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  • Gary Gruber

The Worst Thing I Ever Did to My Wife


Working at the “Color Lab” on Yonkers Ave was one sweet job. Each printer had their own room. Printing was done on an automated enlarger with a long roll of paper. Removing the photo paper for transfer to the processing lab required total darkness. I would work very quickly, and once my quota was filled, I’d close the door, remove and seal the exposed roll, and then lay down on the floor with my jacket for a pillow, and take a little snooze.


This was my one and only union job, and had I known better, I would have saved my Teamster’s card for posterity. We lost a major client while I was out having knee surgery and returned after a month of rehab only to be promptly laid off. While it was a bit distressing, it meant I could spend more time with Phyllis and her mom down in Long Branch, NJ at their summer home. It was a marvelous work of 40’s craftsmanship, Three spacious floors with a zillion bedrooms and a porch with lawn chairs that begged you to take a nap in the cool breeze of the afternoon.


I made a trip back to Yonkers once a week to fetch my unemployment check. The rest of my time was spent haunting the piers by the ocean early in the morning for photos, followed by a plate of bacon and eggs across the street at the local eatery. I half-heartedly looked for work, but was too enthralled with a lifestyle that included Christine’s home cooked Italian food and a fascination with the tales told by the retired couples that rented rooms at the summer home.


Afternoons would find me and Phyllis roaming the boardwalk, scarfing down sausage and pepper hoagies followed by freshly made waffle ice cream sandwiches. We would while away the afternoon playing Skee-Ball at the arcade. Phyllis’ afternoon shift at the Asbury Park Press didn’t begin till 4 pm, so we had plenty of time to explore and have fun every day.


Everything we ate was a delicacy. We measured pizza back then by the square foot, not the slice. We got a very rude awakening one day when Phyllis made an unscheduled trip to the emergency room at the hospital in Monmouth. We were about to learn a very important lesson about how the body regulates its electrolytic balance. Sodium and Potassium sit at opposite ends of the spectrum; and disturbing their relationship in the bloodstream can have disastrous -- sometimes fatal consequences.


We had been consuming so much salt in everything we ate that it drove Phyllis’ potassium levels down to a dangerous point. They had to run the blood tests twice on her – they couldn’t believe anyone could live with that little potassium in their body. After that close call, we made it our mission in life to balance our salt intake – by increasing our consumption of sugar.


We found two primary sources of sweet heaven to help us get back on track. The first was the hot fudge ice cream cake served by “The Inkwell”, right down the block and around the corner from the house. Our second inspiration in maintaining a healthy body came from a bakery in West End. They made crumb buns – with crumbs-the-size-of-your-fist-and-crunchy, dusted with powdered sugar, on top of a dreamy yellow cake that smiled as you consumed it.


I was in a get down to business phase during those years and saw no earthly reason why anyone should squander time with the cake part of the crumb buns. I viewed them as a wasted opportunity and an impediment in attacking the real source of pleasure there: the crumbs. Phyllis, on the other hand, was a true believer. She felt the crumbs were the reward after spending the requisite time eating the cake. These philosophical differences came to a head late one evening.


I had been staring at a virgin box of crumb buns in the fridge all day. Ostensibly, they were there for Phyllis to enjoy when she returned home from work later that evening. It must have been the devil on my shoulder. Around 7 pm when the kitchen was empty, I crept in, Ninja like, and removed that box from the fridge. With a single swipe from my Katana, I separated the crumbs from the cake with as deft a move as any skilled surgeon carving through a chest to access the heart would make. Balanced on my blade, I transferred the top of the buns to a plate, and consumed them all probably within the confines of a single heartbeat.


I could have done the right thing. I could have tossed the rest of the buns and Phyllis would not have been the wiser. I did the dumb thing, I left the raped and mutilated crumb buns in the fridge. I was fast asleep when the bedroom exploded shortly after midnight. The light in the room flashed on a millisecond ahead of Phyllis’ wrath. She had been waiting all day to chow down on them crumbs, and now she was a woman to be reckoned with.


Looking back, in the 50 or so years we have been together, I never came that close to being castrated as that fateful evening. A man only needs to see rage like that in a women’s eyes once to learn his lesson. Some men get their comeuppance after an evening of infidelity. I got mine over pastry.

Go ahead and ask her. I’ve been a good boy ever since that crucial night. Nothing I have done since that incredulous act will ever approach the infamy of lopping the tops of her crumb buns.


Go ahead and ask her. I dare you…

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