The Three Monkeys

Marge looked at the three bronze monkeys her husband brought home and shook her head. “Just where are you going to put those?”

“In the living room?” Tiller had hope.

“Over my dead body,” Marge said, and she meant it. Ten years she’d been married to this fool and it was always the same. He’d find some piece of junk, bring it home and end up tossing it out because there was no way Marge was going to let the damn thing into her house. Just once, she wished he’d ask her first.

The thing was that this was one of the things she loved about Tiller. His attraction to odd ball things. Curioddities, she called them. Unfortunately, the curioddities were not something a woman would want in her house.

“But I paid good money for them.” Tiller thought he was using logic on Marge.

Marge wasn’t buying. “Get your money back.”

“I can’t. It was a no return policy. You buy it, you keep it.”

“Figures,” Marge said and went back into her kitchen.

She was baking bread, and the aroma of the bread eased out to the living room. Tiller loved Marge’s bread. Nobody could make bread the way Marge did. He sneaked up behind his wife as she was checking the bread and put his arms around her.

“Get out of here.” She turned and pushed him away. “You get rid of those monkeys or there’s no bread or anything else from Marge, you hear?”

Of course, he heard. He always heard. Just once why wouldn’t she give in?

Marge went back to her baking while Tiller lingered for a few minutes. Her back told him she meant everything she said.

But he wanted those monkeys. He wanted to keep them bad. What to do?

Tiller was not a man to give up on his dreams. That was how he’d gotten Marge to marry him. He’d wore her down with his persistence.

He went back into the living room, took another look at the monkeys and shook his head. Something must be done. That was when he made up his mind to do what he’d been thinking about for quite some time. It would be the perfect solution. He would have his bread and eat it too.

He went over to the front door and opened it. He stuck a chair under its knob to hold it into place. Then he walked over and picked up the first monkey. Damn, it was heavy. He lugged Monkey See out the front door. Then it was back for Monkey Hear and Monkey Speak. He carried them into the garage and closed the garage door.

Later in the day, Marge heard some banging from the back yard. She walked out onto the porch. Tiller was building something over in the corner of the yard. What was he building? A shed. Damn fool, she said to herself.

Marge was having none of this either. She hurried over and tapped Tiller on the shoulder. Her husband turned around to face his wife. She said, “Not in my back yard.” She went to turn but Tiller stopped her.

“It’s not in your back yard,” he said with a big smile on his face.

“What do you mean,” she said. There was no smile on her face.

“I mean it’s not in your back yard.”

“Of course, it’s my back yard.”

“No, it’s my back yard.”

Marge couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “What?”

“I bought the house behind us. And the shed is in my back yard.”

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Charlie’s Hobby

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

June loved Charlie, and June knew Charlie loved her. But June believed Charlie loved the beach more. Early every Sunday morning for the last ten years or so, he picked up his paints, his easel and his canvas and took off for the beach. Five days a week he traded stocks with a large brokerage. Saturday he spent with June and the boys. Sunday was his.

After doing that for almost a year, June became suspicious of her husband. His disappearance on Sunday bothered her. From time to time, she thought Charlie might be having an affair.

June hired a detective. The detective watched Charlie from sun up to sundown and more. For a month he did this.

“Nothing,” he told June. “Your Charlie is one the best husbands I’ve ever seen. He loves you as much as George loved Gracie and Rickie loved Lucy” So June went back to trusting.

For five more years, Charlie did his Sundays. The completed canvases were backing up in the garage. There were over a thousand.

Then one Sunday morning, June woke up late and there was Charlie beside her. Usually by the time she woke, he was gone. She woke him up and asked, “Are you sick?”

“No,” Charlie answered.

June worried about this all week long. She figured it was a one-time thing, so she let it alone. But he stayed at home the next Sunday, and the Sunday after that. All those years of Charlie going to the beach. She had gotten used to it. It had become such a routine. And now it was over.

This went on for two months and it was driving June crazy. Not the concern about Charlie and the beach kind of crazy. The kind of crazy from worry that something bad was getting ready to happen. That kind of crazy.

Everything was the same as it had been for years. Charlie went off to his job every Monday through Friday. Sunday nights and Wednesday nights he took out the garbage. Thursdays were poker night. Fridays were their date night, then sex afterward. All day Saturday, Charlie was helping out at the house or going with June to do this or that or the other. Nothing had changed. Except Sundays.

