Carved stumps of grinning gargoyles greet us. I stare at the park brochure’s rolling redwoods. Talk about bait and switch. Maybe this romantic hike wasn’t such a great idea. Plus, I might be rusty. We’ve been married 30 years. I can’t remember my last time in the great outdoors Praying to St. Peter. Or Getting Knighted by the King, depending. I tell myself what my husband always says when we haven’t done it in a while. Like riding a bike. Trees thin out as we walk. People too. We go one mile without seeing anyone, then another. Uphill all the way. The second bait and switch. I’m getting worn out. It’s now or never. I lead my husband behind some scraggly limbs. Even though I’m sure we’re alone, I feel like I’ve knocked back a couple of qualmish cocktails. A potent blend of queasy and uneasy, with a healthy dose of doubt thrown in. I focus. Like riding a bike. Envision Bobbing for Apples. Cobwebs lift and erogenous zones pulse. My husband moans. Then grunts as his zipper snags. I’m ready to start Tasting the Tootsie Roll. He tugs and pulls. No dice. I coat those pesky metal teeth in chapstick, and—Voila! But before I begin Blowing the French Horn, I’m tossed on my butt on a pile of pinecones. He pushed me. Not the response I was hoping for when planning the anniversary surprise.
Someone’s coming, he barks. I switch to Plan B. Tell him to pretend-pee. I watch as a gaggle of expectant moms power-walks past our exposed hideaway. Count 60 Mississippis. Get on my knees, ready to resume Saying Hello to His Little Friend. See a straggler mom-to-be. My stomach lurches. The qualmish cocktail spews, decorating my husband’s new Nike’s with this morning’s anniversary blueberry pancakes. So much for us Visiting the White Swallow Inn to celebrate. Now he’s on his knees, grimacing as he carefully wipes each sneaker with his handkerchief. By the time he’s done, the last mom-to-be is long gone.
Without a word, we raise each other up and trudge our way downhill. By the time we get to the lot, we’re both a bit wobbly. But there’s only one car. Which means one last chance to play Hiding the Harmonica. Except my arthritic knee is acting up and he’s yawning with his mouth open. Cobwebs spin into place. Erogenous zones switch to standby mode. It was all that walking, my husband says. I nod, offer to drive. It’s the least I can do since Giving Big Jim and The Twins a Bath is a bust. I pass the highway, opting for the scenic route. There’s no hurry to get home. We don’t have any kids waiting. My husband, whose name is Jim, does have a set of twins. But they’re buckled in the passenger seat, sound asleep. As if on cue, it starts to pour. The final bait and switch.
—One of two Finalists in the MacQ
RESQ (aka “Qualmish”) Writing Challenge
second collection of short poems, Carousel, is co-winner of the Snapshot Press
2019 book award contest. Her first short-form collection, The Unworn Necklace,
received a finalist book award from the Poetry Society of America. Her collection of
prose poetry, Deflection (Accents Publishing, 2015), was named a National
Poetry Month Best Pick by Washington Independent Review of Books.
Long-time haibun editor of Modern Haiku, Ms. Beary is also co-editor of
Wishbone Moon: An Anthology of Haiku by Women (Jacar Press, 2018), and she
recently judged the Sable Books Haiku Contest for Women Book Award.
Her writing has appeared in Rattle, KYSO Flash, 100 Word Story, Cultural
Weekly, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and The New York Times, and is also
featured in A Companion to Poetic Genre (John Wiley & Sons, 2011) and
Haiku In English: The First Hundred Years (W. W. Norton, 2013).
Ms. Beary lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, Frank Stella,
and tweets her photoku and micro-poetry on Twitter [at] shortpoemz.
You can also find her on Facebook:
Tiny Love Stories in The New York Times (8 January
2019); scroll five stories down the page for Roberta Beary’s “Now
It’s All Fresh Fish” and her photograph of lobster traps in Clew Bay,
art of brevity, an interview by Ciara Moynihan in Mayo News
(22 January 2019)
Lunch Break, a haibun by Beary in Rattle (#56,
Summer 2017), Tribute to Poets with Mental Illness; includes audio (17 July 2017)