A short story.
Roger looked up from his menu. “That’s rather foul of you to say, darling.”
Glinda set both hands flat on the dining cloth and said, “All I’m suggesting is that your brother could have ended up with somebody a little less complicated to be married to. He doesn’t need a career woman, he needs someone who doesn’t mind odd smells around the house and with a real knack for dressing people properly. Like a nanny. Or a mortician.”
“My brother isn’t dead,” said Roger.
“If he doesn’t find an air filter for that art room he works in we’ll both be hearing the sound of Taps before our desert.”
Roger quietly dismissed the conversation. He studied the menu.
Glinda slouched over the table, resting her chin in the palm of her hand.
“You should order the fish,” Roger suggested.
Glinda said nothing.
“It’s quite good here.”
“I don’t like fish.”
Roger furrowed his brow, “Of course you like fish. I’ve been married to you for fifteen years – I think I would know by now if you did or did not like fish.”
Although it were true that Roger’s wife did not particularly care for the taste of fish, Glinda did not fight her husband’s insistence – As much as it had annoyed her, deep down, Glinda had always enjoyed the fact that her husband did not know she had detested seafood. If anything, it made her feel as if there were still the tiniest slice of mystery left in their ever-aging relationship.
“All right,” said Glinda. “I’ll order the fish.”
Not long after they ordered, their meals arrived.
Glinda looked down at her sliced and seared tilapia. It lied on a bed of brown rice and thinly cut carrots, garnished with something green she assumed she wasn’t suppose to eat, yet looked far more appetizing than the main course underneath it. Her nose flared at the unsavory smell. A fork cautiously hovered over the entree, but before she could cut into her food, Glinda asked her husband, “Do you think fish have morticians?”
Roger’s eyes widened from across the table. He quickly placed his hand on his chest, making a loud gulping noise as he carefully avoided choking on his wine.
Glinda looked at her husband, patiently awaiting an answer.
“Fish,” said Glinda. “Do you think they have morticians? Do you think when they die in the ocean they have some bottom feeder who polishes their scales before the service, or a seahorse that reads a will to the family members? All animals must have that. Some sort of final acceptance of one’s fate. I mean, we do it, so why wouldn’t they?”
“Maybe their insurance doesn’t cover it.”
“I wonder if sea creatures put souvenirs in whatever sand coffin they make for each other – You know, like how your father wanted his medical bag from the Korean War filled with your mother’s underwear in the casket.”
“Oh, God,” groaned Roger, his cheeks flourishing into a rosy glow, “I thought you said you were never going to bring that up again…“
“Maybe a fish husband just wants a lacy brassiere to remember his fish spouse by?”
“I’m guessing the smack across his fish face when he suggests it to his wife will be memorable enough.”
Glinda suppressed a smile. “What will you put in your coffin to remember me by?”
“Anything but tilapia.”
Glinda looked down at her plate of food. She looked sad.
Roger tilted his head, searching for his wife’s crystal blue eyes. He smiled, “Your love is more than enough to remember you by.”
“But wouldn’t you want a memento? A chatzkie? A token of something nostalgic?”
“Maybe I’ll wear a pair of one of those ridiculous Groucho Marx glasses.”
For a few moments, the couple fell silent. Roger ate his dinner as Glinda sullenly pushed her food around on the plate. He cut into a medium rare rib-eye, asking his wife, “What would you want to be buried with?”
Glinda stared blankly at her husband. She set down her fork, not having the slightest idea of what she would want inside her own casket. She could think of a thousand ideas for Roger but not a single thing for herself.
She cautiously scanned the dining table. When she had settled on something satisfactory, she replied, “I always did envy this restaurant’s dining utensils.”
“Alright,” said Roger. He turned his head to one side, then to the other, carefully scanning the area for potential witnesses – Then, with the flick of his fingers, picked up a small, unused salad fork, and casually placed it in a pocket along the inside of his blazer, all the while twirling the utensil in the air like he had the hands of a cheap Vegas magician.
Glinda’s eyes bulged. Twenty years she had known her husband and not once had he ever pulled anything so quite off-the-cuff before.
As it turned out, they both had their secrets.
“I’ll make sure somebody puts it in the coffin with you when you go,” said Roger.
Glinda, overjoyed, picked up her fork. She began to list, in her head, every potential object she could shove in Roger’s casket when he kicked – She thought about all of the stolen forks hidden away under the floorboards of their house, wondering exactly how many would fit inside the silk lining of the six foot box.
Glinda smiled all through dinner.
She ate her fish.