Can-Can – Pre-Intermediate Level

“I’m going to go for a drive,” he said to his wife. “I’ll be back in an hour or two.”

He didn’t often leave the house for more than the few minutes it took him to go to the post office or to a store. His wife called him “Mr. Fix-it”. He spent his time at home doing little jobs around the house and also painting, which he made his living from, though not nearly enough of it.

“All right,” his wife said brightly, as though he were doing her a favor. As a matter of fact, she didn’t really like him to leave. She felt safer with him at home, and he helped look after the children, especially the baby.

“You’re happy to get me out of the house for a while, aren’t you?” he said.

“That’s right,” she said with a smile that suddenly made her look very pretty… someone to be missed.

She didn’t ask him where he was going for his drive. She wasn’t the kind of woman to ask questions, though she was jealous in her own quiet way.

As he put his coat on, he watched her. She was in the living room with their oldest daughter. “Do the can-can, mother,” the child said, at which she held up her skirt and did the can-can, kicking her legs up high.

He wasn’t simply going out for a drive, as he had said. He was going to a café to meet Sarah whom his wife knew, but did not suspect. Then he was going to go with her go to a house on a lake that his wife knew nothing about, but to which he had the key.

“Well, goodbye,” he said.

“Bye,” she called back, still dancing.

This wasn’t the way his wife, whom he was about to leave at home to go to another woman, was supposed to act, he thought. She should be doing something boring and unattractive, like fixing holes in children’s clothes. She had no stockings on and no shoes and was facing towards him. Her legs looked very white and smooth, secret, as though he had never touched them or come near them. Her feet, going high in the air and then down again, seemed to be nodding to him. She held her skirt pulled up, attractively. Why was she doing that of all times now? He watched her for a while. Her eyes looked like they were making fun of him, and she laughed. The child laughed with her as she danced. She was still dancing as he left the house.

He thought of the difficulties he had had arranging this meeting with Sarah. He remembered going out to a phone box and calling her at her office (she was married, too), but she was out. The next time he phoned she was on another call. When he phoned later the coin fell out of his hand and he had to open the door of the phone box in order to pick it up. At last he got her on the line, but she asked him to call again next week. Finally they set a date.

Waiting for her at the café, he surprised himself hoping that she wouldn’t come. They had agreed to meet at three. It was now ten past. Well, she was often late. He looked at the clock, and at the picture window for her car. A car came that looked like hers. But there were small differences, which for some unknown reason he was pleased about. Why? It was 3:15 now. Perhaps she wouldn’t come. No, if she was going to come at all, this was the most likely time for her to get there. Twenty past. Ah, now there was some hope. Hope? How strange he should be hoping for her to stay at home. Why had he arranged the meeting if he was hoping she would miss it? He didn’t know why, but it would be much simpler if she didn’t come. All he wanted now was to finish his cigarette and cup of coffee. And for the enjoyment of them, not to give himself something to do. Then he wished he could go for a drive, free and easy, as he had said he would. But he waited, and at 3:30 she came. “I had almost given up hope,” he said.

They drove to the house on the lake. As he held her in his arms he couldn’t think of her; for the life of him he couldn’t.

“What are you thinking about?” she said afterwards, sensing that his mind was somewhere else.

For a moment he didn’t answer, then he said, “You really want to know what I was thinking of?”

“Yes,” she said, sounding a little worried.

He held back a laugh, as though what he was going to tell her was too unbelievable or silly. “I was thinking of someone doing the can-can.”

“Oh,” she said, feeling better. “For a moment I was afraid you were thinking of your wife.”