Things We’ve Heard Before

Rewrite of a story from Oct 29, 2006

We had a large family together, ten children in all, some more successful than others. We were happy, oldest to youngest. But life throws curves to life, and ours was that our house caught fire with the children trapped inside. The flames were impossibly hot, but I would have given my life trying.

“A stitch in time saves nine”, she said. So I took the needle from her hand, and raced in a circle around the house. Nine of our children got out, but not the youngest.

Grief consumed us, slowly, like cold settling in when you’re dying. We grieved even to look at each other. But she knew a way to forget it all.

“Penny for your thoughts,” she said.

I looked at her. Beautiful, ponderous, and hurting. So I took the penny, and then I repeated those words and handed it back. At last, then, we let memory go.

We have one of those relationships where people (including ourselves) often wonder why we’re together, but there isn’t any particular reason to part. Perhaps, they think, it’s just habit, or that we’ve just gotten old. And then, one day, I saw the thing I truly wanted. I couldn’t hide it from her, and she didn’t need me to.

“Strike while the iron is hot,” she said.

“I can’t.”

“You must.”

I looked at the folded linens and the steam rising from the ironing board. She was always right, so I did it. I balled up my fist and hit her. It was the first and last time. There wasn’t any need after that.

What I wonder now, is whether it’s better to live a life of cliche.

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