with regard to your suitability for the various postings in the Army and other matters concerning national service.
Frank tried to console his wife that this was a proud day and that the war was surely close to ending anyway. Danny said little but was resigned to the need to serve his country. Nothing could have made Maureen feel any better however.
By the beginning of 1970 President Nixon had begun to withdraw troops from severe contact border areas within Vietnam however, as this was being implemented, North Vietnam invaded Cambodia at the request of the Khmer Rouge. The US and allies were therefore forced to deploy additional troops into that country.
Within a month of his 20th birthday Danny was recruited and after six weeks training was deployed to join the Australian, US and allied forces fighting in Cambodia and Laos.
Despite his initial positive reaction, the thought of his only son fighting overseas distressed Frank and he became more and more distant from his wife who was constantly depressed and tearful.
Becoming increasingly frustrated with her husband's constant absences due to "business" weekends, Maureen finally confronted Frank with the third degree on one of his returns.
She was shocked though not surprised when he admitted to having an affair. "Ok, I've been with Barbara my secretary. I still love you Maureen, but I'm no longer 'in love' with you," he said, "You are always depressed and we don't have fun together anymore."
Surprisingly Maureen didn't burst into tears and run to her room like he expected. Instead she slapped his face hard, "How dare you do this to me. I have been a faithful wife and stuck by you through good and bad for 25 years. Now you're having an affair with someone young enough to be your daughter and you have the hide to say you still love me! Get out ..get out now!"
Without arguing Frank packed a suitcase with clothes and took as many belongings as he could fit into his car, and moved out. It wasn't until he left that Maureen broke down . She went to bed without dinner, or undressing and cried herself to sleep.
It seemed the only thing Maureen looked forward to were the letters from Danny.
Life on her own was tough for Maureen, though to his credit Frank continued to pay the mortgage on the house and most of the bills.
Day followed night, and night followed day but they were all the same to Maureen. She could barely remember any of them. The doctor had prescribed her antidepressants and anxiety medications which left her in a state of semi consciousness most of the time.
She no longer held her famous buffet suppers and other friends took to hosting them. Maureen made the effort to attend a couple but it wasn't the same as playing host and she soon stopped going. Eventually the invitations ceased as well.
It seemed the only thing Maureen looked forward to were the letters from Danny. He was such a caring son , and received regular letters from him at least once a month. By December 1972 Frank had been gone almost six months and Maureen still hadn't been able to break the news to Danny. Maybe in her next letter.
It was almost Christmas, and Maureen still hadn't received this month's letter from her son. She had eagerly awaited the daily mail delivery but each day there was nothing from Danny. She convinced herself that postal deliveries were always stretched and slow over the holiday period.
Then, at 9:00am on December 24th, Christmas Eve, Maureen was awoken by a knock on the door.
~~~~~~~~~ to be continued ~~~~~~~~~
- Maureen's Story - The Final Chapter
The third and final chapter of a story that started from a 'one sentence' writing prompt.
© 2015 John Hansen
More by this Author
A story about the human condition. We shouldn't be too quick to judge a person by their appearance without knowing their personal story. Life is not always just black and white.
This short story and poem are in response to a writers' challenge issued by Bill Holland (Billybuc) to write a story or poem based on the photo titled "The Woman on the Mountaintop."
A recent event has reinvigorated my faith in God and that he really is watching over us. Some may call it mere coincidence, but I believe it is much more.