Thursday, May 11, 2006

According to “The Experts” (Ruth Ann Hake)

(Creative non-fiction)

They spotted the little log cabins on a Sunday drive. The sign in front read:
She hoped they were as nice as they sounded.

They had two days together, and no one knew where to find them.

“I’ll wait in the car. I’m nervous,” she said. “What if they ask for identification?”

“We’re not doing anything illegal. And I have my driver’s license,” he answered, looking more like a teenager than a man as he made his way to the office to register.

This was the first time they had stayed in a motel.

“What was taking so long?” she thought. “I bet we won’t be able to get a room.”
They brought very little with them, an old brown suitcase for her and an army duffle bag for him. It was late, and a summer storm was brewing. The weatherman said: Severe thunderstorms.

“We have Cabin #5,” he said as he returned to the car just as the rain started.

She sighed with relief and he with anticipation.

It was easy to find; there were only eight cabins. As he opened the door to #5, a blast of hot air greeted them. When he found the light switch, a bare bulb shone from the yellowed ceiling.

“It won’t take long to cool,” he said.

The room was sparsely furnished; in fact, the bed was small and uninviting.

“Where’s the air conditioner?” she asked as she sat her suitcase by the door and glanced around the room.

They looked everywhere, but Cabin #5 didn’t have one.

“That’s okay,” she said. “Let’s just sit for awhile and watch TV. That might help us to relax.” Her hair was a little wet from the rain, and she wondered what she looked like.

There was nothing to sit on but the bed.

And where was the color television?

There wasn’t even a black and white TV in Cabin #5! But, there was a radio, a big old cabinet radio.

“We’ll listen to music. Maybe we can find something romantic to put us in the mood.”

She was easy to please even when she got upset. He said he liked that about her.

“This is unbelievable!” he said as he tried to turn on the radio. “This contraption needs quarters. I don’t have any. Do you?”

He was sweating. The heat was stifling. The rain pounded on the little cabin’s roof.

“No, but that’s okay,” she said as she headed to the bathroom, averting her eyes from the bed. “It’s late. I’ll take a nice cool bath, and we’ll go to bed.”

She took her suitcase with her. She brought a special nightgown.

The tension was mounting between them. Their getaway weekend was falling apart. She didn’t ask him to find the manager to complain. She was too embarrassed, this being their first time. And she suspected the manager was in bed in HIS air-conditioned cabin watching HIS color television.

“Honey,” she called. “There’s no bathtub, just a shower behind a plastic, mildewed curtain. I’m afraid I’ll catch something if I get in this shower.”

Maybe these cute, little log cabins trimmed in pink, advertising air conditioning and TV weren’t a good idea.

“I’ll just wash my face and be right there,” she said as she heard the bedsprings squeak.

She would lock herself in the bathroom for a little while to calm her nerves. She felt like she might throw up. Maybe he would fall asleep before she came out.

She didn’t notice when they first walked in, but now she did. There was only a ratty, plastic curtain for the bathroom door. And it didn’t even reach the floor! This was NOT okay! He could hear every sound she made. He would see her feet and know what she was doing. She would hold her bladder, all night if necessary.

“I’m coming out now.” Her voice quivered as she removed some clothing. Forget the nightie!

So in her slip, underwear, and a pair of socks that she brought along, she dashed from behind curtain number two to the bed. She could get through this ordeal if she covered up. She didn’t care how hot she was.

Where were the blankets? The bed was bare. Why didn’t she notice this before?

“What did you do with the blankets?” she asked as she turned her back to him and closed her eyes tightly.

“There aren’t any,” he replied.

She was on the verge of tears when he spotted the blankets hanging from hooks on the far wall. He retrieved one and covered her up to her chin.

“I want to go home.”

He turned off the bug-stained light and lay down beside her without even a kiss.

“It’s okay,” he said, keeping a distance between them. “We can just go to sleep. We have tomorrow, and the day after that. In fact, we have a lifetime.”

He was easy to please also.

A few hours earlier, they were pronounced man and wife, and this was their honeymoon in Cabin #5.
* * * * *

For the next thirty-nine years on her anniversary, she remembered Cabin #5. What a beginning! Maybe they should have waited until they had more money and honeymooned in Aruba, or even the Pocono’s. Cabin #5 was an omen!

Today while she waited for her husband to come home from work, she listened to Dr. Phil and his guest, a marriage expert. Did they marry too young? Would they have been happier if they had more money to start with? But they loved each other in spite of age and money.

As she watched and listened, she made his favorite supper, shrimp lasagna and apple crisp.

They greeted each other with a kiss on the cheek.

