Monday, May 16, 2016

Hardware

I was in a hardware store today just because. I wasn't there for any specific reason. I mean there was nothing that I needed from a hardware store, I just like to wander around hardware stores absorbing the aura of machinery, paint, chemicals, plumbing paraphernalia, electrical doodads, and all those nuts and bolts and screws of every size and  shape that you can buy by the case or single piece.  That aura will permeate my soul, keeping it satisfied and content until I can return to recharge that feeling.

Some hardware stores are better than others, of course.  The newer ones with their nice shiny floors, wide aisles, and professional merchandizing, are a bit too slick for me.  I much prefer the old stores that you will find in any prosperous small town.  That is where the business was started by someone's great grandfather and handed down through the succeeding generations.  The store would have solid oak wood floors with ruts in it where customers habitually walk to get to the back of the store to pick up that one S-hook they need to hang the pot of petunias that the wife got at the local farmers' market.   All the walls will be fitted out with heavy duty pegboard that is crowded with the merchandise you just can't live without. Some of that merchandise has been there for years; you can tell by the accumulated dust and the faded package. The seasonal goods will be rotated in the front left corner of the store.  But don't look for Christmas decorations there before Thanksgiving, or the grass fertilizer and  weed'n'feed before Easter.

You can always count on there being knowledgable clerks to help you find the exact thing you need, unlike the new places who hire teenagers who don't know their adz from their zax.  Whenever you go into an old fashioned hardware store to find that 10-24x2 hex nut with the plastic lock washer attached, look for oldest clerk there.  He will probably be named Otis or some similar name from the past, and he will know exactly where to find any esoteric item in the store. If you are unsure of how to do something with that item, Otis will teach you. Otis knows everything there is to know about hardware.

Those old time hardware stores always have guy who can fix anything from the screen door that
your grandson kicked his soccer ball through (from inside the house), to your 25 year old lawnmower that he had to make the parts for. His workshop is usually in the low ceilinged basement lit by 4 bulbs hanging from that low ceiling. Larry (what else could his name be) rarely sees daylight and has bumps that cover every square inch of his head because of that low ceiling. The proof of his dedication to his job is the fact that if he could stand up straight instead of moving around in a bent over habitual slouch caused by the cave he spends all his days in, he would be 6'4".

Give me that hardware store anytime. Entering a store like that is like falling into the rabbit hole where everything is magical. I don't need to need something as an excuse to go into that special environment. All I need is a whiff of the unmistakable air wafting out the open door to lure me inside.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Hypothetical

Mary has expressly forbidden me to write anything about her or anything that has happened to her.  That makes it tough for me to find something to write about since she is such a wealth of material, even on days when nothing happens to her.  So to comply with her wishes, I will just have to present to you a hypothetical situation that could happen to her or has happened to someone like her. I will insert myself as narrator into this hypothetical situation only to keep it simple.

Our protagonist (let's call her Mary, hypothetically, only because this is the kind of thing that would happen to her), was on her way to her hairdresser, with your narrator riding shotgun, cruising down a fairly long hill, building momentum for the climb back up the other side of that same hill. She was talking to me, pointing,and telling me that the bottom of this hill we were rushing down was a favorite place for the local police to set a hypothetical speed trap. Sliding down toward that hypothetical speed trap somehow created enough hypothetical momentum to get the hypothetical car up the hill and to the stop sign where it stopped to catch its breath.

The four way stop at the hypothetical intersection is confusing enough at times. Drivers from all directions vie to be the next in line to move forward, thinking that it is their turn to go. Of course, with all those drivers thinking it is their turn to go, there is a lot of starting and stopping, waving of arms, exasperation on their faces and quite a bit of finger messaging going on. Our protagonist finally got her turn to proceed and squeeled her tires to show how impatient she was. She was determined not to be late for her hypothetical appointment with her hairdresser.

