(This short piece was originally published in Larry's Wife: An Anthology in May, 1995.)

Larry’s wife is working on her smile, as she has been for quite a long while. She stares into the mirror, trying her utmost best to gain that sparkle, that Better Homes radiance, which all good wives display. Larry wants his wife to work hard on her smile, so she keeps on practicing and practicing. No matter how hard Larry’s wife tries to twist that Miss America giggle, that Dale Carnegie grin onto her face just so, Larry still isn’t that pleased.

You may be wondering why I only refer to her as "Larry’s wife." To be quite honest, none of us here are even sure what her real name might be. You see, as Larry’s name began to glimmer brightly in those high corporate circles, hers seemed to sputter, to dim. Now, please don’t think that as Larry’s career blossomed she didn’t make strides of her own. Why, Larry’s wife could spin out an impromptu Tiramisu as quickly as he could close an important deal. With each promotion, each step up, she "stepped up" in credit limits and guest lists (to the relief of Larry who never felt her old social circles were quite appropriate. . .) As Larry became intimate with each and every board member, she learned each and every Lennox china pattern (slowly forgetting, for Larry, of course, the name of her mother’s more "pedestrian" hearthenware). But then there’s her smile, feeble and glum. Larry is not very pleased. Not pleased one bit, she would tell you, and Larry lets her know at all the proper occasions:

"Smile....please. Just for me, baby, smile!" he’d coo at the town’s charity golf tournament.

"!!" he’d purr at the Johnstone’s, the Hancock’s and the Fredrickton’s.

"! Goddammit! Smile, I said!" he’d caressingly ooze at his boss’s Christmas parties. Sometimes, just to show her how important a charming smile is to him, Larry gives her an affectionate tap or two. Now, he never tapped too hard, just enough. Despite this encouragement, Larry’s wife finds her cheery efforts become even more futile, dear God! Tap-a-rap-tap!

Larry’s wife keeps working on her smile, though. She once called on every wife’s good friends for assistance--Estee Lauder, Mary Kay, even Miss Clairol (though, as a lady, she would never, ever admit it). Mary Kay suggested uptown reds and lifted cheeks, brushed-high brows, cosmetic tweaks. Larry was not pleased by her new painted pucker. No, no, Larry’s friends preferred Crème Brûlée to sour lemon tarts. Next, Miss Lauder brought on a "natural" attack-- "Sultry Sandstone Pearl," "Dusty Dakota Dew," "Mochaccino Swirl" and "Heady Humus Hue"--to de-emphasize! De-emphasize! De-emphasize! Back at the office, they needled Larry over his new pudgy, pruned-up waif. No, again Larry was not pleased. Tap-tap-a-rap-a-tap-tap.

Her doctor, too, agreed to help out. He gave Larry’s wife a pill guaranteed to deepen those dimples. Alas, the Prozac failed to flip her frown with those famous Prozac headaches, those delirious Prozac naps. Valium, Xanax, Paxil, Zoloft --they all were the same. No matter what popped in her mouth her smiles kept pointing south. He said, "Wait! I’ve found a scalpel. A lift, a tuck, a change of luck!" but all of her chances for a smile had already been lyposuctioned away.

After all the bills, scars and pills; after all the lashes, rouge and color clashes; after all the diets, therapy and internal riots, Larry was most definitely not pleased. All that money, all that time, all those embarrassments. . . He only wanted a happy, good wife. He deserved it. He was owed it. Affectionate tap. A-rap-a-tap-tap. A-rap-a-tap-a-rap-a-tap-a-rap-a-tap-tap.

Larry’s wife is still working on her smile, and she will be for quite a long while.

© Chikara, 1995

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