The Norwegian Wooden Man
She told me that she liked me, in front of everybody, but I was probably the only one who heard it. Renee spoke softly, with a little rasp, perhaps because she smoked, or so I reckoned, or perhaps she had a cold. She mentioned her age and weight a lot, but she was never specific with respect to the numbers. She was about forty to my guess, years, I mean, not pounds. She weighed more than forty pounds, maybe one hundred forty. Is that a lot? I don’t know. Women don’t weigh what men weigh, they weigh less. Not all women, I mean, you could come across a huge woman that weighed as much as two men, or two huge women who weighed as much as five men. My point is that if you took a man and a woman of the same height and same general age and fitness level, the man would probably weigh more, unless the woman did. Anyway, she told me that she liked me.
I hid my head in the sand, but to no avail. Renee was always on my mind. One Sunday, I promised myself that I would not think of her, not think of anything, just football, all day, all night. But it did not work. She came to me in daydream and left in a used pickup, (sorry). I needed someone, I had to face it. What did I have in my life? - my fiction writing, the occasional art gallery reception, free samples at Whole Foods? Those were not enough. I needed excitement, romance, beauty, someone to share a pizza with, not 50/50, but still, to share. If I found love, I would shed tears, or so I told myself. That is love, you worry about every syllable you utter, about every glance, about every time you nudge her off a Ferris Wheel, the little things, little things, but they add up. What do you get when you fall in love? Trouble, and if you were one to believe Hal David’s lyrics, simply kissing a lover could get you pneumonia and I did not doubt the man. Hal David died at the young age of ninety-one and who is to say love and/or pneumonia were not involved. Yes, I know, Burt Bacharach is still alive, but he wrote the music, music soothes, lyrics kill, anyone knows that.
There are places I remember, mostly restaurants, when I think about it, like that little lobster place on Cape Cod. Renee and I went there one warm, summer night and wedined on surf and turf and enjoyed a sweet, alcoholic beverage she referred to as wine, but she may have been making the name up. After dinner, we made mad, passionate, and loud love. The restaurant manager was furious, but I left a good tip. I made a mental note to buy some more of that wine-stuff as I drove back to Providence. I then realized I had forgotten Renee in the parking lot. What, I have to remember everything?
Time passed and Renee changed, and not just her socks, her entire persona. She wasn’t the same, not like in the beginning, but she was different, even in the beginning, even when we met. The chords were angry, even then.
“I need an anchor in my life,” she said, as we neared the end of our road together.
“I’m like an anchor,” I promised.
“No, you are like a canker,” she argued.
Renee walked out on me on a cold, November night, odd thing, too, as it was her apartment.
I worked sixteen days in a row, just to forget my troubles. I earned a day of leisure and I spent a day in the park with a silky terrier, whose owner showed up to claim him, just before dark. I was alone again. I knew of a place where they still had a pinball machine, a laundromat, and I went there. Pinball would bring be back to the past. Renee had broken my heart, but she did not stay behind to watch me die. I could not believe she would have missed that.
Seventy-five cents for one game on the Simpsons pinball machine, rip off. Michelle watched me as she folded clothes for a customer.
“You stink,” she said to me.
“At the game, or from body odor?” I asked.
“Both,” she answered.
We had an April wedding.
Lennon and McCartney told me that the only word is love, but they missed a few like pain, bitterness, jealousy, and five or six days without lovemaking, such is married life, after the first few weeks, anyway. Desperate for any solution to our marital malaise, Michelle and I began trying to have a baby. I was especially gung ho about the idea, even wearing a Nike headband to bed and bringing in a coxswain to spur us on, (you can make and filthy joke, here, you wish, I will resist). Months flew past and, at long last, a beautiful baby girl came into our lives, but, she was from the house across the street and we had to bring her back.
One dreary evening, Michelle told me to close my eyes so that we might have all the things we wanted and I did, but I hid my wallet first. Nothing. Who were we kidding? We both had dead end jobs, we couldn’t get pregnant, especially me, and we were almost out of milk. The only bright spot in our marriage was that Michelle said I was an animal in bed, a Columbia spotted frog, okay, but an animal. Our relationship went nowhere and we split up on a Halloween night, after we divided up the candy. I still think I got way too many of the lollipops, awful treat, awful.
I sit on the carpet, most of the time, now, in the hall. The neighbors say Hello as they pass and it makes me feel better. Perhaps, this evening, I’ll go for a drive in the car. I know a pizza place on the east side where I can buy a slice of pepperoni and mushroom. They have a Mars Attacks! pinball machine. I know the manager there and her name is Renee, not the same Renee as before, but she’ll do.
Author’s Note: This wonderful story is inspired, in great part, by the album Rubber Soul by a little known English band.
About the Author: Edward Palumbo is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island (1982). His fiction, poems, shorts, and journalism have appeared in numerous periodicals, journals, e-journals and anthologies including Rough Places Plain, Flush Fiction, Tertulia Magazine, Epiphany, The Poet’s Page, Reader’s Digest, Baseball Bard, Dark Matter, and poemkingdom.com. Ed’s literary credo is: if you fall off the horse, get right back on the bicycle.