by Solomon Tate
It was an auspicious event, filled with the kind of tension that lives in the pages of a Raymond Chandler novel. It was the christening of my son’s new gas grill and while I was pretty excited about it I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. Well, not wrong really, but different. Something had definitely changed, and for days I just couldn’t figure out what it was. We headed into the desolate wilderness of the suburbs, maneuvering our way through men in cargo shorts tinkering with lawn mowers and lawn sprinklers, and their wives who gathered on driveways in yoga pants to watch. “What the hell are we doing here?” I asked.
“Making your son happy.” my wife said. “Its important to him so please try to behave yourself.”
“I always do.” I said. I really didn’t, I mean sometimes it was just fun to rattle their brains about a little, and other times I suppose that I just didn’t give a shit. This time though, I had all intentions of trying my very best.
Despite the phone calls and inter family memos, one of my sons and his wife arrived fifteen minutes late. My son’s girlfriend had this five minute window either way, and anything else was early or late. Neither was acceptable to her, and both result in a significant brow beating that addresses common courtesy and respect. She slipped into one of her emotional convulsions and the show that accompanied every family dinner since she moved in with my son began. “What time did I tell you to come?” she asked.
“Four o’clock.” he said.
“What time is it now?”
“I don’t know.” he said. “I guess a little after four.”
“Fifteen minutes after four.” she said. “Five minutes is a little past. Fifteen minutes is late.”
“Do you think she’s gonna say it?” I asked my wife.
“Be quiet.” she said. “I don’t want to miss it if she does.”
“I just don’t understand why you think its okay to be so self-centered and disrespectful.” she continued.“Its just common courtesy to be on time. You may as well have not bothered to come at all.” And there it was. Common courtesy. We had all heard it from her a million times and she always seemed to place the emphasis on the word common, and not courtesy. To be honest, we all found it a little strange.
“Why do you talk like that?” my daughter in law asked.
“Are you questioning me?” she said. “I am a teacher.”
“You’re a Phys. Ed. teacher.” one of my daughter’s stated. “That really doesn’t count.”
“Well that was weird.” my daughter-in-law whispered to me.
“Not really.” I said. “That’s actually pretty normal for her. She’s fucking insane.”
That nagging feeling that something was amiss kept hovering over me. It was my wife. There was something different about her. Something had changed and I knew that my not knowing was somehow going to bite me in the ass.
“Something’s different” I said to my wife..
“With what?” she asked.
“I’m not sure, but I feel like something’s changed.”
“I don’t feel anything.” she said. “Maybe you’re just old and losing your mind.”
“It could be.” I said. “It would explain a lot of shit. Did you cut your hair?”
“Does it look shorter?” she replied.
“I don’t know.” I said, “but you did something different.”
“I didn’t do anything. I stopped coloring my hair months ago. I can’t believe you’re just noticing now.”
“Well, to be fair” I said, “I’m generally too busy looking at your eyes. They’re actually quite beautiful. Sometimes I just get lost in there. But now that you’ve pointed it out, your hair looks good. I like it” She didn’t say a wood. For the first time since this theme park ride with her began she had absolutely nothing to say and I was pretty sure that I stood a very good chance of getting laid that night.
“He’s very good.” my daughter-in-law said.
“Ya, but she’s no slouch, herself.” my son told her.
“Well ” my wife said to the kids, “we’re gonna say goodbye now as I’d like to be alone with your father.”