My unsinkable mellow fellow

Marvin and Paula are going canoeing," announces my husband, Mike. "Want to go?"

"I've got too much to do," I reply. "Besides, there is a little matter of we don't have a canoe." He'd been saving for one, but had spent the money on the transaxle of a derelict lawn tractor. ("You bought a lawn mower without a motor?" his mother asked incredulously, when he explained how he spent the birthday money she'd given him.)

"Yeah, well, maybe I should see if Dan can go," Mike answers me. Our friend Dan has a canoe.

I explain the impropriety of asking Dan to go, then asking if he will share his canoe.

Mike affirms that the segue would be a bit tricky, so he takes a new tack. "I'll take Donald Duck." Donald Duck is a cute little paddleboat on our pond. We'd had this conversation before.

Two summers ago we floated the Green River in Utah, and he'd wanted to do that in the paddle boat. I had refused to agree to the plan, and we went on one of those big inflatable rafts, which is a perfectly acceptable mode of transportation on the Green, or even the Colorado.

What made it a little less than acceptable, judging from the looks we drew from others on the river, was the patio umbrella Mike rigged on it. Nevertheless, we weren't 50 yards downriver before I was vying for the shade it cast.

Now I counter Mike's remark with: "I don't think so. Marvin and Paula won't want you dogging them down the river in a paddleboat. It's not cool, not even retro cool, because it has never been cool and will never be cool."

His face falls. But I can see his mind working. Once, when some skunks were nesting under our house, he made a contraption straight out of the comic strips. "You see," he had explained, "the skunk will take this piece of bacon, which pulls the string...." It worked, and we relocated three big skunks to the country.

"You could get an inner tube to float the creek," I suggest, "then if Dan comes and asks you to ride in his boat, at least it doesn't look as if you invited him with that in mind. Get my drift?"

I don't know when I became so conventional and concerned about appearances, and why I want to drag my husband into my narrow world of propriety and self-consciousness. Thirty-five years ago, I set sail with him across a lake on a piece of plywood lashed to two large inner tubes. The red sail he'd crafted on my first sewing machine caught the wind, but barely. The craft lumbered through the water, but I wasn't embarrassed.

I finish loading the dishwasher, and the phone rings. It's Marvin. He has found a kayak that Mike can borrow, and he wants me to relay the message. Since kayakers seem tantamount to being at the top of the food chain, I judge a kayak to be cool. I hate this scoreboard I keep, but there it is.

I go outside and see Mike whacking weeds. I can't help but smile at the sight of him. He's wearing a long denim apron, another of his creations, to keep the weeds from pummeling his legs. He's definitely no clotheshorse.

I chide myself for trying to change the very things that make him who he is, things that have enriched my life with joy and always a few laughs down the road. And more practically, if I want skunks relocated or need to avoid a heat stroke, he's the best friend I could ever have.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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