Authors: Fay Weldon
Trisha leaves home
Trisha and her mattress
Riches to rags
Trisha faces the future
Novels are not enough
Times I have cried in public
On the anger of mothers
A selection of antecedents
Life in the slow lane
At the dry-cleaners'
A lifetime of keeping clothes clean - three pages the non-domestic reader is free to skip
To the Novell
On the question of souls
Opening salvos in a marriage, that is to say, my own
Consequences. The past catches up
A gynaecological history
All that had stuff
And more waiting
On the villainy of women
A good explanation for absence
Back to the past
Doralee, Trisha and Peter
What will happen next?
Trisha, Doralee and Peter visit the psychiatrist
On psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists - and how to lose readers
Trisha, Dor alee and Peter visit the parson
At Kleene Machine
Strange things do happen
Doralee is tired
Selling up and moving on
Trying to get out of the city
A home to go to
Home and normality is restored
Also by Fay Weldon
THE FAT WOMAN'S JOKE
DOWN AMONG THE WOMEN
THE PRESIDENT'S CHILD
THE LIFE AND LOVES OF A SHE-DEVIL
THE SHRAPNEL ACADEMY
THE HEART OF THE
THE HEARTS AND LIVES OF MEN
THE RULES OF LIFE
LEADER OF THE BAND
THE CLONING OF JOANNA
BIG GIRLS DON'T CRY
RHODE ISLAND BLUES
THE BULGARI CONNECTION
WOLF THE MECHANICAL
NOBODY LIKES ME
WATCHING ME, WATCHING
MOON OVER MINNEAPOLIS
A HARD TIME TO BE A FATHER
NOTHING TO WEAR AND NOWHERE TO HIDE
LETTERS TO ALICE
GODLESS IN EDEN
AUTO DA FAY
Copyright © 2004 by Fay Weldon
First published in Great Britain in 2004 by Fourth Estate, a division of HarperCollins
, London, England
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Mantrapped / Fay Weldon.
. Identity (Psychology)—Fiction. 2. Gender identity—Fiction. 3. Mind and body—Fiction. I. Tide.
Grove Press an imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
New York, NY 10003
Trisha leaves home
Trisha had been rich and Trisha had been poor and she knew it was better to be rich. Now she was to be poor again.
The mattress Trisha slept upon was the most expensive on the market: she took consolation from that. Madonna had one like it. Trisha bought it after she won the lottery, nine years back. The claims the manufacturers made for it were true. When she woke in the morning her joints were not stiff and she had no trace of back-pain. She might on occasion wake weeping but she did not wake hurting.
Now she was to ache again. There would be no room in her new abode for so large and lavish a bed as hers. She had thought herself so resolved and steady of purpose, so unsentimental, so unattached to belongings, but now suddenly she felt weak at the knees and wanted to cry. She was alone in the world, without even a decent bed or permanent pillow on which to lay her head. Life once had seemed so easy. You did your best and it worked out all right. The advertisement in the catalogue had shown a young woman sitting alone on a bed with a glass of wine sitting beside her on the pink and gold floral fabric of the mattress. It had passed 'the wine-glass test', proving how the springs adjusted themselves to sudden changes in the distribution of weight.
That was how life ought to be, glossy and properly worked out for those who had the money.
Now, nine years later, when push had come to shove, and the creditors were banging on the door, and everything had
be sold, she looked at the mattress and doubted that it was even saleable. There is not much of a market for used mattresses in a prosperous society. The suspicion is always there that the previous owner has died upon it and that it would be more auspicious to start afresh. And the mattress, Trisha could see, showed all too much evidence of a hard-living, on-going life, far too much for a potential customer's comfort. It was stained with the traces of nine years of careless living, flecked by blood and semen, marked by the breaking waters of pregnancy; it was impregnated, if she put her nose to it, with the soft fumes of marijuana and the acrid after-scent of cocaine.
People had got so fussy. Not just about things but about their bodies. Once a woman had been happy to look as God decided. Virtue lay in playing a good hand no matter what cards were handed out at birth. Greasy hair, put up with it. Big nose, large bottom, too bad. Smile and be grateful. Now it was off to the cosmetic surgeon to defy God's will. Bodies were kept under better control than once they were. They were thinner, cleaner, better exercised, healthier: people of the New Millennium had the energy and will to keep the corners clean. This was a mattress from the Former Age, the old century, and it showed. If a cover had come with the mattress - and at that price it surely should have - she had never bothered to put it on. The help never spoke English, and Trisha wasn't one to ask and burden servant lives further with extra toil. Sheets were understood in Latvia and Estonia but mattress-covers? She, Trisha, did not have the gift for creating order around her and she was prepared to admit it. In her new life she would try to do better.
