The Happy Couple
The old man said of his life that he'd rather be miserable than alone,
so in his own way, with the company of his wife and his wife's
twenty-two cats, rescued one by one from snowy alleys and sooty,
abandoned garages, he was happy. The wife said of her life that it
would be no life at all without her cats, and since the room and
resources to house and care for them all were provided by her husband,
she, too, was happy. They'd fought the forty-five years of their
marriage. If it wasn't about cats, money, the children, or their
children's children, they'd improvise. They'd fight about the toilet
paper, about which way it should roll, about texture and strength
versus number of squares. The old man, owner of a radiator company,
would pick a fight and quickly concede: Look at what I must suffer,
he'd think, sighing and shaking his head when his wife was in the room
so that she might see. His suffering made him feel noble. Not many
people, he imagined, would put up with it. When the man cautioned his
wife about the expense of the cats' food, or said their grandson,
during his visit last week, had behaved like a savage, or informed her
she had overcooked the spaghetti, that he liked it al dente,
she'd defend her cats, her grandchildren, her cooking, and would feel
the pleasure of justifying herself. Every argument was a chance to
recall and confirm some deep-seated value within her, and it made her
blood stir, and she grew flush as though from physical exercise. The
family didn't understand how the two could stand each other, but they
were happy, he the martyr, she the moralist.
Pir Rothenberg has stories in or coming from Juked, Harpur Palate, Another Chicago Magazine, and others.
He's a PhD student at Georgia State University.
Detail of photo art on main page courtesy
of Q. Thomas Bower.
Detail of photo art on main page courtesy of Q. Thomas Bower.