Just a bloke who sells microwaves

So the damn dog’s sinking, cramp in its hind legs, head going under, and there’s me in my yellow jumpsuit with shoulder pads, a medallist swimmer, and yes I could dive in, spare its life, make my sister want to speak to me again, but I’m dressed up for Dad’s keynote speech in Birmingham, that’s him in our Volvo, revving, and Mum’s shaking her finger at the reservoir, insisting with her fuchsia eyes that I wade on in, and I think of my sister who once slept outside with the damn dog after the time on the Common it muddied Mum’s cream carpet with its paws, the same time on the Common Dad said to us right girls that’s the last time I want to hear any I don’t knows or hesitation in my house and he’d shaken us, shaken us like rag dolls my sister reminded me, that’s why she’d slept outside in the kennel in her sleeping bag after calling me a baby fascist because I’d said something with conviction that evening, that Miele microwaves will one day have built-in ovens – which actually turned out to be true – and anyway my sister was kissing an actor at a nearby college who had convoluted opinions and when I said this in front of Mum and Dad, that she had an actor boyfriend with convoluted opinions, on the Falklands for example, my dad stewed and Mum said why don’t you invite him round for supper hun, we don’t have to speak about politics, I’m sure there are other subjects, and I said of course, like how their lips are stitched together outside the school gates – which was a fact – and I only mentioned it because my sister had called me a baby fascist again in front of her netball team and whatever, I had newfound conviction and it felt good, plus Dad applauded my technical know-how, we clapped at the same time when Thatcher was on, or I clapped just before him, and that made my sister green – I saw her on the staircase with house music in her headphones, green against the off-white giving me the middle finger – and she was out of the house shortly after that, went to her actor boyfriend’s place, said it was much easier for her to concentrate on her A’ levels at his without all the microwave salesmen coming by, and when Dad said we are a family until I say otherwise, she said well I say otherwise, and she stuffed her netball bag full of books and clothes and she was off, which meant Dad was rooting for me now, he’d once called me plain and now he was rooting for me by the side of the pool, which made me swim even faster, but Mum said it’s only because your sister is out of his sphere of influence – she mumbled it while she was writing her thank you cards to clients – and I said is that a dig at me or a dig at Dad? and she said no no no in succession, the same no no no that came out of her mouth when I asked her if she was meeting up with my sister on the sly and giving her microwaveable meals, and then I thought I’d start recording the change in Mum in two columns, and Dad had a read and sat there nodding, and anyway, that was yesterday, before the keynote speech in Birmingham which is crucial for Dad, he said there’ll be cameras and they’ll even interview me, what with being the daughter of an entrepreneur, and I’ve got my sentences prepared in my jumpsuit pocket, written in ink, so if I swim out and save the dog they’ll be ruined, and Mum is saying no no no and Dad is honking, and Mum looks as futile as she was when my sister left, and I’m wondering why last week at school my sister shouted he’s just a bloke who sells microwaves! before turning her back on me, and now the dog’s muzzle, its grey muzzle island is about to go under, and I’m wondering why we got a dog in the first place, I mean it’s not as if we have the time to walk it, it’s not as if the ratio affection-annoyance is ever outweighed by affection, it’s a stupid reminder of when we picked it up from the shelter before Margaret Thatcher was elected and the country was being choked by the unions, and they say that people cared more back then, that community existed, but you should have seen how high the rubbish piled up, how long we had to wait for things to be cooked, how it got so cold at night our breath would cloud our morning bedrooms.