Cal didn’t mean to do it. It was really an accident, although to hear Mavis tell it, it was deliberate, despite his adamant denial to the contrary.
Cal and Mavis had been married for over fifty years when the incident happened. They truly loved each other. If you spent any time at all around them, you might have your doubts about their love because they constantly snapped and harped at each other. Over the years, it had become a habitual interaction between them that neither took offense at.
It happened during a trip between Texas and California. They made this trip several times a year because they had children, grandchildren and homes in both locations. As usual, these trips were full of their endless picking at each other.
“You chose where we ate breakfast, Cal. I get to choose lunch, so just zip it, buster.”
“Mavis, I am not lost. Wanna drive? I’ll bite your finger if you stick that map in my face again.”
“Cal, that’s not how the movie ended. Humph, you big dummy. You slept through the whole thing.”
“Mavis, I do not slurp my soup. If the way I eat bothers you, eat by yourself and see if I care.”
This was typical of most conversations that occurred between Cal and Mavis. People who knew them just smiled in amusement at their spirited exchanges. People who didn’t know them stared in bewilderment, or fear that a brawl was about to erupt.
Although there were times when each would like to ditch the other, what happened at the truck stop that day was simply because of wounded feelings. This particular road trip their barbs at each other were more heated than usual, perhaps because of the stack of boxes that separated them on the front seat blocking their view of each other.
Normally they never put anything on the seat between them, but this time it was either leave some things behind, or stack them on the front seat because the trunk and back seat were full. It wasn’t as much fun to carry on a conversation with someone you couldn’t see. However, the inability to see each other caused them to be more cutting with their barbs. By the time they arrived at the truck stop, they both felt out of sorts and hadn’t spoken for ten minutes.
While Cal fueled up, Mavis got out of the car, slamming the door. She flung over her shoulder, “I’m going to use the restroom, Cal.”
He knew she was angry. “Fine, Mavis, fine,” he snarled, still stinging from her statement that he should leave his hair alone because she thought his comb-over looked stupid. “Who cares if you’re bald, Cal. You trying to catch a younger woman or something?”
Why did she say that? All he’d done was compliment her about how beautiful she was when they got married. In fact, he raved about it for awhile. Then when she coyly asked if he still thought she was beautiful, she should’ve known he was joking when he replied, “Sweetheart, you’re as old and wrinkled as a prune.”
She wailed like he’d shot her, flailing her arms and knocking a box off the stack between them. It hit him in the head, causing him to jerk the wheel. “Mavis, are you crazy?” was the last words either had spoken.
When Cal took off from the truck stop, he decided he’d keep on with the silent treatment and let Mavis stew a little longer. It lasted for about ten minutes before he decided he would take the high road and break the strained silence. “Listen, Mavis, I do think you’re beautiful. I’m sorry. There, I said it, okay? I’m sorry.”
No answer. He could imagine her sitting on her side of the boxes, arms crossed and scowling. Well, let her fume all day for all he cared. It was going to be a long, quiet trip, and good riddance to all the yapping.
Five more minutes of silence, and he felt his eyes getting heavy. At least all the yammering at each other kept him awake. “Woman, either say you’re not mad anymore, or I’ll stop the car. I should’ve just left you at the truck stop.”
And that’s when Cal realized that was exactly what he’d done, left his darling wife at the truck stop. In the ensuing weeks of repeatedly telling the story, neither Mavis nor Cal understood why everyone thought it was so funny.
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