Jessie and Mabel’s Anniversary
Jessie and Mabel live in a small town near Chattanooga, Tennessee. They have lived there the biggest portion of their lives and really haven’t kept up with the events shaping the world. Now, they’re smart enough, in a common sense sort of way, but they don’t tend to involve themselves with things they don’t know much about or feel maybe none of their business. They do care for their little town and their country, but they just reckon that there are smarter people who can handle the big matters a lot better than them.
They listen and watch the news reports on television, do their little grunts and groans when they hear about what’s happening in other parts of the country and the world. Sometimes they make a comment about something, like, “The world’s sure getting complicated!” or, “With gas so high, you’d think we could find our own oil and bring them prices down!” or, “Guess we got our reasons for fighting in the Middle East, but it sure seems those people over there have been at each other an awful long time!” or, “Let’s stop messing up our heads with all this news business and go see a movie!”
Then, again, maybe that ‘messing up our heads’ is why Jessie does a little cussing and gets together with his buddies for some drinking and talking. He and many of his friends served their country and keep a lot locked inside…maybe protecting their wives from all the ugly stuff they saw and felt while serving.
Anyway, Mabel loves Jessie and she is a regular church-going lady, is always busting Jessie for his cussing and his drinking nights with his buddies from work. Jessie loves Mabel very much but he also loves getting together with his buddies, drinking from the fruit jars, jawing, and, after the booze kicks in, telling the same jokes they’ve been telling for all the years. There are some things they avoid talking about, military experiences and deaths they’ve seen around them.
Jessie and Mabel are good people, help those in need, give no fuss to anybody. Mabel’s just more God-fearing than Jessie, although he’s about as good a man you will find in the whole state. There are just a few nights when he unwinds, drinks a bit too much, and needs his special buddy camaraderie… And you need to know that Jessie’s cussing is small cussing, not those real ugly words some sports players yell a lot.
Mabel is a pretty lady in her early forties and she still sports a beautiful body, shoulder-length silky brown hair, and soft blue eyes that make a man want to keep on looking into them. A lot of guys refer to her as the hill version of that real pretty movie star, Jennifer Aniston. Mabel has a lot of patience and common sense to go with them bedeviling blue eyes.
Jessie has a couple years on Mabel and the country good looks of a younger Burt Reynolds. Jessie’s six feet tall with just a little paunch on him but otherwise solidly built. He carries a one inch scar from his right cheek bone to his ear – a US service reminder from Iraq. That little scar line involuntarily twitches a lot, particularly when he’s drinking. Jessie has a lot of patience, too, but he’s been using certain cuss words that aggravate and embarrass Mabel when they have company… The company generally just snickers a bit and don’t seem offended by it, so he can’t figure out why Mabel is so upset with him.
Mabel is also a particular shade of red when Jessie tells his ‘colorful’ stories to their assembled family members and guests. But what really troubles Mabel the most and causes her concern for his health is his late night drinking with the buddies. Mabel these days goes on to bed without waiting up for Jessie to come home from his fruit jar partying. Now, it’s not every night, mind you, and it’s usually not an evening when they have dinner plans or guests coming, but it is getting too often for Mabel.
So, comes this particular Friday night, Jessie is to come home from work and take Mabel into Chattanooga for a really nice romantic evening. It’s their fifteenth anniversary. Mabel is all gussied up waiting for Jessie and she’s really looking forward to that fine dining in Chattanooga and not having to cook
With insistent urging after work, Jessie goes along with his buddies to their drinking spot. He figures a drink or two can’t hurt, and he can still get home for his anniversary date. One of the friends brings along a guitar, and, with each drink, the song words bring with them some melancholia. With all the drinking, the music making, the talk, and the jokes, Jessie just forgets the time and arrives home around 2:00 AM, his anniversary dinner forgotten in the fog of his drunken state.
Normally, as stated earlier, Mabel usually goes to bed and never knows exactly when Jessie gets home, but this Friday night she’s madder than a rooster at a cock fight. Her husband has broken a date with her and she’s going to wait up for him and give him a piece of her mind. She sits first on the sofa, then on Jessie’s favorite chair, and back to the sofa. With each hour that passes her anger rises.
