Marriage


 (Continued from Part 1)

She felt acceptance and freedom for the first time. The joy was beyond her ability to contain as the tears rushed forth.

It really seemed too good to be true. Gomer began her knew life with a mixture of emotions. The stern glances from her in-laws, the piercing gaze of the priests and the cursory glances from men in the market couldn’t divert her new-found joy. Hosea was the man she had always longed for and he truly loved her. He brought her out of the desperation and despair she had always known. She was his choice and he was hers. She followed him into this new life of godliness and purity. She learned to carry herself differently and to talk differently. She listened to his prayers and followed his leading. She went to synagogue with him whenever it was appropriate. But the scars and memories of her past followed her, reminding her of where she had been and, frightfully, who she had been. Not many months passed and Gomer bore Hosea a son – God was blessing them even with her past, and they seemed to be so happy.

But as the sands of time shifted, something in Gomer’s soul began to change. She was different somehow. The love she had for her savior cooled and other attractions stole her mind. She began to speak of her old life differently than she had before. She remembered the pleasures she had enjoyed and the gain she had been afforded as her affection for her husband subdued. The pleasures that her old life use to afford her became forefront in her mind, fleeting though they were, as struggles of life in the ministry seemed to lack the luster she once knew. This daughter of Diblaim began to grow weary of living the life of a budding, young preacher’s wife. Hosea was absent from the home more than she thought appropriate as he sought to fulfill Jehovah’s mission of preaching to the nation of Israel. Gomer began to resent his ministry. How could he love his God more than he loved her?

Then, a baby girl was born. But, Hosea was suspicious. He had noticed a coolness in Gomer’s gaze. She didn’t talk with him the way she once had. Hosea named this new little girl Loru-hammah: “no mercy.” The strain he felt with his wife depicted the strain Jehovah was feeling with His people, and Hosea used this opportunity to express this burden from the Lord.

It was long after Loru-hammah was born that Gomer bore another son, but Hosea was convinced – this was not his child! In his jealous rage he called him Lo-ammi, meaning “not my people.” What turmoil must have been in his home, what public disgrace! There was tension every night. Bitterness ate at the prophet’s heart, how could she do this to him, after all he had done for her? How could she return to her old life after he had risked everything to rescue her from her shame? And yet, he found he still loved her. He cared for her and even provided for her though she had betrayed him.

On one particular occasion, Hosea caught Gomer in the very act of her promiscuous crime. Her guilt ravaged her cold heart. She thought, “Surely, he will never accept me back after this! How could I be so unfaithful, so virulent … after he has loved me so?”

Hosea begged his wife, his beloved bride, to forsake her false loves, to turn from her proverbial broken cisterns and embrace the fountain of his love once again. But it was too late. Gomer’s actions had propelled her into slavery and temple prostitution once more. What bondage her treachery had brought upon her and what despair overwhelmed her mind!

She had reached the bottom again. The one place she hated the most, the bondage she feared the most, was upon her once more and she could blame no one but herself. She had come to the end of herself. “How could I have forsaken the only true love I have ever known? If only I could see my sweet Hosea’s face again. If I could be but a doorkeeper outside his door and hear his voice in the cool of the evening. If I could just be in his presence once again, how things would be different!” On her knees, sobbing inconsolably through her desperation, she cried, “If only I could be near him again!” She wept herself to sleep.

The next evening found Gomer abject as she trudged to the temple courtyard once more. Her emaciated figure and jaded countenance wore the pain and disgrace of her transgressions. The crowd hushed eerily as she approached the stage, repulsed by her revolting form. Gomer stared at the ground as the priest once again prepared to offer her to the highest bidder. She shuddered as she braced herself for the surly reaction from the crowd.

“We have real treat for you tonight men of Baal,” the priest snarled. “One has come back to us from the ranks of Jehovah. It seems that even Jehovah’s prophets can’t keep their own from the power and influence of our great Baal. This one you may remember. She was once one of your favorites … tonight, it is my pleasure to offer to you and to our great Baal, Gomer, the wife of Hosea, prophet of Jehovah.” At this the crowd went wild, laughing and jeering hysterically. What a joke this Gomer and her prophet husband were! Surely Baal must love what he is seeing now!

