Wrinkle – Gale Acuff
September 8, 2022
I’m in the tub but not in love, my wife
still my girlfriend. I work at the library
and come to her place after I’ve finished
clerking, shelving – and reading the women
patrons. There’s no ring so there’s no promise.
I’m a creep but faithful physically.
She’s bending over the porcelain, or what
looks like porcelain. Nothing’s real these days.
Everything seems like something else. I am.
I bring her books, whatever she’s requested
and what I recommend or like, which
we’ve never read but always wanted to,
or new ones that look interesting. It’s
1982 so Americans
are worse off than they were before. No, they’re
better off – Ronald Reagan says so. It’s
great greed’s good again. Think and Grow Rich
is a bestseller. I haven’t read it.
Neither has she. She likes a good story,
some novel with a feisty heroine
who makes good, despite what men and other
women do to thwart her. And other junk.
I like fiction, too, but much more often
bring to bed something scientific.
Astronomy. Physics. Animals. All
the things I’ll never understand, never
really studied, and that make no difference
now that America is proud again.
A record of the Beatles or the Who.
History because I want to learn my
own. A novel called Young Adolf Hitler. Real
biographies: Patton. Eisenhower.
Nixon. Woodrow Wilson. FDR. Queen
Victoria and Prince Albert. Bismarck.
Lenin. Stalin. Churchill. Mao. The biggies.
The Civil War. Korea. Vietnam.
Indians. Gardening. Tropical fish.
While I’m in the water she asks me about
what books are moving and which are not.
The New York Times bestseller list of hits.
Harlequin Romances. Erma Bombeck’s
latest. Lewis Grizzard. Think and Grow Rich.
She’s watching my sea-snake, like an ibis–
like a kingfisher, I say. Like a queen-fisher,
I mean. Look at your little thingy, she
squeals. So she’s excited. Guess I am, too.
You mean my Loch Ness Monster, I say. My
Moby Dick. My great big fucking sperm whale.
My Swamp Thing. I want to watch it get big,
she says. Soon it is. How does that work?
she marvels. Think and grow hard, she giggles.
I don’t really have to think, I say. It’s
always primed. It has a mind of its own.
I’m like one of those brontosauruses,
with two brains. One for my head, the other
for the rest of me that really matters.
You better believe it matters to me,
she says, after Bob Hope’s commercials
for lousy American quality
–Madison Avenue and Hollywood
come to rescue us from deep recession.
It’s about to rear its ugly head out
of the soapsuds when it strikes me that I
have lost my interest in her. I don’t
go limp but I’m not rock-solid, either.
There’s communication between the pair,
my head and my member. It’s sobering.
A stiffy has no conscience, my father
said to me. I was younger and he seemed
wistful, but then he was dying. Sitting
on the porch for long stretches, looking at
the past as if he expected to go
there, the dying man’s future, when he died.
I’d just told him a joke that some goober
I’d met from Canada told me. Seems
that this guy checks into the hospital.
He needs help with the hand-held urinal
so a nurse comes in to assist. Later
she tells another nurse that on his tool
there’s a tattoo that reads SWAN. You don’t say?
her friend says. So when the guy has to whiz
again, she helps him out. It takes a tad
longer this time. When she comes out, the first
nurse says, Did I tell you? Doesn’t it say
SWAN? Her friend blushes, answers, Well, no—it
says SASKATCHEWAN. That’s pretty funny.
That’s when he non sequitur’d me about
how a stiffy has no conscience. Then he
dozed off. When he woke I didn’t ask him/
where he’d heard that. Goddamn, the world is sad.
So after I bathe, my wife, who is not
yet my wife, and I have sex and it’s
not love but it gets the job done. Then I
bathe again and return to bed where she’s
reading Cosmopolitan (but not from
the library) and I turn the TV
on and there’s the National Football League
and the quarterback with his hands under
the center’s split and scrotum. She puts down
the magazine and puts her head on my
shoulder, just like in the song, or every
song, I think, and says, I don’t understand
the rules. I begin explaining but she
goes to sleep on me. Dead weight but only
dormant. Bartkowski goes down in the Bear
-hugs of two linemen and he lies there like
he’s just had head. What’s not to understand?
I say, and mute the volume and lie there
where I don’t belong and it’s a comfort,
like life itself. Then I think and grow hard
when the camera voyeurs the cheerleaders
and wish that my wife, but she’s not my wife
yet, thank God, looked like that. For that matter,
I wish that I looked like that, knew desire
from the other side. Then I’d never ask
her to marry me but it’s too late now.