Yesterday when I got out of bed, having slept hardly at all because of a hacking cough, the last thing I wanted to do was go with him to shop for a new TV. I felt like I had gone through a bush backwards, but Poster Boy was on a roll and didn’t notice. It went like this:
BABE: Let’s go to Costco in Spartanburg and buy us a new TV today.
ME: (Staring out window) It’s so foggy that I can’t see anything except a little white cloud all set to sit right down and cry us a river.
BABE: Fog always burns off by mid-morning.
ME: Any minute now, I expect Celine Dionne and Johnny Ray to materialize out of that fog and start belting out a duet.
BABE: Somebody didn’t get enough sleepy time.
ME: (Looking a hole straight through the love of my life) Bite me, Babe.
My bones were moaning out loud, which told me that the airborne virus flying through my body was not about to give up the ghost. I did not need to be spreading germs while blowing my nose and barking like a Beagle.
BABE: So? What do you say to a little jaunt down the mountain, a little shopping and maybe even a little lunch at one of Spartanburg’s many chain restaurants?
Every Christmas Babe begs for one of two things: a mega-size television or a pickup truck, and every year Santa and I make a secret pact. I agree to leave him Black Russians and rum balls instead of milk and cookies and he leaves Babe a new Black and Decker something or other. My sneaky deal with the fat man, however, laid a guilt trip on me that day.
ME: (Sigh) Okay. I’ll go with you.
In Costco, I struck out for the lamb chops while Babe drooled over jumbo TV’s, the kind that makes me think I am watching Phantom of the Opera in a theater. In 3-D. On the front row.
It took him ten minutes to settle on a 47-inch set, which in my opinion was forty-inches too big. While I loaded comfort food like chips, guacamole, and chocolate in the trunk, Babe and his new best friend, the salesman working on commission, loaded Babe’s new boy toy onto the back seat.
As we drove out of the parking lot, the conversation went like this:
BABE: You bought groceries, right?
Me: Uh huh.
Babe: Then there’s no need to go to a restaurant, right?
ME: It was part of the deal, Babe.
BABE: If we do the McDonald's drive-thru thing we’ll be home in an hour.
ME: Earth to Babe. I want real food in a real restaurant. I want to listen to a real waiter rattle off the specials. I want to eat with a real knife and fork and I want to wipe my lips on a real cloth napkin.
BABE: Would you settle for a Big Mac and my real hanky?
ME: Pull into that Olive Garden up ahead and if you’re smart, you won’t argue. I am a sleep-deprived, coughed-out, impatient woman with a new set of acrylic fingernails and I’m not afraid to use them.
Back at home the rain had stopped but clouds still hovered, bathing our little cottage in a ghostly scrim. I was in the kitchen putting things away and thinking about how to get out of cooking supper while wondering why Costco super-sizes everything from raisins to roast beef. I went into the living room to ask Babe to choose between Cheerios and Frosted Flakes and it was like walking into Dracula’s Crypt.
He was sitting ramrod straight on the sofa in the dark, apparently spellbound by a very blue 47-inch screen not as yet hooked up to cable. The words “NO SIGNAL” floated around the screen like poltergeists and Halloween witches flying on a broom. Gripping the remote control in one hand, he stared at the blue screen as though waiting for the “GO SIGNAL” from the netherworld.
ME: Babe, what are you doing?
BABE: (Shrugging) Nothing. (Sigh). Just looking at my big ol’ TV screen.
ME: (Rolling my eyes) And it ain’t even Christmas. (Pause) Uh, please tell me you’re not going to ask Santa to bring you a pick ‘em-up truck, too.
BABE: (Grinning slyly, wide eyes glowing a frightening yellow) Even if I have to sell my soul.
Cappy Hall Rearick