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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Hanging Offense

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The Hanging Offense

from the book: Life Will Get You in the End:
Short stories by David Satterlee

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Life Will Get You in the End:
Short Stories by David Satterlee
His wife has undertaken a new hobby and involved him in foraging for materials. What could be better than an activity that brings the whole family together? What happens when a patient, tolerant, and supportive husband reaches his limit?

The Hanging Offense

Don and Bev were an unlikely couple. He was as tall as she was short. He always knew which direction was north and she always knew when he didn’t, actually. He was a disorderly neat-freak to her orderly clutter. They both claimed to have a personally satisfying “piling system.” They had learned to compromise where consensus was impossible and bicker gently when personal territory needed defending.

Don and Bev had met rather late-ish in life. They were already past their prime when they met. Let us say that they were on the trailing edge of homemaking, child-raising, and career-building, They were both divorced after almost three decades of difficult first marriages. They were both lonely but skeptical of ever trying again. They had both given up on finding someone who met their standards – they both quoted Groucho Marx: “I would never join a club that would accept me as a member.” Naturally, they fell deliriously and deliciously in love – for better and for worse.

And so, it eventually happened that Bev took an interest in the art of rug-making. Don was amused but tolerant. Lord knows, Bev had been patient when he thought he was going to learn to play the piano. Did I say rug-making? To be specific, it turns out that Bev started ordering books on rug hooking and, after a while, bought a machine for cutting wool fabric into narrow strips. Don trotted out the pro-forma puns about her becoming a hooker and stripper and Bev offered that pained little smile that told him that yes, he was clever but
no, he wasn’t actually funny. Thus, his new joke was struck down it its prime and he never got to try it out in public. 

Now, once one owns a stripping machine, one needs fabric to strip. Bev was actually very frugal and couldn’t bring herself to pay retail prices for wool that she was going to cut to shreds. Naturally, she turned to Internet auctions. Don was becoming increasingly alarmed at the ardent, insatiate, passion Bev was showing for acquiring the requisite books, patterns, tools, and fabric. There were days that he brought home multiple packages of Bev’s latest acquisitions from the post office. 

Don was determined to hold his tongue. He loved Bev very much and desperately wanted to be supportive of her interests. Besides, he hoped she would continue to tolerate his projects, as well. Bev’s rug-hooking was not without sacrifice by Don. Whenever they went out, it was understood that they would visit every thrift shop along the way, looking for wool blankets that Bev could shred. Actually, they often went considerably out of their way some times. Actually, they sometimes made trips for the sole purpose of finding, as Don described them, “garments to sacrifice to the god of hookers and strippers.” It seems that he wasn’t entirely finished with that pun. Bev didn’t seem to mind too much; he wasn’t telling it in public and she was getting her fabric.

However, Bev’s project was becoming increasingly difficult for Don. For one thing, it was evident that wool garments and blankets tended to come in shades of brown, black, gray, and navy. Bev was buying patterns that typically featured bright spring flowers. There was trouble on the horizon and Don didn’t know how to fix it. It was, of course, Don’s job to fix things. It was in the nature of his character to put things right. Don had spent his career designing and fixing mechanical and electronic systems. He was a compulsive problem-solver. He was, by nature of his maleness, a creature of agency.

Further, Don had been suppressing his discomfort with the concept of cutting up perfectly good blankets and coats. It somehow seemed an offense against something or other. On the one hand, these were, for the most part, discarded items. And, as an amateur philosopher, Don was familiar with the concept of “creative destruction.” To create and maintain a garden, you had to move dirt, displace small rodents, and remove existing plants. A creator was often obliged to tear down in order to build up. It was the nature of nature. 

Still, Don had, on occasion, spoken with passion about the opposing natures of vandalism and creation. “Created in the image of God,” he had said, “we have the responsibility to be creators, just as our God is a creator. A creator uses intelligence, work energy, and love to build something new and better than had existed before. A vandal destroys something and wastes the mental, physical and emotional investment of the creator. This is what makes vandalism offensive. This is the difference between Good and Evil.”

But, I digress. Don pointed out that the Internet, instead of random shopping trips, could better produce wool in the elusive bright colors that were becoming Bev’s obsessive quest. One day, Bev called Don down from his office to share her joy. Bev had just purchased a bright yellow 100% wool coat. Because she had been the only bidder, she had bought it for much less than it was worth. It should arrive within the week.

The week proceeded in a haze of anticipation. Bev found the perfect drawing of spring flowers and had Don transfer it to her backing material as a pattern. On one of their trips, Don found a large hoop ring to hold the material while she worked it. Bev dived into processing the wool fabric already in her possession. Even if she didn’t use them personally, pre-cut strips were bringing a good price on the Internet – and Don could show her how to take pictures and list them.

And then, the package came. Don didn’t yet know that it was THE package; it was just yet another package for Bev at the post office and so he brought it home. Don and Bev sat at the kitchen table, as they usually did, to open the day’s mail. Don was alarmed when Bev shrieked. He looked up to see her holding a bright yellow doll coat. Bev was offended by the deceit of the seller, threw the little coat on the table, and dashed out to look up the seller’s description. Sure enough, the description said that it was a “Barbie coat.” 

Bev made a new pot of coffee and went out to the porch swing. Don discretely picked up the offending item and put it in his pocket. Don followed Bev out to the porch where they sat together and talked of other things for a while. Then they went out for a nice lunch at a real restaurant. Eventually, things got back to normal except for the day that Bev discovered that Don had framed the thing and hung it in the hallway.