The gormless, just-married couple are so strapped
for cash they decide they have to get better jobs or start some money-making
scheme. Now read on:
Rina had no formal medical training but she had spent so long in the pharmaceutical field that much had rubbed off. And, one night, sitting on the bus, she glanced at the paper of the man beside her and spotted a small ad for a pharmaceutical rep: 'sound knowledge of medical terminology a must'.
She bought a copy of the paper the moment she reached the shops. Female reps in those days were almost unknown. There were perhaps two she knew in the industry. 'But anyway,' she thought, 'I'll apply. Another iron in the fire. I'll write the application on the weekend.'
The next Sunday afternoon, when weekend house maintenance was over, we had two precious hours of sunshine to ourselves. So we went to the beach with pens, paper, dictionary, clip-boards and my Remington Model Five portable.
On the few occasions we'd made it to the beach, we usually took the office. And to avoid upsetting people who merely came to swim we would retreat to a hollow in the highest dune where we could labour unobserved. Besides, Rina thought I could write.
'You should write, Mia,' she constantly told me. 'You have a real gift that way.'
This I found far-fetched. Yes, I could scribble. But couldn't everybody? So, to justify her hope in me, I tried to write a radio serial - naively having decided that the lowest common denominator wouldn't take much time and might even drag in desperately needed pelf. We were ready to try anything by then.
I raised my Parker 51. Such beginnings, I thought, led on to greatness. 'It's got to be a maiden's madness thing to suck the housewives in. I'll call it Wild Wisdom. How's that?'
'Mmm,' she said, not listening, thinking about her application.
'It needs this slinky, paranoid heroine - all things to all men but useless to herself. Gillian? Solita?'
Rina ground her toes into warm sand and sucked her pencil.'Ben Mia.'
'I want your attention for a moment.'
'I've got it. I've got it. Melanie! Isn't that just too stupid for words? Melanie. What a hoot.'
'What should I say in this application?'
'What application is it this time?'
'The thing I saw in the bus. I know they want a man but if we write it the right way...'
'Melanie Strange,' I yelled. 'That's it. Perfect name for a drama queen.'
'Melanie Strange!' She thought it ridiculous too, so that was settled.
I scribbled it down. 'She'll sweep through life...'
'A contract cleaner, is she?'
'...wrecking men and blighting herself. She'll never have a wart or bunion and her hair will always float behind her.'
'Couldn't she have some on her head?'
'And her breath will smell of jasmine.'
'Funny diet. Does she go to the hoo haa like everyone else?'
'No. Her bodily wastes self-combust without any outward display.'
'And her parents are rich beyond imagining.'
'Well, we know they've already saved a fortune in nappies.'
'She'll have a great quest in life.'
'You mean to sell soap?'
'And sell it she will. Because stark tragedy will confront her behind every sound effect door.'
'She sounds loopier than my mother.'
'That's it! She's your mother. Beautiful. Bewildered. Cursed by fate with compelling, ineffable beauty. And soufflé for brains.'
'And she loves this elusive man. With a name like Rock, Dirk, Brad, Brett, Chuck...'
'I hate him already.'
'But he's wasted on her.'
'Lord, he must be a sonk.'
'Because he has a heart of teak and the intelligence of a squeegee. Now what does he do for a crust?'
'He sounds too dumb to do anything. Perhaps he could get a job as a speed hump.'
'Or a windbreak.'
'Perhaps he could walk behind her, holding her hair... Ben Mia.'
'What, Rina Mia?'
'I want you to help me with my application. Forget about Melanie for a moment.'
'An aura everyone remembers. A past she can never forget...'
'Here's the ad. See? Look.'
'He came out of the shadows and burned himself into her heart...'
'Read the ad, Mia.'
I read the scrap of paper. 'You need some qualifications. What have you done?'
'Let's see. In my other job I helped the sales manager with a trade paper they put out for doctors.'
I wrote down, 'Assistant editor of medical magazine'.
'You can't put that,' she said. 'I only helped wrap them up.'
'Doesn't matter. You helped. That's the main thing.'
'Oh, and I had to run round town with him, carrying bundles of stuff to the printers. He'd always walk on the inside of the footpath because he said that women should protect men. So I'd complain and change places with him. And then he'd skip across to the inside again. People must have thought he was mad.'
'Did you complain?'
'Of course I did.'
I wrote down, 'Responsible for guiding editorial policy'.