I ❤️ My Wife, and Dragons, Not Necessarily In That Order

There are a few advantages to being stuck in Atlanta traffic.  Not many, but there are a couple. Because I like to keep these essays around 1,000 words I will not be listing all the downsides to being stuck in Atlanta traffic. If I did I might wind up with a 4,000 page screed about how traffic drives ordinary folks mad, sometimes ends in violence, shaves cumulative years off an individual’s life, destroys the sperm count of otherwise viable males, puts unwanted wear and tear on brake systems and transmissions, lends itself to obesity, pollutes the air, and causes us to appear foolish as a species to the rest of nature, who ponder us in pity from roadside nests and lairs. 

So one of the very few benefits of traffic is that I get to browse through a library’s worth of bumper stickers; some clever, some tedious, some obvious, some outdated. Every once in a while I get the car whose whole back is covered with far left or far right outrage, driven by motorists who seem to allot all of their money to bumper stickers rather than to personal grooming products. The completely baffling ones are my favorite, and it was just such a rear panel I happened to be trailing the other day, caught in a tedious slog on a stretch of highway for which there is no exit, and thus, no escape. It gave me plenty of time to indulge “The Projector,” which is the big movie screen of my mind, usually showing odd experimental films in the vein of Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, and Stan Brakhage.  

The car in front of me was a nondescript minivan displaying two almost identical bumper stickers, one on the left side and one on the right side. The one on the passenger (right) side caught my eye first. It proclaimed, “I ❤️ Dragons.” 

Ah yes, I thought. Who doesn’t love enormous, winged, fire-breathing beasts swooping down to terrify, and sometimes devour, entire villages of simple peasants? The fellow in front of me obviously had a big healthy imagination, and I smiled in approval. Then my eyes went over to the driver’s side of the bumper, where another very similar sticker proclaimed, “ I ❤️ My Wife.” 

Hmm, I said. That second one kind of threw me for a loop. It wasn’t the message itself so much as both messages together that had me perplexed. I spent the next few miles weighing each sentiment in turn, as I sped toward, and fell away from, the two statements as the stop-and-go traffic proceeded in true accordion fashion. Luckily I am a philosophy major, and my infallible logic proceeded thusly: 

This fellow in front of me loves dragons

This fellow in front of me is married

Ergo: This fellow in front of me is married to a dragon. 

Quod Erat Demonstrandum, as they say. Really, there was no other possibility. The pockmarked minivan was driving slowly and steadily to some demonic aerie atop a mist shrouded mountain, where his reptilian spouse would be flapping her wings, burping fire, staring at him through vertical pupils above smoky nostrils, demanding to know where he has been all day long while she tends to their children, or incubating eggs, depending on how you look at it. 

“ROAR!” she would say. 

“Traffic,” he would explain. 

Quit talking crazy, I told myself, knowing it was far too late for that. Well then, fire up the projector. Scene: man arriving home from his job in tech support, eager to show his wife his new bumper sticker declaring his ❤️ for dragons, which would’ve made his wife’s heart go 💔, and her head go 🤯, and her mouth go 🤮. 

“I wish you loved me as much as you love your 🤬’ing dragons.” 

“🤔,” he says. 

Back to the bumper sticker store to buy another decal. This one, the “wife” one, placed on the driver’s side bumper in a hasty manner, lopsided and rife with air bubbles, while the “dragon” sticker was applied with the care and detail that went into the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I fully believed that the driver in front of me ❤️ed dragons. I wasn’t quite convinced that he ❤️ed his wife. Even the placement of the bumper stickers was telling. The ‘wife’ sticker was on the left side, which is the side that it is safe to pass on. The ‘dragons’ sticker was on the right side, the side it is dangerous to pass on. The man seemed to be suggesting that a car may not pass on the right side, where you may hit his dragon, but feel free to pass on the left side, where you may run down his wife. 

I wished him the best of luck as I turned off the road. Hopefully wherever he was headed to was a place full of playful dragons, and non-judgmental spouses, a place that offered some mystical peace from whatever the modern world was trying to wring out of us. 