After starting out from the stop sign, our protagonist would suddenly hear, nearby, the chirping sound a squad car siren makes when it is clearing its throat, readying itself for a full blast wail at the villain he is pursuing.
"Did you hear that?" She might hypothetically ask your narrator. " where is it coming from?"  She probably would be a bit confused upon hearing that same chirping getting closer. Finally she would see the flashing blue and red lights behind her.
"I should pull over and let him past." She is after all, a careful driver, observant of all traffic laws who has never gotten a ticket for any vehicular transgression. So she would dutifully pull onto the shoulder to aid the following policeman in his pursuit of the scofflaw that he was after.
U
"What is he doing?" she would ask upon seeing the police car follow her onto the shoulder and stop in the position of control that they do when apprehending serious criminals. "He can't be after me, can he?"  Her hypothetical incredulity was working overtime.

The hypothetical policeman was polite, but cold, when asking our stunned protagonist if she was aware that the law required her to pull to the side of the road whenever a police car was flashing its lights. She would likely answer, a bit petulantly, "of course I know that. I've been driving since I was 16."
"Then why didn't you pull over when you saw me behind you."
"Because I didn't see you there." She would then roll her eyes at the obviousness of it all. "I was looking where I was going, not where I'd been. So why did you stop me"
"I had you going 15mph over the limit coming down that hill back there."
"Well of course I would be going faster down that hill." She was certainly not going to let the logic of the situation be missed. "It is downhill after all."
The hypothetical cop would then take her license and vehicle registration back to his squad car and take his time writing her a ticket while our protagonist would sit and stew in the invective that would be choking her. She would dig deep to cuss that lowlife cop who was making her late for her all important appointment with her hairdresser.
A hypothetical situation like this would probably get a ticket that would set her back around a hundred bucks and the loss of 3 points. She would not be smiling when she told whoever was riding with her (like our hypothetical narrator) that he had better not post anything about this if he knew what was good for him. But all her companion could think of was all the ammo that just filled his domestic armory and how she would never live this one down.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

hang on

We have been in a replacement mood lately. It seems that things in our household that we take for granted are deciding to wear out at the same time. I just hope that we aren't part of the trend.
The truth is, I like having new machines and such around the house. Those new, technologically up to date gadgets and gizmos keep me interested. It seems like I always have a new toy to play with. That is, of course, if I've been good and Mary sees fit to reward my good behavior.
Well, I must have been especially good lately because she bought me a grand spankin' new, up to the minute dodad-wise, testosterone oozing, ready to attack first and damn the nametaking, VACUUM CLEANER! And it'is RED, my favorite color.
I'm telling you, this puppy is hot. This morning it was sitting in the garage in a closet that holds most of the rest of the cleaning stuff we have--you know, like the half dozen mops (each with a particular function), all those special rags I've mentioned here in the past, brooms, extra plastic bags just in case, a couple of rugs (the runner type in case someone with dirty feet wants to enter the house and defile it with their unwelcome dirt), you get the idea. I could sense that there was something amiss whenever as I approached that closet. I felt a strange vibe coming from inside. At first, I ignored it, but the longer I took to acknowledge it the more palpable that unhappy aura became. I finally gave in and freed the grumbling machine from its cell.
It sat in the middle of the room (I swear I could hear it purring the way a lion does when it anticipates a kill), arrogantly daring me to plug it in and see if I was man enough to take it for a spin. I figured no vacuum cleaner, no matter how red, was gooing to get the better of me. So, with a tinge of trepidation, I took the controls in hand and let her fly.
I was in control of the beast but could sense that it just wanted to take off and go where no vacuum has gone before. It handled like an Italian sports car, cornering like a Ferrari, and eating up the straightaways like a Lamborghini racing to the finish line. I felt like a real man chasing after that vibrant red machine. No toy, this one. When I was done with the vacuuming I felt like a conquering hero. I showed that pissant vacuum who was boss.
Mary must really love me. She buys me new toys and let's me help clean the house. What more could a guy ask for.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mary's boys