“I will buy her back” the echoing voice came from the back of the assembly interrupting the blasphemous uproar. “15 pieces of silver and an homer and a half of barley… this is all I have. She is my wife and I will purchase her back from you for this price.” Gomer couldn’t believe what she had heard. Could it be? “Hosea, is that you?” she gasped as her eyes surveyed the crowd. Then she saw him … him whom her soul longed for, her husband and only savior! Him whom she had betrayed so many times. She instinctively dropped to her knees. She couldn’t look at him, what is he doing here? Does he want to punish me, to humiliate me more, to stone me for all that I have done to him? The answers came as Hosea approached the stage. “I will buy her for myself, for the Lord God Jehovah says unto you, children of Israel, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.’”

The prophet continued, “And Gomer, I say unto you, ‘You must dwell as mine for many days. You must not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” The crowd stood strangely silent. Hardened, calloused men felt tears stinging their eyes. Even the priest loosened his grip at the power of this unfailing love. Could this be real? Could a man love in this way? Can love bear in all this, believe in all this, hope in all this, and endure in all this? Can this be real?

Gomer, still gazing at the ground, afraid to move fearing this might all be a dream, felt a strong hand upon her shoulder and a soft robe across her back. As she looked upward her glance caught the eyes of her husband and friend. “Oh Hosea, I am so, so sorry. I don’t deserve to be called your …” “Gomer, my love, hold your peace. I have loved you from the beginning and I will love you until the end. I want you to be mine and I will be yours. I have bought you back. Come with me. Let’s go home.”

Gomer never did completely understand the love of her husband toward her. She would often wonder at the way he would look at her and why he would always want to be by her side. But one thing is sure, she never doubted that he loved her. She knew that she could always trust in his love … a love that never fails.

Hosea 14:4-9 “I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit. Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.” ESV

Her name was Gomer. It means “corruption.” And rightfully so; you see, Gomer was a temple prostitute. Her duty was to give the worshipers what they wanted and not to complain about it. She had been a slave to this lifestyle who knows how long. She was most likely sold into the business as a child. This was her life. To many Gomer was nothing more than a pretty face, a commodity to be used up and thrown away. At best she was a religious sacrifice unto various deities of fertility.

Diblaim, Gomer’s father had been born into one of the darkest times in Israel’s history. God’s chosen people, Israel, under the rule of Jeroboam the II, had adopted the sensual worship of Baal. Gomer was one of hundreds of temple prostitutes who may have been captured or sold into temple prostitution. A slave to false religion and debauchery she was calloused beyond her years. The priests were the ones who promoted this wickedness in the name of Jehovah. A mixed worship such as this conveniently promoted their own lusts and quenched their inner guilt as they carefully crafted the God of their fathers into their own image.

Gomer tried her best to please the priests. But no matter how much she tried to obey, it was never enough. The frequent physical and verbal abuse was almost as difficult to endure as the nights were. But, the aching in her soul for love was more than she could bear.

And so she tried to find love. She longed to be accepted for who she was … to be important to someone. Gomer felt she never could do enough. Often, she would pray and cry to Baal, hoping that he would be pleased with her service. She always felt so distant from him. Sometimes anger filled her soul because of the bondage and enslavement he caused her; she wondered if he knew her thoughts. What if he was punishing her for her anger toward him? She was plagued by guilt. No matter what she did, nothing would cause the dreadful shame to go away.

Even her name seemed to punish her. Gomer … corruption … the very sound of it was condemning. She wondered if it angered people when they found out what her name was. She was corruption. She so desperately wanted someone to accept and forgive her, but she felt she would never taste of true acceptance and love. Some of the men seemed to love her at first. They would buy her food and wine, lotions and oils. One man even gave her gold and silver jewelry. But the attention would always come to an end. The love just wouldn’t last.

Until one day … It all started just as any other evening. She was frantic – not by choice. The priests were horrible taskmasters. Men were already gathering outside. She made her way systematically through her preparations. Her hair, her face … everything had to be just perfect or she knew what the priests would do. She had long since learned to be prepared for evenings such as this one.

