NOW THAT I AM 85: I Am Leaving My Little Husband

NOW THAT I AM 85: I Am Leaving My Little Husband

We stand in the doorway of our bedroom.

“I guess this is goodbye,” my little husband says.

“I guess so.”

“I will miss you,” he says.

I don’t want to look him in the eyes.  If he is sad, it always makes me want to cry.

“I will miss you also.”  I am looking at his feet.  “You should put on your slippers, your feet will get cold.”

“I will do that,” he says.  After a while, he also says “I always thought maybe I would like to have pajamas with feet in them.  And the feet would have little ears, maybe.”

I agree.  “The children always liked their pajamas with feet.  Remember?”

We nod at each other.   He says “I don’t want you to go.”

“We discussed it,” I remind him.  “It is for the best.  And it is only for one night.”

“Maybe,” he says mournfully.  “But what if it turns out good?”

It is because of the flatulence.  His flatulence, my flatulence, it doesn’t matter.  It keeps getting worse as we get older.

It isn’t the noise that wakes us up; we could use earplugs.  And it isn’t the smell.  After you have been married such a long time, this is no longer too bothersome.  It is OK.  He agrees with me on this point.

The problem is:  Every time it happens, it knocks us both right up off the bed.  One time I even really fell out of the bed and sprained my wrist.  We argued over who was responsible, but could not come to any definitive conclusion.

So we have decided to sleep in separate bedrooms for a night, and see how it goes.  We both need to rest.

I have put on my own slippers and I am ready to go across the hall.

“Oops!” I say.

I go to our bed and get the tooth from under my pillow.

Now, if I may use an expression from when we were young, he BLOWS A GASKET.

“You’re not taking that stupid tooth?” he hollers.   “How many years have you waited for the tooth fairy to come and get it?  How many mornings did you look under your pillow and see she didn’t take it?  When will you get a brain?  I’m telling you, THERE IS NO TOOTH FAIRY!  Only children believe such a foolishness.  I tell you again, NO TOOTH FAIRY!”

Sometimes he will get very mad and yell a lot about something (in this case, the tooth fairy) when he is really bothered by something else (our separation).   Or it might be that he still feels bad that he was the one who knocked out the tooth when we were playing touch football in Central Park.  So I say only:  “Well, good night.’

I go to sleep quickly, confident there will be no occurrence to wake me in the night.

I am wrong.

Some time before dawn I hear a wuffy sound at the door.  In the darkness, I see a figure approaching my bed.   It is a lady, and she has wings.  Very quietly, she reaches under my pillow and takes my tooth.

She stands looking at it for a moment.   Then she puts a coin under my pillow.  As she leaves, she seems to be floating; her bare feet barely touch the floor.

She has left me a shining quarter.  I clutch it to my breast and smile.  I am tempted to run across the hall right away, but he needs his sleep, so I wait until dawn.

“Only a QUARTER?” he hollers.  “What a cheapskate!  The children, they get a dollar these days!”

“Maybe she’s a fixed-income fairy?”

He becomes very quiet.  He stands there and looks at me, so sadly.

He says nothing more.  He goes and sits in the straight-backed chair in the corner.

I go over and put my hands on his shoulders.

He turns the chair around to face away from me, looking at the wall.

“What is the matter?” I ask.

It is hard for him to speak.  “What if…..what if all these years she didn’t come and take your tooth because—because of me?  Because I said she wasn’t real?  Did she want to come here and get your tooth and was it me that stopped her?  Did I make some kind of…negative vibratories?”

“I don’t think so,” I say.  I give him a Kleenex. “A quarter is nice,” I say.  “And we got other money.  Should we go take a nice walk, maybe share an egg cream?”

“Okay,” he says.

And we do.


NOW THAT I AM 85: My Little Husband is the Monster-Watcher

NOW THAT I AM 85: My Little Husband is the Monster-Watcher

Harry slams down the cards on our bridge table.

He shouts at my little husband.  “You are a crazy man!  A dummy!   Rose, get your coat.”

My little husband leans down and snarls in Harry’s ear.  “You can account, maybe, for the Metropolitan Opera House?  The White Tower with the good hamburgers?”

Harry snorts.  “It is a known fact, buildings disappear from natural causes! There is NO MONSTER!”

“If this is what you think,” my little husband says, “then the Mayor has succeeded in his cover-up!”

I ask “What cover-up?”   For this is something we had not previously discussed.