I am frequently, no constantly, amazed at Mary's affect on high school age teenage boys and her continuing that affect as those boys become college students, growing into their young manhood. She has demonstrated an uncanny control in many different situations during her many years of teaching high school English to them, getting them to accept that Satire, Short stories, Science Fiction, American lit, and even English Literature are worth studying and knowing. Many of her former male students realize that they are better off because Mrs. C had the patience and ability to get them interested.
How do I know this? I know these things because they have told her so, with me standing, or often sitting as a witness beside her, after they have spotted her and run up to her to give her a big hug, while asking her at the same time, "Mrs C, do you remember me?" Her young men are never reluctant to approach her to express their joy at running into her at the mall, or at a restaurant where they are waiting tables, or at any public place where it is not unlawful to give your former favorite English teacher a big hug. Oddly enough, she once encountered one of those admirers in the back of an ambulance. The young man was a paramedic who was part of the response team that answered my call for help. When he recognized Mrs. C, I, the suffering patient lying on the ambulance's gurney, became an after thought. Such is her influence over them.
I bring all this up because we recently vacationed in Florida where she had occasion to exercise her abilities once again. I shouldn't be surprised at her handling of the "situation" that arose, since we have encountered the same thing on previous vacations at the same place. For the past three years we have rented a "cottage" that is next door to what we, and everyone else who has been in the vicinity, call "the party house." It is a large house with a small pool and a spa that will sleep, I expect uncomfortably, up to fifteen people who invariably turn out to be college kids on Spring Break.
Now we all know that when you get a gang of male college students on Spring Break wedged into an inadequate space for them to exist comfortably, mix in a quarter barrel or two or three, add in a few bikini clad coeds found on the beach who are, shall we say, pliable and willing to brave that churning cauldron of testosterone, then crank up the volume on the earth shaking music machine (they were playing classic rock,my favorite genre, so I can cut them some slack on the volume) and if you don't notice all hell breaking loose, then you are obviously dead.
In years past when our neighbor's in the party house were more than a little raucous into the wee hours, we just turned over in bed, put the pillow over our ears, and slept late the next morning. This year the fraternity brothers who took over the house that had made its reputation as THE PLACE TO PARTY, thought they were being clever by launching a preemptive strike at us before their turn to party got started. The afternoon they arrived, two of their more charming members, Robert and Stuart, came knocking on our door intending to reassure us that they were not a pack of rowdy hooligans who were unaware of the finer social mores that we, as members of their grandparents generation, were likely to practice. They actually had a pretty good idea--ingratiate yourself to the neighbor's, get them on your side from the get go so that they wouldn't immediately call the cops when the party was at its apex, teetering on the razor edge of sanity and total chaos. They came forward with the promise that they would not be noisy past midnight so we wouldn't be deprived of our much needed sleep. Mary, however, thought 11:00 PM was a better idea. She gave them her best "this is my world and you are welcome here as long as you obey my rules" look, which served her so well in the classroom all those years.

They never knew what hit them. Smiling all the while, Mary assured them that their mothers would be proud of them if they did as she expected. They were also informed that she would contact them each with a text right at 11:00 to remind them of their self-imposed curfew. To that end, she elicited each of their phone numbers, which they gave up willingly without another thought. By that point all that Robert and Stuart wanted to do was get away while they still had their balls in the right place.
While Mary, their new best friend, was laying down the law, I couldn't help noticing the sweat on their brows and the moistening of their armpits as they stood silently, in rapt attention. Nodding dutifully, agreeing to adhere religiously to the tenets presented to them by this most admirable of teachers, they were convinced that every thing they were hearing from this supreme being had been their idea. When Mary finally dismissed them with her motherly smile and a soft touch on each arm, they didn't realize how they had been manipulated, or how they had come to be in the presence of this motherly, nay, grandmotherly goddess of the Psyche. She had used her myriad magical psychological gambits to convince Robert and Stuart that this was all their idea: the 11:00PM curfew, the lowering of the music volume, the awareness of their language (Mary had indicated to them that the vulgar cussing so common in their conversation was unacceptical even though she could out cuss a horde of Huns if need be), that their clever opening move had succeeded beyond anything they had imagined, and that they had put one over on the nice, but simple, elderly couple next door. Mary had allowed them to leave with their dignity intact, their sense of manhood unscathed, and a feeling of accomplishment that will boost their confidence the next time they enter into negotiations with somebody.
From that moment on we had a great relationship. Every time they saw one of us, they were quick with a smiling greeting and a willingness to talk with the "elderly couple next door," whom they showered with "sirs" and "maams." They got a life lesson in communication with someone of another generation that in the past they might have been reluctant to approach. You can bet that if our paths ever cross again in some far away place and when we least expect it, Robert or Stuart will run up to Mary, embrace her with a monster hug, and say, "remember me?"
And best of all, the party noise never crossed the line into objectionable territory. We all got plenty of sleep, and Mary had provided those two young men a lesson in getting along with others, even the elderly couple next door. And I got material for another Mary C story. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

