BY DAVID HENSON
Copyright is held by the author.
“THANKS FOR making Sunday breakfast, William. I enjoyed eating it, but it wasn’t a good fit with my mood.” Denise pressed her napkin to her lips. “I’ll do the cleanup later, Honey,” she said on her way back to our study, presumably to go over more submissions.
When our youngest went off to college, Denise decided to pursue her dream of launching an online literary journal. I was happy to support her by taking on more chores at home to give her time evenings and weekends.
After breakfast, I was doing some yard work when Denise came out for a break. I motioned toward the boxwood. “How does it look?”
My wife studied the hedge. “Since you asked for feedback … I find the trimming uneven — tentative in some areas, overwrought in others. I hope this is helpful.”
I started to defend my work, but quelled the impulse.
That night, Denise came to bed in her slinkiest night gown … I was at my best if I do say so myself. The next morning when I woke up, Denise had already gone to work. She left a note on her pillow: That came close. Try again!
During the week, things bumped along pretty much the same. One evening, Denise told me the teriyaki chicken was undercooked. She asked that I not prepare it again for at least 30 days. Another evening she said my spaghetti sauce was pretty good, and, if I made it spicier, she’d give it another taste. But she stressed there was no guarantee she’d like it. I also learned that when I dusted the living room, I started strong with the coffee table, but tailed off by the time I got to the lampshades. The one thing she did like, strangely enough, was my cleaning the litter box. Goes to show you never know what’s going to tickle someone’s sweet spot.
Come Friday we were both exhausted from even tougher weeks on the job than usual. Denise had even foregone working submissions. We were sitting on the sofa, sharing a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. “Denise, I need to talk to you —”
“You don’t have to say it, William. I’m sorry I’ve been nit-picky about everything. My first issue’s about ready. I feel a lot more” she a long sip of wine “relaxed.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. “I know how important this is to you. Me, too. Just remember: Nobody’s perfect. Except maybe me when I changed the litter box.”
My wife stared at me a moment. “Oh, right. Thanks again. I hate doing that. Urgh.”
Kind of took the thrill out of my one victory. “I’m enjoying the cooking. Think I’ll give that teriyaki chicken another shot next week.”
Denise wagged a finger. “Not for 30 days.” I was about to protest till I noticed her grin. Denise started take another drink, then put the glass down. “Billy, tell me a story. Just turn your imagination loose and follow.” She made a little flourish with her hand.
I could tell from her calling me “Billy” that the wine had gone to her head a bit. I thought for a moment then ambled on briefly about a lineman who had special powers over birds. At the end, he himself became a bird … Or was he electrocuted? Whimsy with a twist and a touch of ambiguity. Well done! This wasn’t so hard.
“Sounds like magic realism,” Denise said, the words wending their way through her yawn. “I see a lot of those.” She scooted close and leaned on my shoulder. “Billy, don’t take this wrong. You’re in my heart, and you’re in my pants, but it’s going to take some work before you’re in my journal.”
I chuckled and sang Two out of three ai-ain’t bad. Guess I was feeling the wine, too. Anyway, my mini Meatloaf masterpiece was for naught. Denise was already snoring quietly. I laid my cheek on her head, breathed in the soft scent of her hair and fell asleep. I think we would’ve been there all night if Mr. Purrfect hadn’t jumped up on our laps.