“The greatest cover-up in governmental history, that is all!  The mayor knows he has got a lot of excitable types in New York City, and so that the people will not panic, he tries to pretend there is no monster! “

Now my little husband whispers to me, as if he does not want the Mayor to hear.

“He has got people on the city payroll whose only job is to go about before dawn and see if there is a fresh hole in the ground!  And if there is, out come the walkie-talkies.


“And they rush one over from a secret storage place they got in New Jersey, and they pop it in the hole!   And the people going to work in the morning, most of them, you think they even notice?   But the few!  They say:  “Another condominium!  Where will it all end?

“It’ll never end, until somebody does something about it!  And that someone is me!  I am willing to risk my life to get a picture of this monster for the people to see.   And you got the nerve to tell me there is no monster!

Harry and Rose give each other a look, and without another word, they leave.

My little husband pulls on his overshoes.  He hands me mine.  It is snowing a little bit, outside.

“We got a chain?” he asks.  “Also a padlock?”

“Sit down,” I say.  Sometimes I got to be very firm with him.  “Now tell me first, before I should go with you, why are you so sure about this monster?”

H e sits down, his folded hands on his knees.  He looks at the knees.  After a while he says, in a low voice, “Because I saw him.”

“You saw a monster?  You never told me this!”

He stares at me.  “I didn’t want to make you afraid.  This monster – this monster is practically one mile tall.  And, he has great, gnashing horrible teeth.  You can see them when he smiles.”

I shiver, imagining such a thing.

“But his voice!” he marvels.  “It is a soft little voice, a little squeaky voice!   I was on the way home from temple in the night, and all of a sudden I saw his great shadow falling over Sixth Avenue, and I heard him squeak:  ‘Oooooh, Art Deco!  My favorite! ‘   I was so scared, I closed my eyes tight.   I heard a terrible munching sound.   And when I dared to open up my eyes, the whole entire building was gone.”

What building?” I ask.

“You remember the place you liked to go buy the underwear?”

I am furious.  “That was HIM?”


I no longer make an argument.   Together, in the dark night, we go to the American Piano Company on 57th Street, where there is also the Rizzoli Bookstore.

My little husband chains himself to the door.  He stands erect and brave, gazing up at the sky with great determination.  He holds his camera ready to take the picture which will prove him right.

Although I believe he is morally correct to do this, and although also I am mad at the monster on account of the underwear store, the possible martyrdom of my little husband breaks my heart.  Where will I ever again find such a husband and friend?

Suddenly, his eyes grow wide.

We hear a terrible stomping of enormous feet.  57th Street shakes.

I can hardly breathe.  The monster appears, and opens its horrible mouth, and with sickening sounds it gobbles down the American Piano Company, and the Rizzoli bookstore also.  Then the monster is gone.

But to my amazement, my husband has been spared!  He explains it this way:  “I had to unchain myself, to take the picture.  I did not remember this, from before.”

“At least you got it,” I say.

“Yes.”   The camera reviews the picture.  It is just a blur of nothing.  Like smoke.

He protests:   “But I pushed the button!”

“Were you at the time looking through the view-finder?”

“Well….” he says.

“Your eyes were open?”


“Next time,” I say.

We walk gingerly around the perimeter of the great yawning hole in the ground.  (I like this word “gingerly” because it does not relate to “gingerbread”, as I had thought, but originally referred to “dainty dancing.”  This makes a nice picture in the mind.)

We walk familiar blocks.

The dawn is coming up.  The sun peeks over the end of 57th Street.

When we are almost to our address, we turn around to look.  We can just see the top of the brand-new condominium, about fifty stories high, maybe.

I say, “Wouldn’t it be nice to live there?”

He says “We couldn’t afford it.”

Just a few more steps, and we are home.

(My next shlog is entitled:  NOW THAT I AM 85, I am Leaving My Little Husband)

NOW THAT I AM 85: My Little Husband and The Apostrophe Codebreaker Machine

Once again my little husband looks at the apostrophe he has found on Page 14 of the New York Post.

Once again he checks it with the magnifying glass.

“That is six times I have found it in today’s issue alone,” he announces. “They got to be hiding something. And one by one they are infiltrating the young generation to hide it also.”

“Hide what?” I say.

“How would I know? They are good hiders; that is all I can tell. Good secret code people.”

