Copyright 1999 by Jane Urquhart. The author is a member of the Net Authors and Creators Union (NACU), which defends the rights of Internet authors and creators. NACU intends to bring suit against any person or corporation infringing copyright.
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My husband is impossible. Well, improbable, anyway. He never was very enthuisiastic about household tasks, but he finally ceased totally and without exception to do anything useful around here at all. He didn't even take out the garbage, and everybody knows that's what men are for. Oh, he'd say he'd do something--it just never got done. His brother came to stay with us for a month, and it got even worse. Finally, however, I discovered a perfect, foolproof solution to this distasteful situation. I thought.
My friend Beth inadvertently got me started thinking along revolutionary lines.
"I mean, he won't even take out the garbage," I told her on the telephone.
"Off the top of my head I can produce two tactics," she said. "(A) Threaten divorce. (B) Cut off the sex. Just say no."
"A and B both would have a serious side effect I don't think I could tolerate," I said. "Either would cut off my sex, too."
"Well, if you can't make a few little sacrifices you'll never get anywhere," she said. "Besides, I could lend you my husband, say once a month."
"You are so generous," I said. "But once a month absolutely will not cut it."
Beth is pretty smart, but she couldn't come up with any better ideas. She promised to think about it.
Forced to shift for myself, I took up serious cogitation. I considered hitting him. Bad idea. I'm nearly six feet tall, and even if my muscles are starting to atrophy I'm pretty strong, but he's bigger and stronger than I am. I thought about going on strike--I wouldn't do any work, either. That seemed attractive until I realized the place would go to hell within a couple of days, and I hate mess. Besides, the poor little kids would starve, and I have this uncontrollable nurturing gene. And I love doing laundry better than anything. Almost anything.
I was still thinking, to no avail, when the mail came through the slot with the usual thud. I sauntered over and started looking at it, throwing three-quarters of it directly into the wastebasket. Then one thing caught my attention--a circular full of coupons for all sorts of junk. Coupons. Hmmm. A glimmer of a possibility took up residence in my capacious brain.
If I took one of Beth's ideas and altered it a bit, it just might work. Worth a try. I sat down at the computer and started composing a list.
One coupon: Permission to cop a feel, left boob.
Two coupons: Medium strength hug.
Three coupons: Good hug, with grind.
Four coupons: Wait a minute. Make green coupons with a big "One" on them, yellow ones with a "Two," and blue with a "Five." What would a blue one be worth? Obviously it would be take a while to figure out the proportionate value of these things, but the idea was definitely sound. I could even use hundreds or thousands instead, like Italian money, which I just love to spend. (I don't think I'm going to like Euros much.) Then I got another great idea. We have a color printer that I seldom use because my stories look just about as good in black and white, but with that I could make those coupons beautiful!
Then I would hand them to him as rewards for the performance of household chores. Along with a list of the goodies they would get him. Heh-heh.
It took about two hours to make the first coupon, what with searching for clipart and all that stuff. I started by scanning a Belgian 200 franc note, taking off all the pictures and words but leaving the numbers, and pasting a mermaid on it. I made a beautiful set of coupons; in three hours I had printed out enough to start operations, along with a fairly satisfactory list.
I went and found Bob sitting in the living room reading.
"Hey," I said. "I've got a proposition."
"Huh?" he said.
"If you'll wash the supper dishes I'll give you a thousand chore coupons."
"Huh? What's a chore coupon?"
I pulled five 200s out of the pocket of my sweatshirt and handed them to him. He looked at them. I think he liked the mermaid.
"Those are," I said. "That's the thousand you'll get." I snatched them back out of his hand.
"You nuts?" he said.
"Nope," I said, "you need them."
"What for?" he asked.
"Sex," I said, standing there with my arms folded.
He looked at me as if I were some sort of peculiar animal that had invaded his living room.
"Sex? What sex?"
"The sex you're not gonna get if you don't have a fist full of coupons."