friendship

I was sitting here thinking about all the people we know, the people we call friends, and the people we consider special in our life. We, of course, have some very longstanding friendships that are significant because of their longevity. Those are the people who are essential to our life story, the narrative that defines us now and how we got to this moment. Then there are the more recent relationships that have entered our life and are held there by a rather tenuous thread that can grow stronger with time or shred into strands of memory. Such temporary friendships are more common and can blossom into full friends of lofty status or remain as acquaintances, pushed to the sidelines and easily forgotten when the next new friend appears. We, of course, have experienced all those different kinds of friends, from the dearest of friends to the slight acquaintance, through the years and have enjoyed being one of those different kinds of friend, from "best" to "barely know them" to them in return.
We are very fortunate because we make friends easily. Smile at me as you pass me on the sidewalk and you are close to being my new best friend. Once we get to talking, you're mine. Mary has the real gift, though, that attracts people to her like metal shavings to a magnet. For some reason, total strangers feel compelled to confide in her. If given 5 minutes with her, she will know that person's life story, the names of all her family members down to her cousins, all their husbands and wives, all their birthdays, their political leanings, how many devout Christians and how many devout Muslims are in their family, and how regular they all are. Mary was in Kohls one day, standing in the checkout line when she struck up a conversation with the woman behind her in line. Five minutes later they had made a lunch date and a promise to get together frequently. That was nearly three years ago and they are still meeting for lunch. Not the same lunch, obviously.
Then there are the friends who get separated by living their lives and putting all their effort into the necessities of that life. They get married, have 2.5 children, change jobs a half dozen times, settle in a city far across the country and only occasionally, think of you. Then one sun shining day, without warning, the fates nudge them to look to their left instead of to the right. And there the friends cross paths 40 yrs down the road, quickly get reacquainted, and pick up their friendship right where they left off those many years ago as if there was no intervening hiatus. I have had that happen to me twice in my life, and feel enriched and thankful to God for giving me back my friends.
If I had to guess, I would say that at least half of you have had a so-called friend who hurt you by doing or saying something stupid that made you question the value of that friend. Friends can usually get away with an occasional insult or observation that cuts to the bone, like a razor sharp stiletto stuck between your ribs and twisted more than once. That hurts. But hurts will heal if given time and the cause of that hurt will mercifully be forgotten. Tolerance for the idiosyncrasies that made you want to have that person be your friend, is the key to the door that opens into the room that holds all the good attributes that drew you into that friendship in the first place.
It is important to remember that there are good friends and bad friends. Remember how often your parents questioned you about who you were hanging with and what you were doing with them? Isn't it amazing how right your parents were, how much they knew and how intelligent they became as you got older. Parents' duty is to protect their children from the hazards of life. Vetting your friends may seem to be an invasion of privacy at times, but how grateful were you when Mom warned you to stay way from that kid you thought was your friend who ended up in jail for dealing drugs. That is the quintessential bad friend. Of course, Moms and Dads can be

wrong at times. When the kid who would be your friend that they didn't want you to associate with turns out to President of the US, they will brag about your taste in friends and they will have to admit their error and eat their words.
Let's not forget the steadfast friend who has always been there for you from the first time you met. He is the guy who will always show up to help you move, to shovel that 4 yards of topsoil, to babysit your kids on a moment's notice, to lend you his car when yours is in the shop. He's the designated driver the night of your stag party. He's the epitome of "best friend." Everyone should have a friend like that, if only to use as contrast and to make you appreciate all those others who would claim friendship with you.
So there you have it, friends. I hope this little essay will stir your appreciation for your friends. I hope you all are blessed with fine friends. Feel free to count me among them. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

