Without taking his eyes off the television set, he reached over and extracted another potato chip from the bag on the side table. He even knew what the next pitch was going to be since he’d watched the ESPN reruns of the fifth game of the 1956 World’s Series four times this week. But he was still mesmerized by the game because it was his first real baseball game with his Dad after he recovered from polio when he was ten years old. And then the screen went blank.
Still chewing on his chip, he looked around and saw his wife standing behind his chair, the remote in her hand and that sour look of hers on her face. “Stay right there where you are, Mister! I have something I want to show you,” she growled as she put the remote down and picked up something else.
He froze, trying to figure out just what he had done now as she appeared in front of him holding a large book. Uh-oh, he said to himself not moving an inch, She found it. I’m in trouble now!
“I decided to do some deep cleaning this morning. I was feeling pretty good since my little stay in the hospital, and I thought I should get this place back into ship shape. And look what I found in the linen closet! In the linen closet, of all places!” she yelled, waiving the book in his face, “Where you didn’t think I’d find it in my weakened condition, right?”
He clumsily mumbled, “Look, I can explain. It’s. . . . it’s not what it looks like,” knowing full well it was exactly what it looked like.
She not so gently threw the large old book down on the side table next to his chair, knocking the bag of chips to the floor. “We had an understanding, remember? You told me. . . no, you promised me you would never look at this damn book again! And what do I find after my little stay in the hospital? You’ve taken it from its eternal hiding place in the attic and have stored it in the linen closet while I’ve been away! So, husband, just what have you been up to, anyway?”
He picked up the dusty old tome and quickly glanced at its cover which read, ‘Blackstone’s Big Book of Magical Spells and Incantations, Volume 1, 1885 edition’. Holding the book in his lap and with a beseeching look he asked, “Would you believe me if I told you it was for you?”
She paused for a moment and reflected back on her recent stay in the hospital. “Wait a minute. You’re saying that you broke your solemn promise never to use that book again while I was in the hospital?” He nodded slowly as she continued, “And just what day did you use it? Get it right ‘cause it’s important!”
He breathed in deeply, thought back to that day, and slowly answered, “It was last Thursday in the late afternoon. I was desperate, at my wit’s end. They had called and told me they were going to decide whether to intubate you in the next couple of hours. I didn’t know what else to do.”
He watched as she digested this information and then started to speak, a distant look in her eyes. “I was really sick, the fever, the pneumonia, the whole works. But I was aware of what day it was and what was going on. And it was that Thursday afternoon, late, that my fever broke and I started to rally. The doctor’s said it was a miracle ‘cause they were just about to put me on the ventilator. And we all knew what that probably meant.”
He gulped as he realized he was probably off the hook for his little transgression as she continued, “And it was all because of you and this damn book, eh? You crawled up into that dusty old attic of ours, you with your bad back and all, and rummaged around until you found where I had hidden it. I bet it took you awhile, right?” He smiled weakly and nodded. “And then you came down here, found just the right little chant and remembered just how to do it after all these years.” He watched as tears welled in her eyes, “And you saved me, you dear little man! Oh, my God!”
She bent down and kissed him again and again and again, sobbing all the while. For some reason he hoped she had tested negative before she left the hospital as he just sat there motionless clutching the old book in his hands.
Finally, wiping her eyes, she straightened-up, composed herself and announced, “Well, no matter. What’s done is done. But I want you to get right back up in that attic and return that book to its hiding place, you hear! I’ll find another place to hide it when I’m feeling better, someplace where you won’t find it again. But for now, just do what I say and I’ll forgive you this time.” And with that, she marched off with that old determined look in her face.
He remained sitting, the television still off, his bag of chips still laying on the floor, realizing that the game was probably over by now. He would do as she had commanded in just a few minutes, but he just sat there grateful that in her rage she hadn’t seen the little ‘post it note’ sticking it’s tiny yellow edge out from somewhere deep in the book. For if she had, and if she had opened the book to that certain page, this morning’s little episode might have ended very differently, for it read:
“Mother Blackstone’s Simple Chant for the Perfect Pot Roast Every Time!”