The Squad at 227 on Sunset Road

At the Corner with the Wine Shop

The Squad at 227 on Sunset Road

They were probably promised the world, when they were young, when their beauty was the most important quality they should have had. See Claudia still argues it is, but she’s covered it because she’s fucking tired of people telling her how it should be, she hid beauty behind layers of fat flaps that she doesn’t even bother to cover anymore. You can still see it in her face—beauty—the pain of it and what it must have meant to carry it around, the burden of those eyes. She was left alone, even he, the only man she ever loved and wanted and gave herself to, didn’t think beauty was enough in the end. And now she’s strong. She knows she lives a true life only now that she can stuff her face in cake. And she doesn’t have to be beautiful because she doesn’t give a shit, because it is not important anymore, because she enjoys being able to eat beans and fart all night alone in her bed. Now, Claudia lives next door to Barbara, and she heard her man beating her up. She heard it always at the same time, she heard every single slap she's been given, and knows how Barbara learned to scream in silence and cover the black marks on her neck with contour, because the shit-head squeezes tight around her neck and it felt almost as if she died last night. Claudia has monitored like a KGB agent and timed every fight, she now knows in detail the routine of the piece of shit, she’s been looking at the arms of the clock, counting every second, making notes, staying up, making cakes, eating cakes, giving no fucks. Tonight is the last night Barbara will be hurt, but Claudia knows she can’t do it alone. So she recruits from upstairs, the force of the women of the Smith family, mainly Helena, the queen of the kitchen and chained to her dishwasher and her side kick Gemma, the cleaning lady from the South of the country where tomatoes are as big as aunt Dina's head and they taste like stake. See Gemma didn’t take no shit from men either, and even if she didn’t go to school she was strong enough to hit her husband with the stir-fry wok the night he came back drunk and tried to set the house on fire with her in it, and her little daughter sleeping in her little bed. But Gemma hit him hard, and he fell on his knees, she tells the story laughing so hard her face goes pale. They all listen as smoke like chimneys. See it’s all they got now, nicotine, coffee and taking no shit. They listen to Gemma laugh as hard as hell as she tells them how he was on his knees and tried to grab her apron, but that wasn’t a smart move because he uncovered the back of his head, you see, and that’s when she hit him again and he fell on his stupid, red, drunk face and stayed there, and didn’t wake up until the police dragged him out the day after and told him to never, ever come back. And Gemma dreamt of that moment, the moment she could finally get rid of him, and still she laughs about it as she takes another drag and says “If I knew the wok had worked so well I would have done it fucking sooner.” Swearing is a thing, you see, no book of etiquette, or code of politeness for Gemma, nor Claudia, nor Barbara, nor Helena nor her four broken hearted, fucked up daughters. The tragi-comedy of five vaginas behaving like men in a patriarchal household, such a mess for little men thinking they are someone. Gemma has suddenly become the head of the committee. Barbara’s man has to go. The man is already down, he just doesn’t know yet. So they gather the courage, and a few tools, Gemma thought she might as well pick up the biggest wok, the upper class now bourgeois wok, in other words the heavier wok, Helena just will bring her motherly stare, and the power she borrowed from her husband’s name, the one who doesn’t touch her, look at her, or hasn’t asked her how she feels today in eight years, the one who maybe cheats on her but doesn’t even know how to put bread in the toaster. Claudia thinks she can just throw her self at him flapping like a bat. So they wait, and wait, and wait, Claudia has timed it all, and they wait and wait tick, tock, tick, tock said the fucking clock.

They are all outside the door, another tick, another tock and suddenly the rummaging of knick knacks falling from the shelves, because the bastard throws her on them and even makes her clean it up in the morning, when she’s too sore and swollen to get up. Not today sir, no, not today. So Claudia rings the bell. Once, a broken breath, twice, steps coming closer, three times, he opens the door. And BANG. The wok hits him first, and he falls backwards, in the background now on focus Barbara is on the floor, she’s shaking and watches shocked, her saviours beating the wife beater like a little bitch. And so Gemma hits again, but he’s stronger than her husband, so he gets up, but Claudia has had enough now, it’s time to use her flappy flaps and BOOM he’s on the floor, and she’s holding him down like a hunter with his pray. Barbara is still shaking, but she too has waited for this moment for many many months now so she is the one to get up tonight, she is the one to stand over him tonight, she is the one to look down at him tonight, she is the one to ask “Who’s a little bitch now?” tonight.

She too has had enough shit, none taken tonight. She’s free. Helena appears from the corridor, like a proper wife—still—she has packed his bag and throws it down the stairs. “You are sleeping at your mama's tonight” she says. Claudia drags him out, and they close the door. “I bet she isn’t proud of you.” And he leaves, the beat wife beater, he runs off with his tail between his legs, pardon, his cock between his legs, all tucked up and useless now.

Gemma is the first one to light up a smoke. “Mrs Smith?”- “Yes Gemma?”- I think you need a bigger wok.” And the laughter, and the nicotine, and the coffee all night. All night.

Because they forged themselves over broken promises, because love is different from what they were told, and beauty is useless when life is a prison, and they know this is sad, but this is men’s stuff, they got stuff to do, places to be, smokes to light. Woks to buy.

Read next: 'Chocolate Kisses'
Clara Malaussène

I'm interested in human behaviour, imperfection and love. Also I like tuna sandwiches and red neon lights.

See all posts by Clara Malaussène