Friday, 17 October 2008

Mr and Mrs Y - a short story

The old couple made a perfect capital ‘Y’ shape as they walked together around the corner and up the hill.

You see, they each had severe curvature of the spine, as though in sympathy with one another. Problem was their spines bent sideways, sending their heads at the top of the ‘Y’ away from their partner, by a good 45 degrees. The man bent right and the woman bent to the left.

From the hips down they walked very closely, often holding gnarled hands.

From hips up their curvatures seemed to create a distance that shouldn’t have been there.

I saw this man and woman on most mornings. They spoke constantly and with animation that I’d more often noted in youth smitten by love. Their old bodies sometimes shook with laughter, but to fully share the joke, glancing sideways and into each others eyes as they walked, would have been impossible.

I looked forward to my regular meandering, and I looked forward to spotting Mr and Mrs Y. My imagination ran riot when I saw them, building stories in my mind.

How difficult would this strange impairment be in their everyday lives?

They say people in a couple tend to grow alike over the years, but this was so unusual as to be almost ridiculous.

They were both almost as thin as sticks, testament to a life of exercise and dietary good sense.

He always wore those very short shorts made of some synthetic stuff that never wears out. The kind that men wore twenty years ago.

His shirt was always crisply ironed and I never saw him wear a hat.

On the other hand his wife demonstrated an acute awareness of the power of the Australian sun. Her skin was nowhere visible except around her eyes and mouth.

The wide brim hat was made of some sort of cotton and flapped as she walked. He pants were full length and again cotton, and a light blouse covered her arms right down to the wrists where a pair of cotton gloves took over. The style of her attire never changed.

This hill was abrupt and my breath became laboured, but Mr and Mrs Y were still drawing away from me. They were very fit, although apparently in their late seventies.

As the road steepened and the view became more broad, I glanced sideways to judge the clouds banking on the horizon to the south west. They were tall and threatening: black with even a tinge of green.

In our summer this could herald fierce thunder storms and even hail with lumps of ice that may be as large as ping pong balls. I’d fired my computer before clapping on my own hat for the walk, so I knew today’s weather would be unsettled …

But clouds in this direction tended to remain to the west and move along the ridge of mountains to plague towns further north. My walk would not be interrupted today.

Our path passed through tree lined streets and gardens where children played and puppies yapped.

I was sweating.

We passed a row of grevillea bushes alive with noisy green and red lorikeets fighting over the tastiest seeds.

These birds are arrogant little beggars who love nothing more than a lazy feed of honey and bread left out by an unwary householder. There were a couple of problems with that – the generosity tended to produce sickness in the birds, for one.

I encountered problem two myself when I began feeding a bird that visited my garden. Within a week I had thirty of the creatures swooping and careering among the native bushes.

I knew I had done the wrong thing when the local paper warned against the practice for the birds’ sake, and I withdrew my largess.

Regardless, for weeks afterwards lorikeets tapped fiercely at my kitchen window insisting on being fed!

The old couple had turned right into a quiet street and I continued on my own way.

There weren’t many people so much in love at that age I mused.

My head was busy imagining a fiery courtship and a huge wedding for them when a fat white rabbit dashed across the road followed closely by a young girl trying to recapture her pet.

The girl had long fair hair and wore a dress with a frothy wide skirt.

Alice in Wonderland …

On my walks I sometimes took a turn into a cul-de-sac that contained some of my favourite gardens.

Today there was a shock. My house of roses looked abandoned with unpruned bushes languid and choked with weeds. Gone the riot of colour and perfume.

Where was the family? There was a good six months worth of weeds in the garden now. What had happened?

I skipped to avoid a dog poo on the footpath and turned towards home.


Even in between walks I often thought about Mr and Mrs Y.

A friend of mine was a member of the local RSL Club where they had a good band and ballroom dancing on Friday afternoons. Lots of oldies turned up and my friend said she’d often seen Mr and Mrs Y among the crowd.

How on earth could they dance together I thought? I was used to seeing them walking with their heads wide apart.

