Better

            My tow-truck driver tells me his wife says this to him when he doesn’t want to—doesn’t want to go to work, doesn’t want to do the dishes, doesn’t want the Roku left on Once Upon a Time when there’s a new season of Voltron. I would never tell my husband this and he knows it. He knows I wouldn’t just make him act like a better person, I would make him be a better person.
            I would decide what “better” means. He could still drive the tow truck, I suppose. There’s good money in that. I wouldn’t make him cover the tats, not even the misspelled Tolkien quote or the pink dragon head that’s supposed to represent…what? He’d need to give up D&D and Pathfinder Social, or cut back. But of course, you can’t cut back on things like that. They take the amount of time they take. But I take the amount of time I take, and if he wants to get himself some of this strange, he’ll do what he needs to do. He’s got to ask himself, “why this strange?” There’s a lot of people out there not like his wife, and he doesn’t go sniffing around them. It needs to be the right mixture of strange and same, has to fill in a gap in ourselves, not necessarily in our wives or husbands. It’s never about them, I tell my husband that all the time.

            After he cheated the first time, she took him back, but wanted to know one thing, only one thing. No details, no names, just why. Why had he done it? And he said because he was young and stupid. That answer wasn’t enough for her, so she asks again and again. She asks after each time. He gets older and older, but is still just as young and stupid.

            “That’s all in the past.”

            “She’s not asking about the past, she’s asking about the future,” I say.

            “She knows I’m not going to cheat again. I shower that girl with everything; she knows I’ll give her whatever she wants.”

            “Except an answer.”

            We’ve reached the repair shop and my husband is waiting. It will turn out we overfilled the oil, cooked our engine, the whole thing will need replaced. Sometimes, that’s just what you have to do.
 
 
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Jennifer Schomburg Kanke work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, and Nimrod. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, she lives in Tallahassee, Florida where she edits confidential government documents. She serves as an editor for Emrys.

Photography by Julie van der Wekken.