The Anniversary Gift

nick and charley 001

Two men in paper hats clink mugs together before downing their milkshakes.

“Today was some day, huh?”

“You got that right.”

“Still like working here, Nick?”

“What’s not to like. I’m surrounded by food and nice people. You?”

“I don’t know, Nick. I’ve been here 17 years. Do you realize I have never taken a week off to spend more time with Helen?”

“You’ve done alright, Charlie. I thought you go crazy when you’re away from here.”

“I do. It’s just lately…oh, never mind.”

“What Charley?”

“Never mind.”

“No, you started saying something. Let it out. I want to hear what you have to say.”

“Lately I feel like I’ve been missing something.”

“You have. The toilet in the men’s room. I had to mop the floor again this morning before the customers got here.”

“Helen says I do the same thing at home. I’m always rushing. I guess I have a lot on my mind.”

“Lay it on me.”

“Helen and I are coming up on our 20th anniversary and I want to do something nice for her this time.”

“What did you do last year?”

“I worked late. Then I cooked up some burgers and fries and took them home. I kissed her on the lips like I always do to let her know I missed her all day. We ate our food. Then we fell asleep in front of the TV after Johnny’s monologue.”

“The Tonight Show?”

“Yeah.”

“I love that show. Have you ever seen them bring out the animals?”

“Yeah, Nick. I’ve seen the animals.”

“Why don’t you buy her a dog?”

“Because they’re animals, Nick.”

“Oh.”

“Nick, a 20th anniversary is big. I have to go all-out this time. It dawned on me recently how much I love her, but that I don’t always tell her. And that I’m always worried about money. And even if I had a lot of money, I’d still be here flipping burgers.”

“We do more than flip burgers, Charley.”

“I know, I know. We make people happy. How do I make my wife happy?”

“She’s not happy?”

“Of course she’s happy. At least I think she’s happy. I’m happy. I guess I always just assumed she’s happy. Do you think she’s happy?”

“I don’t know her as well as you do, Charley.”

“Do you know we met at the RKO Palace Theater?”

“Downtown?”

“Downtown.”

“I like downtown. I used to sell appliances at Sterling-Lindner. They had one hell of a Christmas tree every year!”

“I remember that. I bought Helen a hat across the street at Halle’s once.”

“Do you remember the smell of peanuts coming from Morrow’s near Public Square?”

“Do I remember the smell of peanuts coming from Morrow’s near Public Square? Whaddya think, I’m hard of smelling?”

“You know something, Charley? Downtown would be a nice anniversary gift for Helen.”

“Get outta here! Downtown? We’d get mugged before I even parked the car. Nobody goes downtown anymore. Thanks, but I think Helen would prefer the suburbs.”

“Seriously, Charley. I think you and Helen should go downtown. Go to Otto Moser’s on East 4th Street for a steak sandwich. Maybe visit the Old Arcade. Then drive over to Municipal Stadium. The Indians are playing. Colavito’s tearing the cover off the ball.”

“I’m glad they brought him back. Should’ve never traded him to Detroit. Helen does like baseball. And we haven’t been downtown in years. But I don’t know. Have you read the papers lately? It’s not like it was when we were kids, Nick.”

“Nothing is like when you were kids, Charley. That’s what’s great about downtown. You have a chance to make new memories. Stuff you’ll remember when you and Helen are old.”

“You know something Nick? I’m usually set in my ways, but think I’m going to take your advice and take Helen downtown.”

“So that’s it? That’s what’s been bothering you? Not knowing what you want to give Helen for your anniversary? I thought you were going to tell me you’re dying or something.”

“No, I feel good. For the first time in weeks, I feel really good.”

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