Nifty Fifties by Sharon Haston

The waves roared towards me like stampeding white stallions. I screamed louder than a heroine in a horror film. 

‘Be quiet Cathy,’ Ken hissed. ‘You’re embarrassing me.’ 

I resisted the urge to hit him over the head with my paddle. 

I closed my eyes, plunged the paddle back and forth as instructed, and prayed. At last we reached the shore. In my rush to leave the boating equivalent of a rubber paddling pool, I stood up too quickly and ended up on my backside in three inches of freezing water. Ken pulled me up. ‘Are you ok?’ 

Before I could reply, somebody whooped ‘Wasn’t that fantastic?’ Everyone slapped each other on the back and agreed. 

‘They’re all mad,’ I fumed. Hurtling towards boulders bigger than the iceberg that sank the Titanic in a rubber dinghy is not my idea of fun. 

I only had myself to blame. A month before, I’d had a strop about Ken turning into a couch potato. As he’d channel hopped, I’d yelled, ‘We never do anything together these days. I’m beginning to think you’re stapled to that couch with your eyes glued on the telly or your mobile phone!’ 

To my astonishment, Ken had taken my words to heart. 

I’ve been thinking, Cathy.’ he’d said. 

‘That’s dangerous,’ I’d joked. Little did I know how prophetic those words would turn out to be. ‘You’re right. We should do more things together,’ he’d stabbed a chip with his fork. I’d nodded approvingly, picturing cosy trips to posh restaurants, picnics on the beach….. ‘I read this article in the paper and it’s given me ideas.’ He’d pushed the paper towards me. ‘Nifty fifties! We’re a bit young for that,’ I’d complained, thoroughly confused. 

‘Exactly!’ Ken had looked pleased with himself. ‘These fifty year olds are doing all this adventurous stuff. We shouldn’t let fifty year olds have more fun than us.’ He’d pointed to the list in the paper and my heart sank, ‘sky-diving, parasailing, racing car driving, white water rafting…..’ 

So that’s how I got into this situation. Entirely my fault. When Ken suggested we spend the day together white water rafting, I could only smile and nod as my heart plummeted to my feet. We changed into warm clothes and went for a drink with our rafting team. As the huge fire roared in the traditional pub, I felt better. 

‘To Cath,’ Ken raised his glass, ‘if it hadn’t been for you, we’d never have done this.’ ‘All right, don’t rub it in,’ I thought and wondered fleetingly if he was ‘at it.’ ‘How do you fancy a parachute jump next?’ he asked. 

I spluttered red wine over my lovely pink top, ‘What…..?’ 

‘There’s loads of stuff we can do. Quality time- just like you said,’ he smiled and looked rather handsome. 

I opened my mouth to protest but closed it and accepted the tissue offered by the lady sitting next to me. 

‘You’ll love it,’ the lady’s husband pushed his glasses further up his nose. He looked more like a chess player than a parachuter. 

‘We’ve done it before,’ the lady enthused, ‘There’s no feeling like it as you jump out of a plane.’ ‘I bet there isn’t’ I replied grimly. 

‘You soar above everything like a bird. It’s fabulous,’ she clapped her hands excitedly. Suddenly white water rafting didn’t seem so bad. 

‘You could come with us to our club,’ her husband offered. 

Fear unfurled inside me, ‘Surely you can’t jump out of a plane right away?’ I gasped. ‘You’d need instruction?’ 

‘Of course,’ the lady replied. 

Ken’s face fell and mine brightened. 

‘But you can jump more or less straight away in a tandem jump with an instructor,,’ her husband said. 

I shot him a glare Medusa would have been proud of. 

‘Great. It’s decided. That’s our next venture,’ Ken beamed. 

‘It might be fun,’ Maggie said at our yoga class. 

I shook my head miserably as I adopted the warrior pose. ‘Not for someone who hates heights.’ ‘Why don’t you just say no?’ Maggie reasoned as she twisted her body into the shape of a pretzel. 

‘Cos I started this and he’s supposedly doing it for me,’ I replied and sank to the floor like a deflated balloon. 

My instructor’s name was Guy, and he must have been a sergeant in the Army before he retired. He barked orders at me. I obeyed, but the possibility of desertion was likely as we took off in the plane for our first jump. 

