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M Stevens-David

The Trim
By Martha Stevens-David
May 18, 2014 - 1:07:13 AM

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The marriage, by all accounts, seemed happy. At least that's what folks always thought. They never seemed to argue or bicker like a lot of other young, married couples did. When folks asked how long they'd been married, they'd glance lovingly at each other and a look would flash between them. Jake would reach over and give Cassie a little pat on her bottom and say, "Not long enough, is it honey?" His wife would gaze him with looove shinin in her pretty blue eyes and nod her head in agreement. Theirs was a happy marriage indeed.

As the years passed, their happy family grew to include three children and a dog. Like all marriages, there is an element within the marriage that shows the ultimate health of the marriage itself. And in this case, it was the dog that contained all the clues.

Cassie had been well-trained in the marriage game by her mother. Her parents had been married forty-odd years and Cassie had always wanted a marriage just like theirs. Her parents never fought or quarreled. Their lives were joined not only by a legal document but also by their very thoughts and deeds. Their marriage was an example for all married couples to follow and right after sayin "I do," Cassie set that train on the track for life, or so she thought.

Whenever a question cropped up in her mind regarding something that Jake might have said or done, her mother's admonitions about what to do slid past Cassie's brain. When she'd queried her mother about how to have a happy, successful marriage like hers, her mother had looked at her for a couple of long minutes and then she'd leaned in close to Cassie and said, "Stuff the shit down, way, way down. Remember, any problems within a marriage should be handled the same way, with kindness, forgiveness and love. Anger should never be allowed to enter your door, nor the bedroom door, if you get my drift." And she gave her daughter a long, knowin look. Cassie took this sage advice to heart and had practiced it faithfully no matter what happened throughout the early years.

Jake was a lover of mankind. He was the kind of person who had to give and give and give. He just didn't know the meanin of the word no. He never had a spare moment for his family's wants or needs because other folks were always wantin him to do something or to help them do something.

If Cassie happened to mention that she wanted to go someplace with him or that one of their kids had a special event at school, Jake would look at his wife with a hangdog expression on his face and she'd quickly say, "Okay, okay, honey. I'll handle it myself." And that was that.

As the years slid by and the kids grew, Cassie gradually began to resent the hours that Jake gave to all his friends and neighbors. Way down deep inside she began to feel that she and the kids were at the bottom of the list and tiny niggles of anger and resentment would shoot up through her body from time to time. After never dealin with the problem over the years, Cassie wasn't too sure exactly how to handle it. So, she stifled the anger and stuffed the resentment and waited for Jake to change. But sooner or later, all humans have to deal with their hidden anger and resentment and her deep seated feelings took a form that no one, least of all Cassie or Jake expected.

Not long after the three kids had been born, Jake decided that he'd buy them a dog, because, as a kid, he'd had a dog and he thought that a dog was a kid's ideal companion. He'd never given a thought about how Cassie might feel about this additional burden and he immediately went out and bought a dog, a cute little Lhasa Apso.

The kids were beside themselves with happiness and they quickly named the dog "Chu" and he followed them everywhere they went. Chu was attached to all of them but he was really attached to Jake and everywhere Jake went, he took Chu along.

Folks around town, upon seein Jake drive by day after day with the dog's head stuck out the window, began to laugh that Jake had found himself a new "girlfriend." Hearin these stories, Cassie had to admit to herself that part of the story was true; Chu did get to go out with Jake more often than she did.

Jake, used to havin everything in his life totally his own way, sailed through life a truly happy man. When he heard his friends discussin arguments they'd had with their wives about fishin or huntin trips, he'd laugh, shake his head and say, "That would never happen at my house. I can go where I want, do what I want, when I want and Cassie never says a word. I've got the best little wife and the happiest marriage in the whole wide world!" Little did he know it but his happy marriage was hangin by a hair.