Finally June suggested Charlie go to see a therapist. Her friend, Ellen, suggested a Dr. Reid. Ellen knew everything about therapists. There wasn’t a mental illness she had not had over the years. Some woman on tv had depression, Ellen had depression. Some man had schizophrenia, Ellen had schizophrenia. Then she’d go to Dr. Reid, and he’d perform a miracle. They’d cure her. It was her hobby.

Charlie, being an agreeable man, acquiesced to the suggestion. If therapy would make his wife happy, he would go to therapy. She made an appointment for him the next Wednesday. It would give him a break from the tedium of his job. Besides a little therapy couldn’t hurt.

He walked into Dr. Reid’s office. The therapist pointed to the couch. “So why are you here, Charlie?” Dr. Reid asked.

Charlie explained that he came at June’s urging. Then he went on to tell the therapist about her concerns.

“So why did you make the change? Stop going to the beach and painting? Why didn’t you change to another location?”

“Doc,” Charlie called the therapist Doc, “I love my wife. She is the only woman I’ve ever loved. I am a routine kind of guy. I like my routines. After a year of marriage, I noticed June getting antsy. Bored, you know. She needed some variety in her life. And I am not Mr. Variety. After giving it some thought, I came up with a solution. I would give her something to worry about. So I went off to the beach. The painting gave me something to do.”

“So why did you quit going to the beach?”

“Same reason. To keep my wife interested. For years, she had this hobby. Why does Charlie go to the beach and paint? Now she has a new hobby. Why did Charlie quit going to the beach? Just about the time she starts getting real bored with this hobby, I’ll have a new one. Let’s just say it brings some sparkle to our marriage.”

The View

Manny and Hazel are a couple who have been married for 35 years. They are touring Europe for the first time. They are in Berlin and standing at the top in the dome of a government building. Hazel loves the view.

Manny, this is some view.

It ought to be. They spent a fortune on it.

C’mon, Manny, don’t be a spoil sport.

Who? Me? A spoil sport? I’m just pointing out the facts.

Why don’t you just enjoy the view?

We liberate these people from the Nazis. Spend a fortune. It’s cost us I don’t know how many lives. And they don’t pay us back.

Now, Manny, these Germans are nice people.

Under all those nice clothes we’re seeing are people that still owe us money.

Geez. Sometimes, Manny, I don’t know why I do it.

Do what?

Drag you along on these excursions. You’re nothing but a sourpuss. You know that?

Yes, Mrs. Sunshine. You never ever rain on my parade.

When do I rain on your parade? Tell me?

When I go play golf.

You know golf is such a stupid game. Now bridge, that’s a game.

Is not. It don’t take no skills to sit on your butt and play cards. Any doofus could do it.

You try it and see if it takes no skill. You’ll see.

I am not going to play bridge. I don’t care what you say. Oh, look. I can see where the Wall used to be. I bet I can see Russia from here too.

See. I told you it was a nice view.

Manny smiles and takes his wife’s hand.

Central Park

“Let’s see. That’s one pastrami on rye and one steak on white. Two fries and two cokes.”

“That’s right,” Marilyn says.

Harvey finishes writing up our order. “Be right out.”

Marilyn does a thanks, then turns to me.

“So where do you want to go for the honeymoon?” She’s the planner. I am just happy to tag along. This marriage is going to be great. I can’t wait.

“I don’t know where,” I answer. I don’t.

“You always say that,” she says. “But c’mon, where do you want to go.”

“Well, I’ve always wanted to see the Rockies.”

“Me too. So there’s where we’ll go. Yellowstone?” she asks, suggesting a place. With that smile of hers, I’d go anywhere with her. How lucky can a guy be to have a smile like that for every day of the rest of our lives. Man, that is heaven.

Harvey brings our food and sets it before us like we are royalty. I don’t care who you are Harvey makes the customer feel like royalty. Even a homeless guy. Harvey is the best, I’m telling you.

I look up at Harvey and ask my question, “What do you think of Yellowstone?”

“Never been there. Never want to leave the City. Ain’t this City grand? Just grand.”

“We love the City too,” Marilyn says. “But it’s our honeymoon.”

“In that case, I’d spend my honeymoon one night in one of those fancy Fifth Avenue hotels overlooking Central Park. Take a picnic to the Park. That’s what me and Louise did forty years ago. Louise is the wife. That was some honeymoon. That lady is the best. I am a lucky man.” Then Harvey leaves Marilyn and me to our food and our plans. He has a customer to greet.

