In a universe close away from here, Mara was feeling philosophical.
“I’ve been thinking,” she said, knowing without a five-o’clock-shadow of a doubt that Tark would want to hear what was going on inside what was, by far, the heaviest part of Mara’s size zero frame.
“Have you, my platinum preying mantis?” said Tark. He pivoted to face his wife on his bare feet, the trail of the mustard yellow sarong he wore flapping in the breeze coming through the open balcony doors of their twelfth-storey Dublin city centre penthouse. The gardeners had just been in, and one-hundred twenty-six trees and shrubs of varying tub sizes were inordinately grateful. “What about?”
Mara stretched and unwound herself from the 13th century Moroccan day bed under the enormous Jackson Pollock in the living room. “Meaning,” she said. “I was wondering if we had any. In our lives.”
“But of course our lives have meaning, darling,” said Tark. “Didn’t you just get some delivered yesterday?”
Mara wrapped her skeletal arms around herself and shrugged gallically.
“Why all this anguish, my tantalising Tasmanian Devil?” said Tark. “I would hate to think anything was going on behind those cut-glass cheekbones which was causing you pain.”
Something then occurred to Tark; he moved swiftly to close the literal distance between them (which was quite considerable, given the almost unheard-of square footage of their city centre demesne).
He encircled his wife with his left arm, and with his thumb and forefinger, tilted her chin downwards so that her permafrost eyes were held fast by his bald and beady gaze. He spoke firmly, but gently, rumbling with the gravitas of a far larger man than he. “Is it the fact that I’ve been blogging? Because I know you were taken aback by the response. I may have expected a slight uptick in traffic once I’d taken over that dreadful Sparkling woman’s blog, but even I was surprised with a gain of 30,000 followers in just three days.”
“No, it’s not that,” said Mara, even though it was ever-so-slightly that (albeit concealed by the fact that she hadn’t made a facial expression since 1987). She sighed and stopped bothering to stand up, because there was really no need, what with all five-feet-four of Tark doing the work for both of them.
“It’s just that… well, I’m not sure what I’m for, now that you’re writing,” she continued. “You’re just so… so… goddammit, Tark, you’re just so good at it! I don’t know how to follow that.”
Mara’s tear ducts made a heroic effort to ease her pain, but due to cosmetic-grade botulism, failed to squeeze out a single drop.
However, Tark knew that something was very wrong. Twenty years of marital training had not been wasted; he could read his wife’s complete lack of non-verbal signals like a book. Just like her books, in fact, which he made a point of reading every Sunday morning, after their weekly couple’s chakra recalibration.
“Now you listen to me, my precocious pickled shark,” said Tark. “What I do is nothing like what you can do. True, I may have rescued an inconsequential Irish blog in less than one week of guest posts, with my opinions on the personal hygiene of politicians and why poor people can’t afford happiness, but nothing can compare to your unparalleled genius in the world of literary smut.”
Mara sniffed, but deep down, she thrilled to her husband’s compliments. She sat once more on the day bed, readjusting her 19th century silk kimono, and glanced artfully at her husband from beneath her lashes (although, it must be said, it would have been difficult to look at him from any other prepositional angle to her lashes, other than beneath them). “You’re not just saying that?”
“I would never lie to you, my lightweight love. It would be like lying to myself.”
“I suppose 50,000 e-book downloads a day can’t be wrong,” she said.
“No indeed. Your writing talent – your ability to make the bedroom activities of the ordinary, boring and geranium-obsessed masses interesting – never ceases to take my breath away.”
As Mara arranged her immobile face into the mutually accepted upper reaches of passion for her husband’s kiss, she had to concede that he was right. She was a genius of literary smut.
And just like that, the idea for her next meaningfully enriching bestseller threaded its way through her brain, philosophical anguish forgotten. Whoever said that they had lost their muse, didn’t have a rich spouse.