Down Home: An unwelcome guest & a husband’s duty

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You know how people talk when they get all excited and their diaphragm tightens up? They can’t draw a deep breath, so they sort of spit out their words, and everything they say is at once rushed but quiet and shallow and spaced apart.

Joanna talked to me that way the other day.

Jo came running across the front yard, where I was fertilizing bushes and trimming ivy. (Sometimes, I wonder if we accidentally planted kudzu out there.)

I could tell by the look on her face she was serious. She motioned for me to yank my iPhone buds out of my ears.

“You. Need. To. Come. Inside. The. House,” she said. “Right. Now.”

I couldn’t smell smoke, and I hadn’t heard an explosion. So, I wasn’t too worried. But I tossed the water hose with the fertilizing doohickey on it into the flowerbed and followed my wife.

Extreme Domestic Trauma

In a flash, I remembered my first foray into Extreme Domestic Trauma. It happened when we were newlyweds in Atlanta more than three decades ago.

Back then, Jo and I lived in a one-bedroom apartment not far from Georgia Tech and Midtown. The front door of our second-floor apartment opened directly into a narrow hallway that led past the bathroom to our bedroom. But if you entered the door and stepped immediately to the right, you stood in the other room—kitchen, dining room, living room altogether in about 300 square feet.

One evening after work, I headed straight to the bedroom to change clothes, and Jo walked toward the kitchen.

About five seconds later, I heard a shriek that just about knocked pictures off the wall. I turned and dashed toward the kitchen, absolutely certain a bandit with guns in each hand and a knife in his teeth must’ve kicked the back door in.

I stumbled into the kitchen. No bandit. But Jo stood there, pointing at the sink, where a wood roach happily waved his antennae.

Quickly, I crushed the roach. And then we discussed the appropriate times and occasions to shriek loudly enough to blow plate glass out of the front window. Thirty-four years later, we still don’t always agree on that topic.

‘Huge. Lizard’

This time, Jo wasn’t screaming. But as I ran behind her, trying to keep up, I made out two words. “Huge. Lizard.”

She headed past the sunroom to our bedroom, where a week’s worth of freshly laundered clothes lay on the bed, ready to be folded.

And down on the corner, on top of the spread, right beside the footboard, a chameleon swiveled his head back and forth, surveying new territory and an infinite array of places to hide out for the evening.

We could debate the definition of “huge,” but this guy was pretty good size by our standards. I’d say he was at least six or seven inches. And he was wood-brown, probably because it’s easier if you’re a lizard to blend in with a footboard than to make yourself invisible on a navy bedspread.

I picked him up, and he ducked his pointy face into my palm. We walked out the bedroom and back into the sunroom and through the door we left open so Topanga, our dog, could wander in and out on a beautiful fall afternoon. I placed the lizard among some purple and white pansies, patted his little head and wondered how he came into our lives.

Most likely, the lizard thought we left that door open for him, and he made himself at home in our house. Until, of course, Jo spotted him.

Job security

Jo and I are proud we have an equal marriage. We’ve both worked hard on it. But even at that, I know I’m supposed to do certain jobs. Some guys get annoyed when their wives ask them to clobber roaches and capture lizards. Not me.

Critter removal ranks right up there with opening pickle jars among my favorite husband duties. I look upon them as job security.

Jo may get tired of my corny jokes and lame stories. I know she’s tired of my obsessive-compulsive neat-freakness. And if you give me awhile—or her 11 seconds—we could come up with a whole list of habits and twitches that get on her nerves.

But as long as I can make her laugh, dispose of varmints and open jars, we’ll keep on enjoying a happy, happy marriage.

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