I got a call from Uncle Slappy late last night and I could tell even before I picked up the phone that something was amiss. I could tell from his very ring that he and Aunt Sylvie were fighting again.
Aunt Sylvie and Uncle Slappy have been married for almost 60 years and in those 60 years, they probably haven't gone 60 minutes without having some kind of a set to. You can practically set your watch by them.
The reason behind most of these rows, I've come to realize is that Uncle Slappy is an incredibly ordered man. Once he has his way of doing something, he establishes a routine--that's the way it should be done. Deviance from that routine upsets him. Aunt Sylvie is more haphazard. The minutes on a clock are mere suggestions to her--punctuality is an approximation. And things, even things she's done a thousand times before, are seldom done the same way twice.
Uncle Slappy started this way:
"She's done it again, she's done it again."
"What's that, Uncle Slappy," I asked, already a bit weary of the conversation.
"Junk mail she got last night," the old man continued. "She tore it up into little itty bitty pieces so we shouldn't have our identities stolen, though who would want them--our identities--I can't even imagine."
"That's good then, she shredded," I temporized.
"Shred schmed," Slappy replied, "the torn up mail she left still on the coffee table. And then there's the orange juice," the ancient one continued. "You know I like my concoction, mostly seltzer in a glass with ice topped off with two fingers of orange juice, fresh."
I had made the drink for Slappy a thousand times.
"First the seltzer, then the orange," said Slappy "It mixes that way better."
"I know Uncle Slappy. You explained the physics of that to me years ago."
"Almost 60 years I've been drinking this drink and she first pours in the orange and then spritzes in the seltzer. A backwards drink upside down I don't like. I'm through with her."
"Uncle Slappy, these are baby little things, orange juice and junk mail."
"To her they're little things. Maybe to the neighbors they're little things. To Sylvie, they're little things. But to me, they're big things. I'm through."
"It's ok, Uncle Slappy," I began. I stopped when I heard the old man weeping and laughing at the same time.
He stopped long enough to toss this one my way: "You know," he said, "If I killed Sylvie when I first thought of it, I'd be out by now."
With that, he hung up the horn.