“Mom, you can’t be serious!”
Annie turned and occupied herself with kitchen chores. “Now, honey, I know you’re disappointed, but it’s not as bad as all that.” She placed a few utensils into the dishwasher.
“It is too that bad! It’s a stupid fish in a bowl!”
“Mark, don’t call it stupid. Why don’t we give it a name?” She tried to sound cheerful as she wiped off the counter.
“Fine!” Mark retorted. “Its name is Stupid Fish!” With that he stomped out of the kitchen.
Annie stared at the placid little fish. “Sorry, fella.” She spoke softly and lightly tapped on the bowl. “You’re a fine fish, as far as goldfish go. It’s just that he has his heart set on a dog.”
She thought regretfully of the argument with her husband, Dave, the night before. He had conceded eventually, but not because he agreed with her. She simply had way of wearing him down. He had finally said, “Fine, no dog!” and walked out of the room.
Annie grabbed the phone. When she had him on the line, she said, “Dave, I made a mistake. I bought the fish.”
Dave sighed. “Sweetheart, I told you, you can’t substitute a goldfish for a dog.”
“I know. I should have listened. Dave, I miss my dad.”
Dave hesitated, unsure where the conversation was heading. “I know.”
“When I was little, He always said, “You can’t live with her.” And he’d get this sad smile on his face. And then he’d get his fishing pole, and when I asked him where he was going, he’d say, “Just looking for my quiet little corner of the roof, Annie.” And he’d pat my head and then he’d go off fishing. Now I understand he was talking about the contentious woman – you know in the book of Proverbs?”
“Yeah, Annie, I know.”
“Dave, I don’t want to be my mother.” Her voice shook, and Dave knew she was on the verge of tears.
“Honey,” he reassured her, “you are not your mother.”
“I’m becoming just like her! It isn’t normal, is it, for the kitchen floor to be truly clean enough to eat off, I mean literally?”
“Uh, no, I guess not.”
“You know what else my dad always said?”
“Well, when Mom would really get carried away with all the housecleaning stuff, he’d say, “You don’t have to be so dad-gum nit-picking!”
Dave remembered her mild-mannered father’s use of that odd, old-fashioned word. It was the closest he ever came to swearing.
Annie took a deep breath. “Dave, I don’t want to be so dad-gum nit-picking that no one can live with me.”
Dave protested, “Annie, you’re not.”
“I’m going to trade the fish in for a puppy.” There was stunned silence.
When Dave recovered enough to speak, he said, “No, Annie, wait. Let’s don’t bounce from one mistake to another. You were right about a puppy. We both work and Mark is in school all day. I’ll pick out a dog for the family – just trust me.”
“Okay.” Annie’s dread over getting a dog dissipated into relief. Dave was taking care of everything.
Two days later she was awakened by a snuffling sound as a slobbering tongue found her face. “Howard, no! Sit! Stay!” Howard, a full-grown Saint Bernard mix, sat obediently, woofing slightly as Annie pushed herself out of bed. “Mother was right, you are disgusting!” In spite of the words, her tone was affectionate and Howard wagged his tail.
Grabbing a robe, she headed for the kitchen where Dave and Mark were busy packing lunches. “Hey,” she said sleepily, “it’s Saturday. What’s up?”
“We’re going fishing,” Mark shouted happily.
“Come with us,” Dave said. “It’ll be fun.”
Annie smiled. “Are you sure you aren’t leaving to find your corner of the roof?”
Dave chuckled. “Come on, we need a family day.”
Annie thought. She should stay home and clean floors. She imagined being at the lake, watching her son throw sticks for his new furry best friend. “Okay,” she agreed. “I’ll get a quick shower. First I’ll feed the fish.”
“Let me do that, Mom!” Mark elbowed her aside. “I’m going to take good care of Stupid Fish from now on.”
“Why is that?” Annie asked suspiciously.
“If the pet store ever runs out of supplies, the fish’s new name is going to be ‘Dogfood’!” Mark laughed gleefully before yelling, “Come on, Howard, let’s go help Dad load the car!”
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