art, mostly

Last week, or maybe it was the week before, Mary and I spent some time one afternoon at one of my favorite places, the Milwaukee Art Museum, or MAM as we refer to it. I never get tired of going there, and even though we've visited it a thousand times over the past few years, every time we go we discover something new and extraordinary that we had somehow overlooked on our previous visits. 
Now that the 2yr renovation and remodeling of the place is complete, we have more incentive than ever to visit and rediscover our favorite artworks displayed in new galleries. The world outside disappears for the time we seek sanctuary within the walls that are adorned with such marvelous proof of man's ability to inspire awe in all those who view their efforts. 
Our conversations as we wander through the galleries are always about the art in front of us. There always seems to be something new to say, even about our favorite paintings, some new insight that we feel compelled to share. So I was somewhat surprised when Mary was uncharacteristically quiet while we stood in front of several of the most amazing paintings showing the colors of nature in the wondrous light of the Southwest. We were in the Georgia O'Keefe gallery, one of Mary's favorite painters. I was sure she would have something to say about the new exhibit because the paintings were hung with such loving respect that the aura created in that gallery pulled you into the environment of color and light that Georgia O'Keefe alone was able to create on her canvas. Such forms, such composition, such suggested shapes defined by her impeccable understanding of light and color, and how each defines the other showcase her incredible talent. Whenever I see one of her paintings I appreciate her body of work more and more.
Basking in that aura that surrounded me and seemingly caressed my soul, I waited serenely for Mary to make an enlightened statement about what she was feeling in the presence of such greatness.
"Oh, shit. I forgot to buy radishes for our salad."

just reward

It was yesterday afternoon when Mary announced, "I have to run to Costco for a couple of things. Can I trust you to behave and not do anything stupid while I'm gone?" She seems to think that I can't wait for her to leave the house so I can do all the naughty things I have stored up on my bad things to do list. I admit I have occasionally taken advantage of her absence to get something done that I know she would object to if she caught me at it.
"Why can't I go with you? I need some Velcro." I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. I know that sounded pathetic, but the truth is, I really did need some Velcro.
"I hate taking you along because you never behave in the store. You are constantly disappearing on me, making me worry all the time, wondering if you're lost and hurt. I always panic when you pull one of your disappearing acts." I can't say she was totally wrong. I do tend to wander, but I always tell her where I will be. If she isn't listening, that's her problem.
"How about if I don't use one of the driving carts? You know I'm not fast enough to get away from you if I walk with you so I won't be able to disappear." She bought it.
"Ok. You can go along as long as you promise to behave. If you so much as think about wandering, I will call the police and have you arrested for spousal abuse." I think she was serious.
When we got to Costco she insisted that I take one of the driving carts. She knows I don't have the strength or stamina for a prolonged shopping trip. She was just looking out for me and thinking of my welfare. She was also putting me in a very tempting and for me, irresistible position. This may have been a test. If It was, I aced that sumbitch.
I followed her so closely in my getaway cart, that she told me to back off. Ordinarily that would have been my excuse to take off and head for a more interesting part of the store as soon as she turned her back on me. But I resisted the temptation to scram, and clung to her like lint. 
"I told you I wouldn't leave your sight for a second and I am keeping that promise." I wanted to make sure she noticed my good behavior. I needed the husband points.
"I noticed. So far you have been a good boy. If you keep it up, I may have to reward you." I figured she was teasing me, trying to distract me from all the temptations surrounding me. Her subtle gambit worked. Instead of checking for escape routes I was thinking about her mention of a possible reward down the line. At the top of my imaginary reward list was a reward that is none of your business. Sprinkled in the list were a new skew for my lathe, a shirt that I had seen at Kohls that was obviously made just for me, and a new sharpening belt for my tool sharpener. There were several others that I placed on the list in the "not likely to get in my lifetime" position. 
When we finally finished with Mary's shopping list and were heading toward the checkout line, she suggested hat go ahead and wait in the car for her. She knew I was tired and was taking care of me again. At least that's what she wanted me to think. But I know she was trying to distract me while she bought my "good behavior" surprise.
There were several items on my unwritten list that could be purchased at a store like Costco, but I knew that little sports car wasn't going to make the cut. I was trying to see what she was carrying when she approached the car, but was unable to discern any unusual package that might hold a special gift, a reward for me for being so well behaved all afternoon. Apparently I was going to have to wait until we got home to be rewarded.
Once we parked safely in the garage at home, I hustled to unload all the goodies from the car, keeping a sharp eye out for what was awaiting my greedy, but deserving hands. All the bags and boxes were inside the house, but there was nothing that I could see that might be construed as a reward. Nothing!
I was thinking that she really was teasing me back in the store, making promises she had no intention of keeping, when she bounced happily into the kitchen with a bag that she proffered to me with an excitement that indicated "little red sports car," but instead contained a little book accompanied by another small box.
"I found something for you that I know you will enjoy. It's a reward for your excellent behavior today. I was very pleased that I didn't have to worry about your disappearing on me, wandering away and hiding." She was absolutely beaming as she handed me the "reward."
The bag in my greedy but deserving hands indeed held a book. A coloring book. An "adult" coloring book. Not that kind of "adult" coloring book. A book of elaborate and complex drawings that will require a careful and adept hand to stay between the lines. The small box contained pencils, colored pencils. Fifty of them. Count em. Fifty. All a different color. 
Her gift for me is really quite touching. The fact is, I will enjoy coloring those designs. It will be good therapy for me and she knew that, too. While a coloring book is not as awe inspiring as a sports car, the good heart and soul that shines through her gift is more revealing of my wife's loving and caring for me. I am so lucky to have her taking care of me.
Oh, yeah, I never did get Velcro I so desperately needed.

