My wife and confidante Caroline and I have been married for nearly nine years, and she’s put up with an inordinate amount of grief from me over the intervening decade. Best known for her exemplary jewelry, she’s also known throughout the online community as “the Czarina”. (The nickname came from when I was teaching her how to play chess shortly after we married, when she reminded me of the character in Fritz Leiber’s famed chess ghost story “Midnight by the Morphy Watch”.) She’s marginally taller than I am, at a full six feet, so I’ve joked for years about how she’s popped me in the top of the head so often with her elbows that I can use the dent as a candleholder. Further mythmaking ensued, with my relating how I can tell she’s less than happy when her elbows slide out of their sheathes and drool venom on the floor. It’s to the point when people meet her for the first time, they don’t ask “Where are you from?” or “May I see your jewelry?” They always, ALWAYS ask “May I see your elbows?”
This doesn’t mean that I avoid behavior that annoys her. In fact, the best image most friends and general spectators have of us in public involves me lying on the ground in a fetal ball, paralytic with laughter, while she kicks me in the ribs and screams “What the HELL is WRONG with you? HUH? What is WRONG with you?” (This was first instigated when my best friend asked if we were planning to have kids, and I pointed out that any children of mine would be at the school science fair with the project “How Does Brundlefly Eat?” She apparently had issues with my joking about this at dinner.) She often paraphrases Bill Cosby when she asks me if it’s impossible for me to sleep at night without a good beating.
And so it goes into discussion of pets. We already have two cats: one is smart enough to be working on his Ph.D thesis and the other is so dumb he trips on the carpet pattern, and our carpet is a uniform blue-grey. “That’s not enough,” I say, so she asks me what would, in my deranged little world, make a good pet.
“A crocodile monitor, naturally. Preferably one trained to eat the squirrels in the back yard.”
Personally, I don’t see why she has such an issue with a crocodile monitor. We’re only talking about a three-meter-long lizard with a potentially venomous bite, that climbs trees to snag prey as heavy as it is, and whose indigenous names in New Guinea invariably translate to “demon” for its habit of hunting hunters. I can’t figure it out. I mean, how could you say “no” to this cute widdle face?