“What a bunch of hogwash!” I said, throwing the Portland Press Herald to the floor. Startled, my dog leapt to his feet and began feverishly chasing his tail in a maniacal routine usually requiring tranquilizers- not for him, but me.
“What’s the matter?” my wife asked, as I tried to calm my dog. She glanced over at me in a brief hiatus from her cell phone, where for the past hour or so she had been enraptured by Instagram. For a moment, I had her attention. Keeping it would be another matter.
“It’s not you,” I snarled with undisguised indignation. “It’s Janet Mills.”
“Janet Mills? The governor?” She shouldn’t have been surprised. As predictable as the dog’s deranged behavior was my own penchant for launching virulent epithets at talking heads on TV. She was certainly accustomed to me standing in front of our 60-inch Sony shaking my fist or waving an unmentionable finger at politicians whose views merited my scorn. Once, to my embarrassment, she even witnessed me dancing around the TV, chanting, ‘C’mon, you wanna piece o’ me,’ complemented with hand-gestures befitting the octagon. Such hecklings, I have to admit, were often accompanied with pangs of anxiety as I wondered if the “smart TV” might be conveying my sentiments to the FBI or, who knows, maybe Russia.
So today, my wife was none too concerned. “What about Janet Mills?” she asked, rolling her eyes. She was maddeningly relaxed, though I surmised that was less about mollifying me than about calming my still-gyrating dog. He was cranking out what looked like a four-legged dance-step to Camila Cabello’s, Havana, and in the process had just toppled my cold glass of “Lunch,” the local IPA and one for which I had paid a mind-blowing $7.50.
My wife’s question called for an answer. “What about Mills?” I asked, not mincing my sarcasm. “She’s limiting the initial Covid vaccines to people 70 and older. That’s ‘what about her.’”
“So? What’s your point?”
Evidently, my ministration had fallen wide of the mark. How, I wondered, could she, my wife, my soulmate, my partner-in-crime, be so… so clueless? I hated it when she couldn’t just join in my vitriol like the dutiful companion of my fantasies. Instead, she demonstrated no passion, not even a hint of shared moral outrage. And all I could see was red.
“Well, think about it, Sweetheart!” I laid it on thick. “Why are the old farts the only ones getting the injections? I need it just as much as them… even more than them! I wanna rejoin my hockey guys, go out to a restaurant, to the gym, or maybe, just maybe, join a sensitivity group.” If that didn’t get her, I thought, nothing would. Bottom line was that after a year of house-arrest, my sense of entitlement knew no bounds.
Angry, I leaned over to retrieve the beer glass whose amber contents had soaked into the Oriental carpet; yeah, the one I had just paid a fortune to clean. The foamy brew felt spongy underfoot, which only heightened my irritation. Depositing the glass into the sink a bit too forcefully, it exploded into a thousand fragments, which now glistened on my chest like yesterday’s sleet. The commotion coaxed my wife, albeit briefly, from Instagram. She watched as I frantically swiped at the shards. “Hey,” she said, rather deadpan. “You’re streaking blood all over your shirt.”
“Crap!” I screamed, jolting my dog from his smoldering psychosis. The tail-chasing resumed in earnest, this time in the opposite direction. The fight was far from over. “So tell me, dammit. Why do they get the vaccine when all of us have to sit back and wait? Sounds pretty discriminatory, doesn’t it?”
Clearly, my ‘mansplaining’ had fallen on deaf ears. She looked at me with that unmistakable gaze that only men who have lived with a woman for years can relate to. It’s the one that reminds a man that he’s completely in the wrong even when every bone in his body says otherwise. I parried with a stare all my own, the one that had the best chance of winning, or at least quashing, the argument.
Instead, with the patience of Job, she looked at me with a seraphic smile that smacked not just of contempt but, even worse, pity. “Honey,” she began, in that placating tone that had always been a predictable prelude to me coming out feeling like a complete jerk, “… you’re getting all worked up over nothing. You’re going to get the shot.”
“Yeah? And when might that be? Next St. Swithin’s day?” It was a good move. I had her in check.
“Well, dear,” she responded in a bit of a sing-song, “… you’ll be 70 in just a few months. Remember?” She squinted her eyes. “Or did you forget?”
Somewhere on earth a volcano exploded. For a moment, my world came crashing in. “Seventy? Seventy?” I repeated to no one in particular. And… and I had forgotten.” I looked at her with daggers. That was dirty, clearly below the belt. The dreaded memory-card, and she executed it brilliantly. It was I, not her, who was in checkmate. The wind escaped my sails like a punctured balloon in a death-spiral.
Even the dog seemed to get it. He abruptly stopped spinning and looked up at me in a way I had never seen. It was as if to say, “She got you, boss.” I shot a quick, humiliated glance over to my wife, who was now even more comfortably ensconced on the couch. Instagram was saving me from having to meet her eyes.
Well, with nothing left to say, I put on my coat, grabbed my wallet and headed to the car, my faithful canine in tow. Driving, I figured, would give me time for some serious reflection. It wasn’t more than ten minutes before a force greater than I steered my car into a dusty parking lot. I knew it well, the proverbial altar for lost souls. For a small offering, I could pay homage to winsome spirits ordained to intercede on my behalf.
“How can I help?” the high priest asked.
My answer was simple. “I’ll take three bottles of ‘Lunch.’”
He paused a few seconds, conveying with knowing eyes my need for absolution. An unspoken empathy passed between us before he disappeared to retrieve the requested chalices. I looked outside to my car, where the engine was still running. I would soon be back home, where I figured a ‘Lunch’ or two would return me to the promised land. But I was not to go alone. Nay, inside the car waited my loyal cur, the one mortal in the world who, unlike Janet Mills, would look beyond my transgressions. Together, he and I would achieve blessed transcendence: me by ignoring his lascivious tail-fetish, him by ignoring the trappings of my age.
I would have to promise, though, that I wouldn’t forget to feed him.
(formerly of Wilton)