The contract

(This story just turned up in my head the other day and wouldn’t go away until I wrote it down.)

He was up early and well gone to his work on the farm, as always. She found the envelope on the kitchen table, propped up against the tomato sauce bottle that was already attracting flies in the burgeoning heat of the day. Well, thats a bit romantic, she thought. Hadnt picked that up in their limited conversations to date. She put the kettle on and added fresh tea leaves to the pot. They were both old-fashioned that way.

Sitting down at the laminex table, she opened the envelope and began to read.

Kate (no Dear she noted)

Talking’s never been something I’ve had much use for and the only way I know what I think about anything is if I write it down.

Unless I’m mistaken, and I don’t think I am, you’d like this occasional weekend thing to become a permanent arrangement. I can see the sense in that but I want you to be clear about what that will mean for our future. Women say they want honesty in a man but in my experience they don’t really mean it. Now’s as good a time as any to find out if you’re different.

I don’t want to marry you but I do want to spend my life with you. Instead of getting rubber-stamped by the Government or the Church, we’ll have this contract and we’ll have each other’s word that we’ll stick to it. Without that, life together would be pointless. And, besides, nothing about me will ever change. There will be no negotiation.

I’ll work hard all the rest of my life to keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table. You will be responsible for the household. I’d prefer you didn’t work but if you do, the household mustn’t suffer. I want plain traditional food. You can eat whatever your like.

If you want children, that’s fine with me but you will raise them. I will never mistreat them but I will not coddle them, because the world will not when I’m gone. They will learn tasks appropriate to their age and take responsibility for their actions.

If you have visitors or relatives to our house I won’t be interested in talking to them. You and the children will be all the society I need except for necessary business arrangements.

We will continue to have sex as long as we both want it but I won’t be ‘making love’ to you.

I will never say ‘I love you’. I have no idea what ‘love’ is except people say that there wasn’t much of it around in my house when I was growing up. I guess you can’t miss what you never had.

We will be faithful to each other. I know myself well enough to know that will be true for me for all time. If you are ever unfaithful to me, the contract is ended.

I will almost certainly not remember occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries and I will ignore all attempts to rope me into Xmas.

There won’t be any cuddling on the couch and watching TV and I won’t be interested in going anywhere to be entertained.

There won’t be any deep and meaningful conversations about books or what’s in the news.

You must be thinking, “Where are the good things about this contract?”

You will have financial security as long as you live. The farm produces well and is pretty much drought-proof. If I die before you I don’t expect you to keep the farm and the place will fetch a good price.

You will have children (if you want them) to love and nurture as you wish and they will grow up knowing how to be resourceful and resilient, putting them well ahead of the pack.

You will have a faithful and respectful partner that barely drinks, doesn’t smoke, is rarely ill and will stay strong for years to come.

You will live in a community that has kept its values and its connections tight and in that sense you’ll never be alone.

And we will sit on the back porch at dusk and look over our land and not have to say how much it means to us. We will know what we’ve done together and that’s enough peace for anyone.

So, if that’s a contract you can live with for the rest of your life and never reproach me or yourself for the choices you have freely made, let me know tonight.

She put down the letter, made her pot of tea, took it out to the back verandah and sat in her favorite cane chair, gazing at the landscape that could be hers forever.

33 thoughts on “The contract

  1. Now there’s a contract full of conflict. Old ways the new era is not overly happy with. Rightly so too. Very traditional and as you started “old fashioned.” Modern woman would probably rip it up and be out before he got home.

    That said it’s up front, no hidden values. It’s also got a sad touch with the admission of not knowing what love means due to a childhood without it. I’m guessing there’s a touch of sadness in Kate too looking out over the landscape. Say yes and that’s your lot, neatly explained with no future negotiation. Not sure how the potential children might grow up mind. They could form the basis of some farm horror story later if he’s not willing to participate in raising them. Fascinating take though and really thought provoking subject matter.

    All things that make it a good read…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Gary. Beyond the original idea, I was trying to weave in some challenges. One, the reality of how many marriages work out that way anyway, especially in rural areas. Two, if someone you loved was totally honest with you from the start, would you buy into the compromises that involved? And, three, does romanticism bring you happiness in the end? btw my money is on Kate staying 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • You certainly did that Doug. Sadly I agree, many marriages do end up defaulting to that. It’s a great subject to engage in wrt MH impacts to if the ability to be financially independent falls to the partner. It can lead to feelings of being trapped even if the relationship is strong. Plenty of debate room just on that aspect before even reaching your point 2.

