He watched his bride of fifty years as she read Science magazine while nibbling a liverwurst and onion sandwich. He carefully avoided looking at the liverwurst. He wondered how two such incompatible people could stay married for fifty years.
He peeked at the article. Something about mitochondria or whatever. She never bothered with the astronomy or quantum stuff. Who would do that? How could two such incompatible…
He should let her be, but something else was nagging at him. “How come I never make you laugh?”
Irritated, she answered without looking up. “With, or at?”
Now she looked directly at him. “You tell everybody you don’t know how to tell a joke or even remember an entire joke, and you ask me that?”
“I can’t remember ever making you split your gut, wet your panties, fall off your chair –”
“No thank you.”
“OK, how come you never make me laugh?”
“Baby, you laugh all the time. I hear you chuckling in the shower. Sometimes I hear you giggling when you claim to be ‘working.’ You are an infinite source of self-amusement. If you could cook, you wouldn’t need me for anything.” She turned back to her article.
That made him think. His favorite long joke of all time was the “European Heaven/European Hell” joke. He loved it, but he could never get it straight (“… and the Swiss… umm…”), so he carried a crumpled copy in his billfold. Looking back, he guessed nobody would be thrilled to hear some guy say “You wanna hear a great joke?” then see him pull something out of his wallet.
Then he remembered what she’d said about his dragging that joke out of his back pocket: “You just can’t keep it in your pants.” He laughed out loud and thought, Sometimes she’s wicked funny.
She turned another page, shaking her head. There you go again.
Dr. Thomas Reed Willemain is former academic who is swapping working with numbers for playing with words. His flash fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Granfalloon, Burningword Literary Journal, Hobart, The Medley, and elsewhere. A native of western Massachusetts, he lives near the Mohawk River in upstate New York.