something stupid

We were just lying in bed the other night, she with her iPad, me with mine, laughing at the posts on Facebook, getting angry at the posts on Facebook, cursing and screaming at the idiots on Facebook, and then oohing and aahing
at the antics of kittens and puppies and other exotic creatures that seemed to be bred just for Facebook. All things considered, a typical late evening in Bob and Mary's bedroom. 
"Speaking of idiots," she didn't have to poke me or even look in my direction for me to know that her remark was meant for me, "you haven't posted anything on Facebook for awhile." 
"That's because you haven't done anything unusual or stupid lately to inspire me." In retrospect I probably could have, should have, left the word "stupid" sitting on my tongue. But sometimes (ok, most of the time) my mouth engages just a nanosecond before my brain has the opportunity to censor what is spewing out of my mouth. Having realized that my misbehaving mouth had once more gotten ahead of my brain, I braced myself for the onslaught of verbal and physical blows that were certain to rain down on me. I tucked a pillow as unobtrusively as possible between us to absorb some of the physical blows I was certain were about to begin, My other pillow was held tightly against my ear so I wouldn't to have to listen to the very creative use of vulgar language that she only uses on me and that she claims she learned from me. I felt I was relatively safe and ready to fend off the physical punishment I was sure was imminent. 
However, she remained calm and serene while I scrambled around the bed preparing my defenses.
" Aren't you going to even discipline me? Scold me? Tell me how disgusted you are with my behavior? Throw a pillow at me? Throw me out of the bed and onto the couch?" 
I was nearly begging for a caustic rebuke. Can you believe she was treating me so unfairly? Here I went to all that trouble building a nearly unassailable defense and she wasn't even going to mount a token attack on me. This was a new tactic that she added to her arsenal that I would have to learn how to deal with.
"No, no, I'm not going to rip your heart out and feed it to the jackels as you so richly deserve. Why you ask. Because you are right for once in your life. I have been so boring and bored for the past few weeks. You deserve a better
effort from me. I'm sorry I've been such a bad companion, such a bad wife, and that I haven't taken care of you as I should. Just let me get my mojo back and I will make it up to you. All will be right with us."
I'm not sure if I was hallucinating all that. We will just have to wait and see what she comes up with to inspire me. You'll be the first to know.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

of mouse and man 2

Our campaign to eradicate the invader of our home began with Mary going to the local armory (otherwise known as ACE HARDWARE ) to load up on the necessary supplies. According to the ACE man all we needed was a supply of little bitty mouse traps for a little bitty mouse.  He loaded her up with six of the gadgets that were guaranteed to smite the critter or whack the tips of your fingers off if you weren’t careful.  He assured her that the bazooka and flamethrower she asked for was a bit of overkill in this particular instance.

Once home we again went over the plan of action.  First order of business was to figure out where to set or guaranteed mouse eradicater traps.  After lengthy debate that included a powerpoint presentation, indelible markers on charts with arrows pointing every which way, and an actual “X” to mark the chosen spots where we planned to ambush the unsuspecting rodent, we turned our attention to learning how to arm our arsenal. The “ACE helpful hardware man” had shown Mary how to set the traps, but he was, of course, an old and highly experienced hand at this.  He made it look so easy.  Mary should have noticed that he was without 3 fingers on his left and most vulnerable hand.  That might have given us pause as we prepared for the scary task we thought would be so easy.

