“Dalton, put that down,” my lovely wife, Grace, murmured.
“Please,” she continued a little louder through clenched teeth. “People may see you.”
Grace was alternating side glances between me and the magazine I was reading in the supermarket checkout line. My favorite part of grocery shopping with Grace is reading the tabloids. While she unloads the shopping cart’s contents onto the conveyor belt, I peruse periodicals such as the National Enquirer and Globe. These publications are part of a unique media genre featuring stories and tidbits found in no other place.
“Look,” I announced. “Here is a story about a baby born with a wooden leg.”
“Shush,” Grace said in a stage whisper. “People can hear you!”
I put the magazine back on the rack, which was haphazardly arranged, a sure sign I was not the first person to grab a gander at these gazettes.
On the way home, Grace remarked, “Well, that was certainly fascinating.”
“I know,” I replied. “I guess one of the parents must have had a wooden leg.”
After a pause, Grace sighed, “Give me strength.”
“I didn’t get to read the whole article. You made me put the mag—”
“Stop!” Grace declared. “I don’t want to hear any more about the baby with the wooden leg.”
Neither of us spoke for the remainder of the drive home.
Aunt Toogie was sitting at the kitchen table reading People magazine as we entered with our purchases.
“Shiloh Nouvel,” she muttered. “What are those Hollywood-types thinking when they pick a name like that for a kid? Sounds more like a pinot noir or some new brand of disinfectant.”
“I think it’s an interesting name,” Grace offered, ever the diplomat.
“Speaking of interesting,” I interjected, “guess what I read at the supermarket?”
“What?” Toogie shot back.
“Oh, please, not again!” Grace moaned.
“No, it’s not about the baby born with the wooden leg.”
“Baby with a wooden leg?” Toogie asked, raising her eyebrows. “Tell me more.”
“Don’t encourage him,” Grace pleaded.
Once calm was restored, I continued, “Anyway, a lady in British Columbia harvested a zucchini that looks just like Little Richard.”
Grace just stared at me.
“You know, Little Richard,” I explained. “He sang oldies like ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly.’”
“I know who Little Richard is,” Grace declared, hands on her hips.
“Don’t forget ‘Long Tall Sally,’” Toogie chimed in.
“That’s it!” Grace declared. “You two need some encouragement to elevate your interests and topics of conversation. Perhaps I could suggest some more mind-expanding reading material. I know, let me find my summer reading lists.”
The next day, we all sat down at the same kitchen table. Grace laid out several pieces of paper. I recognized some as items she had used during her teaching career.
“I have gathered several sources of books for us to consider. This is a list of classic books,” Grace explained, “a roster of recommended biographies and history, and finally, The New York Times tables of current best-selling fiction and nonfiction.”
Toogie and I stared at the lists.
“For starters, we might consider a light, current best seller, such as Beach Road or Marley & Me, or focus on the works of a local author such as Sue Monk Kidd or Dorothea Benton Frank. I think Full of Grace has a nice title, don’t you?”
Toogie and I continued to stare at the lists.
“Or we could tackle a book from a reading list of these selected classics,” Grace continued, handing me one of the pieces of paper.
“Do we read the same book?” I asked.
“Sure. That way, we can discuss it and compare our perspectives.”
“Sounds like school,” Toogie snorted.
“Think of it as summer camp or a sabbatical,” Grace countered. “Good books stimulate the mind and renew the soul. Any one of these is surely more thought-provoking than the frivolous nonsense you have been reading.”
“Okay, Toogie,” I announced, holding the numbered list of recommended books. “Let’s dive into deep water by choosing our first book from the classics. You decide. Pick a number from one to one hundred.”
“Why did you pick that number?”
“Never ask a woman that question,” Toogie quipped.
“What book will we read?” Grace inquired.
“Madame Bovary by a guy named Gustave Flaubert,” I declared.
“Oh, I’ve been thinking about rereading that one,” Grace cooed.
Toogie and I just stared at each other.
I am presently about halfway through the book. It was a slow start at first, with all the peculiar names and writing style, but I’m picking up steam now—and so is Madame Bovary, to say the least. Emma (Madame) Bovary has dumped her physician husband, Charles, for this lawyer guy, Leon Dupuis. She then jilted Leon for another fellow, a rich dude named Rodolphe (unless it is a misspelling) Boulanger. The story is sort of Desperate Housewives, circa 1850.
One afternoon I declared, “I’m going to run a few errands,” putting Madame Bovary aside.
Surprisingly, Aunt Toogie piped up, “I’ll go with you, Dalton. Let me help,” putting her copy on the coffee table.
“Hurry back,” Grace responded. “We need to finish our books so we can share our thoughts.”
Once we were in the car, Toogie asked, “You’re going to Publix, right?”
“Good. I need a fix, too.”
I immediately surmised her intent. We entered the store and both made a beeline to the checkout lane. She bought Us magazine, and I purchased the National Examiner. We took our goods to Blondie’s Bagels and read them cover to cover over lattes and a cinnamon raisin bagel.
“Did you know Bono named his kid Elijah Bob Patricius Guggi Q?” Toogie scoffed. “Whatever happened to good old names like Bob, Jim, and Tom?”
“Look at this!” I exclaimed. “Elvis is alive and running a dry cleaner in northwest Oklahoma.”
“I love this break, but we better get back before Grace becomes suspicious,” Toogie advised.
We tossed our trash, bought some fresh vegetables at the farmers’ market as our reason for being out in the first place, and drove home.
I am now sitting, again, with Madame Bovary. I’ll just skim the rest of it. I think I’ve figured out this frolic through France. In the end, I’m pretty sure things will work out for Emma. What I really want to know is the full story about the remains of two space aliens and their aircraft, secretly hidden by the government in a hangar at Area 51 in the Nevada desert!
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