Erma and Bubba sat on opposite ends of the leather couch. Erma’s arms were crossed tightly across her blinking Christmas tree sweatshirt. Bubba nervously spun his wedding ring as he stared at his fingers, bewildered that in just three months of marriage, they were already seeking counseling.
The couple straightened when Dr. Peter Fink entered the room. Bubba wiped his sweaty palms on his Wranglers before he shook Dr. Fink’s outstretched hand. The doctor then sat down in his massive office chair and opened the file that was waiting on his desk. He stroked his gray goatee as he looked through his black bifocals and read the papers in front of him.
“Hmmmm. You were married in September, I see.”
“Yes. It was a beautiful wedding, Dr. Fink,” Erma stated eagerly, her Christmas tree earrings swinging as she talked. “We had ten bridesmaids because I got a bunch of cousins. Their dresses were a beautiful shade of lilac–“
“Erma, darlin’,” Bubba interrupted gently, “the doctor didn’t ask about our wedding ceremony.” He’d pay anything to get Erma back, but the doctor cost too much money to be discussing bridesmaids’ dresses.
Erma’s faced turned red, like it did when she was mad or embarrassed. Bubba wasn’t sure which emotion caused the color today. “Sorry,” she said sheepishly.
Dr. Fink took off his glasses and put the tip in his mouth. “Quite all right.” He stared silently at the couple for a moment, causing both to shift nervously in their seats. “What brings you here today?” Dr. Fink finally asked.
Bubba still didn’t understand why Erma had moved in with her sister, so he was relieved when she spoke first.
“Bubba doesn’t care one lick about my feelings,” she said emphatically.
“What?” Bubba was surprised at her words.
“And he’s always working overtime. I think he’s avoiding me.”
“What?” Bubba removed his cowboy hat and scratched his head.
Dr. Fink looked at Erma. “Can you give me a specific example?”
Erma thought for a moment, then her face lit up. “There’s the business of the Christmas lights.”
“What?” Bubba was completely confused now.
“It’s our first Christmas together and I want it to be special. I want lights on the outside of our house, but my feelings don’t matter to Bubba.”
Bubba shrugged. “It’s true, at first I was against Christmas lights because of the cost of electricity. But that’s why I’ve been working overtime.”
Erma’s eyes widened at Bubba’s words and a look of understanding came over her face.
Dr. Fink jotted something down on a yellow legal pad as Bubba continued. “When I realized how important they were, I told her she could put lights up if she wanted. I didn’t care.”
“That’s the problem. I want you to care.”
“But I don’t care about lights.”
Dr. Fink listened as Bubba and Erma talked for 45 minutes. While they still had issues, Bubba felt they’d made progress. At the end of the session Dr. Fink put down his pen and said, “You’ve made a good start. I’ll see you both next week.”
Bubba and Erma walked out together, toward their separate trucks. “Are you coming home tonight?” Bubba asked hopefully.
“All my stuff is at my sisters.” She hesitated, then continued. “But I’d like to come home tomorrow after work if it’s okay.”
Bubba grinned. “I’d like that.”
The next evening when Erma turned into her driveway she giggled out loud to see Bubba up on a ladder with a staple gun in hand. Lights lined the driveway, the sidewalk and the roof line.
“Oh, Bubba, you did this for me?” she squealed as she hopped out of her car.
Bubba grinned down at Erma. “When I realized how important lights were to you, I decided I wanted our house to have more lights than any other in town.” Bubba climbed down from the ladder with the end of the plug in hand. “Are you ready to see what it looks like?”
Erma clapped her hands excitedly. “Yes!”
Bubbed stood beside Erma as he plugged the outlet into the orange extension cord. The house and yard lit up in a fantastic display of blinking colors...for about ten seconds.
“Awwww,” Erma said in admiration.
POP! Suddenly all the lights on the street went out. A bewildered Bubba and Erma stood in shock.
Finally Erma broke the silence. She reached for her husband’s hand and Bubba could just see Erma’s demure smile in the moonlight. “As long as the lights are out....”
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