Marilyn says to me, “I like that.” Her eyes are shining and her face is all lit up. You know how it is when you’re happy. “I really like that.”

“That’s what I was thinking too,” I say, knowing that we’re never going to leave the City. The City is our home and we’re not going anywhere. Why would we want to?

We eat our food, discussing thises and thats between bites the way couples do. We’re two peas in a pod. Can there be a better life than this one.

We finish our meal, get up, pay the tab, drop a nice tip on the table for Harvey. Then we’re out the door of Harvey’s Deli. We kiss like the lovers we are, then Marilyn turns left. I go right. I head in toward Lehman’s where I work. I meet people coming out of the building. Lots and lots of people. They are crying.

There’s Frank. “Hey, Frank,” I stop him. “What’s going on?”

There are tears in Frank’s eyes. “I been here thirty years. It’s the end of the world. We’ve all been let go. I can’t believe it. Just like that.”

“Just like that?” I ask.

“Just like that. The company’s bankrupt.”

I run into the building and up to my office and my desk. There’s the pink slip. I knew things were bad but I never thought that they were this bad. I sit down at my desk, tears in my eyes.

My cell phone rings. It was Marilyn. “I heard,” she says. There is concern in her voice. “Are you alright?”

Am I alright? At this moment, I am not alright. It’s like I am drowning, trying to catch my breath. I finally get the words out. The honest words that I couldn’t tell anyone but Marilyn. “No. I don’t think so. I can’t believe it. And I had to take the morning off.”

“It’s okay,” Marilyn says. “We’re going to be okay. I’m leaving work now and I will be over in a few.”

“I’ll meet you downstairs. In front of the building.”

“One moment you’re on top of the world, the next you’re under the rubble.” That’s what Uncle Gabe used to tell me. “You don’t get those top-of-the-worlds if a lot of rubble don’t fall on you.” Then he gave me the kicker. “As long as you’ve got family and friends, there ain’t no amount of rubble that can bury you.”

I pick up my pink slip, look at it, get up from my desk. I slowly head for the elevator. It hits me. I never really wanted to be a banker in the first place. Maybe Harvey will give me a job.

I walk out onto the street and into the big, wide world before me. Marilyn runs toward me. I grab her and she gives me the biggest hug in the world. “I love you,” she says.

“I love her,” I say, kissing my girl.

“I took the rest of the day off,” Marilyn says.

I laugh. You know it’s one of those laughs you have when the weight of the world is taken off your shoulders. Marilyn laughs with me. “Then let’s get married,” I say to this woman who is the love of my life.

“In Central Park?” she asks.

“In Central Park.”

A Marriage

“Why do you always run off to the shower after we make love?” This could be the man or the woman asking. On this particular night, it is the woman.

The man, her husband, slides back into the bed beside his wife’s naked body, reaches over, kisses her lightly on the lips. She resists his kiss.

He withdraws to a few inches from her face. “You know you can join me in the shower. It’s not like there’s not enough room.” The best defense is a good offense.

He’s not ready to give up on that kiss. He tries again for her lips.

She is having none of his attempts at getting on her good side. “All I want is to be close,” she says, moving her lips away from his.

“I’m trying to be close now.” He catches her cheek with his kiss.

She pushes him away. “It isn’t the same. After we have sex, all you do is run away.” Slipping over to her edge of the bed, she gives him her back, then pulls the sheet tight around her, making it into a cocoon.

He drops off to his side of the bed. “But … Lenore,” he protests.

“Why do you choose to call me that?” she tosses over her shoulder at him. “You know I don’t like it, Sam.”

“What do you mean? Call you what?” he speaks to her back.

“Lenore,” she says the name as if it is a curse.

“That’s your name, isn’t it?” Of course it’s her name.

“It’s what my mother calls me. But I’m Nora and you most definitely know that.” Of course he knows it. He has called her Nora a thousand times and more. Her back is now a wall and she’s not allowing any climbing over it. Not for this night anyway.

”I like Lenore. It has such a romance to it. Just like you.”

Silence. Not a sound coming from behind that wall.

After several minutes of waiting for a truce and a goodnight kiss, he reaches over and switches off the bedside light, sighs and slides deeper into the bed. He lies on his back and studies the shadows spreading out across the room as the night grows deeper.

A sob escapes through a crack in that impenetrable wall lying next to him. His wife is crying, pouring herself into her pillow. He reaches over to offer her a tender, comforting touch.

