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May '05

May 21: Ann Arbor Book Festival & Fundraiser Event!

The Combat Photographer
  by Dave Housley

  by Gregory Howard

Blue and Yellow
Polka Dots

  by Wayne Scheer

Jazz Club Serenade
  by Paul Germano

  by Christina Delia

My name is Larry. My wife's name is Susan. We live at 1467 Piermont Street, apartment 12b. I work at Kroger supermarket. Susan works there, too. We take the bus to work every morning at 6:45 and we come home on the 4:15 bus. I have never missed a day of work. Susan has never missed a day either.

I pack groceries into people's bags and I help them put the bags in their car. Sometimes people give me a dollar, but I tell them, "No, thank you. We are not allowed to take tips." People will get mad when I don't take their money. I tell them I can get in trouble, but later I find a dollar in my pocket anyway. When I find money in my pocket, I always give it to Mr. Jacks. He is the manager. He says it is good that I am so honest and he puts the money in a special jar to help poor people. This makes me feel good.

Susan works in the back helping Mr. Jacks count money and put change in wrappers. She is very good at math. She used to do what I do, but some men were not nice to her and touched her when she went to their cars. She does not like it when men do this, but she is afraid to tell them. She told me and I told Mr. Jacks.

Sometimes people call us names like "retard," and children still laugh at us and say we're ugly or that we look like monsters. It makes Susan mad and sometimes she cries. I tell her that my mother used to say that they just do not know any better and I put my arm around her. I tell her she looks beautiful to me. And she does. I love the way her eyes almost pop out of her head when she laughs. I like making her laugh.

I remember when I was young and the other children made fun of me. My mother used to make me laugh by telling me knock knock jokes. They were not funny, but I laughed anyway so my mother would not be so sad.

Me and Susan love each other, but sometimes Mrs. Lordes, our social worker, does not understand. She thinks that because we are slow, we do not know how to take care of each other. I want to make a baby with Susan. "No, No, No!" Mrs. Lordes says when I tell her. She makes her lips look like she just sucked a lemon.

I know it is wrong, but me and Susan laugh at that when Mrs. Lordes is not around. I say, "We should eat a walrus." Susan shouts, "No, No, No!" and squeezes her lips together. We laugh so hard our sides hurt and sometimes Susan pees.

Once, just when we got home from work, Mrs. Lordes came to our home. She visits a lot without telling us. My mother told me this is rude, but I do not want to hurt Mrs. Lordes' feelings. It was raining and thundering and we were soaking wet. Mrs. Lordes told me I smelled bad and need to take a bath. I took one the night before. I always take one before I go to sleep, so I smell good for Susan. Mrs. Lordes made me feel bad in front of Susan.

Sometimes I hate Mrs. Lordes. She can be a busybody and not a nice person. She says she has our best interest in mind. That's what she always says, "I have your best interest in mind." She does, I guess. She helps us get a check each month that pays the rent and the electric bill. And she shows us how to budget our money. We have to pay our own telephone bill, so we only call people when we have to. We don't have too many friends. Charley is our best friend. He lives at the group home where me and Susan used to live.

Mrs. Lordes didn't want us to get married and move out of the home. She said it would be hard for us. But my mother told her that if we really loved each other, that would make it easier. I will always love my mother, but she died two months ago. We had the funeral on a Saturday so we would not miss work, even though Mr. Jacks told us to take some days off. Me and Susan take the bus to the cemetery on Sundays and we put flowers on Mama's grave. Sometimes I cry and Susan puts her arm around me. I know I should not do this because men are not supposed to cry. But sometimes I do anyway.

Susan never tells Charley or anyone at work. I keep her secrets, too. Like how her mother used to hit her and call her names and blame her when her father left them. I used to get so mad I wanted to scream at her mother when she came to the group home, but Susan made me promise not to. She wanted everyone to think her mother loved her.

The other day, we asked Mrs. Lordes to have dinner with us in our home. We wanted to show her how good Susan cooks. She came to our home before we said she should come. She said she came early so she could help. She brought us a new brown tablecloth. Me and Susan like the blue and yellow polka dot tablecloth we bought at the Salvation Army store for twenty-five cents, but Mrs. Lordes made us take it off and put on her tablecloth. She said the polka dot tablecloth was for every day, but the brown one was for company.

We had set the table, too. We put a dish in front of each chair and a glass and a napkin. We had to undo everything for Mrs. Lordes. But we did not complain because Mrs. Lordes was our guest. We wanted to make her feel good. Even when she made us put a knife and fork and spoon in front of each plate, we did not say anything. But it was silly. Susan was making our favorite dinner, ham sandwiches with lettuce and tomato and potato chips. You do not eat a sandwich with a knife and fork. But we did what Mrs. Lordes said. She was our guest.

And it was a good dinner until I said that we wanted to make a baby and that Susan stopped taking the pills Mrs. Lordes and Susan's mother said Susan had to take to keep from getting sick. We found out that those pills were keeping her from having a baby. That got Mrs. Lordes angry. "No, No, No!" she said. "You must not have a baby."

"Why not?" We both asked that at the same time. It sounded so funny that we laughed.

"Because you're children yourselves. You're not capable of raising a child."

"Yes, we are," I said. "And we're not children. I am twenty-seven years old and Susan is twenty-five." There were babies at the group home and we changed diapers and fed them bottles with milk. "We know how to take care of babies."

Mrs. Lordes kept arguing. Finally, Susan turned all red in her face, like the way she does when she is about to cry. But this time she did not cry. She stood up and said to Mrs. Lordes, "If you think we're children, then you're not our friend. And if you're not our friend, then you shouldn't be in our home."

Mrs. Lordes left after that, but she whispered to me that I should calm down Susan so we can talk later.

That night, we washed the dishes and swept the floor the way we always do. We cleaned off Mrs. Lordes tablecloth, and Susan got out the one with blue and yellow polka dots. I told her not to put our tablecloth on the table because I had a special idea. I told Susan what it was, and she shouted, "Yes, Yes, Yes!"

Then we tried to make a baby right there on Mrs. Lordes' tablecloth.

After teaching writing and literature for twenty-five years, Wayne Scheer retired to follow his own advice and write. Some of his work has appeared in The Pedestal Magazine, Moonwort Review, Thought Magazine, Dana Literary Society Journal, and Flashquake. His writing awards include a Pushcart Prize nomination. Wayne lives in Atlanta and can be contacted at