A Spouse Never Forgets

Love will draw an elephant through a key-hole.” –Samuel Richardson

**********

“Em, I’m home. Time to hide all your boyfriends.”

“Oh, but they brought me flowers and everything”, came the response from the dining room.

Tyler Cohn kicked his shoes off and rolled his eyes. He found the mail by the door and thumbed through it carelessly. Not seeing anything in the stack of bills and donation requests to catch his eye, he let the stack fall from his hands, most of it landing back on the table. He shrugged at the mess, tossed his keys in the general direction of the mail, and walked towards the living room.

Tyler had not been the most attractive person in high school. His odd skin tone made him stand out in a crowd, but his unruly hair had singled him out even more. It was not until college that he discovered the real him was only a few buzzes away. Coupled with a roommate who introduced Tyler to the joy of working out, and a new version was born. Tyler found that the quick, aggressive, thrilling move of hefting weights was an adrenaline rush that he loved. His muscular physique, olive skin, and shiny dome now all complimented each other. He had lost his childhood nervousness and now approached life with what his wife could only describe as swagger.

“For the record, I saw you first”, he countered as he doffed his jacket and let it land on the living room couch. In front of him was the large gray mass. He avoided looking at it, as always, and turned into the dining room. “Where are you?”

“I’m on the other side of it”, Emily called back.

An alarmingly loud trumpeting sound blared three times from the living room. Tyler and Emily both hurried to cover their ears, and by the time the noise had stopped, Tyler was almost in the dining room.

“I swear, The Moustache is going to drive me crazy”, Tyler said as he looked to his wallet and pulled out the receipts that he had collected over the day. “He keeps telling me that his business is going to get sued. I swear, that man thinks his workers are just there to collect on disability. I respond to all his e-mails but he won’t believe that we have his risks all covered. If he gets anymore up my butt, that facial monstrosity of his is going to start tickling my stomach. I wish I could get him out of my haiiiiiiiiir.”

Tyler had looked to Emily for the first time and was shocked at what he saw.

“Hey”, Emily said with a smile as she went towards him.   With her typical elegance and grace, she made every small step look like it had been planned out for months. Her composure had been the first thing that attracted Tyler to her. However, much to his delight, he found that when she went to hug him, her perfectly straight spine curved into him. Her hips ever so slightly leaned into his waist, her shoulders softened, and her long neck listed to the left, finding his nape and taking up residence there. With her normal ballerina-like stance, Emily stood a solid two inches taller than her spouse. But when they were having their quiet moments, he ended up being a bit higher up. She didn’t really care. Many of their best talks had been shared in this position, starting with when her father died. Tyler didn’t worry about being the tallest when they went out and Emily wore high heels, and Emily didn’t worry about her poise when she was alone with Tyler.

However on this night, Tyler found the embrace a little awkward. Normally he would feel her long, wavy chestnut hair against and under his chin. This was not the case tonight.   Instead Tyler felt a soft cushion of hair, then short bristliness, then another tuft of long hair. Had her entire head fit, Tyler would have felt another shaved section. And, to his great horror, sections of the hair were dyed orange and blue.

Is this what it feels like for her to kiss me when I haven’t shaved?

The only long hairs that felt familiar were the ones attached to the tail from the gray mass as it swished and brushed against Tyler’s leg from the living room.

“I got a text from Tess and Burt.”

“Are we supposed to be having them over for dinner? I don’t have enough cooked to feed us and my greedy siblings.”

“Greedy, or filled with a hunger for victory?”

“Greedy, Tyler. Definitely greedy. You play tennis with them, but you never had to share LEGOs with those two. Susan was the worst though. Leave it to the middle child to always cause the problems.”

“Em, there are four of you”, Tyler said as he tried to decide whether he should pull away from this painful dome or if it was best to keep her hair as out of sight as possible. “That makes you a middle child too.”

“Yes, but she was the first middle child”, she replied, pulling slowly out of the embrace. “You only children don’t know what we had to go through.” She kissed him, showing more passion than usual, and went back to the spaghetti on the stove.

“Regardless, your siblings want to know if we would play tennis tonight.”

“Tonight? Tyler, it’s seven p.m.”

“Right. Still daylight out there.”

“Honey, we have dinner to finish. And eat. Then, if we change into gym clothes, play several matches—“

“Then we can still be home by ten. C’mon, it’ll be fun.” Plus, knowing those two, they’ll bring up the haircut so I don’t have to.

Now out of their embrace, Tyler had the full effect. The left quarter of Emily’s hair was shaved off, except for a tiny, bristly layer of what used to be beautiful hair. That prior hair was hinted at by the next fourth, which was neon-orange and flopped around with four inches of length. The third section was the same shaved style as the first. And to finish off the monstrosity of it all was a section of long hair, looking just as it had before, only now filled with blue streaks in abhorrent strands.  

