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  • Copyright: 2003-08-01
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If he always has the headache, why should you suffer? In the bestselling tradition of Bridget Jones's Diary comes this outrageous, hilarious look at love, marriage, and sex, introducing Anna Shapiro, who believes that surely there must be more to married life.... Tabloid reporter Anna Shapiro can pinpoint the day, three years ago, that she and her husband, Dan, last had great sex. Anna would be grateful if something as ordinary as a mere headache was her husband's excuse; Dan's hypochondriac terrors include brain tumors, tropical diseases, and spontaneous combustion. While she loves her husband, she's not ready to give up on sex at age thirty-seven--so what can she do? It's the perfect time for the distraction of a freelance assignment. But what her editor has in mind is a story on the explosive new feminist manifesto that prescribes no-strings-attached affairs for women. Anna's assignment is to interview three women who've had extramarital affairs purely for sexual pleasure--but she's inclined to take her research a bit further.... Can a woman have an uncomplicated affair purely for sexual pleasure--or do her emotions invariably interfere? Anna's determined to find out. And despite her worries about her middle-aged body, potential research assistants prove to be plentiful. Going where no journalist has gone before, Anna delves into a world she'd never considered until now. What is, after all, the perfect outfit for committing adultery in? Is it truly beyond the pale to pick up a man--no matter how sexy he is--at a funeral? And what can be done about that single horrifying gray hair? The answers are more hilarious than Anna could ever have predicted. But soon Anna finds herself facing the question that she never thought she'd have to answer: Is she willing to give up her marriage and her children for what may be the biggest gamble of her life? A novel for every woman who's ever wondered--and every woman who hasn't--Neuroticawill have you roaring with laughter as it takes you on a wickedly delightful journey of sheer indulgence. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Biography

Sue Margolis was a radio reporter for fifteen years before turning to novel writing. She lives in England, and has also written <br><i>Spin Cycle</i> and <i>Apocalipstick</i>.


"'WE USED TO BE A HAPPY FAMILY before all this happened,' wept attractive mum of two, Dawn, 40, from the beamed mock-Tudor lounge of her apartment in Barking. "I used to enjoy going out for a Malibu and Coke with the girls of an evening. Terry used to look forward to a bit of a fight with his mates at the West Ham football matches. These days, all our friends have deserted us.  We daren't even walk round the estate without the Rottweilers, because there's always some bastard pointing a finger at us. Sigourney and Keanu are wonderful kids since they came out of the detention center, but they're being bullied so much at school over this, they've been offered counseling.'"

Anna was sitting at the word processor in her bedroom-cum-study, just getting to the end of a piece for the health pages of the Globe on Sunday about coping with nits--provisionally headlined "Lousy Mother's Nit Nightmare Shame"--when she looked down at her watch and realized that if she didn't get a move on, she was going to be late for Uncle Henry's funeral.

The article should have taken only a couple of hours to write, but Anna was spending ages on it, because she had passed most of the morning staring out of the window trying to pluck up the courage to phone Liaisons Dangereux, but then decided she couldn't because they were bound to want her to deliver her romantic manifesto in some cringe-makingly embarrassing video. She knew the style, since she had done an article a couple of years ago on women who used dating agencies, and had sat in while some of them performed what one outfit referred to pretentiously as the client's "piece to camera."

The women fell into two groups. First there were the fat middle-aged divorcees with bad perms, who had just started some computer access course or other. Then there were the sad twenty-something lasses with eczema and brains the size of Cadbury's Creme Eggs, who sat in front of the camera and gabbled: "Hi, my name's Nicole and I come from Worcester Park. I work in personnel for a large company which specializes in intimate rubberwear. My ambitions are to meet Noel Edmonds, to find a way to wax my bikini line without getting that embarrassing rash and to end world hunger. At this moment in time I am without a special someone in my life and I'm searching for a soulmate for walks, talks and maybe more. Are you the shining star who can brighten up my lonely nights?"

