Barbara has been married to Wiley for forty-four years. They live on their own road, in a modest house situated on about 20 acres in a part of Mississippi that still doesn’t get cable. She started working for the company the same year she graduated high school and married Wiley. She is now only four years from retirement. Wiley, who is seven years older than she, has been retired and collecting Social Security, his only retirement income, for a few years now. He doesn’t have a lot to do anymore, and Barbara is his whole life. Everyone in the office knows this, because she tells us every day. And because Wiley calls her almost every hour just to chat. He must be her light too, because he always makes her giggle incessantly. She hangs up after each conversation with a girlish, sheepish grin on her face.
Wiley still pines for a big fancy tractor he saw at the John Deere store a few months back. He has wanted it something awful and has found a way to sneak it into every conversation with Barbara since he first laid eyes on it. She is firmly opposed to the idea because “the stupid thing” costs $75,000 and they don’t need it and they have agreed to save her salary for the next few years so she could retire on time. They have $100,000 in their retirement savings accounts and really need to save more. (Barbara could never be confused for a very private person.)
One morning, Barbara sits down at her desk with her usual coffee but just doesn't seem like her usual self. We coax her into telling us what's wrong, and she gives in pretty quickly. The night before, she had been looking for her wheelbarrow to haul some fertilizer to her new flower bed when she caught a glimpse of something reflecting an odd light from behind the barn. She investigated and found it. “The thing” was just sitting there “damn near up against the barn, so it’d be good and hidden”. When she confronted Wiley, he said he had bought it and had it delivered a couple of weeks before and was waiting on a good time to tell her.
“We’ve never fought, and I sure don’t want to start now. I guess I’ll just need to request some overtime.” When the phone rings, there's no question who is on the other end. By the time they hang up, she is giggling.
It’s been six years, but I’m still confounded. I would’ve used “the thing” to bury ol’ Wiley on the back nine.