Howard Desseray was upset. He and Tally had stepped outside to watch the eclipse, using Tally's welders' helmet and another she stole from her welding teacher, Mr. Disgleirio, an illegal immigrant from Wales.
Tally had just asked about his first day as a Pre-K teacher, but before Howard could answer, they remembered it was time for the Great American Total Eclipse. And, because of Medford's location,* they were right on the Dark Path, as they call it on the streets.
That's when Tally started singing that "damn Bonnie Tyler song." Her well-trained voice was a sweet blend of Joe Cocker's and Stevie Nicks's.
"Turn around bright eyes, my ass," the usually mild-tempered Howard muttered under this breath.
And it was just this little rhubarb, this brouhaha, this quibbling altercation or logomachization that first induced Howard to question his feelings for Tally.
Could the eclipse -- really only a minor traffic jam in the firmament -- somehow be a harbinger, a portent, even a Hawthornian celestial hieroglyphic, sent by Providence in a language only the superstitious could interpret, warning the well-meaning abductor to drop Tally like a bad habit?
But even before this blinding event, nature had already been sending him a gentle "get out" message, via a transition we will attempt to describe below.
Shortly after Howard had abducted Tally, their respective synapses became hotter than a Georgia blacktop due to a serious dopamine-gusher event, something laypersons call a "mutual crush."
For the sexually indifferent Howard, this hormonal tsunami manifested itself in a simple change of routine: As our faithful reader already knows, Howard often passed the time by checking the tire pressure of cars parked in his neighborhood, but once the dopamine kicked in, he switched over -- for reasons that escaped him -- to checking the cars' oil.
But as they are wont to do, the hot-monkey-love hormones returned to normal, and the couple's synapses went back to being snow-packed roads, a far cry from the feverish highway to hell that instigated what Howard would later call "my dipstick period."
So, really, Tally had been rubbing Howard the wrong way (not literally) for quite some time.
A lifelong contemplative, Howard searched deep into his inner being's core to unearth the Hawthornian** blemish, that allegorical birthmark, as it were, that was sapping the vital fluids from the Tree of Love so harmoniously sewn and cultivated by this well-meaning criminal and his malleable victim.
What was the first straw, the one camels never notice, the First Cause of this insidious disenchantment? He remembered: Tally was asymmetrical, and she had demonstrated this aesthetic deformity in the most unsettling way.
On the day he abducted her, she had been taking a smoke break from her welding class, and after taking a big hit off her Marlboro Menthol Light 100, she did the time-honored nasal exhale, often called "The Bette Davis" by TCM fans, but smoke exited only from her right nostril!
Already in the midst of his abductatory move, he shuddered unconsciously. "That is not pretty," he said to himself using a rhetorical device called litotes. Yes, it was in that moment of flawed exhalation that a tiny seed of discontent planted itself in Howard's psyche, even before the seed of love was a gleam in Cupid's eyes, or however that old saying goes.
|Asymmetry can be lovely.|
Even though he was aware that beauty and asymmetry could coexist -- Forest Whitaker, Veronica Lake, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Karen Black came to mind --that look simply wasn't for him. Especially when people smoked.
Now the dew was off the lily, the lipstick off the pig, etc., and Howard had yet another epiphany: The time had come. He and Tally should get married.
In his despair, the poor guy wound up hanging his head during the critical moments of the eclipse, assuming the sudden darkness was simply a projection of his own gloomy resignation, with no corona. But it was okay, because he was having his own eclipse, a kind of total eclipse of the heart, some would say.
Tally removed her welders' helmet and tossed her hair back into shape (a Sofia Vergara look before the bangs or, say, Catherine Deneuve for older readers).
"So, Howard," she said. "How was your day? Tell me about teaching Pre-K."
Something a wife would say. Till death did them part.
*A few miles from Townsville.
**Editor's note: Enough with the Hawthorne already!