our time together marches on: a magpie thought

I wasn't going to tell this story.  For reasons which will become obvious.  But that day Willow had posted this week's Magpie Tales prompt, and it seemed to need to be told.

The other day I go down to the atrium for a cup of tea and a quick read.  Not long after I sit down an old guy sits near me.  His wife follows right after, fiddling with a bag and says, “so you’ll just wait here until I get back?” 

“Yeah!  I’ll wait here,” he snaps as she walks over to a medical office. 

The man’s voice is as craggy as that of his demeanour.  He looks to be in his late 70s, but perhaps the demeanour ages him.  He flips open a cell phone and calls someone’s voicemail and complains about what he calls an unfair charge and demands, as a 35 year customer, that the charge be rescinded. 

I’m annoyed.  I came down here for a few alone moments with my book and it seems I’m going to have to listen to this guy’s private conversations.  As I’m considering finding another place to sit, the man connects with someone else, presumably a friend. 

“Listen Jimmy I don’t want to make you mad or insult you or anything, but I need to talk to you about what you said to Dotty the other day…

“Listen, when you told me, in front of her, that I need to talk to her nicer, you made my life a living hell.  Now every goddamn time I open my mouth she’s on me for not talkin’ nice to her…

“No… listen, I’m not mad, but you gotta know what she’s like!  You have no idea.  When you see her, when she comes by, she’s all nice and sweet.  When it’s me and her, my life is HELL.”

And then he starts to up the tone – and the ante.

“Ya, ya, but wait.  You really don’t know her.  You don’t know what she’s like at home.  She LIES. 

Wait, wait – here she comes.”

The offending Dotty returns and fusses in her bag again and her craggy man has magically switched his voice over to a conversational tone and is talking about the Blue Jays and the weather.  She returns to the medical office and the agitation is back.

“Your words are now written in stone man.  EVERYTHING I say to her makes her fucking jump all over me saying I don’t talk nice to her and she deserves fucking better and all that.  She's a BITCH.

He’s like a pot coming to a boil.  Sitting at the edge of his seat his voice gets louder and I get more uncomfortable, wishing I could say “Yo, buddy – I’m right here!  I didn't need to know this!”

“Nobody knows how she talks to me.  She’s nice when everyone else is around but with me.  Well… no… listen, really… Jimmy…  Jimmy!  She’s a BITCH.  I have to be so fucking careful and it’s impossible to please that woman.  Maybe if someone gave her a hundred thousand dollars or somethin' she’d just fucking leave…”

Finally the Craggy One seems to notice he’s not alone and walks away to another area to finish convincing Jimmy of Dotty’s double personality.  His voice has raised up another notch and I hear regular crescendos of the emphasising the wrath of Dotty because Jimmy said the Craggy One should speak nicer to her.

I think about the years that have passed in the life of Dotty and the Craggy One and wonder when it was that love turned to such bitterness.  I wonder if they’ll, at some point, look back on their lives together and see any value in their days turning over, seasons evolving into the next, and their having grown old together, choosing each other to finish out their lives with.

I go back to my office think I’d still like to grow old with someone.  Whoever you are – let’s not let it come to that, ok?

Magpie hourglass 

This is a Magpie Tale.  For more takes on this and other wonderful photo prompts visit Magpie Tales.


  1. Reply
    lisahgolden September 21, 2010

    This makes me think of someone who used to be in my life. Let’s just say he decided to stay with his wife. For which I am glad now, but the repercussions of the decisions I made when I thought I was going to have a future with that guy are still affecting my life in negative ways.
    Anyway, he insists we be friends on Facebook. I accept because I’m an idiot. But it doesn’t take me long to cut off that connection again. I can’t stand the way he “talks” to his wife in comments. He’s so mean to her. On the one hand, it infuriates me that he had a hand in derailing my life and still ended up in an unhappy marriage. On the other hand, I feel like I dodged a bullet in the long run because how long before he might have been just as nasty to me.
    Yes, it would be nice to grow old with someone, but only if that person treats you with care.

  2. Reply
    willow September 21, 2010

    Oh, dear. Craggy One and Dotty need some help. Sounds like his friend was trying to offer some good advice that backfired. I hate when an offender sees themselves as the victim. Oy.

  3. Reply
    Jennifer September 21, 2010

    You don’t need that karma on your facebook Lisa. Nobody does. If you really feel you must keep in in your friends list, at least hide him so you don’t need to see his comments!

  4. Reply
    Jennifer September 21, 2010

    I really hate that too Willow. Who knows – maybe Dotty does the same thing!