It was her turn. As she stepped reluctantly before the libidinous gaze of the temple gathering, something was different. There was a strange sense of caution in the crowd. She scanned the rabble as she had done so many times before and recognized most of the faces. One individual she knew was here for her and a shudder went down her spine as she recalled his rough visage.

But a new face was in the crowd. This man was obviously different from the others. He was wearing a long robe and he carried a small purse at his waist. There was a mysterious look in his eyes. His piercing gaze caught Gomer’s attention and she felt as if this stranger could read her thoughts. He had a look on his face like one she’d never seen before, it was as though he were sent there by Someone, as if he were on a mission that was greater than even he could understand.

The bidding began in the usual way. The priest was anxious to be rid of this daughter of Diblaim and to get on to the more profitable merchandise. Just when all the bids had ceased, a figure stood from the back of the courtyard. The mysterious man spoke with a voice that was clear and strong, “100 pieces of silver!” The crowd burst into an uproar. No one had ever offered so much for an harlot, it was unheard of. Someone was heard over the rumbling of the crowd, “Who would pay that for a harlot, especially for Gomer?” The insult stung, but she was accustomed to it and pretended not to hear. Another answered, “You’re not going to believe this, it’s the prophet Hosea! What does he want with a harlot?” The priest handling the auction spoke hastily trying to calm the mob, his cold grip on Gomer’s arm as he motioned to the assembly, “Well, I believe it IS Hosea, the prophet of Jehovah. Tell us, Hosea, what do you want with an harlot? Are you going to stone her as Moses commanded?” The jeering crowd erupted into a muffled cackle. The prophet was calculating in his response recognizing the pitfall. The crowd hushed to hear his answer. “This woman shall be my wife! The Lord hath said, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD. So I will purchase her to me for 100 pieces of silver.”

A thousand thoughts were flooding Gomer’s mind. “The Lord wants a prophet to marry me? This man wants to marry me? Will I never have to be a prostitute again?” As she stood in silence, tears filled her eyes. It was too good to be true! No one had ever paid so much for her before. And certainly, no one had ever wanted her to stay with him. She had always been turned away by every other man as an old garment when it is soiled beyond further use. “Will he love me?” she wondered. “What kind of man would give this fortune to marry a prostitute? What kind of God would send such a man into my life? Could such a dream really come true?”

As Gomer’s mind raced, Hosea was already in action. He reached the platform with that same steady look in his eye. His hand outstretched, there was a question in his eyes, “Will you marry me as God has commanded?” It needed not to be said. Gomer was afraid she would fail as a wife, she was afraid of the unknown, her fear almost paralyzed her. But she knew she had never experienced such love before. With one last glance at the crowd she stepped toward the strange man. Quickly the prophet lifted her trembling body and covered her shame with his own robe. She felt acceptance and freedom for the first time. The joy was beyond her ability to contain as the tears rushed forth.

Have you ever met one of those people who are great out of the gate but exiting the second turn seem to just fizzle?   Someone who is full of ideas, good ideas even, but sputters to a halt once the actual work begins?  One who can find 10,000 excuses for starting tomorrow instead of today?  No? “In that case, Hi, I’m Larry.”   (Not really but I thought it was a great line from the movie Sky High.)

I could do an entire posting on my life just using lines from movies and songs, that is sad really because I only know a few lines from books I could use.  I would have to say that I am a product of the 70’s and 80’s.  I am first generation MTV.  I remember when “Video Killed the Radio Star” was regularly played on MTV, Martha Quinn was our VJ and Dire Straits was singing “I Want My MTV.”  I remember when Madonna was just a Boy Toy Material Girl (wait nothing’s changed there) Pat Benetar, Blondie, ZZ Top, Aerosmith, Robert Palmer and a host of others whose videos told stories and captured our attention, at the distraction of things more necessary.  Leisure Suits, disco, and the Iranian Hostage debacle were some of the benchmarks of my teenage years, quite the contrast with my redneck, white socks and cowboy hat.  I’ve always been a bit of a square peg in a round hole world.  Living at the speed of MTV and never looking beyond the moment.

