Shine, Pamela! Shine! by Kate Atkinson (Out of Line collection)
English | 2020 | General Fiction | ePUB | 1.5 MB
Thoroughly divorced but ever the optimist, Pamela faces the realities of aging and the leaps of faith required to put a “sparkle” on her daily life in this humorous short story by Kate Atkinson, the bestselling author of Life After Life.
Pamela is a newly retired teacher with time on her hands. She’s finding it hard to muster enthusiasm for what’s ahead: exhausting postdivorce dating rituals and an uneasy relationship with her emotionally stunted, live-at-home son. But for Pamela, there’s a surprise in store that could challenge the status quo and, against all expectations, make life interesting again.
He had done his duty, Alistair said. Mortgage paid, both children safely into their teens, all the hurdles of middle-class life successfully jumped. “The kids won’t miss me,” he said. (It was true, they hardly noticed his absence, which said something about his paternal involvement.) When Pamela objected to this unexpected turn of affairs—again, literally—he said, “Come on, Pam, you know there’s more to life than this.” Was there? How would she know?
He had already met with a solicitor, he said. The separation papers were all drawn up just waiting her approval. She could keep the house in exchange for his pension pot, everything else they’d split down the middle. He wanted to be fair. (“Fair?”)
Pamela was caught so unawares by all of this advance planning that she couldn’t think of anything to say. (“You’re such a fucking doormat, Mother,” Amy said.) “I’m keeping the dog,” she said eventually.
“Whatever,” Alistair said. The dog—Bobby—was apparently the last thing on his mind.
Lorraine was soon out of the picture and Alistair proceeded to conduct a series of short-lived relationships with a succession of women before eventually alighting on “Hayley,” who was twenty-five years younger than Pamela, flesh still as firm as unripe apricots, thanks to good genes and endless step and spin. Pamela had been to a spin class (bad idea).
Pamela couldn’t understand what Hayley saw in Alistair. “What—apart from his money?” Amy said. Alistair was in “corporate finance,” something which he had never managed to explain successfully to his family. Not, Pamela suspected, because he thought they wouldn’t understand but because they would understand only too well. “Basically,” he said, “taking money from the rich to give to the even richer.” That made it seem like it was harmless but in the equation of wealth the rich always ended up on the plus side. “And the poor just get poorer?” Pamela said. “What are you—Robin Hood?” Alistair griped. I wish, Pamela thought.