I’d also wondered in my imagination how they got on in their more private and personal moments of physical contact (you’d know by now that curiosity and imagination are my middle names).

One afternoon I was sitting at my computer desk with pen and a fresh piece of white paper, and found myself doodling.

Mr and Mrs Y appeared before me, taking on the character of the stick figures that children draw.

My pen tripped along, producing Mr Y’s skinny legs and Mrs Y’s hat.

There they were: a perfect second last letter of the alphabet.

Then I looked again and the right hand side of my brain came into play: the side of lateral thinking and creativity.

With a flash and an ah-hah, I realised that my fears for the Ys was unfounded. Face to face – for dancing and in love making - they’d be fine!


Does anyone else know a couple who, through the years, have growth alike in some way? Tell me in a comment ...

©June Saville 2008. Not to be reproduced without express written permission of the author.


  1. Awww, June, That was sooo good, mind you I did cotton on to the fact that facing each other they would make a perfect pair when you mentioned dancing.. I only got that 'cos Robert and I love dancing and that's how we met.
    I won't mention the other type of exercise hehehe... Good one ! Cheers Kate x.

  2. You are coy Kate. Coy Kate! That'll be the day.
    I'm pleased you GOT it though.
    Bet you and Robert would make a perfect pair too ...
    Have fun
    June in Oz

  3. Oh that is absolutely the best June - and I love the drawing. A perfect Y.

    'Face to face – for dancing and in love making - they’d be fine!' Made me smile (of course I love a happy ending of course!).

    Thanks for leaving a comment on my Dad's post - I read it to him and he appreciated it very much. He wondered where all the other Aussies are - they are few and far between or is that just me.

  4. Hi Lilly
    I'm pleased your Dad liked the comments.
    He might like the story of Mr and Mrs Y too - it's our era. I did the drawing in Paint so it wasn't hard to come up with kid stick type figures!
    Aussie bloggers - I think they're a shy bunch often. I do get lots of visits but few comments from Australia. I suppose the speed of our broadband doesn't help - and the fact that we were late taking on the internet anyway (as a nation).
    I'm quite disappointed at the quality of many blogs. But there are some beauties too, of course. We aren't a big population ...
    I do get a lot of USA bloggers on 70 Plus and Still Kicking, and fewer Aussies and it's the other way around for Journeys in Creative Writing. Cultural differences are interesting - and as I said in my post about blog stats there are discernably different behaviours.
    We'll just have to put a bomb under a few people to get them to come out of their hidey-holes. Everyone has to start somewhere, so they shouldn't be shy.
    Come on you fair dinkum lot - comments please! And get going on blogs of your own - it's such fun! We all help each other, so if you want to talk about getting going let's know. Just ask ...

  5. Well, looks like there's already a Kate so I'm attaching my family name at the end of mine.

    This is such a sweet story. I like the description of the old couple --
    "You see, they each had severe curvature of the spine, as though in sympathy with one another."
    --a metaphor of their entire life.

    I like your FeedJit traffic feed because it shows me in two different locations. I'm originally staying at Zhuhai, China but since I can't access my wordpress site here because it's blocked by China I use a proxy server which redirects my location. Apparently, in using it I'm shown to be from Palo Alto California. :D

    --Kate Yu

  6. Ah but for the wanderings of the curious mind. We would be left with no stories or fun to read. Your elderly couple sound like so much fun, do you talk with them.

    I have found that many of the older couples her in the US seem to grow towards each other in style and form. I love seeing couples that have been together for half a decade. It's always amazing how they interact with each other.

    Your story points that out in a physical way. I could see clearly that they would be "equal" at dancing and love.

  7. Hi Eric
    This couple was from my past. I said g'day a few times but didn't get into any meaningful conversations ...
    They were real, however. And a delight.
    I suppose if we live with someone for half a century, eating the same foods, in the same environment and often developing the same habits, it's likely that distinct similarities will develop!
    In this case the reason for physical change could have been as simple as a bad mattress!

  8. lovely. new to your blog... but really enjoying it. fantastic.


