Good Enough

“It’s never good enough,” Harry said.

“I love you,” Therese said, “and I want you to do well. That’s why I tell you these things.”

“I love you too, but it never seems good enough.”

For three hours, Harry and Therese had been at each other, yelling, screaming, slamming doors. They were in their mid-forties, married for five years.

“I’m getting the hell outta here,” he said.

“Fine. Just go,” the dark-haired woman yelled and went into their bedroom and threw her body onto the bed and cried.

“I will,” he called to her. Then he stalked out the front door, pushing the door behind him closed. He was surprised to hear it slam.

“Shit.”

He kicked the tires of her Ford and said shit again. He moved on to his blue ’57 Chevy pickup, got into its cab, and backed out of the driveway.

Ten minutes later, he pulled into the parking lot of the Alley-Oops Tavern. There was a sign above the building of a giant cave man, his right hand holding a mug of beer topped off by suds. His left was wrapped around his girlfriend Oola’s waist. Five o’clock and only two cars were in the parking lot. None of the regulars had showed up yet.

The owner Jewel with her gray “Lucille Ball” poodle cut stood behind the mahogany bar. The Drifters crooned from the jukebox. Behind the bar and above the liquor bottles was a large mural of Ted Williams at bat. It was one of several baseball oils distributed along the walls of the small pub, all done by her thirty-five year old boyfriend, Marty.

Marty was at his usual spot at the end of the bar, nursing a bottle of Schlitz and puffing on a Marlborough. He wasn’t wearing a tie. Harry had never seen him without one.

Jewel came over and reached up to Harry and gave him a big hug.

“How’s my favorite brother-in-law?” the fifty-five-year old woman asked. “Hmm, let’s see. Not good.” She released him and escorted him to one of the stools. Behind the bar again, she pulled out a bottle of Hamm’s, popped the cap open and sat it down before him.

He took a swig from the beer.

“He’s a big deal now,” Jewel motioned toward Marty. “Got a promotion.”

“Great,” Harry said, lifting his beer toward the other man. “Congrats.” He took a drink of the beer, then sat it back on the counter.

“Yep. I’m a big deal now.” Marty said.

“I knew he had it in him,” she said, smiling at Marty.

She walked over to him, patted him on the cheek, kissed him light on the mouth. At the end of the kiss, Marty took her hand into his and massaged it for just a moment. Then he released her hand. He took a last drag on his cigarette and stubbed it out in the ashtray. He lifted the beer that made Milwaukee famous to his lips and finished it off. “You want me to get you some supper?” he asked Jewel.

“Burger and fries sounds fine.” The bar didn’t serve food, only snacks.

“Okee doke. See ya, Harry.” Marty’s six-foot-three frame stood up, reached over and kissed her, and sauntered out of the bar.

Jewel walked back over to Harry. “I’d be proud of him no matter what.” She studied his face briefly. “Want to tell Jewel your troubles?” she asked. “You do have troubles, don’t you? You know I can tell from those sad, puppy-dog eyes of yours.”

“How have you and Marty been able to keep it together for fifteen years?”

“”Tain’t easy,” she said as she wiped the last of several mugs dry and sat it in its place below the counter. “We both keep our mouths shut and wait for things to pass. It took me two divorces to learn that.”

She opened the refrigerator and took out a glass of ice tea. Placing it on a coaster on the counter, she sat down across from him. Her sky blue eyes searched his brown ones as she sipped the tea. She had given up alcohol after her second marriage. That had been the one that had convinced her that she was an alcoholic.

Another swig from the Hamm’s for Harry. Elvis sang in the background.

“You know,” he said, “I don’t even remem…oh, yeah. It was over that piece of shit she calls a car. I knew it was a lemon when she bought it and I told her so. But she don’t listen. Then she says she shouldn’t have listened to me. Like I wanted her to buy it.”

Jewel took another sip of her tea.

“Damn, I hate Edsels,” he said and drank the last of the beer. “It wasn’t even that good a Ford new. And she got it used. And red too. Damn piece of shit, that’s what it is.”

