Fred the sofa

ONCE in a while, when my wife and her next-door friend go on a shopping spree, I reward myself by eating at a tablecloth restaurant. On this particular day I was seated at a single table just behind a table with two ladies in a talkative mood. One lady was rather large, with blue hair; the other, somewhat narrower, had crisply curled brownish hair. She was the listener. Big Blue was the talker.

They lifted glasses frequently, toyed with salads, and dabbed with napkins while I sat waiting for my Trout Almandine. Big Blue was talking: ``You know how some people grow to look like their pets? Well, my husband, Fred, has gotten to look like a sofa.''

I am not usually an eavesdropper, but in this case I thought it might be my duty as a member of the fraternal order of husbands to record mentally what was being said about the unsuspecting Fred.

Big Blue continued: ``You can shake your head all you want, Emma, but two nights ago I said good night to just the sofa. Fred wasn't even in the house and I didn't notice the difference. So, you see!''

Brown Hair pretended to laugh and said, ``Now, now, now, you know perfectly well that after your party last week the couch got covered with gravy stains. So that's one way you can tell which is which.''

``Fred is also covered with gravy stains.''

My salad came and that threw my concentration off for several sentences. When I tuned in again, Big Blue was still going on:

``It's football, football, football. He sits on one end of the sofa for three or four hours at a stretch. He absorbs the sofa. He shouts at stupid players. He even gets to talking gibberish and mumbles names like ``Bucs,'' ``Noles,'' and ``Skins.''

By the time I left, Fred had been pretty well reduced to the form, design, and color of a sofa cushion. Unlike Fred, I hardly ever look at a football game, so I considered my wife pretty fortunate she didn't have to live with a sofa cushion.

When I finally got home, friend wife was back from shopping and wanted to know my afternoon plans.

``The US Open tennis matches are on,'' I said, heading for the television. ``I've already missed the first 10 minutes.''

I didn't know why she gave me the look she did. Maybe it was the gravy stain on my shirt.

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