I cannot blame the culture I grew up in for my lack of discipline and my Doctorate in Procrastinology, that is all on me, I am a self-made man in that regard.  Instead of reading a classic book… I popped a tape in my “add on” cassette player and cranked up Waylon Jennings, Molly Hatchet, and ELO.  Instead of exercising and pursuing my love of baseball… I ended-up living out Jackson Browne’s classic, Smokin’ in the Boys Room.  Instead of disciplining myself to schoolwork and get good grades… I floated through, just getting by, living for the Heat of the Moment.  Never looking to tomorrow but was more concerned with, “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all and I want it now!”  “Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!” I cried from the front seat of my friends Trans Am as we did our best Smokey and the Bandit imitation.  My life was just like that scene where the bridge was out, and being young, dumb and foolish I was going to make the attempt to jump it anyway, only to stop short not having the nerve to totally commit to full throttle breakaway.  My illusion of life being captured on Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell album was just that, an illusion.  Tighter and tighter the spirals of life swirled and I did not see that mine was out of control and I was on the Eve of Destruction.

Sounds very exciting doesn’t it?  Kind of a redneck, James Bond, Joe Walsh: Life of Illusion fantasy that I wanted to live out.  Reality never came close to the grand fantasy I was living inside myself.  I was never able to live up to the person I dreamt myself to be.  “But then again, Who Does?” (had to give props to Blade Runner there, this being what, its 25th anniversary)  So, things didn’t turn out the way I planned, hmmmm actually that was the problem… I never had a plan.  Peg the volume, Fry, Walsh, and Henley are living Life in the Fast Lane at the Hotel California.  And the illusion continued.

In ’77 my world came undone when dad died.  Mom’s world crashed in on her and in a way I lost both parents that Good Friday morning.  Clarence Carter singing, Patches is a poignant memory I have of that spring.  That summer consisted of Star Wars and a massive crush on Carrie Fisher, yep that year my fantasy was to be Luke Skywalker, battling the evil Empire and flying off among the stars with the girl.  (Lucas messed up a great adolescent fantasy by making Leia, Luke’s sister… at least for all those other nerds who aren’t from West Virginia or Arkansas, kissin’ cousins don’t ya’ knowJ)  So by the time High School was over I had it in my mind that I should make my mark on the world at least by the time I turned eighteen.  Eighteen came and went so I figured fame and fortune and everything that goes with it was just around the corner by twenty.  Twenty was a bittersweet year, still had not made my fortune and the girl I figured I would one day marry started dating my best friend.  (They have been happily married for I guess as long as my wife and I have, going on twenty-one years now, and I still count them as some of my best friends.)  Later that same year I met my wife-to-be, I just didn’t know it…yet.   While she claims that after that first date and that first kiss she went home and told her momma that she had met the man she was gonna marry.  I think that was just to stroke my ego… musta’ worked cause we’ve been together for twenty-four years.(married for 21)

So, what was my point here?  I wanted to say something important about finishing what you start and having the discipline to see things to the…  

Things have been going by so fast that this review was posted in 2007 before it was written… the universe has finally caught up to my time in reality, and here is last year in review.

2007

 

Wow, another year has past. I thought this year we would do one of those Christmas letters.

My problem is remembering what was significant… or even what actually happened this year.

 

This was our first full year since mom’s home going. It has been an emotional rollercoaster, from out of nowhere would come a flood of memories, or an huge dose of reality would steamroll us. The hardest part is going over to the house and trying to clean up. So many memories. But mom left us with the greatest gift of all, a testimony of her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I would not call mom back to this world of pain and suffering, that she knew all too well, even if I could. Her joy is complete in Jesus Christ now. She cannot return to us but she showed the way she went and invited others to believe on Jesus Christ so that we could see her again some day. I am looking forward to that reunion.

This summer we took our vacation in Atlanta Georgia. The main event was a Braves game. Before passing Mom had made me promise to get the kids to a Braves game as soon as we could. She had wanted to go herself but her health was just too bad. So we went to a game the day before the first anniversary of her passing. I remember thinking about how that would play in a Master Card commercial: Trip to Atlanta $$, Tickets to a Braves game $$, Hot dogs and a drink $$$$$$, The memories of a promise kept… priceless.

Children are such a blessing!