Jewel handed him another Hamm’s. He started laughing. She looked at him with a what on her face.

“I was just thinking,” he said, “how much I love my ’57 red. Man, that’s a man’s ride.”

Harry looked at his watch. 6:00. He took one last swig of the beer. “And how much I love my sister-in-law.” He gave Jewel a kiss on the cheek, then made toward the door. He stopped.

“Jewel, why don’t you and Marty come over Sunday? You know, we’ll put on some steaks. Therese makes the best homemade ice cream.”

“We’ll be there,” Jewel said. “Sundays a good day for homemade ice cream.” She closed Alley-Oops on Sundays, the day she referred to as “the Lord’s Day.”

Harry walked out into the early evening daylight and over to his truck. Marty was leaning against the Chevy bed. Tears were in his eyes.

Before he could ask, Marty blurted out, “Jewel has cancer.”

“What?”

“The doctor gives her six months. Maybe,” Marty choked out. “Don’t tell her I told you.” A long pause, then, “And for God’s sake, don’t tell Therese.”

For the next five minutes or so, the two friends stood quiet and tried to think of something to say. But nothing came.

Finally Marty said, “Well, I got to go get some burgers.”

“Yeah, man.” Harry watched as Marty walked away. He pulled himself into the truck and took his time putting the key into the ignition. He started the engine and turned on the radio.

“Here’s a new one,” the d. j. announced. “It’s Patsy Cline singing ‘I Fall to Pieces’.” Harry pulled out of his parking spot and headed onto the street. The song seemed to assuage some of his grief as the voice, words and music perfectly mirrored his sorrow.

On the drive home, the people in his life passed through his imagination person by person. His buddy Frank, dead at Normandy. His mother Mavis in the small cemetery by the country church just outside of town. His no good son-of-a-bitch brother Tom, serving a life sentence for murder. His kid Jimmy, hadn’t seen him in twenty-three years. All these passed through his mind as he kept driving. And Jewel. Man, he was going to miss her. She had more spunk in her than most women half her age.

Sitting at a stop light, he remembered the first time he saw Therese. When they met, she was still on her first marriage and he was finishing off his second. She was a waitress in a small diner where he ate breakfast as he started his delivery route each weekday morning. Sitting on one of the stools and nursing his cup of coffee, he watched her body move around behind that counter and he knew he was in love.

“You doing anything after work?” he asked.

“I’m married. See,” she said, showing him her ring.

“Your husband won’t treat you as good as I will.”

“How do you know?”

“I know these things,” Harry said.

Two years later they were married, and they’d fought once or twice a week since. Disagreements, they called them. But, after five years, they were fights, and both of them knew they were fights.

Crossing the intersection, his muscles ached from the loneliness he’d feel if he gave up on his marriage. And soon he’d be sixty, seventy, and his life would be all gone. He’d return to the dirt in the ground just like his old man, all alone.

He swiped the tears from his eyes. He heard Ray Charles come onto the AM station with “I can’t stop loving you.” He listened. The words in the song cut him to the quick. He pulled the Chevy up behind Therese’s Edsel and braked and stopped. Getting out of the truck, it hit him.

His life was more than good enough. It was damn good! And he was not about to miss out on showing his appreciation for that.

Why did God give me one big mouth to stick my two feet in?

Another Uncle Bardie lyric. This is what a country song should really sound like.