        I actually agree wrt Kate too. There was something in the calm way she sat looking at the view that might be hers. I could go down the thriller come horror route mind… too calm, what could be hers… a tinge of solo thinking. Could there be long term thinking to reduce the “spouses” life expectancy? Just saying that has me wondering if this is a snap shot of her life or is she is serial contract demon? 😳

        Liked by 1 person

  2. As a red-blooded, feisty female who’s been married for the majority of life, I gotta say this first: I don’t know what she sees in that guy! We don’t know how long this ‘couple’ has been seeing each other, but if he’s proposing a non-marriage it would seem some of these characteristics he’s ‘promising’ are showing themselves already. I want to grab this Kate and slap her around and point out everything she’s doing wrong. What was her motivation for hooking up with this dude in the first place? She had some shallow attraction to the ‘strong, silent’ type? That’s all I can figure since we know they already don’t talk much. I really like how you show some of the disconnect in their thinking, that they like the old-fashioned way of making tea, but everything else about that relationship is very modern. There’s no argument from me there are plenty of relationships that turn out the way he promises, and you beautifully illustrate why: These are people who settle with what they have rather than striving to do better. This bum knows he could improve on his behavior, but he’s not going to make any effort … and Kate seems inclined to accept that. Job well done in how you drew me into this story and got me rankled at the characters!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks, AE. We all see things differently, including my wife, who worries that people will think this is a reflection on our own marriage (which I hasten to add she doesn’t think it is by any stretch of the imagination – ah, the perils of the writer). As I said to Gary earlier in the comments, beyond the initial set-up, I wanted to explore some ideas about practicality and romanticism and The Man was my attempt to capture many good men I have known who are alone in almost every sense and rarely speak.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You wrote a great story and I fully agree there’s a difference between practicality and romanticism. I didn’t see the Man as practical, I saw him as a cold-hearted, albeit honest, introvert with his head too far up his backside. He basically told Kate he just wants to use her, she’s nothing more than a convenience to him, and I don’t see that as practical (or even good). I see practicality when a couple decides ‘It’s you and me against the world.’ Not arguing with you here, just letting you know how my own perspective colored how I read this story. 🙂 It’s certainly interesting when a writer sets out with one intention, but not every person reads it the same. As always you wrote an intriguing piece I enjoyed!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I know it’s intended to be controversial but I can see some people agreeing to the security being offered. It seems to be something that can last, whereas love has so much potential for heartbreak and emotional ruin. I wonder how it would read if the genders were reversed? Extremely well written piece btw.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Not sure if Kate will give up too much of herself if she accepts the contract as proposed. There could be room for negotiation. If not, the potential husband sounds pretty much like a ‘take it or leave it’ kind of guy. No compromise. She can love any kids, but not him. She has much to think about as she sits on the porch, reflecting on what COULD be hers, a very big step away from ‘the occasional weekend.’ Interesting word ‘could’ suggests she hasn’t made up her mind. Intriguing story that has me wanting much more about Kate — and her decision.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good to read more of your writing, Doug — I’ve missed it!

    The man in this story feels like marmite — you’ll either love him or hate him. Whilst the author of the contract will undoubtedly wrinkle a few noses, I am sure the deal would appeal to some. He does have some sexist notions, but you can’t help but admire his honesty. Very upfront. What you see is what you get. Or rather, what you read is what you get. Judging by Kate’s response, she’s not surprised and seems to be considering the contract.

    Excellently written, as always. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Joshua. I think you’ve picked up the essence of what I was trying to convey. I’ve probably had more responses to this story than any other in recent times, mostly disapproving of ‘the man’ yet none questioning his lack of a name 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think we need a return letter from Kate! That said, I might add another perspective, written from experience. I think many women feel that they can change a man and Kate may very well be this sort of woman. She may think that he doesn’t know what love is because he has never had it and that if she shows him what it is, he might catch the bug and fall. Or, she may be as rational and unfeeling as he is and see the advantages. How most women probably feel is that she should leave him a scathing note and be gone by the time he gets back, never to return. But, a fourth alternative exists and this is the one that is also called out for in a return letter that furnishes an unexpected surprise. Are you up to the challenge? Is anyone? That little twist is what is needed in any sequel.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Doug, this is an excellent story. I have so many thoughts whirling around. First, people do change. For example, what if Kate accepted the contract and endeared herself to this man who wrote this after knowing her only a weekend? Feelings and circumstances change. He does not have the imagination to project that. He has projected out one path, but that is as far as his limited imagination will allow him to project. Let’s say, he’s into this ten years, and she suddenly has someone who moves her and loves her. They have an affair, and she decides to leave? Man suddenly realizes what he has and begins to fight for her and becomes willing to compromise. That’s just one optional narrow path. I haven’t read what she really does. Women who think this might be a good thing are usually disappointed in the end ie women marry men all the time for money, sex, or even to nurture them, or because they admired them (ex. Stephen Hawking’s first wife. The second married him for money, probably.) It is almost never enough. Finally, like one of your other readers, I want to see what Kate writes to him, or if she draws him into a conversation. Great conversation starter! Sorry it took me so long to read my feedback. We’re still in moving mode. I’m off to read part two. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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