Every Saturday morning, Jake would slid out of bed, have a quick shower, gulp down a little breakfast, grab the trash and Chu and head for the Ashland town dump. This ritual was the same week after week. On the way home from the dump, he'd stop at Jack Ray's to fill the car with gas and buy Chu a long, dried meat stick or a bag of chocolate covered peanuts that he and Chu would share on the ride home. Yes sir, they were a happy pair, this man and his dog.

Once home again, if he hadn't promised one of the neighbors his help on a project, he'd scoop up Chu and they'd slide into his old recliner and spend the rest of the day, flippin through the satellite channels. Every now and then, they'd get up out of their snug little nest so that Chu or Jake could relieve themselves and once that task was accomplished, back they'd hurry, to their cosy seat and the television.

Sometimes, Jake would take it upon himself to mow the lawn. He'd hook up his small trailer to the back of the mower, put a nice plump pillow in it and gently place Chu on the pillow. Then, the two of them would spend the next three hours goin round and round the lawn until all the grass was cut. Yes sir! Jake lived very happy life there in la-la-land.

The changing of the seasons means different things to different folks. Spring in Aroostook County meant Mother's Day and to Jake this meant a fishin trip. Nearly every weekend, one friend or another had something planned that included Jake. When the phone rang, Jake, before he even answered it, would look at his wife with a shit-eatin grin and say, "Sorry honey." He knew that it was one of his friends callin, wantin him to go somewhere or do something. Cassie began to seethe and boil inside and it wasn't too long before things began happening at Jake's happy abode.

It was nineteen sixty-three and Jake was sooo happy! It was the Fourth of July and he was goin on a three-day campin and fishin trip to the Allegash. He had been planning it for months and the day was finally here. He loaded his old truck with all his gear, kissed the kids, patted Cassie on the rear and seein Chu lookin at him in that hopeful way, grabbed the dog and held him close and cooed to him, "Daddy will be back in a little while. You be a good boy and when daddy gets back, he'll bring you a nice, big treat, old buddy." He kissed the dog a couple of times on the top of his head and hopped into his truck. He gunned the motor and with a flip of his hand, and a huge grin off he went. Cassie stood where he'd left her by the garage door in the weak sunshine for a long time and when her heart had resumed a somewhat normal rhythm; she went back inside to check on the kids.

One day slid into another and whenever she thought about her husband and all the fun they were havin up in the Allegash, her blood boiled a little. She walked into the living room and sat down in Jake's big recliner and Chu immediately came over to her, wantin to be picked up. Cassie, lost in thought, just sat where she was not payin any attention to the dog until he jumped up on her. Feelin his sharp claws dig into her leg, anger and resentment about Jake's latest trip boiled up past her brain. She bent and scooped up Chu and headed for the kitchen.

Holding the dog firmly in her arms, she proceeded to fill the sink with water. Chu, hearin the water run, struggled to get down as Cassie sang softly to him, "its baffy, baffy time for the doggie." And then she dumped him into the water. She drizzled some shampoo on him, lathered him up and rinsed him off. Then she wrapped him in an old towel and carried him over to the counter. She dried him off and then she stood for a couple of seconds, just lookin at him.

Just as she was about to begin brushing the snarls out of his coat, the phone rang and reaching over, she picked it up and slid it against her ear. She could hear her sister Sandra's whiney voice on the other end. "So," she stirred. "When's the happy hubby comin home?" Cassie sighed, "I expect they'll get back sometime Sunday night. Why are you askin?" Her sister couldn't contain her gloating and she replied,"Oh, I jist wondered because I heard my ole man say that they might amble over to Canada and check out the "wildlife" there before they head back this way." Shocked by what Jake hadn't told her, Cassie found herself brushin Chu just a little too hard. The dog, unused to this kind of treatment, hopped and danced on the counter as he tried to get away from her but Cassie held on. "Well," her sister said, "I'd better go and check the pasture. I heard the moose go through last night and he always tears down a huge piece of fence. Probably the cows are to hell and gone by now!" And she hung up.

