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Do or Die
by Melodie Corrigall

Flowers in hand, phone set to vibrate at regular intervals to remind him to appear attentive, and a cheat sheet of appropriate responses - Leonard was ready to follow the tips to a romantic dinner he’d read about in his men’s magazine. Gloria was worth the effort, and according to her ultimatum, this was a do or die occasion.

A week ago, sailing into their fifth anniversary, his wife had declared the romance had been squeezed out of their relationship, which she had described as kitchen rag only useful for cleaning the counter. Where, Leonard wondered, did she dredge up these images?  

Gloria’s women’s magazine had suggested that when things hit bottom a romantic dinner was in order. “We’ll go to Pavlovas restaurant and talk about life.”

Whoops, Leonard had thought. There goes three months of lottery tickets. And what was there to say about life? Wisely, although Gloria insisted he share his thoughts, Leonard decided not to share these.

Both dressed in their Sunday best, his pants a bit tight and her dress somewhat revealing, they were tucked in a corner table at Pavlovas.

“We’ll pretend we’re lovers on a first date.”

“Sure,” he obliged, thinking a quick hand squeeze might work well here.

He remembered how on an early date, chomping down on Gloria’s great BBQ ribs, he’d noticed the handyman work that needed doing in her apartment. While in the bathroom, he’d tried to fix the dripping toilet tank and cracked the lid. Gloria had responded to his apology with a dizzying smile.  

And now their toilet at home needed fixing.

“I want us to share the spiritual experience of being outdoors,” Gloria said.

If they bought a new toilet, they could get one that used less water.

“And to travel,” she said.

He glanced down at his cheat sheet. “Just what I’ve been thinking.”

Did those toilets cost more? More importantly did they get rid of number two?

“Sailing on the Danube.”

Where was the Danube anyhow? He’d thought it was just the name of some classical music.

“If we want kids we have to decide soon,” she sighed.

His phone vibrated and he glanced at his cheat sheet. “Those were my thoughts,” he said.

If new toilets were expensive, he’d get his friend Joe Rump to fix the old one.

“You look worried,” Gloria said. “What are you thinking?”

He squinted to read, “How you look prettier than when I met you.”

It was funny that his plumber friend was named Rump.

From success to success—appear attentive, read a line, smile—the evening was a triumph. As they toasted their anniversary over coffee, Gloria flashed one of her chrome bumper smiles. “Let’s head home to get this baby plan in place.”

Baby plan? Had his missed something? If they had kids they’d need a second bathroom. Instead of sharing that thought, Leonard just pecked his wife’s cheek and used up his last line, “ I loved our talk!”