With the possible exception of receiving a Heart of Gold award from Esther Rantzen, Anna could think of no worse humiliation than making a dating agency video. Nevertheless, she couldn't help fantasizing about what she might say, should the occasion arise. She suspected she would dispense with the introduction and launch straight into: "Look, I live with a fucking lunatic who would rather spend his nights on an Internet Terminal Illness Forum exchanging information on symptoms and hospice facilities with fellow hypochondriacs in Kentucky than have sex with me. So if you own your own liver, your tap stops dripping after you've had a pee, or better still, you had yet to be weaned onto solids the night Kennedy was shot, I'm all yours."

She typed another couple of sentences and broke off yet again. She didn't know why she was bothering to go to the funeral.  She hadn't seen Uncle Henry or Aunty Yetta for donkey's years, but on the phone the day before, Gloria had laid on the guilt, saying that she should go for Bubba's sake. Anna pointed out that Bubba had been dead for eleven years and, as a former person, had forfeited all rights to a sake. Gloria, who was desperate to show Anna off at the funeral and introduce her to Uncle Henry's family, who hadn't seen her for years, as "my daughter the important Fleet Street journalist who once interviewed Maureen Lipman," then instantly changed tack. Suddenly she became an expert on funeral etiquette, a sort of sarcophagal Miss Manners, and warned Anna ominously that if you didn't go to people's funerals, they wouldn't come to yours. Faced with this priceless piece of Gloria-esque logic, Anna gave in.

She wasn't surprised when Dan announced he would not be coming. He'd given her some involved explanation about having to drop off a stool sample at the doctor's surgery and then having to go on to Newport Pagnell for lunch with a trade delegation from Venezuela. As soon as Anna heard the words "stool sample," her eyes glazed over and she stopped listening.

Anna took another look at her watch. It was just after one. She bashed out a lackluster final paragraph and faffed irritably with the modem, which, as ever, threw a wobbly and refused to work if she was in a state any more stressful than one of sublime, bucolic repose; indeed, to function properly, the modem would have preferred Anna to be sitting with her feet on her desk, straw in mouth and humming "One Man Went to Mow." After fifteen minutes of sending and resending, roughly as long as it would have taken to dictate the story to an old-fashioned copytaker, Anna's article was finally ingested by the Globe's computers.

She took her latest Sweet FA black jacket out of the wardrobe and put it on over a white body and short black skirt. She decided, even though she was going to a funeral, that the outfit needed a bit of a lift. She also retained an adolescent urge to shock at important family do's. So she went to her jewelry box and took out a brightly colored four-inch-long wooden brooch she had bought a couple of years ago at a market when she was on holiday with Dan and the kids in Tobago. It was a carving of a naked, dreadlocked African painted in ANC colors with a huge red erection and a joint. She pinned it to her left lapel, patted it and giggled. Then she grabbed her bag and keys off the desk, bolted downstairs and out to the car.

Dan thought a stroll might calm him down. As he turned left out of the Vanguard's office and headed down Kensington High Street towards Holland Park, he realized he had never been so humiliated in his life. It was nearly four hours since the incident in the doctor's surgery, but his entire body was still bright red with embarrassment. Even his internal organs felt as if they were blushing. He couldn't face lunch. It was just as well the Venezuelans had canceled.

The day had begun routinely enough. He had dropped in at the office just after half past eight to check his messages from the previous night, before popping out to hand in the stool sample at the surgery round the corner. There was nothing on the voice mail.  All that had come through overnight was the fax from the Venezuelans postponing lunch until the following Tuesday, but inviting him to a performance of Die Meistersinger at Covent Garden that evening, as they had been given some free tickets. He sent back a fax confirming the new lunch date, but politely declining the opera as Wagner always gave him this irresistible urge to annex the Sudetenland.

Ten minutes later he had strolled into the crowded doctor's waiting room. He realized it had been months since he had actually set foot in the surgery because Dr. Harper, the kindly middle-aged lady doctor, had of late taken to discussing his symptoms with him on the phone so that she could dismiss them there and then, rather than waste her time and his with a pointless visit to the surgery.