“Tyler, I know you. When we drive to the gym, under the auspices of playing tennis with my siblings, you’ll want to lift. This, as we both know, will require a change of clothes. And you’ll want me to lift with you. Honey, I just don’t have the strength.”

“You can always go swimming while we lift. The pool should be pretty empty. Maybe you’d have it all to yourself?” Maybe your new hairstyle will act like a fin that will help you steer in the water. Like a graffiti-obsessed dolphin. Or The Rocketeer on his worst day.

“Why don’t you just come out and admit that you want to see me walking around in a bathing suit?”

“Naturally”, Tyler said as he retrieved a mammoth bag of peanuts from under the kitchen counter. He took one, broke it, and nibbled on the nut while he tossed a handful into the next room. “I will always admit to wanting to see my wife in her element. You are a sexy woman and I appreciate that about you.”

“Uh huh”, she said with a look of disbelief behind her eyes. “I should never have taken you to that first swim meet of mine in college. It set a bad trend. Speaking of which, don’t go filling up on peanuts. Dinner is almost ready.”

“You don’t want me stocked up on protein before the gym? Besides”, he said as he threw another heaping handful into the living room, “how many do you think I’ll get the chance to eat?”

“We both know I’m going to be the one to clean those shells up, one way or the other. Go easy.”

“I will if you go to the gym with us. Please?”

“Fine”, she said with a feigned sigh. “But we are getting home no later than eleven. Got that? I’m still trying to get the payroll system up and running. Also, some of us don’t get to set our own hours. Twerp.”

“What can I say”, Tyler said with a shrug as he stirred the sauce, “it is truly challenging being a highly sought-after risk assessor.”

“Emphasis on ass-essor.”

“You’ll stop making that joke one day.”

“Plates please, Monsieur. And I’ll stop making that joke when it ceases to be funny.”

“Oh, I don’t know, I think you’re already cutting it too close.”

“What?” Em pulled the noodles off the strainer and carried them to the table.

Stupid, Tyler. Stupid, stupid choice of words. “Nothing. I’m only trying to defend myself against your rapier wit. You do love to cut me to the quick.” Again?!?! What is wrong with you? Dig yourself out before you get into a close shave. Tyler had to stop from slapping himself in the face. What is wrong with you? Freak.

They sat down at the table as munching noises became audible from the living room. The two often talked about eating by candlelight, but they knew that the constant threat of methane from the gray mass made that unwise. The whole situation lacked the romance that they yearned for. One day they would seek out a solution, but their everyday lives demanded their attention.

“So are we going to talk about it or what?”

“Talk about what?” Tyler filled his mouth with a forkful of spaghetti so that he would not be expected to respond anytime soon. Unfortunately, he had made the sauce hotter than he realized and was forced to take a swig of water and add it to his already full mouth.

“The hair, you twit. You don’t like it, do you?”

Tyler made a show of chewing and swallowing, trying to think of the proper response.

“All those sitcoms from my childhood and I still don’t know how to handle this”, he half-joked.

“So you hate it”, Emily replied as she set down her fork with purpose. “That’s great. You couldn’t come out and say that?”

“Risk assessor, remember? Not risk creator.”

“Don’t do that again. I’m being serious here.”

“Look, I didn’t lie to you. I just didn’t say anything.”

“Because you don’t like it.”

“Honey, it’s three different lengths and three different colors. Maybe when we were in school, but in our 30’s? I’m amazed you think people will take a human resources person seriously like that.”

As if to accentuate the finality of his argument, a large tooting noise came from the living room.

Emily turned her nose up at the new smell but was not done talking. “That, well that is a load of crap.”

“Cute.”

“Don’t cute me, it’s true. Work didn’t factor into your thoughts. You wanted someone else to tell me it was ugly.”

“Emily, that haircut isn’t you. Why would you do that?”

“Because it isn’t me.”

Tyler leaned away from the table. “Okay, well now you’ve lost me.”

“You don’t think I see how people treat you? You’re the cool one. You’re the one that travels around putting out fires. You work in crises. You get to watch cars get smashed and houses collapse. You think I don’t noticed that my siblings, my own family, they text you more than me. And why wouldn’t they? I sit behind a desk and deal with coworkers that can’t play nice with each other or decide they want to play nice in the bedroom, and then they come to me when it’s over and, guess what, they can’t play nice. You’re exciting, I’m dependable. Why wouldn’t I want a change?”

From across the table, Tyler could see Emily’s eyes tearing up. She picked up her napkin and dabbed her eyes with it. Tyler backed his chair away from the table, stood up, and slowly made his way to the other chair. He knelt down in front of his wife and put his arms on her legs.

“Because you are perfect.”

Another tooting sound came from the living room. No no, you’re timing’s perfect. Please, keep it up.

“More crap”, Emily replied sadly.