Cassie put the phone back and commenced to brushin Chu. Her mind wandered to all the fun her husband must be havin and all the fun she wasn't! Suddenly, she reached into the drawer and pulled out her scissors. She and Chu were eyeball to eyeball for a couple of seconds and then she began cutting. The hair flew and suddenly Chu had changed. By the time she'd stopped, Chu had lost most of his mustache on one side.

Surprised at what she'd done and feelin a little guilty about the way Chu looked, she petted him a little and dug in the cupboard for a treat. Then she set him down on the floor. Chu, happy to be free, grabbed the treat in his mouth and with a last spiteful glance in her direction, tore off across the kitchen floor into the bedroom. Once he'd reached the safety of her bed, he turned once more and flashed her a hateful look before he disappeared with his treat under her bed. And he wouldn't come out, no matter how many time the kids called him, until Jake came home the next day.

Jake, happy to be home, rattled on about all the fish they'd caught, how beautiful the Allegash waterway was and what a great time they'd all had on their fishin holiday. Jake, sensing that Cassie was about as non-communicative as one could get, glanced over at her and said, "Really hon, you should think about comin with me next time."

Jake never noticed the look that flashed across Cassie's face and he never noticed that his precious dog was now sportin a "new" do either. When one of the kids finally pointed it out to him, Jake looked at the dog for a couple of seconds and then he said, "Did mommy give you a widdle hair cut?" Then he continued plannin his next trip.

The next trip that Jake took was exactly one month to the day from the Allegash fishin trip. Just like before, Cassie and the kids all lined up to see him off. The only difference was, this wasn't a fishin trip, this trip was to help build a buddy's camp up to Squa Pan Lake. "I'll only be gone Saturday and Sunday this time." He told Cassie. "Maybe next month, you, the kids and me could take a little trip somewhere. Would you like that baby?" And just as she thought he was going to kiss her goodbye, he slid past her, patted the dog and said, "Yes, daddy will take you next time too, I promise!" Then he was out the door before she could say anything to him. Cassie felt her blood roil through her brain so fast that she had to sit down for a couple of minutes, until her vision returned and her breathin had slowed a dite.

She glanced around her immaculate kitchen and then her eyes locked on Chu. She reached down and picked him up and sang him that little song again, a song that Chu was begginin to hate! "Come Chewy, its baffy, baffy time." Memory of another bath slid through Chu's and he struggled to get away, but there was no escaping. Chu was going to have a bath whether he needed it or not!

Cassie plopped him into the sink, lathered him, rinsed him off and dropped him on the counter. She slid a large towel over him and rubbed him dry and the next thing Chu knew, he felt a little lighter and colder. This time, Cassie didn't stop with the mustache; she cut until all the hair on his head was gone too. Chu, trapped like a rat, sat where he was and looked up at her with his big, brown eyes and commenced to shiverin. Seein that she had taken the latest haircut a little too far, Cassie rummaged in the fridge for a treat for Chu. But Chu, as much as he wanted the piece of hotdog, didn't wait around to scoff it up. All she heard was the snick of his toenails as he flew across the kitchen floor, into her bedroom and under the bed.

Jake was home nearly a week before he noticed that Chu looked vastly different.  He rubbed his hand across Chu's close-cropped head and said, "I guess mommy gave Chu a widdle summer do. Well, that's good because its gittin too warm for all that hair, huh Chewy?" And that was that.

Labor Day was fast approachin and Cassie held her breath to see what plans Jake had for his family. Her sister always had a big "family do" at her farm on the State Road and she was plannin on goin with Jake and takin the kids so that they could see all the animals. Jake got up early that day and hummed all the way through his shower. Finished, he sauntered into the kitchen and planted a kiss on Cassie's cheek. Surprised, she looked across the table at him.

"Honey," he said with a hangdog expression on his face, "I guess I forgot to tell you that I promised mother that I'd drive her down to Houlton to visit her sister in the old folk's home. We are planning of makin a day of it but we should be back around seven or eight tonight. You and the kids have a good time at your sisters." Ole Jake didn't even notice the snappin sound the handle made as it broke off Cassie's coffee cup.

