John whistled as he walked the half-dozen steps to the bedroom and then, seeing his wife in their bed, paused in the doorway and sang, “‘Hey! Did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world?’” He closed the bedroom door, started to walk toward the bed but again paused, put a big smile on his face, looked his wife in the eye and asked, “Or would ‘I’m Too Sexy’ have been a better choice?”
Joni was in their double bed, glamorously dressed in a violet patterned, off white, flannel granny nightgown, her back leaning against the headboard, supported by two pillows, bedcovers pulled up to her waist. “Neither, wrong said Fred. I’m sleepy, it’s cold, these are comfy. You’ll get sexy another night.”
“Fair enough,” he responded, shutting off the overhead light and stepping out of his clothes. “I’m going to have to do some laundry before I-” John stopped midsentence, smiled, coughed a laugh and continued, “before my jeans get to the point where they can stand up all by themselves,” he finished, dropping his socks and underwear into the hamper and retrieving his suit jacket and pants from where they lay on the bed and carrying them into the walk-in-closet. He returned to the room, mimed a mock shiver and climbed under the covers, snuggling closely with his wife. “I almost said, ‘before I head back to Louisiana,’ but then realized I ain’t a gonna do it. It is chilly, isn’t it?” he asked, throwing his left leg over Joni’s lower appendages.
“Welcome to January in Chicago. This ain’t no Mardi Gras,” Joni answered, reaching to her right and turning the light off with the push rod in the ancient table lamp. “And as Grandmop used to say when people complained about the cold, ‘Belly cold? Tuck your shirt in!’ You do know that up here in the great white north it’s kind of a tradition to wear pajamas to bed? At least in the winter, right?”
“Please,” John whispered in her ear as he embraced and kissed her, “we’ve been married going on fifteen years; when have you known me to wear PJ’s unless we have company.”
“We do have company. Your parents. They’re downstairs.”
“I think if Mom and Dad heard you call them company you might make them cry. Clothes are meant for neither sleeping nor swimming. I kinda have to wear them at the public pool, but not in my own bed. You’ll keep me warm, just look at the Eskimos.”
“Eskimos swim nude?”
“Har, har, har. You so funny.”
“And if you’re thirty-five and a half then we’ve been married fourteen and a half years, not almost fifteen. If your birthday and our anniversary are eleven days apart then temporally speaking both are half a year away.”
“Hmmmm. You have a point, though technically speaking I should have said thirty-five and two thirds, shouldn’t I? Four months from now I hit thirty-six and we hit fifteen years. We’ll have to celebrate.”
Joni nodded minutely and whispered, “Maybe the first part of June? Then we could have a trifecta with our anniversary, your thirty-sixth and my thirty-fifth?”
“We really should, shouldn’t we?” John said, nodding his head in the dark. “You know where this whole ‘and-a-half’ thing came up? On my bus ride.”
“Oh, yeah?” Joni said, wiggling her body closer to his. “How’s that?”
“It was this kid I was talking to on the bus? Name of Klein? Somehow we got on the subject of paranoia? I don’t even remember how, he probably said something like ‘I guess I’m just paranoid’ and I answered with ‘just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.’ You know?”
“Yes, John. I know. It’s one of your favorite expressions.”
“It is?” he asked perplexedly. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is. Anyway he definitely said the word paranoia and so I sang the line, ‘paranoia will destroy ya!’ and told him that ‘Destroyer’ was a really good punk song from back in the early eighties and that he should give it a listen.
“Hey! Who sang that song?”
“Destroyer?” Joni answered. “The Kinks, right?”
John nodded vigorously. “Yeah. The Kinks. I thought it was The Clash.”
“Reasonable mistake. Kind of like The Gap Band and Sly and the Family Stone.”
“Yeah. Yeah I guess. Still, this getting old stuff’s for the birds.”
“Eight Miles High?”
“Oh, shut up!” he declared, and then immediately kissed her to soften his recrimination.
“Of course this little eighteen-year-old hadn’t even heard of the song and has no clue who The Kinks are and I told him he should give it a listen. Not four minutes later we’re getting ready to get off the bus and stretch our legs and he’s telling me that he really liked ‘Destroyer,’ and that, by the way, The Kinks sang it, not The Clash.
“So we come to a stop north of Memphis, did I tell you he was from Memphis?”
“No. Does it matter?”
John barked out a laugh. “No, I guess not. At least not for this story. Any who, anyhow, anyway, as we’re getting off the bus he says to me, ‘So, did you do a lot of clubbing back in the eighties?’”
“And of course me, being the wise-guy that I am, respond with something like, ‘No, I was in diapers when that song came out.’ I wasn’t upset, I mean, why would I be? This kid isn’t even nineteen yet so how’s he gonna know if I’m thirty-six or fifty-six, right? I mean at nineteen everybody who’s out of college just looks old, right?”
“But after we get back on the bus this Klein kid not only apologizes for calling me old, he brings me a Hershey bar as a peace offering. Of course, I tell him that there was no problem and that I hadn’t been offended, but still; it was a very nice gesture.”
“Did you take it?”
“That’s a question? He offered me my choice, plain or with almonds.”
“You took almonds.”
“Amen. Sooo, to get back around to the whole half thing,” John paused, waiting for Joni to groan. When she did not bite the bait he continued, “He said he was sorry for calling me old and I said not to worry and that I was twice his age. And I was! Close enough. He’s eighteen until Saint Valentine’s Day and of course I turn thirty-six three months later.
“He challenged my math, saying I wasn’t really twice his age as he was going to turn 19 before I turn 36, so ipso facto, I am not twice his age. A real hair splitter, huh?
“Anyway, a nice kid and because of that we started talking halves a lot and I started thinking about my half birthday. Just silly, fill in the time stuff; but I liked him.
“Oh! And guess what? Klein’s dad is the same age as Dad. They’re both fifty-five. A little freaky, huh?”