“What I’m saying is not crap. Do you know that half of the time I’m talking to Tess and Burt, I’m bragging about you? They’re the only ones who get it. They’re the ones who love you as much as I do and can’t stop being blown away.

“You? You spend forty-plus hours a week taking care of people, making sure that they get paid. In addition to all you do for me. On top of that, you make time for your church committees. It’s all I can do to get to church each week. Yet you somehow find the patience and the energy to tend to others. That is amazing to me. Why are you trying to be more like me when I’m trying to be more like you?”

“If you’re just saying this to get yourself out of the doghouse…”

“I’m not. You have this inner peace about you. I try to find little doses, little spurts of that in me. For you, it just happens. You define grace for me. I see all these people that have lost things, all these homes that have been wrecked, and while I’m trying to comfort them my brain is screaming that I should get back home to you right that second. Learning in the field is great; being away from you is not.”

“But people still like you more”, Emily said through small sniffles.

“I don’t think that’s true. They certainly love you more. Not a Sunday goes by when someone doesn’t pull me aside and sing your accolades. Even strangers, visitors to church; they talk to you for brief moments and then they meet me and tell me how blessed I am to be with you. They like both of us, sure, but they’re in awe of you.”

“Really? ‘cause this is stuff you could be telling me.”

“And I probably should. I’m sorry.”

“While we’re at it”, Emily said as the color in her cheeks, if not her hair, returned to normal. “You could also hang up your jacket when you come home instead of lazily throwing it on the couch.”

“People have been commenting on the straw odor.”

“It would also make your wife happier”, she said with a smile.

“What if I offered to shave your head? Would that help this situation or should I leave you be?”

“You know, that was what I was tempted to do”, Emily replied. “But the hairstylist said this would be less extreme.”

“I’m sorry… what?”

“She thought I might want to ease my want into this.”

“That’s ridiculous. Shaving your head is much less traumatic. I mean, you’re already halfway there, for corn sakes.”

“I said that, but she got so worked up about it”, Emily said.

“Okay, let’s try this. Do you like it? Not me, not the hairdresser; you.”

“Maybe if they had used hair dye colors that were found in nature. But as is? Notsomuch.”

“Will you let me shave it then?”

“You think you have enough expertise? I’d need someone who was used to having their hair short.”

“I think I can manage to figure it out”, Tyler said with a grin.

“All right, let’s do it. The sooner it’s over, the sooner my hair will grow back.”

“You know, I’ve never seen you with short hair. That could be cute.”

“Well, you’re going to find out. And we’re skipping the tennis and gym tonight. Now I really am too tired. And you have to help me.”

“Yes ma’am. I’ll send them a note after we finish dinner. Then you’ll get your head all shorn.”

“Where do you think we should do it, over the sink?”

“I was actually thinking the shower”, Tyler said as his smile grew. “That way, you know, we wouldn’t make such a mess.”

“I should probably take my blouse off too. It will keep the hair from getting everywhere.”

“That is an excellent point. Less clothes, less mess. And I know how you hate messes.”

“First thing’s first”, Emily said with a look in her eye. “You have some business to take care of.”

“Oh”, Tyler said as he adopted his “come-hither” voice. “Do I?”

“Yeah”, she said plainly. “Dumbo over there. He needs to be tidied up.”

“Yes ma’am”, he said with a chuckle.

“Trust me”, Emily said as she brushed her long strand away from her right eye and winced at the blue dye. “Things will all be better after we’ve dealt with the elephant in the room.”

A Very Disney Wish

You broke my smoulder! -Tangled

(My coworker, who is quite the Disney fan, just got engaged. Since the congratulations note was rather non-specific, I figured I would share it with you folks. If nothing else, there is a video at the end for those of you that have forgotten your Disney childhood.)

———-

It’s clear that your friends should all say “Congrats”,
And the gents walking by should doff their hats.
In a life where dating seems quite harried,
You are content to be getting married.

You’re a cute couple, go walk down the aisle,
We’re curious if you’ll do it “in style”.
The groom will be handsome, the bride will beam,
Even more so with a colorful theme!

The classic setting calls for some stained glass
To light up the storybook lad and lass.
Oh, the joy to be wed in a castle.
Though the dragon might prove quite the hassle.

And yes, fairy godmothers would be nice,
But still, you should probably think twice.
Invite them, you’ll get Maleficent too,
Her ivy grows everywhere; who knew?

Let’s avoid a ceremony with vines,
You could always get married in the mines?
We know seven dwarves who’d help, they’re all kin.
But you’d have an abundance of groomsmen.

Here’s something that would go swimmingly well,
Go get married at sea, like Ariel!
There’s the woman dressed like an octopus,
That’s only a problem if you’re a wuss.

What, something like her would bother you two?
Or is it nixing crab off the menu?
We can see how his feelings might get hurt,
Ask Sebastian if he’d like the desert.