My wife is divorcing me
My girlfriend is mad as hell
Got run over by my truck
My dawg bit me in the tail
Lost that lottery ticket
And its six numbers to win
Shot myself in the toe
Hurt like all kinds of sin

CHORUS:
Cause I drank that moonshine
That cornlikker’s getting to me
Oh, that sweet shine of shines
Sure made a man out of me

Went myself a cow roping
Tipped some cows on the sides
Rustled up some of that beef
Pushed ‘em into my double wide
Bull saw me in the pasture
Bull took a liking to me
Now I got a big ole hole
In that place I cannot see

CHORUS:
Cause I drank that moonshine
That cornlikker’s getting to me
Oh, that sweet shine of shines
Sure made a man out of me

BRIDGE:
Why did God give me one big mouth to stick my two feet in?
I’m a-thinking the mouth is lonely and needs two good friends

Got myself some Jesus
Off to the church I went
Down came the big ole steeple
They said it was an accident
Now I’m six feet under
My grave is double-wide
My mouth’s full of dirt
Toes pointing to the sky

CHORUS:
Cause I drank that moonshine
That cornlikker’s getting to me
Oh, that sweet shine of shines
Sure made a man out of me

A Spooky Kind of Marriage

Ken and Kendra chose Halloween for their divorce. It made perfect sense to them. Their marriage had been one long horror story since their wedding reception. With costumes, no less. Ken’s Uncle Irving showed up at the wedding reception drunk. Later they found Kendra’s aunt, Alice, in the closet with Uncle Irving. It was not a pretty sight.

On the way to their honeymoon, the car had four flat tires all at the same time. The bed in the inn where they were staying broke during their first sexual encounter. And these were simply omens of things to come.

During the honeymoon, Ken got food poisoning, Kendra was bit by a rabid dog. While they shared a hospital room, their nurse was the spitting image of Nurse Ratched. And she behaved like her as well. It was becoming pretty obvious God did not want them to have a honeymoon.

Finally, they came home. And found that burglars had broken into their new house and trashed the place. Ken went back to work and was told to pick up his walking papers. Kendra was given her pink slip too. “Cut backs,” she was told.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Kendra’s favorite aunt, Hortense, died. At the funeral, Ken couldn’t help himself. He laughed out loud during the eulogy. Kendra pinched him hard. He had a sore spot from the pinch. His dermatologist told him it was cancer.

They started looking around for help. They went to a gypsy, Drina, and she supposedly removed the curse. Then they saw on tv that she was arrested. She was impersonating a gypsy and didn’t have a license to impersonate a gypsy. Who knew you needed a license? They went to a Catholic priest and he suggested an exorcism. Instead of delivering them from a demon, the exorcism invited more demons in.

They went to a Rabbi and he pronounced that the couple were Canaanites and worshippers of Baal. Then he said, “Let my people go.” Turns out his name was Moshe and he was practicing his lines for a new version of “The Ten Commandments”.

The procession of bad events during their marriage was like a Mardi Gras parade on steroids. After two years of broken legs, broken arms, poison ivy, legionaire’s disease, the swine flu, and poor employment prospects, they both decided they had had enough. They loved each other but enough was enough. They were not meant to be together. And they were definitely not soul mates.

They went down to the courthouse to receive their final divorce decree from the judge. They waited and waited, then they were told the judge was running late. By the end of the day, it was announced the judge had died. From food poisoning no less. As they walked out of the courthouse, the stone arch above the door pulled loose and fell, missing the two of them by six inches.

At that, Ken looked at Kendra. Kendra looked at Ken. Kendra said, “You go east, I’m going west.”

“Fine with me,” Ken agreed.

And off they went running in opposite directions.

Six months later, Kendra’s mother received a short note from her daughter. “Mom,” it began. Kendra always called her mother Mom. It seemed the right thing to do. “I arrived at the Mombai airport on April 7. And I am catching an Air India flight to Nepal. Love, Dra.”

She gave the ticket taker her ticket, crossed the boarding walkway, ducked and entered the small twin-engined air craft. She looked around for an empty seat. She saw one at the front and headed for it. She took her seat and buckled her belt. Then she looked at the man sitting next to her. It was Ken.

Later, in the day, CNN, Fox News and the other news organizations announced that an Air India plane had disappeared. The flight had last been seen flying somewhere over the Himalayas.

All one announcer could say about the ill-fated flight was this. “Let’s hope they landed in Shangri-La.”

Happy Halloween everybody.