Lethal Balls

I’d like to send a message to all the people of the world who murder their families. Two messages, really. The first message is don’t murder your family. Can’t stress that one enough. If you do though, don’t hold a press conference to plead, through carefully placed crocodile tears, to the public for your family’s safe return. They aren’t coming back. After all, they’ve been murdered. By you. 

It’s bad enough to be a cold-blooded killer. It’s almost as bad to awkwardly emote in front of a bank of microphones, amid periodic flashes of camera bulbs, to the person or persons responsible for the abduction of some or all of your family. Which, after all, is you. I would’ve thought that a man who harbored homicidal thoughts in his head of killing any and all members of the household would’ve taken heed from the likes of Charles Stuart, Scott Peterson, Michael Peterson, Drew Peterson (that is a lot of Petersons!), Josh Powell, Christopher Watts, that guy that went scuba diving with his wife, that other guy who went hiking with his wife, the guy who shot his wife, went to work, came back eight hours later, and discovered his wife shot, that guy who drowned his wife in the bathtub then went jogging, only to return to find his wife drowned, and every other manner of awkward subterfuge employed by the more desperate members of society. 

These days when I watch the occasional forensic mystery I almost treat it as a quiz show, as I listen to the panicked 911 call being replayed from an ostensibly distraught husband. I will frown, shake my head, and declare the frantic caller, “Guilty!” and then it is just a matter of waiting the twenty or so minutes for the show to reveal the murderer, and validate my guess. I am correct more than 90 percent of the time. 

I was watching one episode in which this kid shot his father while the old man was sleeping, then tried to plant the gun like it was a suicide, then phoned the emergency in to 911.  

(Concerned son/Murderer): “I heard a gunshot go off. I think my father shot himself in the head.” 

(Operator): “Where is your father?” 

(Concerned son/Murderer): “In his bedroom.” 

(Operator): “Can you check on him?” 

(Concerned son/Murderer): “The door is locked.” 

(Operator): “How do you know he shot himself in the head?” 

(Concerned son/Murderer): “Uhhh… Can I call back and can we do this whole thing all over again?” 

Bam. Game, set, match. It was unfortunate because my first reaction was to burst out laughing. Whoever the operator was that handled that call should’ve received the highest honor given to emergency operators, a golden rotary phone, or something. In a split second of quick thinking she outshined Perry Mason, Matlock, Vince Bugliosi, Lieutenant Dan Kaffee, Columbo, Sherlock Holmes, and Hercule Poirot, nailing the culprit before the police even showed up. 

And still these guys persist. Our newest set of murders brings us around the world to Hong Kong, bustling city of the Orient, where two professors are charged with murdering their wives. The one professor was also a kind of dorm monitor who killed his wife, secreted her in a suitcase, then kept the students housed in the residence hall informed of the criminal investigation with a series of e-mails, the basic gist of which was: 

“Don’t be alarmed. Police are on premises because I killed my… my wife has gone missing.” 

“Don’t be alarmed. They found my wife stuffed in a suitcase in my office. I have issued a public appeal to the killer or killers to turn themselves in.” 

“Don’t be alarmed. Rest assured they have caught the killer. In unrelated news, I am forwarding my resignation as dorm representative. I’ll be on sabbatical for the next twenty years.” 

The other professor was so good at killing his wife that he ended up killing his daughter, too. In a crafty little move that would shame even the great Professor Moriarty, this other professor filled his wife’s yoga workout ball with carbon monoxide and then effected a slight leak to gas her and anybody else in the car with her as she drove, I suppose, to yoga. I think he was a professor of chemistry, or anesthesiology, and so had unique access to the dangerous gas, which should’ve given him pause. Of course he would be under suspicion for using chemicals to kill his wife. He is a chemist. 

All chemistry professors are heartless cold-blooded killers in my opinion. My chemistry professor was guilty of killing my grade point average with his vicious assessment of my performance in his organic chemistry class. I was not alone. He had been killing grade point averages for like thirty years, and for some time I lamented becoming a statistic. He has yet to be apprehended. Obviously, I hold no grudge. Natural Darwinism. Kill the scientifically weak. That’s alright, I’m doing just fine in my post-chemistry afterlife. 

More Alembics to come.