Fall 2016


Merry stepped onto the concrete deck in the rear yard of the home she shared with her husband Bernie. Although they had celebrated their silver anniversary that spring, the couple were still getting used to living alone together, after their youngest child had started college at the end of August. Each had hobbies and activities that kept one or the other of them out of their house nearly every night. Dinner conversations were often awkward. Especially over the past two weeks.

Bernie was sitting on a deck chair, his head titled over the chair’s back, as if he saw something of interest in the starless sky of the warm Chicago evening. Knowing her husband was easily startled when lost in thought, Merry scruffed her feet along the deck, making a noise she expected Bernie would hear. He did not acknowledge her approach, but just as she was about to clear her throat, he sat upright, and turned to his wife.

“How was the meeting?”

“Very meeting-ish,” Merry replied. “The Christmas play will be the 10th, instead of the 17th. What did you have for dinner?”

Bernie shook his head, and raised the plastic tumbler in his hand. “Wasn’t hungry. I was actually watching the news, until I heard your car pull into the garage.”

“I see. How’s your hero today?”

Bernie drew in his breath, and his face filled with disgust, as if he were about to spit. “For Christ’s sake, Merry — ”

“And now you’re even talking like him.”

“You said it yourself, it was a choice between two evils, and I chose the lesser. If it makes you feel any better, he didn’t win Illinois — ”

“He’s the president, Bernie. Or will be, in a few months. You’ve been calling him a charlatan for two years, right up until a few weeks ago. And people like us helped him get elected.”

“I thought you voted — ”

“Voting has nothing to do with getting someone elected. Don’t tell me you don’t understand; we’ve been members of this church for two decades, and from the moment we joined you’ve complained to me about the conservatism, the implied endorsement of candidates, the subtle political agenda. We’ve supported an environment that was complicit in the election of that amoral sociopath — ”

“Enough!” Bernie stood up swiftly, the tumbler falling from his hand and bouncing off the deck as he turned to face Merry. “I did a protest vote against the Clintons. And if I thought there was any chance Trump would win, I would have voted differently, even though as far as the Electoral College is concerned, my voting either way meant nothing. But that was yesterday, Merry. It’s time for us to move on.”

“Agreed.” Merry hugged her arms across her chest. “And that’s why I resigned from the Events Committee this evening.”

Bernie’s eyes narrowed, and he leaned towards his wife. “Resigned.”

“Yes. And I’ve decided it’s time to leave the church, as well.”

“Leave?” Bernie’s hands raised to his temples. “You can’t — Merry, we’ve been there twenty years. Our children grew up there.”

“Don’t you dare use our children against me. They’re adults, and can make their own decisions on where to worship. And if you want to continue going there, that’s fine too. But I’ve made my decision. I now realize I’ve spent too many years in our comfortable suburban home, watching too many melodramas in my comfy recliner, as the world around us fell into madness. I need to fight for a better world, rather than just enjoy the fruits of our own good fortune.”

A low-flying airplane soared high above their heads. In a neighboring home, a garage door began its mechanical descent to the concrete floor. The headlights of a car shown onto the back yard, until the car went further down the street.

“Merry.” Bernie held out his arms. “There is no place I want to go, where you do not feel welcome.”

Tears falling from her eyes, Merry stepped across the invisible wall between them, and let Bernie embrace her. They stood on the deck of their comfortable home, a house filled with more love than equity, and cried, both of them, in the dark of a cool autumn evening.

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