A few years ago – three, perhaps four – the dog threw up on the carpet in the bedroom closet. Must have been four; talk radio in an election cycle will do that. The rupeage was gathered up with wet napkins, the rug carefully daubed, and stain-remover applied. (It’s a perfect sign of Western prosperity that you can buy chemicals specifically calibrated to deal with canine vomitus.) The stain never vanished, though. My wife got a steam cleaner, and it remained, a ghost of a meal gulped and forgotten the second it was over. Later he barfed on the same spot. We put a rug down over the carpet as a temporary measure. Time passed.

When I called home from Denver last August I asked my daughter what Mommy was doing, and was informed she was ripping up carpet in the closet. I should have known; that’s the thing a husband should be able to sense from the other side of the earth. She could not take it anymore. What would we put down on the naked ugly floor, then? She planned to investigate the tile situation, and sure enough when I returned there was tile on the floor. I didn’t like it. But having not done a damned thing about the stain, and certainly not been around to help rip up the carpet, I couldn’t la-de-dah into the situation, screw my monocle in my eye and sniff Oh my no, that won’t do. Eventually we came to a mutual decision that we would try something else, and I volunteered to see what they had at Home Depot.

It was there that I considered wood. Not the fake wood, which I think is made out of millions of pieces of real wood topped with a shiny “laminate,” a word that seems to be one of those verbs that struts around with unearned pride because it was awarded noun-hood, but real wood. The only problem would be selecting the right wood hue. I took home two samples. One was too light; the other was too dark. This ground the process to an absolute halt and ensured a month of doing nothing about it whatsoever.

I said we should go together and see all the options. First we went to Menard’s, where you save big money, and looked at what they had. It was okay. I got to throw around the term “underlayments” with the clerk, which made me feel manly, even though the word sounds like Victorian lingerie. We got a good feel for the price, which drew blood but did not graze the muscles or nerves, and moved on to Home Depot. Here we had three tasks: return all the tile stuff, investigate the Wood Situation, and choose colors for Natalie’s bedroom.

Because that room has undergone a complete change from its lovely hues to something, sigh, the child has picked out. The nerve. It’s various shades of pink with a circle them. (This, to be exact.) She wanted the walls to be pink, but I told her that would be like living in a newborn’s lung. White. Trust me, child.

While waiting in line to exchange the tile-installation items, my wife said the three words that makes a man steel himself: “I’ve been thinking.”  This has many meanings. Since women are always thinking, this often means “I’ve made a decision.” My wife is not given to unilateral aesthetic decisions, though – unless I’m out of town – so it meant she had a suggestion, and that was:

Perhaps a hint of pink in the white.

Why, of course – while you take back the tile supplies, I’ll investigate the hint-of-pink possibilities. What? You ask. Why not the other way around? Because the stuff was on her card. Also, I knew that a thorough investigation of the paint swatches would speed matters along, because some people tend to lose focus when presented with the awesome array of possible colors that could go in that other room, the one that has that color I’ve never really liked. And that’s when you learn that the she never really liked the color. All these years. No idea.

Unfortunately, I enter the Reverie of Possibilities in the paint department as well. There’s the Ralph Lauren department, which connotes the essence of the life I’d like – wealthy patriarch with a sun-crinkled smile and a touch of grey, wearing comfortable clothes in a large bright house, everything smelling of the sea and fresh line-dried linen.  But I think you’re required to be on your second wife for that paint. At least the hues I like. So never mind. There was a Disney collection, which was no surprise; go in for major surgery and you’ll find there’s a Disney collection of clamps and sterile gauze. I found a shade that contained only a whisper of pink, collected some unsatisfactory examples to give her the illusion of an independent decision (she’s reading this over my shoulder, incidentally) and showed them to my wife. She went for the Disney one. Success! 

Off to the wood department. They’d accumulated a few new choices since the last time I’d checked, and one of them was just the ticket. Matched the counters. Rich and deep. And, three times the price. However: it had to be ordered, and we had to make some measurements for the quarter-round, which meant we would be able to make a final decision without actually doing anything about it.


On the way out my wife said she was hungry, and I rattled off the local options. See, this is my territory, dollface. This is where I go on the weekends. This is what I do. I have it figured out so I don’t have to make left-hand turns coming out of parking lots into two-way traffic. I got it sussed out so slick I never have a stop after the grocery store, because I might have ice cream and it could melt.

Fine, but where should we eat?

We went to Burger King, which was the least objectionable provider, and we were pressed for time. The marquee outside said WHY NOT A SPICY CHICKEN WRAP and I really couldn’t formulate a convincing objection, even though I always associate the word “wrap” with something ladies wear to keep themselves warm. It’s like WHY NOT A SPICY CHICKEN SHAWL. We waited long enough for me to snap a picture of the floor and run it through several filters on the iPhone. It’s one of the worst floor patterns ever conceived by the mind of man, and stinks of the seventies:

Eventually I got the meal. My spicy-chicken-scarf was cold. I opened it up – always a mistake – and discovered it was sauceless, as well. I took it back to the counter and summoned the manager. He wasn’t happy to see me. I wasn’t happy to see him.

“It’s cold,” I said, “and it doesn’t have any sauce.”

“They don’t come with sauce.”

I pointed up to the menu above: SPICY SOUTHWESTERN SAUCE was the primary attribute.

“Yeah, well, they don’t come with that anymore,” he said, adding: “You want another one?”

Not a new one that’s hot, fresh, filled with lettuce and spicy “Southwestern” sauce, but another dry godless bolus of encrusted poultry hurled down amidst a scattering of tasteless cheese? No. I had a hamburger.

I took the wrap back to the table, where I had a long conversation with my wife about the state of modern sauce policy. We used to expect sauce in unlimited quantities, but now you have to ask; you have to pay. If something comes in a thin packet the clerk can grab from a box with no thought to inventory control, it’s free – but if the Sauce comes in a tiny square-bottomed bucket with a peel-off top, it’s suddenly more dear than ambergris.

When we were done my wife gathered the chicken from the wrap and the uneaten portions of her burger and wrapped them up to go.

“Jasper would like this,” she said.

I thought of suggesting that she wait until we get the new floors down so he can christen them in his usual style, but I bit my tongue.

As it turns out, it was more tender than the burger, so the entire day was win-win all around.