My wife told me that she wanted to rearrange the kitchen, to move the fridge to the north wall and put a small table in its place next to the kitchen sink. I said, “No. I do most of the cooking, and I’m used to having the fridge close to the work counter.” The argument ended, but when I came back from a short trip to Gainesville the deed had been done. Judy got our two kids to help her push the fridge to the north wall while I was away.
When I returned I walked in the door, hugged the kids, kissed Judy, and suspected nothing. But when I went into the kitchen to grab a beer from the fridge by the sink, I found it elsewhere. I spun around and saw her smiling at me. I protested, but she said nothing. Instead she gave me a challenging look as if daring me to come up with a reason to move it back. I said, “You know I’ve been planning to paint a mural right where you put that fridge.”
“Mural? What mural?” she asked.
“A landscape…of a place you like…It’ll be a reminder.”
“The Smokies?” she asked. “You’ll paint a mural of the Smokies!?”
“Sure. You pick a picture from our last trip there.”
We pulled out a photo album, and she chose a scene with trees hanging over a path cutting through a wood: dappled light, intricate interlacing of branches and foliage, contrasting textures of boulders, tree bark, leaves, sky and dirt. I looked at it and gulped. I knew that a subject that complicated would take months.
“Are you sure you want that one?” I asked. “What about this distant view of the mountains in fog?”
“No. This is the best. Can you do it?”
“Of course I can.” I answered feeling a bit nettled. Did she think that I was an amateur? “Now can I move the fridge back?”
“I’ll help you,” she said sweetly.
I began to paint the next weekend. I marked off the boundaries with masking tape and laid out my composition with a few lines. I blocked in big color shapes. Two hours passed, and I realized that I had barely made a dent. But anything for a just cause. The fridge must stay in its rightful place.
The mural took three months to complete, and I was weary of the project by the time I laid down the last brushstrokes. I knew that I could drag it out a lot longer if I felt like punishing myself with a lot of tedious detail, but decided that enough was enough.
I called Judy into the kitchen and said, “It’s done.” She stared at it for a long time, and then she hugged me and said, “Thank you.” I knew that it reminded her of a family trip to her favorite place on earth. I tried hard not to feel happy for her, but failed.
I put away my paints, and while I cleaned my brushes I tried to reclaim some vengeful satisfaction. I had thwarted her plans to change the kitchen. I hadn’t let her get away with a sneaky maneuver. I had outwitted her even if it had taken a long time to pull it off.
I was the man…in charge.
I showed her. Yeah, I really showed her.