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Column: The Ex

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Just when I thought that the worst encounter yet with the opposite sex was a 30-year high school class reunion, along comes one with all the promise of being worse. High school reunions, as you know, involve old girl friends and current wives, and the chance of a seating arrangement that puts the two of them--and you-- in close conversational proximity. Imagine the worst, you'll have that one.

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The love of my life came home a few days ago and said, "Guess what!" She radiated that somehow indefinable-yet-fearsome energy that women and hangmen give off just before they pull the lever on you.

They don't know they do that. Either women and hangmen. They cannot help themselves, it's just what they do. I've tried for years to tell them--women--what happens to a male's blood pressure when a female starts a conversation with the two words: "Guess what!" Notice the punctuation? There's no question mark. They don't want you to guess; they want you to, well, several outcomes are possible: 1. They want you to search through your guilty conscience, thus perhaps provoking a confession to something or other. 2. They'd like you to skip that part and just have a coronary on the spot, thus saving the tedious process of dealing with a divorce attorney. Or 3. They're postponing telling you about how they drove the car you just got paid off all the way home with the red oil warning light on and do you think they hurt anything? Guess what!

I couldn't guess. There's just too much baggage in my guilty conscience train to even begin to believe I've got enough time left at this age to start a confession. Besides, it was a weekend, and my favorite football team was on in an hour.

I give up, I told her, knowing that would disappoint her. The least I could do. I didn't have a clue.

And then she sweetly said: "I'm having dinner with your ex next week." Once in a while, even the hangman's trap door becomes stuck, and he has to yank on the lever twice.

Yeah, right, I replied. Really, you have my attention, try guess what-ing me again.

"No, really," she replied. "Next Wednesday night. Your brother's wife is going to be there, too."

Am I going to be there, I asked? I knew that I wasn't, because without thinking much about it, were my presence requested, I would develop a late-life drinking problem and soak myself into oblivion with what still is a society-prescribed drug for occasions such as this--booze.

"Oh, no. We don't need you. This is just us girls." She talked on, although her voice sounded dim and far away as I drifted into shock, about how they should all get to know each other better, and they had known me before she did, and could tell her lots of stuff and....and....and.

I went outside, slumped down under a tree out of sight, and fell into a sort of waxy coma. I wasn't asleep, nor was I fully awake. It was like I was there at their meeting, and saw what was going to happen.

It would be a very business-like meeting. The Ex would call it to order by saying, "All in favor of initiating this kangaroo court, say 'aye,'" It would of course be unanimous.

"First order of business," The Ex would say, "What should we talk about?"

"Him," "Him," "Him," would come the shouted replies.

"OK," would say The Ex, "Let's take two pieces of paper each, and write down the worst thing he's ever done on one, and the nicest thing he's done on the other." After a moment, she would collect what would be only three pieces of paper. They wouldn't be the nice ones.

The Love would raise her hand, and when recognized by the chair, say: "Let's write down more bad things." This would meet with a unanimous chorus of ayes.

The pile of bad slips would begin to grow, larger and larger, as the scribbling continued at a ferocious pace.

Suddenly, The Brother's Wife would say, kind of timidly, not wanting to seem out of the flow of all this vitriol, "I just thought of a nice thing."

Alright, I thought to myself in my dream-like vision. One nice thing.

"Let's hear it," shouted the other two, in some pain from writing cramps.

Yes, I dreamed to myself, let's hear it.

She said: "He goes fishing with my husband and gets him out of my way for a while."

At a meeting like this, it's not the enthusiastic response I was hoping for.

But it's a start.

Had I been there, I would have suggested they write down the bad things that I haven't done. Be much quicker.

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