Nuts and Radishes
Beware of wives bearing explanations that can make you crazy
Her old scheme was pretty straightforward. She'd simply do things like tell me to go ahead and start the car because she'd "be out in just a minute." She'd let me sit in the car for an hour or two, then finally show up and explain she'd gotten tied up "telling the kids we were leaving," making a quick call and getting a coat.
But now, Mrs. Johnston has a sneakier tactic.
I figure she must know that after 25 years of being together, her husband is wise to her tricks. So she's decided to make me believe I am just a plain, old-fashioned nut and she is not the one driving me crazy.
(I recommend that all newly married men take careful notes because it won't be long before their blushing brides are invited to the underground club that all wives join to learn the secret handshake and get the handbook called "Driving Your Husband Nuts.")
This is how she is doing it:
Let's say we are watching television and I have to leave the room for a moment. Maybe to make a sandwich or visit the bathroom. When I return, I immediately notice something is wrong.
Instead of cops chasing people through the streets with guns blazing or young women trying out for the National Bikini Wax Contest, there is a show about how to fix radishes for a dozen different special occasions. There is an earnest woman in an apron carving a radish so it looks like Abe Lincoln.
". . . and this will complete your centerpiece for your annual Presidents Day celebration," the cheerful woman is saying as she places the bearded radish next to the one that looks like George Washington.
"Weren't we just watching 'Law and Order: Shoplifters Gone Bad'?" I ask Mrs. Johnston.
"Ha!" Mrs. Johnston chuckles. "That's over. Remember? They arrested that guy for trying to steal the burrito from the 7-Eleven. Then you said you wanted to watch the show on the Vegetable Display Channel on how different cultures celebrate Presidents Day."
"I did?" I say.
"I swear," Mrs. Johnston clucks in that motherly tone she uses on the kids, me and the family dog. "You would forget your head if it wasn't screwed on. You said when you saw that ad for the Vegetable Display Channel that you wanted to see how to make radishes into presidents."
"I did?" I said.
"Yes," Mrs. Johnston said, thinking that she had me on the ropes. "You also said you wanted to watch Martha Stewart talk about the plate patterns she was taking to prison."
"I did?" I said, suddenly feeling very sleepy as I heard the Radish Lady's voice quietly droning on in the background about the joys of radish sculpting.
"Don't you remember? It was right after you watched the show on making paper doilies out of wet maple leaves pressed between the pages of the phone directory," she said. "You said it would be fun to have the kids work on them with you."
I started to say, "I did?" when I snapped back to reality. It was something in what Mrs. Johnston had just said that was like a cold slap across my face.
"Did you say I thought the kids would like to work on doilies with me?" I said. "Ha! Now I know that you're messing with my mind. The only thing the kids would ever press between the pages of a phone directory would be a brother's face."
I could tell Mrs. Johnston knew she had been caught in her attempt to drive me nuts. But she just smiled, and I got the creepy feeling she was going over different ways to accomplish her goal.
The best way to keep myself sane, I decided, would be to stop listening to Mrs. Johnston completely. That should work.
Steve Johnston is a retired Seattle Times reporter. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Paul Schmid is a Times news artist.
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