Mabel is now sitting at the kitchen table tapping her fingers and humming with wide eyes and her cute little nose flaring. She is wide awake from all the caffeine she has consumed in her several cups of coffee…even spilled a drop or two on her pretty dress. A side note here: Mabel has never had a drink of liquor in her entire life and would never even consider the possibility.
With her keen ears, she suddenly hears several bumps at the front door, and after what seems like minutes passing, Jessie opens the door and staggers in. His soiled and booze-stained shirt half out of his slacks, and he seems to be wearing his clothes sideways – one side of his collar is up, the other side down – his pants zipper is down – his abundant head of hair is all in disarray – he is truly a mess. He tries to quietly close the door but ends up banging it closed and shushes with a weaving finger to his lips. The living room is now dark but he notices through half-closed eyes that the light is on in the kitchen.
Jessie tries to very softly tiptoe to the kitchen door opening, but bumps into the furniture. Finally, hands in his trouser pockets, he stands weaving at the opening, bouncing back and forth into the sides of the door space. He sees Mabel sitting, still tapping her fingers on the kitchen table, glaring up at him.
“Hi, (hic), honey,” Jessie says, trying so hard to sound sober and keep his eyes open wider, “whatcha (hic) doing up, (hic), honey?”
Mabel glares up at him, slams her hand on the table. “Don’t ‘honey’ me, Jessie, you stood me up! We were supposed to go to Chattanooga for our anniversary dinner. You…”
Jessie stands weaving in the kitchen doorway, hands still in his pants pockets, his face now visibly saddened by the news that he has forgotten their anniversary. “Oh, (hic), honey, I’m so (hic) sorry. I…”
“Oh, Jessie, if you could only see how ridiculous you look right now, if you could see how stupid you look…” She stopped as a thought came to her, slapped the table again, and rose from the table. “I’m going to show you just how ridiculous you look right now.” She moved away from the table toward the small kitchen pantry.
Jessie stands swaying in the doorway, his weary half-open eyes following her moves.
Mabel comes back to the table, slams a bottle of Jack Daniels down on the hard wooden surface. She removes the top from the Jack Daniels, and, having never before taken a drink of whiskey, she starts to guzzle straight from the bottle… The bottle of Jack Daniels falls from her hand onto the table, spilling most of its contents. Mabel sits quickly on the chair, hacking, coughing, spitting up some sour mash.
Jessie still stands at the doorway, weaving back and forth. “Honey (hic)…”
“Jessie!” She tries to regain some of her angry focus. “For heaven’s sake and all its angels, how can you stand to drink this stuff?”
Jessie still sways at the doorway. Then a slow smile comes to his face as he attempts his reply. “You see, honey, (hic) you thought I was out having a good time!”
At the table, Mabel cradles her head in her arms, intoning: “God, please help him!” She then rises from the table and starts laughing, watching her weaving Jessis with his now sad and bewildered face. She goes to him, puts her arms around him to steady him, and walks him to the bedroom. “Let’s get you into bed, you silly looking goose. I’m reckoning tomorrow that head of yours is going to be giving you some fits. I love you, you ole hound dog.”
“That’s (hic) just about the nicest thing you ever (hic) said to me, Honey.” He dug in his pants pocket while Mabel was sitting him on the big bed. He pulled out a jewelry box and handed it to his wife. “Made sure I wouldn’t totally forget (hic) my sweet woman. I (Hic) picked this up for you earlier today.”
A tear came to Mabel’s eyes as she listened to his slurred words and opened the jewelry box. In the box was a gold bracelet. Engraved on the wide band between two lovely birthstones were the words: “Mabel – My Forever Love.”
Mabel wiped at her eyes, brought the bracelet to her heart, and stood for several long seconds lost in thought.
Then she heard the snoring. Jessie had fallen over onto the bed, totally beyond wakening. Smiling through her tears, she carefully lifted his legs onto the bed, removed his shoes, socks, and, amid some grunts and more snoring, all of his clothing. She then undressed and lay beside him, watched his half-open mouth twitch as though trying to speak. His snoring became softer and continued as she cradled him in her arms. Her ‘forever love’ was home, safely beside her.
“Happy Anniversary, Jessie,” she whispered and snuggled closer to the man she loved.
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