Tudorama

“Double double toil and trouble.” Oops, wrong story. Just a sec. Oh, here it is. Right where I put it. Amazing what you can’t see without your glasses. So here goes.

In Merry Olde England, there was a very happy couple. He called her Puddin’; she called him Dumpling. Would have called him her Doughboy, but that one had already been taken by the King of France. Francis One.

Annie Boleyn met Henry on a blind date. She was a sub for her sister Mary Beth. When he walked into the Great Hall of Boleyn Estates and her two peeps saw him, it was love at first sight. It was true that he did look like a doughboy. That was the charm of King Hal. Plus there was that twinkle in his eye, and he was a regular party guy.

Within hours of his arrival, King Hal had a party going at Casa Boleyn. It was a toga party. After all, Hal was a regular practitioner of toganomics. If a courtster was unwilling to wear a toga at court, he was on his way outster. The outster for most was Scotland where the lord in question was condemned to wearing a kilt without underpants. One could get a chill and catch the flu.

Pretty soon Annie eased up close to Hal. She wanted a little kissie-poo as she called it. The king was real accommodating with the kissie-poo, but soon he was wanting more. He was wanting Annie to share her boudoir. She may have been the partyingest of party girls, but she wasn’t about to give Hal the key to her chastity belt for free. She’d heard stories. He even said, “Pleeeze with a cherry on top.” But Annie wasn’t about to give in.

“I’m not that kind of girl,” Annie said. She was not about to be easy, even for a king. Annie being Annie, she had found her Daddy Warbucks in Hal and that was all there was to it. Opportunity came knocking, and she was ready to open the door. But Hal had to purchase a ticket to walk through that door. And her ticket was not cheap. It was a 500 carat diamond ring.

Hal was devastated. This was definitely a true love he had for Annie. He could feel it in the way down yonder. He said, “Don’t be a heartbreaker, Puddin’. Don’t you know I’m a hunka hunka burning love?”

Annie’s response was a smile and a few words. “I really would like to give you the key to my heart, Dumpling. But I will need a ringie-poo pretty please with pudding on it.”

Hal could give his Puddin’ the sable she wanted. He could give her an Astin Martin. He could even give her the Queen Mary. But that wedding ring was out of the question. He already had a wife. If Hal had been a Middle Eastern potentate, he could have potentated all over the place and married as many women as he wanted. Deep down in the heart of Texas, Hal wanted a harem.

His wife was Catherine of Aragon. Thing was, Cate was no Annie Boleyn. She had her daddy’s looks and her mother’s hygiene. Like her mom, Isabella, Cate hated to take a bath. She wasn’t partial to showers either. So the odor coming from her boudoir was a bit overpowering. Not in a good way. At one time, Hal sent in the fumigators. But the smell returned within a week. Add to that, Cate wore one of them smiles upside down. So much so she was called Sourpuss, or SP for short. She was the original SPCA, short for Sour Puss Cate of Aragon.

On top of everything else, each fortnight she walked around the castle like Hamlet’s ghost, mumbling, “I can’t get no respect.” It was true. Cate got no respect. Hal wanted a boy and all he got from Cate was a Mary.

“So what to do?” Hal asked himself one dark and stormy night. “What to do?” Then with a flash of brilliance it came to him. “I know. I will get a divorce,” Hal said, and he said it where everybody could hear.

“A divorce?” one courtster said.

“A divorce,” another courtster echoed.

When the echoing finally settled down, King Hal commanded the Pope to give him a divorce. After all, Hal was the Pope’s right hand man in England and Defender of the Faith. But the Pope wasn’t up to the job. He had other things on his mind. Like Cate’s brother, the King of Spain.  King Charlie had an army close to Rome and he wasn’t hesitant in using it.

Besides that, it would set a precedent. Precedent is legalese for all those things that come before everything else and give folks permission to do a thing. Like, if you marry a virgin, she has to be a virgin in order to get a divorce. Cate was no virgin. She had a kid name of Bloody Mary. And, no, she was not mixed with vodka. Mary was a teetotaler all the way.

