The Mail Order Bride

The farm. Well, it’s not a farm really. It’s where we live. My five children and I. My wife died a year ago when she was having Eleazar. We buried her over by the well house behind that small smattering of trees. Esther was twenty-four. We had been married ten years. I thought about leaving and moving to town, but this here farm is our livelihood and our life.

This farm which I inherited from Papa. Papa’s brother, my Uncle Elisha, said that I needed a new bride—a wife for me and a mother for the children, a woman to keep my loins warm.

I found this here Mail Order Bride Catalog at the General Store, looked through it, found myself a good woman—someone who looked like she could hold up through the winter—and I sent for her.

Tomorrow she arrives on the train from St. Louis. Me and the children and Uncle Elisha will hitch up the buggy and go into town and meet the noon train. That will give us enough time to get home before dark.

The Preacher will come and marry us next month. Me and my new wife and the kids and the neighbors will have ourselves a picnic to celebrate.

Next month is planting. She said in one of her letters she was raised on a farm. She knows all about farms. She is sixteen and seems plenty eager for a husband and children.

Before we leave for town, I visit Ruth’s grave as I do every Sunday. I thank her for the life she gave me in this here wilderness and tell her I miss her and tell her that she will never be replaced in my affections by another. She will always be my first love. I tell her of this new woman, how it was Uncle Elisha’s idea, how she will be my bride and the children’s other mother. I tell her that the children need a mother and hope she understands.

Then we hitch up the horse to the buggy and head on in to town.

Food and Conversation

The sidewalk is crowded with restaurant tables. On a sunny day, the tables are filled with smiling faces, enjoying the great food and wine. It is a sunny day. People pass by, then they stop. They can’t resist the smell of the good food wafting out of the restaurants. They take their seats. A waiter comes out with a menu and his suggestions. My wife takes the waiter’s suggestion. I order a glass of wine, rolls and a salad. “Make sure you sprinkle it with cheese,” I urge. He gives me a smile and an “of course”. Then we put away our phones and go for some genuine conversation. Something we don’t often do. The sidewalk tables seem to demand it. To text here with this food and the lovely people would be blasphemy.

Auditioning

Here’s something to think about. And it’s a big something too. From the moment you’re born, you’re auditioning. Sure, your mommy’s going to love you. But think about this. By the time you come out of her, you’ve been auditioning for nine months. After a lot of interviews, wallah,you’ve got the job. You’re her kid. I didn’t say her darling. That’s a whole other thing. That role may go to your older brother or sister. They may be the cute one. You may have the role of pain-in-the-butt. Remember the Smothers Brothers. Dick got all the goodies, Tom got the chicken.

What about Dad? you ask. You know we’re in deep doo-doo if he says, “I’ve got five others just like him. So you’re going to have to do some cooing and goo-goo-ga-ga-ing for him big time. Smile when he comes into the room. Always smile. Smiling works every time.  Adults like smiling. Smiling will get you into Harvard. And don’t tell me your poop don’t stink. It always stinks.

You know you’re in for bad things if mom or pop turns to big sis and says, “Go change your brother’s diaper. “ The audition with big sis ain’t going to go well. You pooped. You do not want to do that at an audition. It just ain’t cool. Later in life, she will get even. When you’ve crashed your dad’s car and you want help, she won’t be there. Because she had to clean up your poop. Get on big sis’s good side and it will serve you in good stead.

Next thing you know you’re walking and getting into everything. You know things are going well if mommy says, “Ain’t that the cutest thing.” It’s a statement, not a question. But be careful. If dad comes in and says, “Hey, he just broke my favorite coffee mug. You know the one I won at the annual bean-eating contest. The one I got for beating the crap out of Marvin,” You know where that’s going to go. And he won’t be saying “crap” either. He’ll be saying that other word that stands in for poop. So don’t break any of Dad’s stuff. He’ll appreciate it and remember what a good kid you were.

