(This short piece was originally published in Larry's Wife: An Anthology in May, 1995.)
Larrys 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 Larrys wife tries to twist that Miss America giggle, that Dale Carnegie grin onto her face just so, Larry still isnt that pleased.
You may be wondering why I only refer to her as "Larrys wife." To be quite honest, none of us here are even sure what her real name might be. You see, as Larrys name began to glimmer brightly in those high corporate circles, hers seemed to sputter, to dim. Now, please dont think that as Larrys career blossomed she didnt make strides of her own. Why, Larrys 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 mothers more "pedestrian" hearthenware). But then theres 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!" hed coo at the towns charity golf tournament.
"Smile...smile...smile!!" hed purr at the Johnstones, the Hancocks and the Fredricktons.
"Smile...smile! Goddammit! Smile, I said!" hed caressingly ooze at his bosss 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, Larrys wife finds her cheery efforts become even more futile, dear God! Tap-a-rap-tap!
Larrys wife keeps working on her smile, though. She once called on every wifes 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, Larrys 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 Larrys 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! Ive 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.
Larrys wife is still working on her smile, and she will be for quite a long while.
© Chikara, 1995