Pretty soon any earl or lord would want a divorce. Before you knew it, the papacy would be so overloaded there wouldn’t be any time left for infallibilities, bulls and indulgences. What if the Pope wanted to profligate a Papal Bull or two, he wouldn’t be able to rope the darn thing and ride him all the way to Rome. No, the Pope had decided. Divorce wasn’t going to happen. So Pope said, “No way. Pretty soon we’d be backed up with all that paper work.”

Hal’s motto was “Esse rex bonum est.” He had a coat of arms to prove it. Now he felt like he was in Nowheresville.

“What to do?” Hal asked everybody. “What to do?” he even asked himself. No one had an answer.

Then he received a letter from far far off. It was across the Channel. It was from Germany. Unfortunately it was written in German and no one could translate it. Hal and his subjects could barely read Latin. But German? Nobody, but nobody could do German. Then Hal realized, “My portrait painter Hans can. Yes, he can can, can he not?”

“Of course, he can can,”” a duke said. So did an earl. l In fact, it was the Duke of Earl.

Hans translated the letter. It was from one Marty Luther. “Hal,” Marty wrote, “Is not your motto, esse rex bonum est? Of course, it is. It indeed is good to be the king. As king, you have the right to a divorce. If the Pope don’t like it, he can go out and start his own church. That’s what I did.”

Before Cate could spell it, she was singing D-I-V-O-R-C-E. When asked by a reporter years later about the whole thing, all she could say was, “Yes I have no bananas today.” There was even a rumor that she was zombified in her later years. But I think it was Mary, Queen of Scots, who pushed that gossip.

Anyway Hal got his divorce and a church to boot. He also got the key to Annie’s chastity belt. On their wedding day, King Hal increased every Englishman’s sheep allowance two-fold. That’s twice in today’s lingua franca.

For a while, Puddin’ and Dumpling were just as happy as two finches in a birdbath.

Well, y’all know what happened next. Annie gave Hal a Liz, not a Tom, Dick or Harry. So his smile turned upside down. Annie delivered a girl. Yes, you heard that right. She gave birth to an eight pound two ounce little darling. Called her Elizabeth, or Bess for short. But no boy.

Again Hal was what-to-do-ing. Then he came up with a plan. Let’s call it Plan J. Hal would get another divorce and then get married again. He already had a victim, I mean a queen picked out. After all, Hal could have the pick of the litter. And Jane Seymour, not the actress, but the daughter of John and Margery, was his Queen for a Day.

So what was Hal to do with Annie? Here’s where Plan Boleyn came in. Annie would be accused of consortin’ with those she shouldn’t be consortin’ with. Treason with a capital T. A trial, Then she would be singing “Going out of my head”. The executioner would do a Lizzie Borden.

But the truth was that Hal couldn’t bring himself to truly rid himself of Annie. She was his Puddin’. She was his One True Love. At the Archbishop of Canterbury’s suggestion, Hal got a sub for Annie. No one would know the difference. Except for the sub. Sub would be wearing a hoodie. Annie would hide out in a nunnery down the way. Only there weren’t any nunneries left in England. Instead Archbishop would start a Home for Wayward Girls and Annie would supervise. Then once a fortnight Archbishop would slip Annie in the back way to Windsor Castle and up to Hal’s room.

And that’s the real story. Not.

Short Story Wednesday: Do Socks Get a Divorce?

Short Story Prompt: “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant.

Inquiring minds want to know. Or at least this inquiring mind. I have a perfectly nice pair of socks. They look good. They sure feel good on my feet. There isn’t a soldier who wouldn’t like this pair of socks.

The pair would make a great companion for the long march ahead. After all, there are those in the know who say a battle is lost or won by the socks on a soldier’s footsies. Napoleon learned this the hard way. That was what defeated him in Russia. Not that he got cold feet, but that his soldiers had cold feet. They didn’t have holy socks. They had holey socks.

