Archived Story

A good husband is like winning the lottery

Published 9:33am Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

They won’t come when I call them.

But I’ll call them John and Marsha anyway.

They were the happiest married couple I knew. They never traded harsh words publicly. No eyes were rolled or deep sighs sighed. Neither fell into that habit that long marrieds develop of automatically saying “What?” or “Huh?” whenever the other says something. They were a living, breathing Hallmark card.

They’d met when she worked at Bowling Elaine’s, the local bowling alley. She handled the shoe rentals.

John rented shoes, but he never rolled a single bowling ball.

One day, while renting shoes, John said this to Marsha, “Six slick, slim, sycamore saplings stood swaying slightly side-to-side.”

He explained that he was so smitten with her beauty that he had to recite tongue twisters in order to retain his ability to form words.

Marsha was lovestruck. It wasn’t long before they were married. They exchanged vows at the Little Brown Church in Nashua, Iowa. It’s the church made famous by the song that goes like this, “There’s a church in the valley by the wildwood. No lovelier place in the dale.

No spot is so dear to my childhood. As the little brown church in the vale.”

Her younger sister and his older brother stood up for them. John’s brother felt that as the best man, he should say something. So he said, “John is sweeter on Marsha than a hog is on city slop.”

John and Marsha honeymooned in Brush Creek Township in Faribault County. That was where their car suffered a broken radiator hose. They had wanted to make it to the Badlands in South Dakota, but they never did. The best laid plans of mice and newlyweds oft go astray.

They were happy.

Whenever John was asked if he loved Marsha, he replied, “Does a squirrel have climbing gear?”

We all change. We have to. Even if it were possible to stay the way we are, we couldn’t be like we used to be.

That said, John and Marsha didn’t seem to change much. They just grew older.

They wore the same happy faces every day. They couldn’t wear them out.

They’d been married a lengthy period without an apparent bump, let alone a pothole.

Relatives jokingly called them model prisoners.

All things end. John died.

The funeral was well attended. People liked John, and the weather was nice.

A few weeks later, Marsha called and asked if I’d stop by her house. She had a book for me.

I visited. She poured me a cup of English breakfast tea and gave me a wonderful cartoon book owned by John.

I told her that I missed John and commented on what a wonderful marriage they had.

She smiled and told me a story. They hadn’t been married long when John began feeling confined. Then an old high school sweetheart of John’s came back to town. To make a long story short, John left Marsha with a note saying, “Marsha, I’m going to the bowling alley with the guys. If I’m not home in 45 minutes, read this message again. Repeat if necessary.”

John didn’t go to Bowling Elaine’s or return home.

They separated for a year and there was talk of a divorce.

My mind stumbled over the secrets dragged from their safe.

Then Marsha got a letter from John. She took him back because she loved him, and he became the perfect husband.

I reckoned that it must have been quite a letter.

She nodded and plucked the letter from a pigeonhole of her roll-top desk and handed it to me.

It read, “My Dearest Marsha, you are a timeless melody. I am incomplete without you. Please take me back. You hold a place in my heart that no other woman could fill. There is no one else like you. I need you. Please forgive me, and let’s make a new beginning. I love you. Yours always, John. P.S. Congratulations on winning the lottery.”

I liked John and was happy that Marsha took him back. Marsha was, too, but the chain of events reminded me of Sam Houston. Houston was the first president of the Republic of Texas. Historical accounts painted him as an unpleasant fellow with a scandalous past. Houston became a Baptist and, at age 61, was baptized in a river. The preacher said to him, “Your sins are washed away.”

Houston replied, “Lord help the fish downstream.”

John proved to be an ideal husband.

But Marsha kept the lottery money in her name.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.