  9. I wrote a reply to your welcome post yesterday Kate Yu but it seems to have disappeared into the ether - or perhaps the phone rang before I actually sent it on its way! Or was it the Chinese?
    So far as I remember it went like this:
    I didn't immediatelty realise we'd sort of met before. It's a joy to hear from you as you wander on your travels ... please keep in touch with news on what happens next. Deal?
    I do enjoy your blog and will follow your adventures.
    I'm pleased you enjoyed Mr and Mrs Y. Metaphors are important in stories aren't they?
    June in Oz

  10. Adlibby
    Thank you for the wholesome praise. I'm quite pink around the jowls!
    Visited you blog and enjoyed it very much. Left a message which said I will be renewing our acquaintance regularly.
    As you would know, feedback is really important for a fiction writer.
    June in Oz

  11. OOoh, thanks June! It could probably be the Chinese. They intercepted your post as evidence! ;)

    I'm sad to hear your comment got lost in cyber space (and such a nice comment too!). It was probably a chance meeting and I'm touched you'd like to hear more about my travels and my adventures. I'm glad that your stories are rockin' the blogosphere. Keep it up!

  12. LOVE conspiracy theories Kate Yu!

  13. Hi June, Loved this story but must admit that all the way through it I was thinking there would be some happening or ending that I never even imagined. A lot of your stories leave me just sitting there thinking about the ending! This was such a sweet one though and I really enjoyed every minute of it and loved the illustration. I have seen older couples that started to resemble their pets and each other!

  14. G'day Judy
    Glad you liked the Ys. I've seen fat dogs and fat families, and you can understand how that happened. I suppose if they're relaxed sort of animals with relaxed sort of families they could have relaxed sort of faces!
    Endings - I have you tricked by the sound of it. An unsurprising ending can be an surprise in itself eh?
    Hope things are okay with you Judy ...
    Love June

  15. Hi June,
    Love you story and your drawing is precious.
    I know one couple that has been together for 20 years now and I noticed an odd occurrence that I’ve since been told is not really that unusual. He was 14 years her junior when they married (in his twenties). She in her forties. Frequently at the beginning of their marriage, she would be asked if her husband was her son. (How awful, huh?) Today looking at them, he has aged so quickly, you’d think he was her same age or even older than she is despite his younger years.

  16. Hi Vikki
    Pleased you like Mr and Mrs Y. And thanks for the kind words about the drawing - you wonderful artist you!
    I reckon your friend must have really loved his wife very much ...

  17. Oh what a sweet story!!! My husband and I are still this way after 15 years of marriage. We walk hand-in-hand everywhere- even the grocery store. I think we're both starting to lean towards each other- like a big wishbone!

    I found you through Judy's blog at "Living On The Other Side Of The Hill". I'm very glad I stopped by.

  18. Jeannie I'm into technology, Greek cooking and Obama (although I can't vote for him). So I just had to follow your blog.
    Thanks for dropping into Journeys in Creative Writing. Mr and Mrs Y got under my skin years ago and I needed to write about them.
    I like the idea of you and your mate holding hands as well, and I can see that you could easily begin to look like a wishbone! Lucky people.
    Good ole Judy has connected again!
    June in Oz

  19. I really like your blog too, June. In fact, I have a couple of writer friends that have blog. I'll make sure to let them know you are here!

    Talk to you soon. :D

    P.S. I think you have a real gift for writing. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

  20. Jeannie
    Thanks for the high praise. Much appreciated.
    And I'll look forward to meeting your writing friends.
    You and I will see each other around the traps.

  21. Thanks for choosing to follow my blog Jeannie.

  22. Congrats on great, interesting blog. Visintg from WTBAY.

  23. Thanks for visiting Katy. Pleased ytou liked Mr and Mrs Y. I took a peek at your blog and found What Katy Did to be very beautiful. Hope you got over Melbourne OK.


Thanks for leaving a comment. Its good to know who is having a peek! I will certainly send a comment in reply.

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Also, you may like to have a look at my other blog 70 Plus and Still Kicking.

Cheers June