"You've got to be kidding!"
"Nope," I said, "not kidding."
"Is this some sort of extortion racket?" He was beginning to smile.
"I guess some people might call it that," I said, "but I look at it as a kind of a game. Except everybody wins."
"But what do you need the coupons for? I don't need coupons to do chores."
"Oh, yes, you do," I said. "You may not recall, but I mentioned last week that you haven't lifted a finger around here for a month, and you promised to reform. Things haven't changed a bit. I figure if I give you a coupon for doing something, you'll actually do it, instead of just saying you will and then not doing it."
"I get distracted," he said. "I mean to do things, but I just forget. I have a lot on my mind."
"You have a large mind," I said. "Soon you'll be using part of it to count coupons."
"I'm beginning to think you're serious."
"That means you're beginning to catch on."
"So what do I get for a coupon?"
"They start at a hundred. For two hundred you get a kiss. For five hundred you get a real good kiss, complete with hug." Then I whipped out my list and handed it to him. "This is your catalogue. You decide what you want and earn enough coupons to get it. Nothing is free anymore."
He started to read the list, but before he finished he looked up at me and said, "But if I don't get any of this good stuff, you don't, either." I don't marry stupid men.
"I think I can hack it," I said. "Anyhow, I suspect you're already considering going out there and doing dishes."
He looked at me some, shook his head, and stood up.
"I could get mad."
"You could," I said, "but there's no coupons for that."
This guy has been married to me for twelve years. He knows that mostly I just go with the flow. He also knows that once in a while I dig in my heels.
He washed the dishes. That got him a thousand coupons. He spent two hundred of them on a little kiss after he got through, and saved the rest.
Amazing things happened in the next few days.
Bob spends a lot of time in his office at the university talking to students, he goes to committee meetings, he does research in the library, and he teaches a few classes. As soon as the coupon scheme went into effect, I noticed that he got home earlier, sometimes didn't go in until noon, and generally spent a lot more time than usual around the house.
One day I got home from work at a quarter to one, and he had lunch ready for me. He took up setting the table for supper regularly. He emptied the dishwasher every morning. One afternoon he started cleaning the garage--that was easily a twenty-thousand coupon job, and he didn't come anywhere near finishing that day, but I paid by the hour. He began to amass a nice collection of coupons. Occasionally he would part with five hundred for a quality hug, and I guess he spent maybe a thousand on feels, but that was all. I really hadn't reckoned on the fact that he's a natural born skinflint with money, so he was the same way with coupons. I finally had to print a ten thousand note and trade it for his small change.
I began to get some mild urges that usually got satisfied in the normal course of things before I really noticed that they were developing. Finally I mentioned this, gently.
"What's going on?" I said, "Are you trying to get to be a millionaire?"
"Waste not, want not!" he said with a leer. "Don't worry, I'll cash them in some day. What's the matter, you got a problem?"
"Oh, no," I said. "Everything's fine."
It was right after this that my boy, Alan, who is eleven, came down the stairs from his room and sloped over to my chair. Fortunately, I was writing a letter, not the kind of stuff I write when he's nowhere around.
"Mom," he said, "what can I do to help around here? I want some of those coupons you give Dad all the time."
"You help enough," I said. "You're pretty good about it. You don't need any coupons."
"But I want some coupons! When Dad does some work, you give him coupons, and I want some, too! They're cool!"
Yeah, well, I wasn't. I had to think fast.
"All right," I said. "I'll print some special ones up for you and Judy, and you can save them up and get something you want."
"Like an action figure or something?"
"I guess," I said. "Or maybe a surprise. You save `em up, and I'll think of something."
"Wow!" he said. "That's cool! What's Dad gonna get?"
Gulp! "He's going to get a surprise, too," I finally said.
This project was getting out of hand. Fortunately, my daughter Judy thought the whole thing was silly and refused to have anything to do with it.
.... There is more of this story ...