Merlin died, I put all his antlers, mounted deer heads and fish along
with his tarnished coronets and horns into his aluminum outboard motorboat
and started the engine. I pushed the boat into Green Bay and watched as
it sputtered and began to move away from the shored. I remembered that
the Vikings had put their dead warriors in their wooden ships, set them
afire, and sent them out to sea.
Well, Merlin was no Viking
warrior by my standards. He was just a pillager of the Wisconsin forest.
I hated his sports. As far as the music was concerned, it was a rallying
cry for riflemen and archers at the start of the season. Merlin liked
brass bands, Fourth of July parades. He especially like the marching bands
at football games. You might say he was the All-American boy.
Unfortunately, I fell
in lust with him at age eighteen and married him. I married his fishheads
and antlers too. This boatload of crap was going to have a nice Viking
send-off, of sorts. Forget the fire, it would attract too much attention.
I would have put Merlin's body in the boat too. But, you know, there's
state laws against disposing of a body that way, so I had him cremated.
That was his request anyway. I didn't want to keep an urn on the mantelpiece
as some folks do, nor did I want the ashes buried on the ten-yard line
of the Green Bay Packers field as he specified in his Last Will and Testament.
I suppose I would have tried to do it, if I really had loved him. It wouldn't
have been all that difficult to sneak into the stadium at night and make
a teensy hole for the ashes and smooth it over with a patch of sod, but
I had better ideas for him. I rolled the ashes into catfish bait and went
fishing one night along the river back of the power plant. They were biting
something fierce that night, gobbling up those sticky balls like "bon
appetit" all over.
I watched the boat for
a while and then left the secluded spot by the shore. I walked back to
where I had parked the pick-up truck-his pick-up truck-the vehicle I intended
to sell for a sedan just as soon as I could. I stopped at the grocery
store/gas station combo on my way home.
"I'll sure miss Merlin,"
ole Art the Fart, as we called him, said, adding up my bread and milk.
"It won't be quite right, his not stopping here for a six-pack on his
way up to the lakes."
I nodded, "He was one
in a million. No husband like him."
"Anything you need, Faye,
you just holler. Mae and I'd be glad to help."
"Thanks. I'll get by,
the Lord willing." I pulled out a kleenex from my skirt pocket and daubed
"Yeah, ole Merlin was
quite a guy," Art said. I turned and left the store.
"Merlin was a pain in
the ass," I muttered as I revved up the pick-up.
Without those fish and
deer staring at me from all sides, my house was now a home-not the ecological
disaster area Merlin had made it. He complained about my bird feeders
in the backyard and my rabbit hutches. He hated my hobby of raising Belgian
bunnies, mainly because he had to build the hutches and that kept him
from going fishing several Saturdays in a row.
"Dammit, Faye! Those
things multiply. They're screwing all the time!"
Well, Merlin and I had
stopped screwing years ago. Blame me, if I got some vicarious thrills
out of watching Nature do what it's supposed to do.
I told Mae this one day
while she was giving me a home perm. The so-called forty-two year old
"boys" were out hunting-it was deer season.
"Honey, that's life.
They're past their prime. The drive slows down for them, but our old drive
picks up speed about this time. Nature must have goofed up on that one."
That answer didn't satisfy
me. Furthermore, from what I could see, Nature seemed to know pretty much
what it was doing. So, our marriage had lost its magic. It happens to
a lot of couples, right? To be exact, it lost its magic about a day after
the ceremony. Merlin wanted to go fly-fishing in Idaho on our honeymoon.
I wandered along the mountain brooks while he stood in his hip boots in
the water flicking his pole all day long. As for the sleeping bag routine,
he could flick his fishing pole all day long, but once was enough for
him in the sack.
Merlin was able to play
a few notes more on his bugle. You wouldn't exactly call him a magician
with his music, but he tried. Sometimes he stood out in the yard, practicing
a Sousa tune. All he succeeded in doing was scattering the birds. He never
polished his brass instruments. He expected me to do that, as he expected
me to clean the fish and dress the deer when we first married. I set him
straight on both scores right away. He did the cleaning of his game, but
he never polished his instruments. Therefore, the job never got done.
After a few years, I
saw the belly start to protrude on the hunk of a man I had married. Remember,
I was in lust? I thought his body was beautiful, hairy chest, big biceps
and all. You get the picture? There were the kids, you know, the house
and animals to take care of. Each of the three kids had to have a cat
and a dog apiece. Robbie had to have an aquarium and Ted wanted to raise
guinea pigs. Then, Trisha had to have her horse. Do you know who walked
the horse all night when it had gas? Me!
Merlin was great with
cars though. I have to give credit where credit is due. He kept the clunkers
going we had to buy because he always had to have his brand-new pick-up
truck and motorboat. With three kids on a garage mechanic's salary, something's
got to give-and it was me with my home perms and garage sale shoes.
The last kid graduated
and joined the navy just before Merlin croaked on a chicken bone at the
Firemen's Ball last month. It took me all that time to collect all his
taxidermy and junk, load it up and get ready to hitch up the boat to haul
it out of here.
I opened a can of apple
juice and settled down in my favorite chair that night, happy the "Noah's
Ark"-or should I say "Merlin's Ark" was bobbing somewhere out on Green
Bay that night. I put on my bird call record and luxuriated in the music
of my feathered friends. My girlfriends marveled how well I was doing
without Merlin. Mae, particularly, never failed to comment on my "togetherness"-as
she called it.
A few weeks later I ran
into Mae at the Ben Franklin store downtown.
"Do you know what a Canadian
shipper ran into in the middle of Lake Michigan?"
"No, can't imagine,"
"A motorboat full of
antlers, stuffed fish and deer heads-besides a bunch of brass instruments."
"You're out of your head.
Who'd do a cockeyed thing like that? Some maudlin sense of humor," I offered.
Mae squinted. "I thought
maybe you'd know something about it."
I winked and whispered
to her, "Let's keep it a secret like we've done with everything else,
I left her standing on
the sidewalk. Poor Mae. She still had Art to deal with.