By Nicholas S. Racheotes
I awoke in my boxers to the sound of a cricket chirping. The rain was hitting the bedroom windows with the crepitation of ice in a blender. As soon as I figured out that it wasn’t cricket season and what I heard was the alarm on my phone, another memory hit me like a face full of sleet.
I recalled coming in last night after three hours of full-contact bingo at the senior center. There was a note propped against the salt shaker on the kitchen table: “It’s missing, and if you don’t find it by morning, I’ll be gone without so much as a kiss goodbye.” There was no signature, but the penmanship was familiar. Does anyone say “penmanship” nowadays?
With trembling hands, I pulled on my robe and stumbled to the liquor cabinet. What would it be, a hooker of Scotch neat or coffee, thick and black as the hair on a rap star? I chose coffee and two eggs boiled harder than marble on a Michelangelo sculpture.
Now my stomach was in knots, but at least my head was clear. “Missing.” What could she have meant by “missing?” I knew the note was written by the only woman I had ever loved because the paper smelled of yesterday’s shrimp dinner.
Retracing my steps, I came up emptier than the promise of a car salesman. Suddenly, my cell rang. I could have programmed it with the theme from Peter Gunn or The Naked Gun, but I preferred the sound of one of those telephones from my childhood—black, with a dial and a receiver heavier than a bowling ball.
The voice on the other end was angrier than a Yankees fan after a loss to the Sox. “Oh, you’re up finally! Did you see the note I left on the kitchen table? I know you had it last, so where is it? I’m shopping now, but you have until the time I get home to find it.”
Before I could get in a word, wise or edgewise, the line went deader than a fly at the meat counter. What could I have lost? What was so important? My mind was blanker than a final puzzle solver on Wheel of Fortune.
Maybe a shave and a shower would clear my head. No dice! I was trying to make eight the hard way. I couldn’t put four and four together. I was holding jacks over sevens, and everyone else had three of a kind.
I stumbled into the den and planted my backside on the welcoming leather of the La-Z-Boy. Time was slipping through my fingers like the thinning hair on my balding skull. This life of retirement was not agreeing with me. Luxury cruises, eating at the best restaurants, traveling at will, just enough and not a minute more time with the grandchildren, coming close to shooting my age on the back nine—all this was becoming too much to bear. I found myself longing for those earlier good times: stubborn bosses, mortgage payments, college admissions standards, and coworkers who would just as soon knife you in the back as use mouthwash.
I decided to drown my sorrows in an episode of Leave It to Beaver on my favorite retro station. It was her favorite, too. I remembered that she couldn’t abide any show made after the turn of the millennium.
I flew into action faster than a song sparrow at the approach of the neighbor’s cat, searching under my chair, in the cushions of the couch, between the pages of VIE magazine on the coffee table—there was nothing doing.
Then, enlightenment came over me like halogens on a country road. I couldn’t find the television remote. Cases of domestic violence had occurred for less. I flew into action faster than a song sparrow at the approach of the neighbor’s cat, searching under my chair, in the cushions of the couch, between the pages of VIE magazine on the coffee table—there was nothing doing.
Suddenly, I heard the car pull into the driveway and the two horn bursts that marked its being locked. She had never quite mastered the silent alarm. I was anything but chicken soup for the aged soul now. My goose was hash. I couldn’t even come up with a suitable metaphor or simile.
I decided to make nice by dashing into the kitchen with the faint hope that helping to unpack the groceries would make her forget about the missing remote, but I knew there was no chance. Then, I caught sight of something next to the dish rack, long and appropriately knobbed like a strolling blond who makes all heads on the beach turn. My similes had returned, and so had the remote.
I would never know how it found its way into the kitchen, but I did know this much: There always has to be a bit of mystery in every love affair, even one that ends and begins in marriage.
— V —
Nick Racheotes is a product of Boston public schools, Brandeis University, and Boston College, from which he holds a PhD in history. Since he retired from teaching at Framingham State University, Nick and his wife, Pat, divide their time between Boston, Cape Cod, and the Western world.