He looked tired when he finally sat down to the table.

It was her turn to say grace, and she added a postscript, “Help our table-talk to be productive. Amen.”

“Do I smell apple crisp?” he asked.

She shouldn’t have said anything until supper was over, but she didn’t wait.

“Our marriage needs help,” she said. She patted his arm.

As he bit into a shrimp, he sighed, “What have you been watching now?”

“Dr. Phil. And he had a lot to say about us. We never had a real honeymoon, and our fortieth anniversary is coming up in a couple of months. Remember?” she asked as she took the salad dish from him abruptly.

“Have I ever forgotten an anniversary?” he asked as he put his fork down with a clang.

“You came pretty close sometimes,” she said. “Dr Phil says that to keep a ‘long time’ marriage fresh and teeming with passion we need to be spending quality time together. New hobbies or a shared sport were two of the expert’s suggestions. A second honeymoon also might do us good. You do remember the first one, don’t you, dear?”

“Of course, I remember! Cabin #5, dear!”

“And we’d have to start sleeping together again,” she said. They hadn’t slept in the same bed for two years. That was a big problem, according to the experts.

However, something needed to be fixed before she considered going away with him and sharing a bed. She didn’t know how he would take her next request.

“If we decide to go on a second honeymoon, will you get the operation?”

His face registered fear and shock. The only sound was the ticking of the timer.

“I’ll never let a doctor touch me again with surgical instruments. How many scars do I have from the ‘simple’ gall bladder operation?” he asked. “I can’t believe you asked me that!”

“The surgeon apologized to you for his resident’s mistake of missing the gall bladder with his first incision. And it was the young doctor’s first operation.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” he said. “ I won’t go under the knife again, not even for a second honeymoon.”

“I’ve hardly ever said a word about our first honeymoon, but each anniversary brings back the memories of that fiasco. We could take pictures this time, get a tan, read, and reconnect,” she said.

“Is that one of the expert’s words, reconnect?”

“As a matter of fact, yes! I can’t reconnect with you until you fix the problem that only surgery can cure.” She stared straight into his eyes.

It was his turn to stare back. The timer ticked louder.

“According to the experts, is there anything else wrong with our marriage that we can fix with an expensive honeymoon? We might as well get this all out in the open while my favorite supper gets cold!” he said. He sat back in his chair.

“I wanted to talk to you while the show is fresh in my mind.” She sipped her ice tea before her next announcement.

“We failed the quiz!”

“What quiz?” he asked.

“The Will This Marriage Last quiz.”

“How could I fail The Quiz when I didn’t take it?” He leaned forward, elbows on the table.

“I knew what your answers would be, so I answered for you. Except for question number eight, I wasn’t quite sure.”

“And what was question eight?” he asked.

“I can’t remember exactly. It was something about nudity and lighting.”

“What was my answer?” he asked. “I’d like to know!”

She sensed his interest now. Interest was good! Maybe their marriage could be fixed.

“That question is the least of our worries. According to the experts, we didn’t get off to a good start. We had several strikes against us,” she said.

“I can name a few,” he said as he counted on his fingers. “We were too young, I was still in college, and my father hated you. And your dad thought I couldn’t take care of his first-born.

“Am I right?” he asked as he held up four fingers.

She nodded and added, “Our first baby was born too soon, you quit school, and we had to rent a house from my dad.”

Now they were up to seven reasons.

He continued, “I made barely enough money to support us, I worked an extra job in the evenings, and two more babies came within three years.”

“Why didn’t we know we were in trouble?” she asked.

It was his turn.

“And then for the next thirty-five years, we took care of a handicapped daughter who zapped our energy, our hopes, and our resources. It should have been obvious at that point, that our marriage was doomed, don’t you think, dear?” He ran out of fingers to hold up.

“So I wonder why we are still together, against all odds, dear?” she asked.

“Probably because we didn’t have as many experts back then as the world has now. Stop listening to the experts and listen to your heart.”

That’s all she needed to hear.

“So about our second honeymoon. Let’s see if the cabins are still there,” she said, happy once again.

“If they’re still there, we’ll drive right by!”

They picked up the silverware since the crisis was over. Neither noticed if the food was cold.

“Forget that I mentioned your operation, I’ll keep sleeping in the extra bedroom, just don’t tell anyone. If we go on a second honeymoon, I’ll use earplugs and you can try breathing strips to stop your snoring.”

“And no more quizzes!”

“Love you.”

“Love you too.”

The timer rang. Dessert was ready.


WRT310 Creative Writing, Spring 2006
Published with author’s permission

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