One morning over coffee, Jessica says she wants us to take a horse to church. My wife doesn’t mean using the animal for transportation. She wants to walk a horse up the steps, down the aisle, and let it stand there during services.
Apparently, her whacky ideas are a defense mechanism. Sometimes I have them, too. Usually, one of us can talk the other off the ledge. Looks like this is my day. I point out that we don’t have a horse.
She tells me we can afford one now that we’re not saving for college. I remind her that we don’t attend church. Jessica says maybe things would’ve been better if we had. At the end of my tether, I tell her that churches around here don’t allow horses. I’m pretty sure I’m right about that.
Jessica sips her coffee. “You might be right about that” — please don’t say but — “ but I have an idea.” Merde. “Let’s build our own church.” What’s French for heaps of merde?
I point out how expensive that would be. My wife reminds me we have extra money now. Jessica needs to move on. We both do. We can’t.
I know where this church-building thing is heading. If we had our own church, we could allow horses. As I think about it, I realize we could even have extra-wide pews for all kinds of animals. Steady boy. You’re the sane one today. “We can’t build a church,” I say, “because that would require a huge number of tools.” It’s not a great argument, but she’s got me flustered.
“OK, OK,” Jessica says. “As long as we have all those tools, let’s open a tools museum.” Her eyes widen as she describes how we could have a hallway of hammers, salon of saws, collection of crescent wrenches.
I try to change the subject by blurting out the first words that pop into my mind. “I read that the woman who voiced Mickey Mouse was married 30 years to the man who did Minnie.” I might have that backwards.
Jessica frowns. “Be serious. This is important. Our community needs a tools museum.”
When she’s right, she’s right. I give in and agree. Maybe she’ll forget about it. Maybe I will, too. If not, we’ll bring it up next session with Dr. Rogers.
A surge of bravery, maybe recklessness, washes over me. I tiptoe to the edge of our open wound. I feel like a hiker who goes off-trail and ends up tumbling to their death. “Jessica, you say we don’t need to save for a college fund anymore, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not like we’d be trying to replace him.”
Jessica’s shoulders slump at first, but then they perk up, and she lifts her chin. “I’m beginning to realize that,” she says. My wife goes to the sink and rinses her cup. She says we should forget about horses and churches and museums and go to a department store.
Puzzling, but not whacky. I ask if there’s something she wants in particular.
Jessica turns toward me and smiles. A whole-face smile I haven’t seen on her or been able to muster myself for too long. “I thought we’d go to the children’s section and get another boy,” she says.
Her words ricochet in my brain. I realize I should call Dr. Rogers and schedule an emergency session, but I can’t stop thinking about what Jessica has just said. We’d buy the lifetime warranty this time. I know those things are a ripoff, but after what happened, we’d be foolish not to. While we’re at the store, I could take our brand-new son over to the sports aisle for a baseball mitt. “To the department store,” I say.
Jessica hesitates and says she has an even better idea. “We don’t need to get a new boy at the store. We can build a time machine and change what happened.”
Am I crazy for thinking that might not be as crazy as it sounds? Anxious to get started, I head for the basement. Halfway down the steps, it hits me. All my tools are in the damn tools museum. I trudge back upstairs, sit at the top and break the news to Jessica. She runs her fingers through my hair.
“Don’t worry,” she says. “I’m brimming today. This way.” She tumbles headlong to the bottom of the steps and spreadeagles, groaning and calling our son’s name. As I gallop down to my wife, she goes quiet. I put my ear to her chest. Her heart sounds strong. “Can you stand?” I say. “I think you’re OK.”
Climbing to her feet, Jessica turns her face into disappointment. “Pity,” she says.
Maybe I’ll give it a try.