Have the event in The Cave of Wonders;
You’ll have to watch out for social blunders.
If one guest tries to take a souvenir,
You’ll all have to yell, “We are outta here!”

The walls falling down is hardly the worst,
You could be in a whale, dying of thirst.
We think Pinocchio is a cute boy,
But you want a ring-bearer, not a toy.

We think it’s time that you start to settle,
Simple entertainment, like a kettle.
You can still have a fancy chandelier,
(Gaston might get you a good deal on beer).

Hey, have you planned out the bridal shower?
We think it’d be cool to use a tower.
You’ll need a ladder so gals could get down,
Y’know, if they all wear their finest gown.

Perhaps if your sister is feeling nice,
She would host you in her palace of ice?
But then a kid would try to lick a wall,
Or an elderly man might slip and fall.

At this point we don’t know what to say.
Why are you smiling and laughing that way?
Silly us.  You don’t need all that glory,
You’ve already got your own love story.

You two just don’t need a real fancy plan,
He’s got his lady, and she’s got her man.
We’ll be the background characters for you,
In your fairy tale that is coming true.

The Father’s Sole Son

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Father’s Sole Son

It is a wise child that knows its own father, and an unusual one that unreservedly approves of him.” -Mark Twain

Floyd felt the lateness weighing heavily on him.  He had arrived to open the movie theater at nine a.m. and it was now ten at night.  He wanted to go home.  His bed was waiting for him.  His cat was assuredly hungry.  The only thing standing between Floyd and his bus that would take him away were the last people that stubbornly refused to leave the theater.

If Floyd were being completely honest, he would have to admit that he hadn’t actually asked anyone to leave.  He knew that if it were he, a fellow movie nut, he would also want to stay through the end of the credits.  However Floyd was the one ushering tonight.  Floyd was the employee this time; not the movie buff.  He kept hoping that if he sent mental notes to the few guys left sitting in the theater that they would wondrously leave of their own accord.  As the credits for the soundtrack and locations scrolled by, Floyd realized that his powers of mind control were just not up to snuff.

Someone had to stand at the back of theater to make certain that everyone left and tonight that someone was Floyd.  He stood there, arms at their sides, nodding to each person as they left.  His role was that of a representative.  Floyd was not expected to smile or speak.  If he were to offer an occasional, “thanks for coming” it would be viewed by the common outsider as a nice thing to do.  Really though, Floyd was just a figurehead.  He was a reminder that yes, someone did work here, and that someone was probably going to have to clean up the bucket of popcorn that was kicked over twelve minutes into the movie.

A man briskly walked out of the theater.  He started to rush by, saw Floyd, and scurried over to him. 

“Bathroom?” 

“Up the walkway, to the left”, Floyd replied with a rehearsed simplicity.  He knew that any further directions would have been confusing.  And a man who had walked out of a three-hour movie did not have time to waste on details if he had a general direction to follow.

A small boy wandered out of the theater and found his dad.  His sleepy eyes widened as he looked at Floyd.  Floyd wasn’t sure what he had done to deserve the boy’s attention.  He hadn’t blinked, he hadn’t sneered; as far as Floyd knew he hadn’t even moved.  What reason could the boy have for taking notice of the non-descript usher?

The boy elbowed his father and looked down at Floyd’s feet.  The dad smiled.

“Are those shoes comfortable?”

“I think so”, Floyd replied.  “They do all right.”  Floyd still didn’t know what it was about his new shoes, but everyone felt inclined to comment on them.  Some folks had a pair just like them, only pink.  Some thought they looked space age-y.  Floyd had bought them because they were shoes, they looked comfortable, and they had been on sale.  He didn’t know why this stranger was asking, let alone why his son would care.

“They’re Salomons”, the man continued.  His tone implied more of a statement than a question.

“I think so”, Floyd said.  He honestly didn’t know, nor did he care.  He remembered the brand starting with an “S” and assumed this man knew better.

“My dad made those shoes”, the little boy beamed.

The smile on the boy’s face said it all.  It wasn’t specifically Floyd’s shoes that the boy cared about; it was the connection to his father.  He quickly took his dad’s hand and they scurried up the ramp.  The way the boy looked at his father made it all perfectly clear.

It didn’t matter what the boy’s father did for a living.  The man could have been a judge or he could have been a fisherman.  The head of the family could have sold beers at a stadium or been one of the players on the field.  Floyd knew instantly that the boy simply cared that someone was supporting his father’s work.  The boy had pride in his dad.  The smile that had popped out had said it all in one quick glance.  He was proud of his dad, and he loved him.  If he had to point at strangers’ feet to find an excuse to talk to people about how great his father was, then he would do it.  This was the man that took him to movies and worked hard to pay for their popcorn.  The son, as far as he was concerned, had the coolest dad one could hope for.

