Now that I have been working on Flash (short-short) Fiction, I remembered this story I wrote and posted eleven years ago. It was my attempt to think like a man, which I admit, I suck at. I’m seventy-one, and I still have no idea how men think.
Ah, damn. I did it again.
MaryAnn had that hurt puppy look that she reserves for only me.
“I just don’t understand you. What is so difficult about remembering one single day?”
“I’m really sorry.” I tried hard to keep my eyeballs stuck right in their sockets, as she always accuses me of rolling my eyes when I am insincere, and I was in enough trouble already.
Years ago, MaryAnn had this framed embroidery thing—she called it cruel, but I never really got that, since I thought it was kinda pretty—that her great-aunt Florence or Flora or some such old lady name—I know, Mildred—gave us for a wedding gift. It was all little silver bells, and in fancy writing it said, “The bells rang for joy… For MaryAnn and Frank… On this day… July something nineteen something.” It hung right above the dresser, where I saw it every morning when I put my wallet back in my pocket for the day. It was sort of like the emission sticker expiration on your car. It’s not like you really notice it, but it sort of gets absorbed, so you have this physical sense of the date. But about five years or so ago, MaryAnn redecorated the bedroom and she took the damn thing down. “It’s way too sweet,” she said, confusing me even more on the cruel thing. Anyway, there’s been hell to pay ever since.
The first year the embroidery came down, I forgot our anniversary. MaryAnn was upset and I took her out to eat at one of those too-expensive restaurants, and the next day—well, the next weekend—I went out and bought her pearl earrings.
The second year, I got credit for remembering. I think MaryAnn must have been complaining at the office because Mike, this guy who sits near MaryAnn in the next cube, calls me at work—at WORK—and says, whispering-like, “It’s your anniversary. MaryAnn would really like flowers. And sent to the office, so everyone will know what a prince you are.” “I owe you,” I said. “No shit,” said Mike, “a case of Rolling Rock.” Man, I was in good shape for weeks that year.
But Mike transferred to Claims a few months later. And I haven’t remembered since.
So MaryAnn was sitting across the table from me, with a look on her face like she just broke a toe.
“I really am sorry. You know I have a terrible memory,” I tried again.
“You don’t seem to have a bad memory for other things. If this was important to you, you’d remember. You just don’t care.”
Now it was taking real work for my eyes not to be pinging around my head. Why can’t she just TELL me? Why can’t she just warn me a day or so ahead? But no, she’s got this goddamn idea that if I don’t remember myself it doesn’t count.
“No honey, it’s real important to me. The best day of my life. I’m just shit-for-brains with dates.”
“Oh, yeah?” she countered. “I bet you remember the day you bought your first car.”
“Um, not really. A Ford, maybe. I don’t remember much about it.” I added, “I’m sorry I’m such a fuck-up. I’ll make it up to you. I will. Would you like to go to Newport for the weekend? I could buy you one of those tennis bracelets. Not with little tennis racquets, like I thought at Christmas, but with the real diamonds like you showed me.”
“I know you love me,” MaryAnn said. I think I had softened her a little. “But it hurts when you don’t remember our wedding day.”
If I could get her to smile, I would be past the quicksand part. “Can we hang up that embroidery thing that your aunt made? How about in the bathroom?”
She laughed. All set for a year, except for the diamond bracelet part. There goes a grand.
It was June twenty-first, 1970. I was sixteen. I wanted a car so bad. “How much money do you have?” my old man asked. I had three hundred and twenty dollars. We went to the used car lot that one of his poker buddies ran, and we picked out a 1963 Ford Galaxie 500. It had a police intercept 390 and a two-barrel carburetor. We took it out and it went one hundred and ten down Route 72. No problem. My dad handed over my money. We changed the automatic to a 3-speed tranny, and then it went one-thirty-five. It had silver gray interior, but the exterior was a girly cream color. I re-painted it this great Mopar color, Blue Fire Metallic, although I have no use for any Mopar product now. Man, I wish I still had that car. I loved that car.