  5. Reply
    Susannah September 21, 2010

    So many people living with ‘the enemy’…so sad!
    In days gone by it was the done thing to ‘stick with it’ no matter how bad it was and there were generations of people living like this. One set of my grandparents were like that, bitterness fueled their marriage.
    I really hope that in this day and age people make the choice to walk away before they get drowned in a toxic sea like that. 🙁
    My Magpie – http://panopticulated.blogspot.com/2010/09/shifting-sand-magpie-tales-32.html

  6. Reply
    Helen September 21, 2010

    Choosing to grow old with someone … what it’s all about! These folks don’t belong together, but at this point it’s too late. Your Magpie is beautifully written!!

  7. Reply
    Jennifer September 21, 2010

    Yes, I’ve seen generations of those couples too Susannah. I feel strongly that it’s our duty to walk away from toxic situations – because it affects other people as well.
    PS – You’re panopticulated? Why didn’t I know that? Goodness me how do you manage all those blogs? I have trouble keeping up with one! 🙂

  8. Reply
    Jennifer September 21, 2010

    You know I got to thinking about all kinds of scenarios related to this couple Helen – including what would happen if they split at this point in their lives. Thanks for visiting!

  9. Reply
    Susannah September 21, 2010

    Yes, I am panopticulated. I created it at the beginning of August to see if I could write from prompts, I discovered I love it! So the blog’s a keeper. 🙂
    About the couple in your story, I think that it would be very difficult and very brave to walk away at that time in your life. I should imagine that the behaviour just becomes ingrained, part of the furniture, and it is only when like in your couples case something like the way he spoke to her is being pointed out that matters come to a head.
    I think in lots of ways we are braver when younger, when people get older unless something is intolerable I think people tend to stay put, it becomes ‘family’ – when we are growing up we don’t always see eye to eye with siblings/parents but we endure it (usually) because it is family, I think that happens in marriages too.
    So much to talk about around this subject.

  10. Reply
    Julie Jordan Scott September 21, 2010

    This repeats over and over and over again.
    Wow. I trust and hope and prayer your prayer for some one never turns into these two.
    I wrote a poem this week. Took me forever to tell this story and I am grateful I finally did.

  11. Reply
    Kylie-sonja.blogspot.com September 21, 2010

    i wonder what her truth was?
    thanks for visiting my place, good to have you there

  12. Reply
    Elizabeth September 21, 2010

    So glad I found you. Your intro about story is wonderful. Clarrissa Pinkola Estes says that story is medicine and I totally agree with her. But, then I scrolled a bit further and you have Gordon Lightfoot lyrics, Wow! There is one mega storyteller and to music no less.
    Your story intrigues me, as I’m sure it does anyone who takes the time to read it. I got out of just such a marriage, and haven’t looked back. The writer in us is a constant observer of the life that flows around us. You did a wonderful job of bringing these two people to life and allowing us to draw our own conclusions. Great magpie.

  13. Reply
    Tumblewords September 21, 2010

    But if that person doesn’t come along, it’s quite pleasant to grow old without him. 🙂 Great Magpie – I can hear the voices, loud and clear.

  14. Reply
    Jennifer September 21, 2010

    Well good for you – enjoy the prompts!
    I think you’re right – it would be very hard to get out of even a toxic marriage at that point. They’d probably be lost without one another in a weird way.

  15. Reply
    Jennifer September 21, 2010

    Thanks Julie. And thanks for visiting!

  16. Reply
    Jennifer September 21, 2010

    I wonder that too Kylie. I didn’t mention in the story that the medical office is a headache and pain treatment centre.

  17. Reply
    Jennifer September 21, 2010

    I’m glad you found me too. And I’m really glad you got out of a bad situation.
    You know I really hoped I’d presented it in a way that lets the reader draw his/her own conclusions. I didn’t want anyone to assume that I considered Craggy One to be solely responsible. As they say, there are two sides…
    I look forward to getting to know you at your blog Elizabeth.

  18. Reply
    Jennifer September 21, 2010

    haha, yeah, I’m doing okay so far TW!
    Thanks for stopping by.

  19. Reply
    Anne September 22, 2010

    I just realized how blessed I am.

  20. Reply
    Marilyn September 22, 2010

    Sad, sad, sad – what a waste of everything. I am so grateful for all I have in life.

  21. Reply
    Jennifer September 22, 2010

    Good to know! Gratitude is always a good experience. 🙂

  22. Reply
    Jennifer September 22, 2010

    At least gratitude is never a waste of time! 🙂

  23. Reply
    Patience Ray September 22, 2010

    wow, I would hate to be either of those people. you’re so right, how did it ever get like that? sure there are fights, but when did they decide not to work them out? sad. Thanks for sharing.

  24. Reply
    KatheW September 22, 2010

    good post- we all need from time to time to reflect on how we speak and say things to our very sweet close friends and family.

  25. Reply
    Jennifer September 22, 2010

    I wonder if people just get too weary to work things out? Yep, sad.

  26. Reply
    Jennifer September 22, 2010

    Thanks Kathe. It is a good reminder, I think.

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