A short story by Everett Marx
Vinnie, Vinnie, Vin. Vinnie the Invincible. Veni, vidi, vici. Thanks for seeing me on such short notice.
Right, the point.
My wife swears I sneeze the way I do to annoy her.
An involuntary response.
I didn't choose to sneeze the way I do.
I don't practice.
Melanie thinks I rehearse it.
There we were, Neiverson's funeral. Yeah, meat market Neiverson. Best butterfly pork chops in all of
High-pitched even for me.
My head flew down like a dive-bomber and next thing I know, I'm numb as a post.
Head's floating backwards.
And I realize my head musta clobbered the back of the pew in front of me. My head feels like a two-by-four. Not like a two-by-four hit it but like the board itself: flat, smooth, dumb.
And Melanie jabs this dagger-hiss in my ear.
She leans in, hot breath smelling of cinnamon, and says, “I can't believe you humiliate me like this.”
I'm holding my head so her words don't fall out in my lap.
The folds in my pants suddenly mesmerize me.
The clothed lap is a funny thing. Sometimes I think that togas had advantages we've lost.
Right, my point.
Told her, “I didn't do anything to you. I sneezed. People sneeze.”
She fires back. “Yes, people sneeze. What you do is something else.”
I didn't take that well.
Everything seemed slow. I felt her words moving from her mouth to my head, like fish swimming through a sea of air.
Crazy, I know, but I felt the words going into my body.
As if they were swimming up my nostrils and splashing in my brain.
They had weight, substance.
And I looked at her and said, “You don't love me enough.”
Well, no, not just like that. I started to say, “You obviously don't love me very goddamn much.”
But 'goddamn' is tacky at a funeral, especially when everybody's looking between their feet for a lost dog, wondering, what in hell?
Anyway, I had enough of something to hold that sentence back.
But in my head, I sensed what it meant. Like a boat's wake crossing the water, overwhelming the bank, it soaked down to the root of me.
And what I said, I knew I would always know. “You don't love me enough.”
Well, no, not that. I knew I always should know it, but knew too that it could slide in time if I let it.
I don't want to let it.
Oh, yeah, sure, you gotta run, you gotta run. Mind if I sit here, Vince? Show myself out later?
Sheesh, what a day.
Man, that's some couch. Bet it cost more than my bed.
Oh, yes, call me Odysseus and set me on the broad back of the sea.
I sleep on this, I make this night alone, I wake up on a new shore.
And me just the man to handle whatever comes.