We are reasonably intelligent people generally capable of following directions. But the printed instructions on the packaging were indecipherable to nonUrdu speaking mouse hunters.  The drawings that illustrated the printed instructions were smudged beyond comprehension and appeared to be created by a gang of monkeys wielding crayons.
No matter how I manipulated the supposedly simple-to-use gadget, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to bait the trap and get it armed with that little bar that went over the killing bar and into the slot on the other side where the irresistible morsel of peanut butter (low fat peanut butter, of course.  We reasoned that if the intrepid mouse somehow defeated the trap and walked away unharmed, we didn’t want to be responsible for his getting fat and having high cholesterol) beckoned our unloved and unwanted guest.  After my blood pressure spiked to 220/109 I gave in and did what no real man would ever do.  I asked for help.

We are very lucky to have moved into a condo next door to a real live testosterol oozing manly man whose middle initials are DIY.  He was clearly nearly orgasmic at being asked to show me how those damn traps are supposed to go together.  His nimble fingers made short work of arming our weaponry.  But then he ignored the well laid plans that we had worked so hard on.  He ignored the arrows and all the meticulously drawn and placed “X”s when he showed me were HE would put the traps to provide maximum killing power.  Of course, my suggested placement was totally wrong and couldn’t possibly yield a single rodent.  I shed my pride and did it his way.  I simply planned to change the traps back to their proper place according to my plan once he left. Egos are fragile things and I had sublimated my substantial ego when I asked him for help.  There is only so much ego bashing that I can be expected to tolerate.

The vexing thing that has us worried is that a long lasting war with a legion of mice has just begun.  Everyone says, that “where there is one there are a hundred more.”  His invasion was only a recon sortie.  What our little innocent looking, even cute ball of fur was looking for was the right hidey hole for his extended family and friends.  Well, bring ‘em on.  I can still go back and get that bazooka and flamethrower. We would have to wait until the morning hours to determine the effectiveness of our battle plan. I was reasonably confident that the little would-be hero of his cohort would meet his demise sometime in the wee hours of the night. Mary claimed to hear him skittering around, opening doors and staking his claim. She was doing the hallucinating now.  I had to constantly reassure her that we would be rid of him in no time, and that she didn’t have to take that machete to bed with her.  Her apprehension was like a fog that permeated the condo.  With such an atmosphere tainting our existence, I, with my perverse sense of humor, couldn’t be expected to ignore the opportunity to scare the living hell out of her while in her fragile state of mind.  I know I’m taking one more giant step toward the hell she claims I deserve for all those other transgressions she has jotted down in her “Bob’s Behavior Book and Compendium of Sins. But it was just too easy a setup for me to not take advantage of it, too obvious, despite the major sin that would be jotted down in her book, for me to pass up.

It went like this:  You know that lint that accumulates in your clothes dryer vent that you’re supposed to clean out periodically? A little ball of that lint bears a remarkable resemblance to a little mouse.  You know where I’m going with this.  I hurried up the stairs from the downstairs battle ground, urgently calling to her to “Look what I got!”   
I didn’t get to within ten feet of her before she spotted the erzatz “mouse” in my hand.
The fire works were spectacular. I had no idea she could jump so far or screech that loudly.  She was hyperventilating while the screams continued unabated.  She was hurling epithets and condemning me to that special place in hell reserved just for me.
I calmly asked what she was getting so excited about.  I showed her the ball of lint in my hand and told her I was just showing her that I cleaned the dryer vent as I had promised her I would  do one of these days.  Mary was not amused.  And when Mary is not amused I can expect some difficulty getting back into her good graces.  I’m still working on that and suspect it will take a bit more time.  But it was worth it.


Morning arrived.  Mary refused to get out of bed until I had inspected the traps.  I ventured into the basement hoping that there would be a casualty to remove.  My hopes were rewarded.  The daring little critter met his demise in the trap set behind a stack of boards. He just couldn’t resist the peanut butter.  I know that I will never eat peanut butter again without thinking of that intrepid little rodent.