You can see why this pair of socks I have brings me such comfort. Not only do they make me feel like I am walking on air, they make my feet smell good too. That’s no easy feet. I mean feat.

Last weekend I did laundry. Separated the lights from the darks. The whites from the lights. Put them into separate piles. ‘Fore you know it, my washing machine is going chug-chug-chug. Then my dryer is whirring away with my load of laundry. I open the dryer door, pull out the load, throw them into the basket, take them into the bedroom for sorting and folding.

At the end, there is only one sock left from the pair of those best socks. You know, the comfortable pair. The pair that look good. The pair that made my feet smell nice. Real nice.

I am frantic. Where’s the other sock? I hurry out to the laundry room, open the dryer door and hope against hope. No, it’s not there. I look in the washing machine. The sock isn’t there either. I trace my trail back to the bedroom where I once sorted. No sock.

So I give the sock remaining the inquisition. How did you do it? Did you poison your partner? Did you strangle her, then bury her among the lint? Then it hit me. Maybe it was a Sock Rapture. Maybe the Sock Jesus returned and claimed all the good socks. Yes, that had to be it. The reason for the disappearance. It could happen. Not.

If the Sock Jesus came and took all the good socks, why was this one sock the only one who disappeared. Were there no other good socks in the load? Was my sock drawer a regular Sodom and Gomorrah? I don’t think so.

No, it was looking more and more likely that something had come between the pair of socks. Maybe they had a fight and the female of the pair went home to mother. Maybe there was a different explanation.

They were such a handsome couple. Let’s call them Fred and Wilma. They seemed so happy. Deep down Wilma resented her lot in life. She deserved a sock much better than Fred. She was locked into a marriage she had come to despise, forced to stay home and clean house, babysit Pebbles and cook Fred’s Neanderthal dinners. When she wanted to go vegetarian, all Fred could spout out was “Meat. I want meat.” Then there was Dino problem. He wa the family’s pet dinosaur. Have you ever tried cleaning up dinosaur poop. As John Lennon once sang, “Christ, you know it ain’t easy.”

You get the point. Wilma Sock was deeply unhappy. She was a fine wine and caviar kind of girl and Fred was all pretzels and beer.

Then a day later, quite by accident, I discovered another sock missing. You know, those socks the tennis pros wear. This was a sock like that. Let’s call him Fabio.

After much investigation, I got to the root of the problem. Wilma found herself in the washing machine with Fabio. He was whiter than white and he was very unhappy with his partner. Her name was Betty. She had stains all over her. He wondered what had happened. When they were first dating, she kept herself spotlessly pure white. Then they married and she let herself go. She just didn’t seem to care anymore. When Fabio Sock saw an unhappy Wilma, he was smitten. She was something, taking pride in her appearance.

Fabio sang “Sock it to me” to Wilma, “Sock it to me.” Before Fred knew what had happened, Wilma ran off with Fabio to Sock Vegas. The couple got quickie divorces and remarried in twenty-four hours. It was like the dish running away with the spoon. As everybody knew, Fabio was a real stud and Wilma was a real dish, a very Socksy Lady.

Unfortunately there was no happily ever after for Fabio and Wilma. Wilma has triplets on the way and Fabio is laid up with tennis elbow. His pro career is over and he can’t even find a job in a pro shop at a country club.

In the meantime, Betty realized she needed some whitener. In the next wash, she had an extra dose of bleach. It worked. She was back to a perfect white. Fred and Betty met at a Speed Dating for Singles of the Socks Set get-together. They hooked up. Next thing you know Betty is a perfect housekeeper, loves to cook only meat, and is helping Pebbles, as a Girl Scout Daisy, earn her Golden Honey Bee Award. Fred got a new promotion. Mr. Slate retired and Fred is now General Manager of the Slate Rock and Gravel Company.

Oh, and one final thing. Fred and Betty have new neighbors in the drawer. Right next to them is what seems like a nice couple. Names are Barney and Wilma.