There’s a dead robin on the front steps, I told my wife.
Did it have bird flu or fly into the glass? she asked.
You mean West Nile Virus, I said. I don’t know. It didn’t leave a note.
Should we take it to the Health Department? she asked.
It’s Friday. I said. The Health Department is closed until Monday morning. We’re supposed to put it in the freezer until Monday.
My wife looked as though I had told her I had decided to kayak to the South Pole.
I know, I said. The freezer is jammed. I needed an ice pack for my leg this morning and couldn’t find one.
My wife looked guilty.
It’s okay, I said. I used a package of ground beef.
I was going to make hamburgers tonight, she said.
It didn’t totally defrost, I said. Besides, the Health Department only wants crows. Never said anything about robins.
My wife looked relieved.
My wife hates our refrigerator. I don’t. It cools and freezes and provides cold water and ice. What more is it supposed to do? We should replace it just because it’s 15 years old and a little rusty? What if we did that with our children?
Also, we have about 50 things stuck on the front and sides of our refrigerator. Who wants to replace all that?
There are photos of the grandchildren, a bulk trash pickup day schedule for 2003, a postcard reminder of a dentist appointment, a couple magnetic beer bottle openers, little slips of paper with phone numbers held on by cute refrigerator magnets from such places as the Cape May Lewes ferry, recycling instructions, assorted prayers and messages about how to cope, instructions to do with defrosting and meat temperatures, advice on how to prepare for a hurricane, etc.
And that’s just on the front.
But I told my wife a year ago we would get a new refrigerator as soon as she reduced the amount of stuff in this one.
The miracle of the Zelnik freezer is something like the parable of the loaves and fishes. No matter how much she removes, it remains full.
A supermarket recently was offering two free half-gallons of ice cream if you bought one. That is the kind of deal that makes me reach for my wallet. But we couldn’t do it. No space for even one half-gallon, let alone three.
My wife seemed shaken by the hours at the Health Department: 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday.
What if the terrorists attacked on a Sunday? she asked,
They probably would, I conceded.
But where would our bioterrorism experts be? she asked.
Ideally, I said, they’d be at Crest Haven checking out the contamination shelter. Realistically, if I were an epidemiologist pulling down 65 grand or one of those lesser members of the county bioterrorism team making only 45, I’d probably spend Sunday at the beach in Stone Harbor. Then, about 5, I’d head to the Windrift beach bar for some margaritas.
But what if we needed them? my wife asked.
I’m sure they carry beepers, I said.
On their bathing suits?
And who knows their phone numbers?
The Bush administration, I said.
You’re making this up, said my wife.
Go to the 85th Street beach, I said, and you’ll see a half-dozen persons all sitting in a circle, all wearing black bathing suits.
My wife looked doubtful.
The bioterrorism team, I said. There have been reports terrorists are sending suicide dolphins to the Jersey shore.
Now I know you’re kidding, said my wife.
About the dolphins, yes, I said. About being at the beach and the Windrift, it’s an educated guess. These people have got to be depressed. If you were depressed, wouldn’t you try a couple margaritas?
Why are they depressed?
First, I said, they’ve been working for three years on secret plans to defend against an attack that’s not going to come.
You don’t know, said my wife.
Second, I said, you know how stressful it can be reporting to an advisory committee headed by Sheets, Thornton and McCall?
You’re the one that’s stressed, said my wife.
If you were in my shoes, you’d be stressed too, I said. There is this huge controversy at the Herald whether to call it Seven Mile Beach or Seven Mile Island.
Who cares? said my wife.
We do, I said. And the residents do. It’s caused a massive identity crisis. People who thought they knew where they lived are angry, and it’s dividing – no surprise- along Avalon-Stone Harbor lines.
Maybe they should all go to the Windrift, said my wife.
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