Sunday, January 15, 2012
Tag, You're It!
I don’t know what came over me.
I fell in love with my husband because he's so patient. But don't let that kind face fool you. He's always telling me he doesn’t get mad, he gets even. He calls it Israeli Commando Tactics. In case you don’t know, it goes like this: You pinch me, I slap you. You slap me, I shoot you. You shoot me, I nuke you.
You can’t win in a contest like that. But I keep trying.
A few years ago, I got this great idea. I was cleaning up after a carnival at our church when I found it. It reminded me of a Christmas surprise Rob gave me when we were first married, so I knew he’d appreciate the sentiment. It was the right size, and obviously a fake. . . but in low light, maybe . . . Chances were pretty slim he would fall for it, but if all’s fair in love and war, this belonged in my arsenal. I stuck it in my pocket and took it home. That night I tucked it into a spot where I knew he’d see it.
But the next morning he got up early, kissed me goodbye and left for work without comment. I was pretty disappointed, but you win some, you lose some. I rolled over in the dark and went back to sleep.
An hour later I woke up and suddenly remembered who I was dealing with. After doing one of those big, yawning stretches you do every morning, I turned over and made eye contact with something lying next to me on the pillow. It was the snake I left in Rob’s underwear drawer the night before. I knew it was fake and I still freaked out.
Boy do I hate going into a battle of wits unarmed.
Now, the score stood at Rob-two, me-zero. Counting that morning’s scream and the rubber fishing worms he put in the toes of my Christmas socks twenty years earlier, he was winning this undeclared war. I had to step up my game. I picked the snake up off the floor where I’d thrown it and went into the closet to find a pair of his shoes.
Over time that snake became the shuttlecock in our version of badminton. Finding it crammed in a stack of folded towels was Rob’s way of saying, ‘Tag! You’re it!’ Then I’d put it in his briefcase, only to find it waiting for me under my pillow the next morning. That’ll keep the tooth fairy away.
Sometimes weeks go by and the reptile will seem to go into hibernation—usually on Rob’s watch, and just long enough for me to forget about him—until I reach into my makeup drawer and have a mini-stroke as my fingers wrap around the snake instead of my mascara.
One morning I went into the kitchen to get a coffee cup. I opened the cupboard door and came eyeball to eyeball with the sneaky little serpent, just chilling on the shelf. I didn’t even need caffeine after that.
Rob admits he’s been startled a couple of times after I’ve hidden the snake. . . but I’ve never seen it. It always happens while he’s getting ready for work and I’m still asleep. Once, he jerked his foot out of a work boot where the little guy was curled up in the toe, but I didn’t hear him yell. It’s just no fun to play a practical joke and miss your own punch line!
I had to get my act together.
So I secretly retired the old snake and bought a new one. This one fools the dog. It’s a lot more authentic looking and has a meaner face. I don’t even like to touch the thing, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. I hid the newcomer in Rob’s coat pocket one night and scored a hit when he stuck his hand in it the next morning. Now the count stood at Eula-three and Rob . . . ten.
I was so far behind. If I had any sense, I’d have just conceded this contest. But I’m no quitter.
Then, a few Decembers ago, we were headed out to Kentucky to see our son graduate. I’d come down with a terrible cold and, while we waited to board our plane, I walked over to a Starbucks counter to get some hot tea for my throat. I needed something that was caffeine free, but those airport baristas are nothing like the real thing. The girl just handed me a ring of teabags and told me to read all the ingredients myself.
But I wasn’t wearing my glasses. I started rifling through my purse among all the cough drops and Tylenol and nose spray. It looked like a ticker tape parade with all the Kleenex flying everywhere. Finally, there they were. My glasses. I pulled them out in frustration, trying to open the case and all the while thinking to myself, “They shouldn’t even call themselves Starbucks if they don’t know their merchandise better than that.”
Suddenly I screamed, nearly knocking over the person behind me as I jumped away from the counter.
“Idiot!” I exclaimed as I tried to regain my composure. The barista looked at me like I’d just insulted her mother.
“Not you,” I said, “him!” And I pointed across the room at my husband—the guy with the red face, falling out of his chair, laughing so hard he couldn’t breathe. Him. My better half. Who just scored another point as I pulled the snake out of my glasses case at the Starbucks counter.
Sold out by my own fake snake.
It’s over. I give up. It’s time for me to throw in the towel and declare Rob the winner of the sneaky snake game.
But don’t you worry. I’m gonna give him the recognition he’s got coming to him. Just once. It will totally be worth his Israeli Retaliation Tactics. This time I’ll be there to hear him yell.
I’m gonna go back to throwing cold water on him in the shower.