Last Monday evening, just as Dr. Harper thought she had dealt with her last patient of the day, the receptionist had put a call from Mr. Bloomfield through to her, as she did three or four times a month.

Dan, standing alone at the kitchen phone, began describing his symptoms. This time it was gripping stomach pains, and frequent loose bowel movements, which had a greenish tinge together with reddish streaks which could have been beetroot from the beetroot salad he'd bought from the deli on his way home from work the night before, but then again could have been blood. All this, in his opinion, and he felt sure she would agree, suggested several possibilities:

"Colitis was my first diagnostic port of call, although I'm not sure I've got the characteristic mucus in the blood. I'd have to take another look. Then of course it could be Crohn's disease or diverticulitis. I know that patients bleed with both of those, although I understand people with diverticular disease can remain asymptomatic for years, but certainly severe cramps are a symptom of both. Of course there is an outside chance it could be Whipple's disease--I do have the chronic low-grade fever. Then there is . . ." Dan hesitated before saying the word, ". . . cancer. But of course you'll know better than me," he added as a deferential afterthought.

That afternoon Dr. Harper had dispatched a burst appendix and a suspected ectopic pregnancy to hospital, visited a senile chap who thought his wife was in a coma, but by the look and smell of her she had been dead for at least a fortnight, and had a two-year-old with measles vomit over her new Mansfield suit. She was tired, irritable and in no mood for malingerers like Dan Bloomfield.

"Me know better than you, Mr. Bloomfield? You flatter me," she spat sarcastically down the phone. "But, with your permission, may I offer just a couple of suggestions? Have you considered Norwalk virus infection or shigella bacillus?"

Dan's heart didn't just skip a beat--it skipped an entire drum solo. He was about to faint.

Somehow, while still holding the phone under his chin and maniacally scrambling through the Home Doctor index trying to find N for Norwalk, he managed to get himself onto the kitchen floor and raise his legs a few feet off the ground. After a second or two the blood began to return to his head.

"Good God, what the hell are they?"

"What they are, Mr. Bloomfield, are nasty little so-and-sos which give you an upset tum. You probably have a mild case of food poisoning, nothing more. Simply take plenty of fluids. If you insist, you can bring in a stool sample tomorrow morning and I'll send it off to the lab for analysis. Good-bye, Mr. Bloomfield."

Dan did insist. However, in all the years that he had been one of Dr. Harper's patients, he had never given a stool sample and wasn't quite sure how one went about it. Dr. Harper had cut him off without giving him any instructions. Would the lab want a whole turd, or just a slice of turd, and what should he put it in?

The first receptacle that sprang to mind as being vaguely the right shape was the Habitat spaghetti jar standing next to him on the kitchen worktop. Dan picked up the glass container, which was full of spinach fusilli, adopted a squatting position and placed it over his jeans in roughly the right position. He realized straight away that it was going to be much too tall to fit between his backside and the bottom of the loo, as well as too large to go in his briefcase. Crucially, it also had no lid, although he supposed he could cover it with clingfilm.

Then, as he rifled through the kitchen cupboards in search of something expendable, it occurred to him that a pickled cucumber jar might be just the ticket. Once a week, Dan schlepped to Golders Green to buy bagels and a couple of jars of his favorite new green cucumbers. New greens had a distinctive sour taste, which he preferred to the sweet-and-sour taste of ordinary pickles. New greens were also longer and darker. In fact, size and shapewise, they were not dissimilar to the average healthy stool.

Dan reached up and took one of the sturdy screw-top jars down from its cupboard. It was slightly shorter than he'd thought, but he hoped the turd he produced would be of a consistency to curl up and hunker down. He tipped the pickled cucumbers into a Tupperware container and soaked off the Mrs. Elswood label under a hot running tap. He reckoned that pickles were probably pretty sterile, but thought he'd boil up a kettle of water and rinse out the jar just to be on the safe side.

Harvesting the sample was no problem as he still had the trots. He waited until Anna was watching a Tenko rerun on UK Gold and then went up to the bathroom to deliver his payload.

From the Paperback edition.

Excerpted from Neurotica by Sue Margolis
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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