Floyd also smiled.  The affection the boy had on his face had infected Floyd.  He took it with him on the bus and carried it all the way to his home.  Even into the next day, Floyd kept thinking about the pair of movie-goers.  Any man that could inspire that much love in his son was a rather fine man indeed.

An Affair Worthy of the News

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

An Affair Worthy of the News

Be faithful to your love and you will be recompensed beyond measure.” -Albert Schweitzer

“What do you think we should do?”

“Make out.”

“Tom”, Gretchen said with exasperation.  “We made out yesterday, now we need to be serious.”

“You think I’m not?  Well if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m always serious about making out.  I am all about serious.  I think we should do some serious making out.”

“Funny guy”, she said.  “But we need to come up with some sort of a resolution here.”

Tom lay on his side looking at Gretchen who was doing the same.  The weather was far too nice to be ignored and the couple had taken a blanket to a small patch of grass.  Tom saw his relaxing day off turning into a, “we need to have the talk” ordeal.  He took his right hand off of Gretchen’s hip and reached all the way around her back.  He rolled her on top of him and locked his arms tightly behind her lower back.

“What are you doing”, Gretchen asked.  A smile eked out of the corner of her mouth, proving that she was only partially resisting.  “We’re supposed to be talking out a plan of action here.”

“I am”, Tom replied.  “I just want to make sure that I have your full attention.  I know how you get distracted.”

Gretchen’s penchant for being distracted was what had caused the two to meet in the first place.  She had decided that the life of a reporter would be enough of a hustle to keep her brief attention span occupied.  The bosses liked her enthusiasm and had asked Tom to show her the works.  Neither of them had meant for anything to happen, but they certainly weren’t complaining at the results.  Tom had started off by showing her the press box at the arena, showing her the best secret places around the city, and generally sharing with her the secrets that came from years of reporting in they city.

In return, Gretchen had let Tom have an outlet for his playful side.  At work he was seen as reliable and professional; one of the true grunts that would work until the job was done.  Gretchen loosened him up.  Whenever she rushed off to explore some new sight in the city, she grabbed him by the hand and took him racing along with her.  Her laugh, the way her long hair bobbed up and down in the loose ponytail as they darted from one place to the next; it was all too much for Tom to resist.  Everything had come to a head at the boxing match.

Despite Tom’s protesting, his editor had enlisted him to help out while one of the sports writers was on maternity leave.  Things were quiet in the features section and the boss assigned Tom the wrestling match.  When Tom started to vent his annoyance to Gretchen over their morning cup of coffee, she excitedly revealed her secret love of the spectacle.  A quick call to the stadium resulted in a second press seat being obtained.

Tom was astounded by the fun he had at the event.  Gretchen was the main reason why.  She reached a level of excitement Tom could scarcely believe.  She screamed and cheered, calling each wrestler by name and crying for such attacks as “the whirlwind of destruction” and “the bang-town boom”.  Tom had tried to understand the actual proceedings for the first half hour, but he ended up watching Gretchen.  She was clearly having the time of her life and she only became more enthralled as the night went on.  Finally, as the victor pinned his weary opponent, the crowd echoed in one massive cheer.  Gretchen clutched her hands in front of her, her tiny hands balled up into eager little fists of glee.  She looked to Tom, unclenched her hands, and lunged at him.  Her right hand grabbed the back of his head and she pulled him close, her lips fiercely pressing against his.

Tom felt her warm kiss send sparks throughout his body.  He hadn’t expected this kind of attack at the arena.  Gretchen pulled away, realized what she had done, and blushed.

“Sorry” she apologized.  “The spandex, the chaos, the crowd”, she gestured around her.  “I guess I sometimes forget to censor myself.  Please don’t be mad?”

The reply came quickly as Tom put his hand through her hair and leaned close.  “I won’t if you won’t.”  Slowly, making sure he was okay, Tom pulled her towards him and the two enjoyed their exchange in the madness around them.

Ever since that night of kissing, the two had been having the time of their lives.  Their different assignments and pre-existing obligations kept them from spending as much time together as they liked, but they managed to sneak in a date or two each week.  If nothing else, they tried to always grab a quick cup of coffee at work.

Work, although it was the reason the two found each other, was also the biggest problem looming in front of them.  Gretchen had stated in her interview that she had big ambitions, and she had meant it.  From the day she sat down in her business suit and answered the questions asked her, the goal had always been present in her mind.  She wanted to be an editor.  She wanted to be the one making the shots and keeping tabs on all the activity around town.  She cringed at the idea of being trapped behind a desk, yet that was a sacrifice she thought she could handle.  That drive and passion was appreciated by the higher-ups.  But the part that they bristled at was the obvious affection that Gretchen had for Tom.