In the months after the lottery win she had bought and bought and bought, all the things she had ever done without,
mike up for years of
saucepans, too-cheap sheets, badly-stitched clothes, and over-perfumed soap. She had bought the best, and not thought about money, other than to avoid bargains. Now everything had to be sold and would go for a fraction of what she had spent. But the pleasure of the antique Buddha, the double-pile carpets, the cocktail cabinets, the ice-making fridge, the serving table which talked back to you and wiped its own surface clean, the little unauthenticated Picasso sculpture of a bull, had lain in the buying, not the owning. So who cared? The money had run out, and credit too: now she would earn her own living like everyone else. She was not new to penury. She had scraped along for years on benefits and occasional work as an actress. Now she would take a computer course and do temping, forget how much she hated office work, being cooped up. Others managed, so would she. It had been good to win the lottery, good to attract the men who went with it, but it would be good to live honourably once again. The nouveaux riches were lonely; they looked over their shoulders all the time to make sure no one was cheating them, taking advantage, but they tended to look in the wrong direction. Those born rich had it easier, they knew the rules and how to keep them, were trained at their nanny's knee never to break into capital, never to lend money, to stick to their own class, rules devised over centuries for their protection. It was only recently she had realised what capital was. It was the stuff in the bank which others more secure than she lived on.
But she had her assets. People liked her. She was forty-four but could pass for ten years younger: she had good, long, skinny legs: she was plump-bosomed, large-nosed and smiled easily. Her hair was thick and naturally curly, henna-enriched. She was flexible: she could touch her toes with her hands flat on the floor in front of her. She looked available: she knew that: nothing much she could do about it: the truth was inbuilt: she looked as if a man might only give her but a little push, and she would fall easily back upon the bed and not complain about it. Round-heeled, her mother had called her once, when she was thirteen and had started going out with boys. Other girls were somehow stiffer in the middle, not given to bending: they got given presents, jewellery, flowers. Not Trisha - she always seemed to be the one giving things - little gifts, cards and so on, hoping to please. She looked good in little waisted jackets with fake fur collars. Tarty, her mother complained. So what? Wearing high heels with jeans meant there was never any shortage of men around, and a shortage of men was what Trisha most feared. Or had until the last couple of months. Perhaps she was traumatised, more upset by recent events than she realised: whatever it was, the thought of having a man about appalled her, someone telling her what to do, watching her every move, interfering with her decisions. She wanted her body to herself, while she worked out what to do next. The idea of strange male fingers approaching her flesh, which until lately would have had her instant positive attention, now gave her the shivers.
She knelt beside the mattress and the idea of praying occurred to her. She put her hands together and closed her eyes. 'Dear God,' she said, as she hadn't since she was seven. 'Help me now in the hour of my need. Forgive me my sins.' But really she had no idea how she could possibly have sinned. She had only ever done what circumstances required of her, and kept a little back for herself. Wasn't that allowed?
No voice from God came in reply, only that of the auctioneer's young assistant. 'So is the bed to be in the sale or out of it?' he asked. Trisha got to her feet at once. He would assume she had been examining the mattress: it would not occur to anyone these days that people kneeled by beds and prayed. She hoped he noticed the quality, and overlooked the stains. He spoke through his nose, though that was probably not his fault. He was in the habit of despising others, she could tell. It narrowed the nasal passages. Nothing was ever worth as much as people hoped and it gave him a feeling of superiority. He earned his living dealing in other's people's disappointments. He was a tall, pale, stooping young man: how did such a person come to have the job he did? She was in a perpetual state of marvel at the way the new world worked. He had qualifications, she supposed, in Art History. He had been trained to tell a Manet from a Monet, no doubt, but she did not think he would make it in the wide world. He had too little generosity of spirit. Too many planets in the lower half of the astrological chart, as hers were, to rise to great heights. Too long spent handling what amounted to repossession sales -
turn up, turn up, knock down prices, everything must go. One person's bargain is another person's loss
. Wrong end of the market, buster, down here among the totters, the knockers, the hearse-chasers, the hungry end of the dealing trade. Up the top end, Bond Street and the antique trade, and at the bottom, the skip; in the middle, eBay and the car boot sale.
Look at this, darling, just right for the baby in a couple of years
. What was sold early morning down the wrong end of the Portobello Road for a fiver went for twenty quid at the top, by evening. In the meanwhile the traders helped themselves to a living. Ordinary punters, idle and ignorant, never knew what they were doing: it was their role in life to be ripped off. While the professionals, the lawyers, the accountants, the designers, not to mention the daily help, helped themselves to what was left, and that was before the taxman got the lion's share. Well, now she didn't have to worry. It could all go. All the stuff now piled up in the garden and the front rooms, the over-shiny repro furniture, the stacks of unopened fashion magazines, the garden roller no gardener could be bothered to use, the frilly swing seats - she always thought she'd conceived little Spencer in that one - and the mirror and glass serving-trolleys with boule decoration, a snip at £7000 - and the only single thing she regretted was the bed, with its used mattress. 'I haven't decided,' she said to the auctioneer. 'It might come with me.'
'It won't fetch much in a sale,' he said. 'Mattresses never do. But I could take it off your hands for a fiver. It would clean up. My girl-friend's only got a futon.'
Perhaps he wasn't so bad. They were all in the survival game together.