‘Excited?’ Ken nodded to me; his face flushed as red as his outfit. 

‘Absolutely,’ I lied, thinking a helmet might offer protection if you fell off a bicycle but not out of the sky. 

The aeroplane door opened, and the rush of air and noise almost knocked me off my feet. ‘Remember your instructions,’ Guy bawled. Instructions! What a hope! I couldn’t remember my name. 

‘Good luck,’ Ken shouted as Guy and I stood at the door. 

As I prepared to step out of the plane, I thought that in future, in the dictionary, beside the word terror would be a photo of me at this moment. 

‘Don’t look down,’ Guy roared. 

‘I can’t do this!’ I screamed but I was attached to Guy, and he could, so out into nothingness we stepped. 

I kept my eyes closed as my insides jumbled out of place within me. It was like being on the fastest, highest rollercoaster in the world until the huge canopy opened above us and we slowed down and sailed, actually sailed in the sky. My insides slowly sorted themselves back into order. Tiny cows and trees were dotted below us like toy animals. I felt like a giant. ‘Enjoying it?’ Guy asked, but fear prevented me from replying. Relief swamped me as we landed safely. 

We met up with Ken and his instructor. Ken whirled me round in his arms ‘Awesome!’ he said in his best American accent. ‘Did you love it Cath?’ 

‘It was exhilarating,’ I admitted. ‘Just never ask me to do it again.’ 

A week later, when I thought Ken had run out of madcap ideas, he bounced into the kitchen and announced, ‘Potholing. 

I glanced up from chopping vegetables for the stir fry. ‘What?’ I hoped I’d misheard. No such luck. 

‘Potholing,’ he repeated. ‘That’s our next adventure.’ 

‘Doesn’t that involve going under the ground?’ 

Ken’s face lit up like a lantern, ‘Yup.’ 

I started to nod but realised the enormity of what I was agreeing to. I hate dark confined spaces even more than heights, to crawl underground like an insect, maybe even among insects…. ‘No! Enough is enough.’ I slammed the knife down and it stuck in the chopping board and wobbled. 

Ken’s eyebrows shot up, ‘But what about our plan to do things together?’ An idea popped into my brain. ‘It’s my turn to suggest something?’ 

‘Oh, of course sweetheart,’ Ken’s smile returned. ‘What did you have in mind, abseiling, go-karting?’ 

‘Not exactly,’ I smiled serenely, ‘ballroom dancing.’ 

‘What?’ Ken sank into a chair. 

‘There are lessons in the Town Hall on Friday,’ I said. 

‘But I’ve got two left feet,’ Ken protested. 

‘Come on. You know how much I love watching Strictly Come Dancing. I’ve always wanted to give it a go myself.’ 

‘O.K,’ he said, shoulders sagging. 

Revenge was mine as we twirled and tangoed on Friday night. It was worth bruised toes to see Ken look thoroughly miserable after all he’d put me through. I felt a little sorry for him but there was no way I could go potholing, so I stuck to my plan. 

‘My choice again,’ I told him as we walked home, ‘You’ve had two choices.’ He nodded, until I announced, ‘Ballet’ 

‘No way! That’s a step too far. I can’t wear a ballet dancer’s outfit with my belly.’ I let him stew for a few minutes before I told him I meant we would go to the theatre to watch ballet, not actually attempt it ourselves. 

‘That’s bad enough,’ he wailed. 

Two days before we were due to go to see Swan Lake, Ken returned from work, brandishing an envelope. 

‘We’re going on a week’s holiday to Majorca tomorrow.’ 

‘What? You’re joking?’ He’d never done anything as romantic before. 

‘Nope,’ he took me into his arms. ‘You know Cath, I’ve been thinking. Maybe those nifty fifties have got it wrong.’ 

I nodded encouragingly. 

‘I reckon we can spend better quality time relaxing on a sunny beach instead of potholing.’ He smiled and the dimples creased in his cheeks. 

I lay my head on his shoulder, ‘Or going to watch Swan Lake maybe?’ I teased. He had the grace to look guilty. 

‘Maybe we should agree to do things together that we both want to?’ he whispered into my hair. 52

‘Sounds like a plan to me,’ I agreed and breathed a sigh of relief as I waved goodbye to potholing and said hello to a week in the sunshine by the pool. 

Published in Issue #20

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