The newspaper had a rule.  The rule made sense.  The rule was strict.  And for Gretchen and Tom, the rule was a problem.  The rule stated that no employee should be in a relationship with an employee that could be answerable to the other.  Tom showing Gretchen around town and taking her places; that the bosses could excuse as a professional courtesy.  However two employees out and out dating while one made choices that could affect the other; that they wouldn’t have.  Gretchen had made informal inquiries to Anne, an editor she had grown to respect and like.  Anne explained it as softly as she could; management wouldn’t let an editor date a reporter, even if they weren’t assigned to the same sections.  The company wanted to avoid any and all appearances of nepotism, no exceptions.

Gretchen had tried to have fun with Tom, and that part had succeeded entirely.  The choice they would have to make soon continued to loom over their heads like a giant typewriter.  Any day it was going to fall and one of them might be crushed.  Gretchen warned Tom as they walked towards the park.  A decision had to be made.  She would prefer it to be made today.  Tom nodded quietly; a sign that he was trying to figure out a way to phrase the thoughts in his head.  That was one of the things Gretchen loved about Tom.  His thoughts always came out perfectly formed because of all the time he spent developing and arranging them in his head.  Tom rarely went through drafts or needed revisions; his writings, just like his conversations, emerged from his head ready for their audience.

“Here’s what’s going to happen”, Tom said.  He watched as Gretchen tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t let her.  She pulled her long hair out of Tom’s face, only for it to fall back towards him after she had readjusted it.  “Leave it”, he said.  “Here’s what we will do.  We will continue to fall deeply and madly in love.  It’s that simple.”

“Okay, she said as she ran her thumb against the line of his jaw.  And when I become editor?”

“Then I’ll quit”, Tom said quietly.

“Wait, quit?”  Gretchen broke free of Tom’s arms and sat next to him.  She stared down at him in disbelief.  “You can’t quit.”

“Sure I can”, Tom replied.  “People do it every day.”

“You can’t quit”, she repeated.  “You’re great at your job.  You love it.  You’ve spent years developing all those contacts.  What would you do if you quit?”

“I could still write”, Tom replied.  “I put some feelers out and there’s freelance work available.  Plus, my agent seems to think that there’s a book or two in this noggin of mine.”

Gretchen was stunned.  “You talked to your agent?”

“Well yeah”, Tom said has he sat up.  “You’re not the only one who’s been thinking this out.”

“Do you really want to quit, though?”

“No, I don’t”, Tom replied sadly.  He saw Gretchen was about to argue, so he spoke first.  “But I will.  You and I both know that editor jobs are rare in this city.  The media outlets just aren’t what they once were.  If you think a job is going to open up for you, then you have to seize it.  Period.”

“I don’t want you to have to quit”, Gretchen said.  “You’re good at your job.  You enjoy it, I know you do.”

“Very true”, Tom replied.  “But I enjoy you more.  And I care about your happiness more than a job, no matter how good I am at it.  Of course, if you ask my current editor, he may disagree with just how talented I am.”

“Don’t do that”, Gretchen snapped.  “I hate it when you put yourself down.”

Tom smiled.  “Yeah, I do.  Sorry.”

“You really plan to quit?”

“The way I see it, I have two choices.  I can keep seeing you, keep building on this wonderful stretch of, what, seven months?  Or I can have my job.  My job is interesting, but it isn’t everything.  I’d rather have no one calling me, offering jobs, than not have you call me at the end of the night.  It’s really that simple.  I’m supposed to support you, right?  Cheer for you when you want to have something for yourself?  Well then, consider it done.”

“You”, Gretchen said as she choked up, “are amazing.”

“No, the version of me that’s with you is.  I like myself more when I’m with you.  You make me feel more happier, smarter, and more confident.  Life is better when you’re with me.  It’s that simple.  You make me feel attractive, and it’s not just because you’re so stunning.  Which in case I haven’t told you today; you are.  The sun shining through your hair?  It’s pretty great.”

“You’re not so bad yourself”, Gretchen replied.

“Oh, I know.  I’m kinda perfect”, Tom said as he lay back on the blanket.

“Says the guy who forgot my birthday last month”, she retorted.  Gretchen lay back down and nestled next to Tom.  She put her head on his chest as they watched the few clouds above float lazily by.  A large cumulus in the shape of a sitting camel seemed to wink at her, wishing her the best.

“I did forget”, Tom admitted.  “But I promise to buy you flowers when you get promoted.  I’ll have them delivered to the office.  It’ll be a grand spectacle sure to embarrass you.  Hey, maybe you can use it as a reason to fire me?  Wouldn’t that be a fun story for our coworkers to gossip about?”

Gretchen rolled her eyes and sighed.  She wanted to be annoyed at his bad joke.  She couldn’t; Gretchen was far too busy enjoying a quiet day with a man who truly loved her.

