written by Jasper McCutcheon
Pig-headed, that's Eddie Caldwell. At least he was on this particular issue. His wife, Suzie, needed an escort to the theater on Friday night. Eddie refused to take her, opting instead for hockey. Not as a participant, mind you. Not as a fan at the arena, but on television. That's right, Eddie Caldwell was choosing television over his wife.
"What's the big deal, Eddie?” I asked him while he toweled off from his shower. Thursday nights are wrestling nights at the Caldwell home. Eddie and Suzie Caldwell versus Mike and Brenda Willis, and we'd just finished our weekly session. “Just record your hockey game,” I reasoned. “Watch it later."
These wrestling matches we have are nothing serious. Strictly for exercise and social entertainment, because we'd all grown weary of sitting on our butts playing cards or watching a DVD movie.
"No, recording it is not the same,” Eddie presented his argument while naked, facing me full-frontal before stepping into his briefs. The standard procedure following our two-hour matches is for Eddie and I to take turns using the basement shower, in the bathroom adjacent to the main floor where the gym mats are laid out, while Suzie and Brenda use the upstairs facilities. Caldwells always shower first, and then Brenda and I take ours while Eddie and Suzie prepare snacks for all. “It's the fourth game of the Stanley Cup Finals,” Eddie noted. “Kings are going for the sweep."
"I know. I've been watchin' 'em." I unlaced my black Nikes, preparing to take my turn in the shower. Truth be known, I understood how Eddie felt. Watching a sporting event after it's happened, especially playoffs and finals, has a different feel to it. Almost like you're not a loyal fan. Something took precedence over your team's run for the championship, and late to the party diminishes the impact, but then again some things should take precedence. You know, like, your wife! "Geez, man," I pressed on. "This ain't the Super Bowl we're talking about. Just record game four and watch when you get home."
"Oh, come on, Mike. Get real," Eddie slipped on fresh gym shorts and a T-shirt. "You know it's not the same thing, and besides, what if the game's still going when I get home? You think I'll sit around twiddling my thumbs until it's over? Then watch the game while everybody else is celebrating?"
He had me. No man who knows anything about sports could honestly argue it further. "Well, to hell with you, then." I peeled off my second sock and threw it at him. "I'll take her myself."
"Good," he caught my sweaty garment and fired it back at me. "Thought you'd never get around to offering."
Dodging my sock, I taunted and teased. "Yeah, well, maybe you should jot down notes on how to take care of your woman."
“I take care of her where it matters, my friend. I bring home the bread, and unlike some people who sit on their butts all day,” he pointed at me. “I work hard for my living.” Eddie aimed a straight-right fist for my chest, grinning while lightly pressing my T-shirt to my sternum.
“Oh, yeah?” My fists retaliated toward his gut with fake punches, causing him to flinch and giggle while I defended the macho merits of my job. “You think driving a straight truck through city traffic's easy work?” Grabbing his wrist, I circled behind him with a reverse arm lock. “Stopping ten or more times a day to offload heavy cartons with a two-wheeler? Always getting stuck in jams because you street-maintenance clowns have the lanes shut down so you can pretend like you're fixing them?”
“Okay, okay!” he twisted out of my arm lock. “Get your nasty ass in the shower. You're sweating all over me, you filthy pig.”
“Get your squeaky-clean ass upstairs and fix me some grub, dick wad.”
Wad. An apt description of the man. With a frame short and stocky, Eddie Caldwell's at least two inches below my five feet and eleven inches of height, while his chest is three inches broader than mine. Makes for a good contest on the mat – my long and sinewy limbs versus his thick and muscular. Both of us wrestled in high school. Different schools. I was one year ahead of him, in a much-different weight class, and my accomplishments paled when compared to his senior-year, third-place finish at state competition.
He's shown both Brenda and me a few tricks in the three months we've been wrestling, and so I can hold my own against him in our casual contests. In an all-out match, however, there's no doubt Eddie Caldwell would be one tough cookie to pin.
Even without the Stanley Cup final, he probably would have tried to finagle out of escorting his wife to the play for another reason, and that's the theater itself. An old one from Vaudeville days with rows of seats crammed close together.
Sitting with knees cramped for three hours is not exactly what a man needs after a day of hard labor with the city's streets-maintenance department. Eddie stands on pavement for hours filling holes or laying concrete or new asphalt. No easy job, that, especially with wreckless fools whizzing past who disregard the orange barrels and signs telling them to slow down.
It's got to be nerve-racking, and so, I was glad to show him mercy and let him stretch out in his recliner to enjoy his precious hockey game. Besides, since it was my Brenda who created this conflict, the least I could do was try and keep both Caldwells happy.
Nearly two years prior, Brenda Willis and Suzie Caldwell met at a gym. Both worked out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, and casual conversations revealed their mutual admiration for musical theater and modern drama. Seems they also had a common acquaintance, some woman who was on the board of a community theater league, and so decided to purchase the upcoming season's tickets and attend as a duo. Suzie tried cajoling Eddie to join and was flat-out rejected. Brenda got the same answer from me, and this is when they decided Eddie and I should meet.
We were an instant hit, our rabid interest in sports, especially football, college and pro, being the initial catalyst. Since Eddie and I both appreciated trading sarcastic banter regarding people in general and ourselves in particular, our chemistry matched nearly as well as Suzie's and Brenda's, but with one major difference. Whereas I did try to learn about Brenda's (and Suzie's) number one recreational interest – theater – Eddie wanted nothing to do with it. For some reason, whenever Brenda, Suzie or I mentioned anything about any play or musical, Eddie cut off the conversation with a, “Yeah, yeah, that's great,” and an immediate change of subject.
