Chameau studied the half-painted ceiling with resignation. His wife was right, as she always was; he never finished anything. The ceiling would probably never be finished now. He didn't believe in fate, never had, but the straw that finally broke the camel’s back had surely been lying in wait for him all his life.
The catalogue of errors had started benignly enough.
The first straw came just after he’d settled down for his early evening cuppa. His feet were up on the coffee table, she'd be away for another week or his feet wouldn’t have been anywhere near the coffee table, but what she didn’t know would never harm him, would it?
A week into his wife’s fortnight away with the grandchildren, Chameau was relishing his brief return to bachelorhood. He was alone, free to do as he pleased. So long as the pre-return housekeeping blitz was completed before her return he'd be safe.
Chameau eased back into his comfy reclining chair and raised the steaming tea to his lips.
Tea had spilled down the front of his last clean T-shirt. His lips had missed the rim of the mug. How had that happened? He jumped up, spilling yet more tea onto the floor as he did so.
"Damn it! Damn it!"
Another tea-ring formed as the mug was placed unceremoniously on the coffee table; another one to clean during the blitz.
Chameau grumbled to himself as he shuffled towards the kitchen searching for a cloth. The washing machine would finally have to see action, if he could figure out how it worked. The T-shirt pile needed to be attacked. Even Chameau wouldn't attempt DIY in his dress shirts, would he?
The second straw came when he stubbed the little toe of his right foot on the way to the kitchen. He hopped around for a while and the expletives flowed; another sin his wife would forever frown upon. He was piling up the misdemeanours. He eventually managed to limp to the kitchen.
The third was a direct response to his exasperated whipping of the tea-towel from its hook on the side of the wall unit.
The accident seemed to happen in slow motion. The tea-towel snapped back like a King Cobra coiling for the strike. Chameau’s hand instinctively pulled again causing the cloth to recoil like a bullwhip and flick almost imperceptibly at the beautiful glass tube that contained one and a half kilos of dried spaghetti. It was the thick type of spaghetti, you know, the type with holes through the centre, only a little thinner than macaroni. Chameau had always thought of them as his little Bolognaise sauce straws.
Chameau's jaw slowly dropped and his mouth gaped open in resigned disbelief as the spaghetti tube moved, slowly at first, but the oscillations gained momentum until the inevitable happened. The tube tumbled gracefully from the granite surface and fell like a bomb towards the quarry-tiled floor. The delicate glass didn't stand a chance.
Chameau could do nothing as the inevitable happened; the glass tube crashed and exploded into a hundred razor-sharp shards. The spaghetti the tube had once contained, liberated now, cascaded around the floor, demented prisoners freed from their eternity of incarceration. They hid under cabinets and table and chairs, daring to be caught once more.
With the crash still ringing in his ears, Chameau slowly came to his senses. The recalcitrant dishcloth now hung limply in his hand, innocent of all wrongdoing. He screamed in rage and frustration and kicked the side of the fridge, enlarging the dent that he’d made when installing it. Strangely, this action calmed him a little until the fourth straw.
The fourth was the cut his index finger received when he started to clean-up. He wrapped a wad of paper towel around it to staunch the blood-flow and continued the task. He had to move the shopping bag, still full after this morning’s trip to the shops, a few times. He finally left it on the floor near the dining table and carried on; he’d get around to emptying it eventually.
The fifth was when he hit his head on the underside of the granite surface as he stood up too quickly from scrabbling to sweep up some of the spaghetti that had found its way under the sink unit. He howled in pain again, and rubbed the tender area with his undamaged hand.
After an age with dustpan and brush he was finally convinced that he had collected all of the escapees, but of course he hadn't. A few of the little spaghetti blighters were laughing at him from their places of concealment.
Finally finished and back on the sofa in front of the TV with a fresh mug of tea, this time taking more care when he sipped. The phone rang.
Calmer now, but only a little, Chameau grumbled quietly to himself and trudged back into the kitchen to answer the call.
“Yes, it would have been funny if it had happened to someone else, but it happened to me” fumed Chameau. His wife couldn't stop laughing as he told her his tale of woes. She’d miss the spaghetti tube, a Christmas present from her mother years before, but she would replace it with a rather fetching one she had seen on her travels. A great one for collectables was Mrs Chameau.
“Yes, I have cleaned up the mess, dear.” Weary patience in his voice now as the wife continued her nightly barrage of questions. There was no point in getting angry with her, he been through it all before; patience was the only way.
“Yes, I have locked both the front and the back doors.” He had.
“Yes I did water the garden.” He hadn’t.
“Yes, I looked in on old Mrs Clemments next door.” Again, he hadn’t. “She’s fine,” he lied.
“I love you too dear.” He did.
Chameau's wife broke the connection. He wearily replaced the receiver and turned to head back to his cooling mug of tea.
Then the sixth and final straw landed.
Our hero's slipper-shod foot, finding one of the remaining pieces of spaghetti, lost purchase on the floor and flew out from under him. He did an impressive imitation of an Olympic gymnast dismounting from the high bar, and crashed down in a loose pile of limbs and spilled groceries.
The problem was that on his way down, the back of Chameau's neck connected with one of the tins of Baked Beans inside the shopping bag he’d left on the floor. He had no way of knowing of course, but he’d broken one of his cervical vertebrae and that, in turn, had severed his spinal cord.
Poor Chameau, his body slowly rolled to an involuntary stop and he lay flat on his broken back unable to move, unable even to breathe. He stared at the half-painted ceiling. His vision stared to fade and blur. No, the ceiling would probably never be finished now.
That final straw actually did break the camel’s back.
Chameau is French for camel (as if you didn’t know).