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Some 27 years ago, I wrote this little sketch of an old couple in their first RV.
We don’t have an RV, but the banter isn’t entirely unfamiliar to my husband and me today after 40 years of marriage.
“Did you bring your pills?”
“What do you mean probably? We’re talking about your heart pills, Harold. Did you bring your heart pills?”
“Dammit. I said probably and meant it. You aren’t going to nag all the way to California, are you?”
“Nag!” She closed her mouth so tightly it created a purple-white line across her face. She hated him when he got like this. Forty years together and she still hated him.
He glanced over at her. He knew she was ticked off, of course. He always knew. He drew a long breath, feeling it rattle in his chest. Maybe he should’ve found some way to go without her. Take Fuzzball by himself, maybe.
He glanced at her again. She was pretending to enjoy Illinois. What a joke. As if he’d fall for that after all these years. “I’m sure I’ve got my heart pills, Lois,” he said quietly. “I put ‘em in the train case this morning.”
Fuzzball was snoring on his rug in the back.
Lois forgave Harold with a look. “I was just asking,” she defended. “I didn’t mean to nag.”
“I know it. I’m testy over this damn RV, I guess. Feels like driving a townhouse.”
“Want me to drive?”
A joke came to mind, but he swallowed it, knowing he had to. A man can’t be married for forty years and not know when to shut up. “No, thanks. I’m doing fine.”
She studied his face. She was worrying again. “You aren’t just saying so, are you?”
“Now why would I do that?”
“Harold, don’t be that way. You know very well what I mean.”
He sighed. “I ought to. You say it often enough.”
Her face turned back toward the window. She was angry again. “Maybe we shouldn’t have done this.”
He knew what she meant this time, too. “Well, we could’ve sat home and waited to die.”
She shot him a glare that slowly softened into a smile. Lois was at her best with stark reality. “You’d have a long wait…unless you skipped your pills. We’d have to watch a lot of TV.”
“But no damn soap operas.” He grinned at her. This one joke was as old as television—predated color, in fact. It might have started with radio. But it felt comfortable—like sitting together.
“I like you, Lois,” he said.
She smiled. “I like you, too.” Her smile deepened into a chuckle. “Most of the time.”
“It’ll do,” he said, then cursed as a black sports car zoomed around them on the right shoulder.