Other than that one sticking point, however, Suzie and Eddie and Brenda and Mike were a good fit. This led to our weekly, Thursday night hook-ups, while Brenda and Suzie also did their theater thing twice a month. For this upcoming Tuesday-night production, however, Brenda's prior commitment to her volunteer work interfered, which left Suzie without a date.
I would be that date. Not only did I take Suzie Caldwell to see her play, we also engaged in some interesting conversation.
"Sorry to put you through this, Mike," she said while stepping into my automobile.
"No problem. That neighborhood's not like it used to be. Too much riff-raff. I didn't like the thought of you walking around down there by yourself."
“I know, but apparently my husband's not the least bit concerned about my welfare.”
“Oh, I doubt that.”
“Sometimes he makes me so mad I could spit.”
“Men can do that,” I tried to soothe her, make it like she wasn't the only wife who suffered. “But I've got a sneaking suspicion he would have done something had I not stepped in.”
“Like what? Lock me in my room so I couldn't leave?”
“Well, yeah, or at the last minute get dressed and escort you after all, just to keep the peace.”
“Oh, I see. Push me to my limits. Test me. That would make for a lovely evening.”
“Hey, Suzie, consider yourself lucky. I can just see Eddie making you miserable. He'd be fidgeting, shuffling his feet and squeaking his chair. Probably saying something to you at the worst possible moment... you know, like in the middle of a dramatic passage. One of those quiet, intense moments when the actor's about to deliver the key message of the entire play.”
She burst into laughter, relating to my point. “You are so right, Mike. He's done that to me in a movie theater before.”
“I'll bet. And movie seats are soft and comfortable. Not like these tonight.”
“I know. Poor, Eddie. He simply has no tact.”
“Few of us do, but we usually make up for it in other areas. Don't you think?”
Her sigh, nearly a moan, told me she was now thinking of those other areas. “Oh, Mike, you know me too well.”
“I know you can't stay angry with him for long.”
“It's those eyes. Sometimes they look at me so sweetly. Like Hershey kisses, and I just want to melt in his arms.”
“And I can just see you melting in those arms of his.”
This time there was no mistaking her moan. “Mm,” she exhaled, and for a second or two I thought she might tell me to turn around and take her home so she could jump his bone, but no such luck. “Mike, you truly are an angel, offering to suffer through this so I won't have to explain why my seats were empty.”
“Explain to whom?”
“Oh, that snooty Marsha Tweed. Mrs. Board President of the Theater League herself. Truthfully, I don't care much for Shakespeare, but I am not about to let her know that.”
Good grief, I silently lamented. What had I gotten myself in to? Was it too late to back out? My attention span is short enough as it is, but sitting through amateurish attempts to dramatize language I do not understand is a fate worse than death. Oh, well, tough luck, schmuck. Put on your Elizabethan English hat, because you've committed yourself to a night of pure torture.
First intermission came not soon enough. Neither of us talked about how miserable we were. Instead, Suzie rekindled the topic of her domestic life. “I wonder if Eddie's enjoying himself.”
“If it's a tight game, I guarantee he is,” I slurped coffee from a Styrofoam cup while Suzie drank bottled water, both of us standing at a side wall in the lobby. “If it's a blowout, he's probably dozed off by now.”
“Without question. Many a time I've caught him asleep during a game,” she stepped to front me, speaking softly, "and usually he has a hard-on." Leaning in closer with a coy winking of her eye, she whispered, "I think the leather turns him on."
I raised my eyebrows, indulging her, "Think he has some leather fantasies, do you?"
She nodded, her upper teeth pressing her lower lip.
"Ever test those waters with him?"
"You mean, a little bondage activity?"
"Not yet, because, hm... how to explain," she blankly looked at the ceiling. "Well, Mike," her mischievous gaze returned to me, "there's more to it than that."
Before she could elaborate, a ringing chime struck by a silly woman dressed in costumed rags told us it was time to take our seats for another round of torture. Act two would soon commence. "I'll tell you later," her finger teasingly poked my tummy, and she grabbed my arm for escort to our seats.
During the second act, I had to keep looking over to make sure Suzie wasn't Eddie. She fidgeted. Her shoes scraped the floor as she frequently shifted the position of her buttocks on thinly-cushioned seat. Obviously, our conversation had worked her into a dither far-removed from whatever the hell was being acted out on stage.
As for me, hot and bothered can't begin to describe it. Our talk had left me seriously bamboozled. Which of them wanted to be tied up? I figured Eddie, but couldn't be sure. Either way, I wondered what forms of punishment turned them on, and what she meant by saying there was more to it than that. Suzie had me fantasizing all kinds of scenarios, and I'm sure my restless behavior matched hers wiggle for wiggle.
Once the curtain fell on act two, we hastily headed for the lobby, skipped the drinks and returned to our previous standing spot.
Suzie wasted no time. "Mike, I've got an idea. Would you and Brenda be interested in helping me teach Eddie a lesson regarding his priorities?"
"Probably," I grinned. Her carefully crafted question left no doubt in my mind as to which of them had a penchant for taking some form of punishment.
"Why are you smiling?" she anxiously smirked. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"Probably," I laughed aloud. "Does it have to do with our next tag team match?"
"Probably," she giggled, and mercifully for me, her interest in whatever remained of amateur Shakespeare was completely squelched. "Come on, Mike. Take me home. We'll talk on the way."
We talked plenty, and our plotting excited Suzie so, she smacked me on my mouth with her red-glossed lips. Several times. Left more of her lipstick on my cheeks than she took inside to her waiting husband, and I kept every bit of the evidence right where she planted it. Figured the outlines of Suzie's mouth all over my face would make for good conversation when I got home.
(part two in a week)