By the time Jake returned that night, not only was Chu's mustache gone but he had no hair left on his head and his naked tail looked like a snake peekin out from a huge ball of fur. Jake, upon seein him for the first time, felt a small niggle of unease. He glanced from the dog to his wife with a question on his lips. She simply shrugged her shoulders and said, "Well, don't blame me! I couldn't watch the kids and the friggin dog too! He got into a huge patch of burdocks at the farm and I had to cut all of them out!"

The Fourth of July was the trip to end all trips. Jake came home in a jovial mood. His company was havin a "men's night out" and they were boardin the bus and goin down to Portland to catch a couple of shows. Cassie looked at her happy husband and said, "Shows? You mean to tell me that you guys are goin all the way down to Portland to see a couple of movies?" He husband's blue eyes slid sideways for a second and then he said, "That's right honey. The big boss feels that we all need to git away from the company atmosphere and learn to bond. It makes for a better workin environment." He reached over and chucked her under the chin a couple of times and he was off. Just before the screen door slammed behind him, he stuck his head back inside and said, "By the way honey, don't wait up because it might be real late before I finally make it home tonight."

Emotion after conflicting emotion raced through her mind as she slammed the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher and she began cleanin the house with a vengeance and all the while she kept mumbling to herself. She chased the kids outside to play and then she ran the vacuum and scrubbed the kitchen floor. Just as she was about to make herself a good, strong cup of tea, the phone rang.

It was her nosey sister on the line. "So," she fished. "What's the happy family doin today?" Cassie hesitated for a second and then she told her sister that Jake was on his way down to Portland with his company to see a couple of shows. "They're having a company "bondin" meetin." Cassie explained. Hearin Cassie's explanation, her sister couldn't contain herself. "I don't know what planet you're on sister but I jist heard that they're on a bondin trip alright! They're hopin to bond with a couple of them "exotic" dancers that have recently opened in the "Old Port." Cassie didn't really hear anything her sister said after that and she hung up with her sister's laughter ringin in her ears.

When Jake finally crawled up his driveway late that night, the first thing he saw was a scrawny, shiverin creature sittin on the top step of his front porch. As he got closer, he flicked on his high beams and he still couldn't make out what the friggin little "creature" really was. "Must be one of those Christly hairless cats," he thought to himself. "I wonder which neighbor was stoopid enough to spend all that money on one of those jeezley, friggin things!"  He pulled to a stop, stepped out of the car and walked a little closer to the porch and suddenly, the "creature" flew down the porch steps right in his direction.

Startled, Jake backed up a little and the next thing he knew, the creature was tryin to crawl up his leg! Then it dawned on him what the creature really was! It was Chu! There wasn't a single hair left on his entire body! He was totally bald and he looked like one of those pitiful Mexican hairless dogs!

Jake picked up the shiverin Chu and stumbled up the stairs into the house and set him down and Chu took off like a bat outta hell for the bedroom. Jake turned and went into the living room where his very angry wife sat waitin for him in his recliner. He took one look at her face and he knew the worm had turned. He asked what had happened to Chu and Cassie started to cry. Then he heard her say, "I was only goin to give him a little trim but I was so mad at you that I guess I got carried away!" "Carried away!" Jake yelled. "I'll say you got carried away! Poor old Chu doesn't have a single hair left on his entire body!"

They patched things up and theirs is still a "happy" marriage by all accounts but things have changed a lot. Jake no longer lives in la-la-land and he doesn't go huntin and fishin so much anymore. When his friends call and try entice him away, with one reason or another, he casts a long look in Chu's direction, estimates the length of his newly grown-out hair and tells tha caller that it will be at least another month or so before he can go fishin again.

Martha Stevens-David

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All works by Martha Stevens-David published at Magic City Morning Star News are her copyright property and may not be reproduced without her permission.

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