Reprinted from April 1993
RB and I often shattered the silence of marital bliss with bitter arguments concerning the discounting of items to relatives and friends.
Once my sister Hortence came in to buy a wedding gift. Softhearted Martha gave her a fat discount on the item she selected. I knew at the time that she did not deserve the discount, nor did she appreciate it. As if this wasn’t enough salt rubbed into the wound, RB let the fur fly as soon as she left.
“What’da ya mean, giving that stupid sister of yours that much of a discount?” he asked, putting his hands on his hips like a First Sergeant.
“Hortence is not stupid!” I shot back at him. “A little cloudy, maybe, but not stupid. She was on the dean’s list or something-or-other at college…”
“Big deal!” RB ridiculed. “That was 20 year’s ago. She’s stupid, and, more than that, she’s ugly as a bar of homemade soap!”
“She’s not either! My sister Hortence is attractive and bright… and one heck of a lot prettier than your sister!”
That really shook RB up. You could see his face get red and swell up like a fat toad.
“Hurmp!” he snorted, “she’s skinny, stupid, ugly and frigid, too!”
“Oh, yeah?” I yelled back at him. “How would you know?”
“Well, I just bet she is! When I look into her cold eyes, I get the chills….b-r-r-r-r…”
“She’s not frigid,” I argued. “Last month Harry bought her an expensive waterbed. That ought to prove she isn’t what you say.”
I smile triumphantly, because I knew I’d made a point. But do you think RB was daunted?
“Harry was a sap to buy a waterbed for Hortenece,” RB sasses. “If that dried up old prune is sleeping on it I’ll bet he has to fill it up with Prestone to keep it from freezing over!”
I had turned away, but when he said that I almost choked.
“You’re just jealous of my sister,” I accused him. “Why else would you say all those nasty things?”
“Martha,” he said, “I am not jealous of your sister. I am just sick and tired of the relatives using you to get good discounts. Good grief! They don’t do anything to help us. Did you ever think of that? Tell you what. Just name one time they have ever help out, okay?
I really tried to remember…. just one time.
“Well, remember that time you broke your big toe and Hortence loaned us a mop and bucket so you could soak it. And back in ’51, remember she took me to the grocery store when our car was broken down?”
I tried to remember some more acts of kindness, but it was pretty hard to do with RB butting in:
“And what about that lazy brother of yours? He hasn’t earned an honest day’s pay in 20 years.”
I protested. “Albert was a fine solider during the war. He won the Purple Heart!”
“My heart bleeds for him,” RB snarled, “and for his wife and kids. They’re forever freeloading off us. And what does Albert ever do for you?”
“Albert has had a few setbacks,” I agreed, trying hard to justify his actions.
“You bet he has, and so have we!” RB declared. “And I don’t see him willing to work all hours of the night like you’ve done, Martha.”
RB paused, thought of something and then said, “By the way, that diamond watch that old Albert’s wife is wearing…where did they buy that?”
I knew that he had me. I stammered, “Er-r-r-r-r-r…” \
“See what I mean?” RB said as he hit the counter with his hand. “When they have money to spend they don’t buy from us!”
I swallowed, then replied meekly, “Last Christmas they bought all their kids ID bracelets from us.”
RB paced over to the desk and opened the “Past Due” account book. “This last Christmas, did you say?”
I tried my best to think up a good answer, but I knew I could not. So I decided to pout. “You’re just picking on my brother again!”
When that didn’t work, I started to cry. That worked.
RB came over and put his arm around me and said, “Martha, honey, please don’t cry. I’m not mad at you. It’s just that you work so hard, and you’re too big-hearted for your own good. I love you because you are generous and kind, but sometimes it just peeves me to see you giving away the store to people who don’t appreciate what you’re doing for them.”
Right then, the door buzzer sounded and in barged old Aunt Tesse. We hadn’t seen her since the last time she wanted a bargain.
“Hello-o-o-o,” she sang, trying to be sweet. “I’m looking for a suitable wedding gift for Lula Belle Sadler…something not too expensive, if you know what I mean.”
She winked at RB and me.
“Oh sure, Aunt Tesse,” I said. “Wait just a minute while I get out something new that came in. It’s beautiful, and I can give you a 15% discount on it too.”
I stooped down behind the counter and marked the tag up 20% just to be on the safe side.
“Here it is, Aunt Tesse. Regular $20 set of salt and pepper shakers, but you can have them for sixteen dollars… just what they cost us.”
Aunt Tesse was delighted and paid cash for them. While she was writing out the check, I winked at RB and he winked back at me.