Since my boss assigned the human interest story to me two days ago, I’d been wracking my brain trying to figure out what to write. Deadline looming, the answer hit me this morning when I opened my front door. Actually, thanks to the paperboy’s less-than-perfect pitch, it was the newspaper that bounced off my head at an opportune time. As I lifted The Chronicle from the porch, I looked across the street in time to see Daniel Martin’s hand cup Mrs. Martin’s fanny! Both posteriors facing me, the couple headed into their house after their morning walk when the intimacy occurred. Feeling like a peeping tom, I nevertheless watched long enough to see Marjorie turn her head and smile up at her husband of fifty-something years. At that point, my curiosity was officially piqued.
Remind me to thank my paperboy.
Can you imagine – fifty plus years together, and they still have public displays of affection? My last boyfriend wouldn’t as much as hold my hand if people were around. As tender as he was when we were alone, he treated me like his sister if anyone was watching. I feared whenever a Volkswagen Beetle passed by, he’d yell “Slug Bug” and punch me in the arm! But ... I digress.
I just got off the phone with Marjorie; she’s invited me over for tea in a few minutes. She seemed thrilled to meet with me when I told her I’m writing an article entitled “How to Keep Love Alive.” Depending on what she says, I may have to change that to “How to Avoid Doing Ten to Twenty for Wringing Your Significant Other’s Neck.”
Mrs. M’s face curls into a mass of intricate wrinkles as she smiles her greeting and welcomes me into her home. The living room is small but neat, except for the plaid blanket tossed haphazardly over Daniel’s recliner. The room has a lemony fragrance, as if the furniture has been doused with Pledge; the aroma wafts with each whir of the ceiling fan. I recognize the televised voice of a local weatherman as it filters in from the adjoining bedroom; seems we’re in for a boatload of sunshine. Sweet!
Over peach ice tea and homemade shortbread cookies – so scrumptious, Mrs. M could sell them in her front yard and give those pushy Girl Scouts down the street a run for their money – I’ve just learned the couple truly is “for the most part” happy after all these years.
To my delight, Marjorie lets me in on a secret. Her eyes focus on a faraway place when she tells me relationships are “like the ocean.” According to her there are times when the tide is high and “the two of us are completely in sync – laughing at silly things, enjoying each other’s loving glances, completing each other’s sentences. Then the tide ebbs, and we find little things rub each of us the wrong way.”
It’s true, I suspect, that most of us think if high tide doesn’t hang around 24/7, it’s time to look for a new love. I’ve been guilty of that myself.
Mrs. M’s forehead crinkles, and her eyes darken just before she says, “Those are the times when I’d like to plant my size six right up his keister.” Taken by surprise, my mouth drops open. Marjorie’s eyes brighten at my reaction. She smiles and tells me, “I know there’ve been times Daniel’s wanted to shove me over a cliff, but eventually the tide returns and we’re in sync again.”
Next question in mind, I set my empty glass on the floral coaster when a loud THUMP comes from the next room. The weatherman’s voice silences. Mrs. M’s full of surprises – I never knew a little old lady could move so fast! She’s out of her chair and moving toward the bedroom like an Olympic runner.
I follow on Marjorie’s heels as her now-shrill voice calls out, “Daniel, dear, are you all right?”
When I round the corner, I see Mr. M has managed to retrieve the television from the floor and has placed it on the bed. Now he’s struggling to pick up the heavy TV stand, and Marjorie’s making a feeble attempt to help. Her husband’s demeanor is less than appreciative, especially after she says, “What on earth were you trying to do?”
Daniel’s face flushes a darker red. Tone harsh, he says, “I wasn’t trying to do anything, Marjorie. I heard a noise, but when I went to the window to see what it was, my foot got caught on that damned TV cord and I stumbled. It’s no big deal … go eat your cookies.”
Mrs. M clicks her tongue, does an about-face and heads for the door. I hesitate, glancing back at Daniel, who acts as if I’m invisible. I decide to tag along behind Marjorie.
Back in the living room, she shakes her head. Eyes glistening, she turns to me then lifts her shoulders as apology. “Guess the tide has ebbed again.” She retrieves a tissue from her pocket and mutters, “I’ve always hated the sea.”
That clenches it – I’m changing the article’s title!
April Winters hopes to help people forget their troubles through her stories, even if it’s only for a little while. Her other works can be read at The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Linguistic Erosion, The Short Humour Site, and here at Short-Story.Me.
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