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.
“QUICK! ANOTHER CONDOMINIUM!”
“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)