She moves away from his hand and rolls over and faces him. “My name is Nora. And just why do you always feel the need to wash me off after we have sex? Guess you can’t stand the smell of me, the taste of me, the touch of me on your skin. Bet you can’t even stand the sound of me.”

He starts to protest but holds it in.

“Next thing I know you won’t even be able to stand the sight of me.” Shoving the covers off, she jumps out of bed, grabs her robe, heads for the door. Takes one last look at the man in her bed. “Ever since Candace went away to college,” she says, changing the subject but not really. She throws the robe on and heads off down the hall.

He calls after her. “Candace doesn’t like Candace for a name, you know.” Their daughter likes to be called Dash.

“That’s her name, Sam-u-el,” she cries out into the night. She’s Candace’s mother and she can call her daughter any damned name she wants. Why doesn’t he understand that?

“And Lenore is yours,” he wants to yell back but doesn’t. She is the woman he loves, has always loved, and he knows that this is not a good time to call out “Lenore”.

He moves over onto his side and faces the wall, pulls the sheet closer around his body. He hates these dark, restless nights when nothing seems to go right. When everything he tries is wrong.

He waits in the dark and hopes. What is he hoping for? That she’ll come back to bed? That he can somehow show her that he didn’t mean for the night to turn out the way it has? Maybe that, after twenty years of marriage, things can change? That he can change? He keeps hoping but he knows. This will not be the night.

It’s one thirty and he has to get up in the morning for work. But he’s not going to get any sleep. Not till Lenore comes back to bed, and they make up.

Why does he keep calling her Lenore? he wonders in his sleeplessness. He knows how much she hates it. It’s only at times like these when he drops his guard that she she is no longer an average, everyday Nora. She is the Lenore of his best dreams and he is recalling their honeymoon in that long-ago before twenty years wore down their marriage.

He glances over at the clock on his nightstand once again. It’s two and she’s not coming back. He slips out of bed, pulls on this pajama bottoms and a robe.

Downstairs and out on the patio, she hears him slide the glass door open behind her. “I’m not mad,” she says to nobody in particular. “It’s just that, well I’m not mad,” this time she’s speaking to her husband.

There she goes. Making peace. Why does she always do that? he wonders. “I was a jerk,” he says, looking at the back of her neck. The moon throws its light across the room and he can’t ever remember seeing anything so beautiful.

“No, you were just being you.” Her voice is soft and lonely. Then she thinks, “There I go again, making peace. Why do I always do that?”

He doesn’t know what else to say or do so he waits.

She looks over her shoulder and up into his face. His eyes gaze at her the way he did that first night oh-so-many-years-before on the the beach where they first fell in love. Her hand reaches out for his, takes it, draws him to her side on the bench. “I love this house,” she says.

“It has been a good house.”

“I wasn’t sure it was the one for us.” She leans her head on his shoulder.

“I didn’t know that.” He squeezes her hand with all the affection that comes from years of loving and arguing and making up and arguing and making up some more. “I wasn’t that positive myself.”

She squeezes back. Her head feels the strength of the shoulder she has always known that she can lean on no matter what. No matter what. She then takes her head off his shoulder and looks up at the sky. “That sure is a pretty moon.”

“We didn’t think we’d we be here that long.”

“And, my god, the mortgage.” She laughs.

“We’d never owed that much money to anybody. But Dash loved it.”

“We thought we were buying the moon. Five years old and Candace knew it was for us.”

“Why do you keep on calling her Candace?” he whispers. “You know how much she hates it.”

“Why do you insist on calling me Lenore?” she whispers back. “It spoils eyerything.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he says, unsure how to tell her all that her name means to him.

“I can see we got what we paid for.” She is back thinking about the house.

“It was a good price.”

She points toward the sky. “We got that moon too, and it is much better than the one we thought we were buying.” She looks at it for several minutes. “You think that Brett and Dash will last as long as we have?”

“I hope so. He seems to love her but not as much as I loved you then, Nora.” He kisses Lenore, not a soft easy kiss, not a deep passionate kiss, but a kiss that makes up for everything. And she kisses him. Then he whispers, “And still love you.”

She stands, reaches for his hand, and they go inside.

On the way up the stairs, he says, ”If you let me call you Lenore every-once-in-a-while, I promise not to run off to the shower after we make love.”

“Only when we’re alone,” she says from the stair above him.

He nods yes, and they are back in bed and soon asleep.

Forgiveness fills the house as it has so many times before and they continue their married life together. At least for one more day.