Oh, you don’t think he’ll remember. You know how you’ll know. When he hands you the keys to that really cool car for your sixteenth birthday and says, “You’ve earned it.” There’s this big smile on his face. It ain’t because your grades are good. You’re a C student at best. No, it’s because you did auditioning well. Your poop didn’t stink that bad. You didn’t break any of his precious things.

And don’t get me started about table manners. You are going to have to eat that baby crap for a while. So don’t make faces. They don’t like faces, unless they’re cute faces.

Then there’s that first class in school. You’re auditioning there as well. You can either audition for the teacher or for your fellow students. Go for your fellow students. Your teacher is only going to be around for one year. Your fellow students are going to be around for, like FOREVER. So you had better impress them big time or your life is going to be a living h-e-double-hockey-sticks. Look across the room and find the kid you like the least. Immediately walk over and hit him in the face. He’s going to say, “What’d you want to do that for?” Best say nothing. You’ve impressed the other prisoners. I mean, kids.

This kid you just socked will turn out to be your best friend for life. For life, man. You can’t ask for a better friend than that. He’ll watch your back when you steal that car. He’ll be there for you when you need a sponsor in AA. You  will be his Eddie Haskel and he’ll be your Wally Cleaver. Can’t do better than that, can you? On top of all the trouble he’ll keep you out of, his mom will be June Cleaver. And, man, June Cleaver could cook. Not like your mom.

So that’s your life. You will be auditioning for role after role. For that first date. For that college you really really want to get into. For that person you will eventually marry. For that boss whose position you want. For that bank that will give you a mortgage and a credit card. For those two-point-seven kids that will make you a real American family. For those neighbors who always keep their house in tip-top shape and their lawn well manicured. (You keep wondering how he can afford the maintenance and the really cool stuff. Embezzling would be my guess.) For that divorce lawyer you will need. And you will want a good one. Your spouse is about to take everything. For that coffin you will have to fit into.

And last, but not least. There’s God. That audition is going to be real scary.

Picasso

“I’m thinking that guy needs help,” Elvis said to Cutie Pie as he viewed Picasso’s “Reclining Nude”.

C P frowned when she heard that. “Help? He’s Picasso.”

“So. Big whoopee.”

“You just don’t get great art. Your idea of great art are those velvet paintings you buy at the side of the road.”

“Yeah,” Elvis came back. “What’s wrong with that?”

“This is great art.”

“It’s supposed to be a naked woman. I don’t get it. It looks like a bunch of vegetables to me.”

“Maybe Picasso was saying that women are vegetables. What kind of vegetable do you think I am?”

“Oh,” Elvis was sure of his answer to this one, “you’re an onion.”

“What makes you say that?”

“You taste good. And you make me cry alot.”

C P was surprised. “Cry a lot? I didn’t know you were so sensitive.”

“Out of frustration trying to figure you out.”

C P laughed. She laughed hard. Then, “You don’t try to figure a woman out.”

“Oh, yeah. How else am I going to get along with you?”

C P sighed. What was she going to do with him? She shook her head and walked away from the vegetables on the canvas and over to a Salvador Dali.

C P said. ‘Maybe you can figure this one out. It’s got male brain written all over it.”

Our Mother’s Dying

Our Mother is dying.
Why aren’t we trying
To live the answer
That’ll heal her cancer?

The disease is a rout,
Her hair’s falling out;
Her colors up and gone,
Her breath almost to none,

Her blue eyes a gray,
Her smile’s slipped away,
And soon she will cease.
May the planet rest in peace.

Then we’ll say a eulogy,
Offer an apology
On that day soon to come
When her beauty’s all gone:

For her dulling colors,
Her polluted waters,
Her forests now dust,
And her air turned to rust.

Her hills won’t be green,
No robins to sing,
The whales dead and beached,
And oceans smell of stench.

Then we’ll send our request
And give it our best,
A prayer for a world
Uncluttered and spoiled.

“No thanks,” God will answer,
“You caused the cancer.
While racing for the stars,
You turned the Earth into Mars.

And tried for all its worth
To turn Mars into Earth.”
And this from God above,
“I gave you one planet to love.”