Blind Love

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

Blind Love

Ted wanted to punch the face in front of him.  For months this face had been promising him things, smiling, and then either being caught in a lie or changing his mind.  Politics, Ted thought as he angrily crumpled up the front page and threw it on the ground.  In front of him was a bowl of oatmeal that seemed determined to frustrate him.  He hadn’t added enough water to his instant breakfast and so a congealed pile of flavored goo sat on the table.  He could have attempted adding more from the faucet.  Past experience, though, had taught him that doing so would only turn this paste-like substance into a watery marsh.  Ted grumbled and attacked the oatmeal by jabbing his spoon into it.

This day was not going to go well for Ted.  He had decided that already.  Bumping his noggin on the showerhead seemed to have been the catalyst.  Slipping with his razor while he was trimming his moustache had certainly not contributed to his morning.  Ted had been left with to follicle options; trim the other side to look like some character from the nineteen-twenties, or just shave the whole thing off.  Ted rubbed his finger against his naked upper lip and dreaded his day at work.  If there was one thing Ted loathed at work, it was being evaluated.

Things would be different if Ted’s bosses had only appreciated him and all that he did.  He fixed his boss’s errors before big presentations.  That never stopped his superior from taking full credit.  He stayed after hours to finish up unreasonable piles of work.  His boss told him that he needed to work faster.  On a normal day, Ted liked his job well enough.  He found the task of getting rows and cells of numbers all lined up and inputted to be rather calming.  Unfortunately his boss was anything but calming and would often run through the office with whatever crisis he had created.  Then there were the “revolutionary new ways of doing things” that he was so thrilled to share with his underlings.  Ted shook his head at all of these.  How many different ways are there to type numbers into columns?  It is what it is, let it be.  This man, who was only paying dues until he got promoted to some other higher-up job, was the one who would be picking Ted apart and deciding how little of a raise Ted would get.  The oatmeal bore the brunt of Ted’s frustration.

At that moment, Ted felt a pair of arms slip around his neck.  If he were anywhere else, he would have responded with panic and terror.  However this was a morning ritual.  He glanced at the long fingers that slid past his neck, down his chest, and then wrapped around him.  Locks of hair; light brown, slightly wavy, and still tangled from sleep, brushed softly against his chin.  A familiar voice spoke quietly in his ear.

“So I said to him, ‘That’s not my tire, that’s my mother-in-law!’”

Ted said nothing to his wife.  He only sat forward in his chair and avoided their routine of making up punch lines to non-existent jokes.  Taylor released him from her grip and poured herself a cup from what remained in the coffee cup.  She sat across from her husband and sipped quietly.  Taylor was the morning person, Ted was not.  She knew by now that some mornings he needed to be a grump.

“So… really looking forward to that evaluation, huh?”

The look Ted gave her cooled the temperature of the oatmeal considerably.

“Got it.  Well, just think.  After this one is all said and done it will be another three hundred and sixty-four days until you have to hold your hat out to ‘the man’.”  Taylor took her hands from the blue porcelain coffee cup and put them together in a bowl.  “Please suh”, she said in a bad English accent, “may I ‘ave some mor’?”

Ted felt a smile break out on the corners of his mouth, but he quickly subdued it.  He was irked.  He was going to stay irked.  He would not let his wife roust him from his irked state.

“Nothing, huh?”  Taylor went back to sipping her coffee.  Her voice had quieted down as she realized her husband was in no mood for jokes.

“I don’t think you understand how good you have it”, Ted commented.  “Your boss can’t really assign you work to take home.”

“True”, she replied as she put the cup down and stirred her black coffee.

“And how often do you have to work mornings?  I know, I know, you have the breakfast event here or there.  Still, there are plenty of days when being a caterer is synonymous with sleeping in.”

“Yes, because I work my fair share of nights.”

“I know”, Ted said with a hint of resignation in his voice.  “You have to work around people, but you don’t have to keep coming back to the same dolt asking you for progress reports.”

“Nope”, she answered.  “I just have a different guy every day asking me what a nice gal like me is doing serving a sad salmon like that.”  Taylor shrugged.  “We all have the parts of work that we don’t like, honey.”

“I just, aah; I don’t feel appreciated.  All the work I do and he thinks I’m this lazy slob.  I work, I earn my paycheck.  I keep waiting for morons like him to go away.  And they do.  They get promoted and they hire another moron just like them to take their place.”

Taylor sat unmoving.  To any other person her lack of gestures would have been a sign that she had no opinion on the matter.  To Ted, the body language spoke volumes.

“What?”

“You know what I think”, she said as she lifted the cup as if to punctuate her statement.

“You think that I should quit.”

“I think that if you’re going to devote forty hours a week to something it should be fulfilling.”

“The work is fine.  The people; you know.”

“Really?  All the people?  The ones’ we’ve had over here seem quite pleasant.  How many times have we gone out with Barry and Lois?”

“Okay, so it’s just the boss.”

“And you can’t see past him?  You can’t get over him and focus on the rest?”

