Question:  What’s the scariest thing that a wife of forty years might hear from her husband?

(No, it’s not “I’m leaving you for a younger woman,” though that might be preferable to the true correct response.)

Answer:  “Honey, at the end of the year, I’m going to retire.”

Question:  What’s the scariest thing that a wife of forty years might catch her retired husband doing? (No, it’s not logging on to internet porn, though, again, that might be preferable.)

Answer:  Sitting on the couch in front of the TV screen in the middle of the day watching The Iron Chef!

“Honey,” he says, ignoring the terror in your eyes as he looks up and sees you standing there, “I’m going to try my hand at cooking.”

“How about something less messy, like stamp collecting,” you timidly suggest while visions of food stains on your marble counter tops dance menacingly in your head.

“It doesn’t look so hard,” he says.  “What if I prepare dinner for us tomorrow?  You go out and enjoy yourself, and let me surprise you with a wonderful meal when you get home.”

“Okay,” you agree in your best less-than-enthusiastic-but-trying-to-be-supportive voice.

Later that night, do you really hear fire engine sirens approaching your house, or is it a nightmare about your kitchen burning?

He’s out of bed before you in the morning and you find him in the kitchen surrounded by all thirty of your cookbooks, enthusiastically wetting his thumb and flipping the pages.

“Aha,” he says, “I think I’ve found just the thing.  “I’m going grocery shopping.  You have a great day!”

You decide to calm yourself with a visit to a day spa.  But first, you return the other twenty-nine cookbooks to the shelf.  Who expects the Iron Chef to clean up after himself?

Your cell phone rings just as you are about to have your facial.  “Hi honey, sorry to bother you, but I need a mixing bowl.  Where do you keep them?”

“They’re in the cabinet below the toaster-oven.”

“Oh, yes, I see it them.  But why do you keep them there? Wouldn’t it be better to keep them in the cabinet next to the refrigerator?  That way you can…….”

His voice trails off as you remove the phone from your ear.  You are at a spa.  You do not want to get angry as you listen to Mr. Micromanager’s suggestions for reorganizing YOUR kitchen!

You lie quietly and breathe deeply.  The cosmetologist has applied a soothing mud pack to your face, and has left the room.  Soft music is playing.  Your phone rings again.  You know you shouldn’t answer it but you do.  His voice again.

“What’s a whisk?”

“A whisk is to whip things, like eggs.”

“Do we have one?”

“Yes, we do.  It’s in the utensil holder near the stove.”

“What’s it look like?”

What’s it look like?  How do you explain what a whisk looks like? Couldn’t he ask me to describe something less complicated, like a spatula?   You can feel the mud cracking on your face as you grimace.   You know you will never forgive him if the crevices imprint additional wrinkles on your skin.

“Well, the top is kind of oval-shaped and it has these wires……”

“Thanks, honey, I think I have it.  Bye now.”

You’re fantasizing in the vibrating pedicure chair when your cell phone beckons once again.  Your inner voice is telling you not to answer, but you do.  Of course, it’s him.

“Honey, there’s something wrong with the food processor.”

“Did you find the right blade?” you ask.

“Of course I did,” he says indignantly.  “But when I pushed the button, the stuff just went all over the counter.”

“Did you have the cover on?”

“Oh,” he says, dropping the indignation, “guess I forgot the cover.”

“Don’t worry,” you say, noting the discouragement in his voice.  “Anyone could have made that mistake.”

The chair continues to vibrate but your fantasies have definitely switched gears.

The last phone call comes when you are driving, having finally found the courage to return home.

“Hi, it’s me.”

What a surprise!

“Can you do me a big favor?  This dish I’m surprising you with, Chicken ala Valenciana Poblana, I forgot one little ingredient.  Could you stop on your way home and get it for me?”

“Sure,” you say, “what is it?”

“The chicken.”

You arrive home, enter the kitchen, and hand him the poultry.  You look around and see that things are not as bad as you imagined.  They are much, much worse.

At 10:30 pm, after closing the door on the devastation that used to be your kitchen, you are finally sitting down to dinner.  Actually not bad for a first effort.  You compliment your husband, but hope that you don’t sound too encouraging.

With the last bite in his mouth, he states that this cooking thing is exhausting and he is going to bed, not even giving you the opportunity to suggest that as an alternative, he might enroll for bridge lessons.

At one in the morning you have finished loading the dishwasher and have scrubbed every pot and pan that you own.  The last bit of dried sauce residue has been scraped off the floor. (Where are dogs when you need them? Probably sleeping peacefully with him.)  You decide that you’ll wait until the morning to tackle the ceiling.  Apparently dish-washing was not a part of the deal.  But then again, who expects the Iron Chef to clean up after himself?

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