Theirs was a combative marriage. Murry and Angela argued about everything: politics, religion, the bills, what color to paint the kitchen, what television show to watch, what to have for dinner, who left the bedroom light on. No detail was too small, no topic so trivial, that one couldn't find a definitive, unyielding stance that was contrary to the other.
Murry told his friends that the arguments made them feel young. Angela told her sister it was how they kept score.
They both laughed when they said these things, but was the laughter of someone who didn't quite get the joke.
Angela's sisters asked her why she didn't get a divorce. "Because," she said, "he'll win."
Murry's friends asked him why he didn't just leave. "Because, then we'd be dead," he replied.
So it was that they spent the next fifty years quarreling and badgering one another. Most people who knew them, including Murry and Angela, thought it was a blessing they never had children.
Then one chilly March night, Angela had a heart attack and passed away in her sleep.
"Strange," Murry said to a friend outside the funeral home, "I always thought an aneurism would get her." He smiled as he remembered how Angela's face would flush and her eyes widen when she was yelling at him.
After the service, Murry brought Angela's ashes home and scattered them around an Oak tree in the backyard. Then he went inside, made himself a bowl of spaghetti, a meal Angela never liked, and fell asleep in front of the television watching a western that Angela would have despised.
April rolled around, and Murry found himself standing on the porch looking out at the backyard. He had put out the bird feeder, even though he always told Angela that April was too early, and a Cardinal was roosting on it and picking at the sunflower seeds. For the life of him, he couldn't remember why he thought April was too early for the bird feeder, or why he felt it was so important to argue about it every single spring.
He had been having a lot of those moments over the last month. The green in the kitchen as not quite as lime or glaring as he had once thought, Jeopardy could occasionally be entertaining, and, after all these years, it turned out that he was the one that kept leaving the bedroom light on.
Murry went and stood under the oak tree. He cleared his throat. "Angie, I don't know if you can hear me. And I know if you were hear right now you would immediately start arguing with me about that, so I'm just going to keep going before you can get up a head of steam. I just want to say, Angie, I think we may have made a mistake arguing all those years. Somehow all those arguments that I thought it was so important to win don't seem as important anymore. I miss you." He paused, then added, "And I'm sorry I scattered your ashes under this oak. I should have scattered you under the rose bush like you wanted, even though the oak has the better view."
Looking out from the bedroom window, Angela's translucent poltergeist smiled. "I win," she said.
Then she flipped on the bedroom light.
copyright 2012 John M Lance