He feverishly shapes copper wire into a circle, passes it over the offending apostrophe, and inserts the wire-circle into slot 105-E of his machine.

The machine spits it back out with no comment.

This machine is so big already it no longer fits into the downstairs spare bedroom which is his laboratory and which became a spare when Number One Son went off to M.I.T. Some of it is out in the hall, and is hard to get past when you want to go to the downstairs bathroom.

“I am determined to break the code,” my little husband says. “I will find out what they are hiding. It will take all my great persistence, plus a little bit o’luck.” (He speaks the latter in a fake Cockney accent because he loves that song).

I say, “Why don’t you call our Number One Son, ask him?”

He looks at me like I am some idiot.

“He is working for the government twenty-six years?”

“Twenty-seven,” I say.

“And he is going to give away its secrets?”

I am ashamed.

“He is a good son, and a good citizen!” he scolds. “If he is involved in this, it could be only because he has been threatened.”

I have to admit this is true.

Never to my knowledge has our Number One Son been guilty of putting an apostrophe where it does not belong. Even as a child, he was fiercely meticulous about this, remonstrating with his siblings if he caught them straying.

“Although,” I say, “it is a small mark. It can’t be covering much.”

He poses a philosophical question: “If a great number of angels could dance on the head of a pin, how many secrets can hide under a mark the size of the head of a pin?”

“You got me there,” I say.

My little husband’s experiments continue.

The machine keeps spitting out everything he puts into it. There is no result of any kind. My little husband’s frustration becomes more extreme with each passing day.

I am really alarmed when he, in a sudden burst of desperation, tries to dig with his fingernail to see what is under one of the apostrophes.

“It is a NEWSPAPER!” I cry. “Where you are digging, what is under there is the preceding page! What can be making you so crazy?”

He lets the newspaper drop to the floor. He stares into space with a look of despair.

“It is Mrs. McKee,” he says. He blows his nose on one Kleenex, then another. “She gave me a gold star. It was the first gold star I ever got.”

“She said to me ‘Good work!’ She said ‘Good work!’ and she put a gold star on my ‘It’s and Its’ paper.

“She taught us this song:


“She wrote this song on the board, pointing with the chalk at the ‘It’s’ and the ‘its’.

“Then she sang it to us, in her nice voice, pointing to the words like now you have Karaoke. Then she made us all learn to sing it together.

“Sometimes I still sing it to myself, in my mind.”

After a while I say “Please call our Number One Son. Maybe he can help you to feel better.”

I hear him on the telephone, explaining his suspicions about governmental involvement in the proliferation of incorrectly-used apostrophes. Then he is very quiet. He is listening.

Now he roars in a terrible rage. “What do you mean nobody cares anymore? What do you mean it doesn’t matter anymore? What kind of a son are you to say such a thing?”

Still holding the phone, he sits down, a crushed man. I can tell that our son is still talking. I can only guess what he is saying.

Although I am sorry for my little husband’s disappointment, I am relieved that now he will be able to let go of his obsession.

But suddenly I am seized by a terrible foreboding. Things have changed, our son has said. Is it possible he is no longer my precious child who used to lecture his sister and his brothers when they broke the rules of linguistic decency?

“Before you hang up,” I say, “let me speak to him.”

I approach the landline with a trepidation so great it causes my hand to shake.

“Tell me, dear,” I ask. “Would you ever say…would you ever THINK of saying …’I’m going to lay

down and take a nap?’

My little husband shouts: “WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT?”

I stare at my little husband.

I hang up without even saying goodbye.

Each person, I think, gets to choose his own enemies.

His own enemies.
His or her own enemies.

Their own enemies.

I see that my little husband remains miserable. He whispers: “It is as if everything I learned in such a long life…is nothing. Isn’t true anymore. What is the use of learning anything? It all changes.”

I consider this. “Isn’t there something you have learned that is still the same?”

He brightens a bit. “That Eddie Minchin. In third grade I learned he was a rotten bum, he is still a rotten bum.” He smiles at this.

“Anything else?”

“The ordinary man is a terrible driver. Always was, is now and always will be.”

“But these are bad things!” I say. “Can’t you think of a good thing that has not changed, that is still good?”

He looks at me, and he keeps on looking.

I look at him.

We look at each other such a long time.

He looks in my eyes, and I look in his eyes, and I feel like my heart will burst.

(My next shlog is entitled: My Little Husband is The Monster-Watcher)