“I could if he would realize how much work I do.  He doesn’t appreciate me.”  Ted was thinking he should go back to sulking in quiet.  The morning was ticking away.  He was that much closer to entering the pit of doom where his boss and his ego would enter and only one would leave victorious.  He looked across to Taylor and watched her sitting there with her fingers intertwined.

Taylor’s left finger started to rub gently over her right.  It was the smallest of movements.  Any person walking by would not have noticed.  For Ted, that one gesture started a wave of realization.

Perhaps it makes perfect sense that Taylor’s hands were what shook him from his depression; they were the reason he had worked up the courage to meet her.   Ted and his friend Mac had been walking through the mall.  Mac had bought some backpack from an outdoors store and Ted had been trying to decide whether or not he should take the plunge and buy a kayak.  On their way out of the mall, they had passed by a piano that was sitting unattended.  A little placard placed on the grand said that the pianist was on break and that he would return within half an hour.  Yet, there was a woman sitting at the piano playing the keys like Ted had never heard before.

Mac and Ted had approached, each of them for their own reasons.  Mac kept pointing at Taylor and elbowing his friend, while Ted couldn’t stop listening to the music.  Before he knew it, he found himself standing behind her and looking down as her long fingers danced and flitted over the instrument.  As she finished the song, she looked at Ted who was clearly inside her personal area.

“Help you with something?”  Taylor had a hint of annoyance in her voice, but it was not a cruel tone.

“Oh, I’m sorry”, he had muttered as he back away to a more reasonable distance.  “I couldn’t help but notice your fingers.”

“My fingers”, she said questioning him.  “I haven’t heard that one before.”

“No, I didn’t mean that.  I wasn’t trying to hit on you.  I, I mean, you have great hands.”

“Thanks”, she said starting to get up.

“How long have you been playing here in the mall?”

“What, that?  That was me having fun.  I don’t know where the musician is”, she said.

“You’re not even a professional?”  Ted couldn’t believe it.  “You do that for fun?”

“Sure.  Is there a better reason to play?”

Image

Sunset Stroll On The Beach by Andrew Schmidt

With that, Ted had been smitten.  It had taken a few dates and a bouquet or two of flowers, but Taylor had fallen as well.  Ted’s initial theory had proven correct; hands like those belonged to a woman with a quiet grace and a peaceful way about her.  He remembered something that he all too often forgot.

“Is that what I do to you?”  Ted pushed aside his oatmeal bowl and leaned across the table.

“Huh?”

“Do I take you for granted?  Do I forget to see how much you do for me and how amazing you are?  I probably do.  You take care of the house; you work.  Yet here you sit and listen to me wallow.”

“You’ve had your finer moments”, she said softly.  “You’re not so bad, most of the time.”

“Thank you, but c’mon.  I don’t always see you, do I?  I look right through you some mornings, don’t I?”

“It’s okay”, Taylor replied.  She slowly and unintentionally swallowed the lump in her throat.  “We’ve been married for eight years.  We take each other for granted.  We aren’t the youthful, mysterious people that we once were all twitter-pated for.”

“Yeah”, Ted replied.  “Still, at the end of the day, I don’t tell you how much I love you.”

“I still know”, she answered.  “And I love you too.”

“Nope”, Ted said as he stood up and the chair fell backwards.  “I owe you.  What if I asked you out tonight?  What would you say?  You probably get tired of this house, right?  We should go out, dress up or something.”

“Ted, you don’t have to.”

“I know I don’t have to.  Do you want to?  Please?  Let me spend some time with you?”

“You aren’t tired of seeing me every day?”

Ted stood up, walked to the other side of the table, and kneeled in front of her.  He took Taylor’s hands in his and looked her in the eye.  “No.  Not even close.”

Taylor’s eyes started to water and she pulled her hands away so she could wipe her face.  Ted had obviously clued into a sore spot with her.  It was time to make good.

“Okay.  So I’m going to go to work.  I’m not going to worry about this evaluation because it doesn’t really matter.  You do.  We do.  And when I get home we’re going to get all dressed up, go out, and eat in a fancy Indian restaurant.”

“Ted”, Taylor warned, “you hate Indian food.”

“It’s not my favorite”, Ted admitted.  “However I happen to know that it’s yours.  That’s enough.”

“Really?”

“Really”, he reassured.  “You matter; you.  Not work, not politics; you.  So I should spend time reminding you of that.  Come on, when was the last time we dressed up for no reason?  I haven’t brought you flowers in I don’t know how long.  You deserve it.”

“Can I make fun of your mother?”

“If you don’t, I will”, he said.

“Then hurry up and go to work”, she said as she got up from her chair.  “You’re a good husband, do I tell you that enough?”  Ted watched as she lightly put her fingers under his chin and let her thumbs rub across his upper lip.  “Plus, I like you without the mustache.”

Ted’s day was not going to be a great one.  He was already trying to fast forward through his office routine.  Tonight though, Ted pondered.  Tonight held the potential to be pretty amazing.

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