I have always thought it was amazing that I have had children who were born in different years (obviously), different decades (1990‘s, 2000‘s), different centuries (1900, 2000), and different millenniums(2nd and 3rd AD) and had twins to boot! 

Can you believe that the twins had the in-class portion of Driver’s education this year??? They are freshmen in high school this year. That can’t be right… but alas ‘me babes’ are suddenly ‘me teens‘. She played both JV and Varsity Volleyball this year. He has been on Varsity Baseball since 7th grade and he made JV Basketball again this year. (He played soccer last year as a fill in, but sat out this year. The soccer team all wanted him to play again this year. Maybe he will play again next year.)

Our little one started pre-school this year. I just turn around and it is another milestone in one of their lives. She is attending pre-school at RHRBC. That is the church I grew up in. Talk about a flood of memories!! The old building is gone but just being there evokes some strong memories of Mom and Dad; good memories.

This year marked two decades my wife has put up with me. She is either incredibly brave and loyal or dain bramaged. She is an incredible woman and a wonderful mother. Right now she is in the hospital recovering from surgery. Everything went very well, the operation was a success, and she is doing very well and may get to come home soon. She can recuperate here at home over the Christmas and New Years holidays.

I guess that leaves me to talk about. How can one describe such legendary grandeur in the mere fifteen lines left on this page? You can’t. It is impossible! Think of the Grand Canyon, the vast Atlantic Ocean, and then think of them being filled… with me, and you can begin to imagine my …. What my pants must daily endure.

You know, they say there are four stages of a man’s life:

1> You believe in Santa Clause.

2> You stop believing in Santa Clause.

3> You play Santa Clause.

4> You look like Santa Clause.

I have reached stage four; beard, belly and all. Ho, Ho, Ho!

So, there you have it, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (maybe I’ll get a copy of that for Christmas) from Us to you.

Seriously, we wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas (while we are still allowed to say Christmas) and a Happy New Year.

D,T,K,D & E

This time five years ago, I was expecting our first child.  My pregnancy had been normal as I slowly watched my feet disappear under my expanding belly.  Nausea in the first trimester gave way to butterfly-like feelings in my abdomen.  What a miracle!  My body had become a home for this tiny person that I did not know yet, but whom I loved intensely. Each month ticked away with a visit to the doctor.  “All is well” was each report…that is until the first week of March. 

The week started out terribly.  I got a speeding ticket.  How could a State Trooper give me, a pregnant woman, a ticket?  Sure I was speeding, but who could blame me as distracted as I was?  It did not even bother him that I cried as I squeezed out from behind the steering wheel to find my registration.  This could not be happening, we did not need this extra expense with a baby coming.

The week only got worse.  I went to my normal check up, expecting the same “all is well” tag, but when my doctor came in,  the expression on her face spread panic through my heart. 

“What’s wrong?” I implored.  I had not even been officially checked yet.  They had only gotten my weight, blood pressure and made me pee in a cup.

“You are showing the early signs of preeclampsia, otherwise known as toxemia.” she almost seemed to whisper from the other end of a tunnel.

“What is that?  How can this be?  Things have been going so well.  What is going to happen to me and my baby?” 

“Preeclampsia is basically where your body is rejecting the baby.  Your blood pressure starts to creep up and protein shows up in your urine.  We are going to write you out of work until delivery and put you on strict bedrest.  We don’t want you to even walk outside to check the mail.  Rest, stay put as much as possible, for your sake and for the sake of your baby.”

I could not be written out of work, I had only trained my back-up for one day.  She was not prepared.  What was my boss going to say?  Josh was not with me at this visit. What would he say?  I could not even talk to him when I called, so I had to get the doctor to repeat what she had said to me.  “It’s going to be okay.” He assured me, but my emotions were telling me otherwise.

The next six weeks are kind of fuzzy to me.  People of the church fixed meals for us because if the meal planning were left to Josh, we would have cereal, Chef Boyardee and eggs everyday, although he would have meant heartily well.  I had days that I spent in fellowship with my Father and felt His love assure me that no matter what happened, this was all part of His plan.  Then I had days that I could not feel His presence and I cried…anxious over what would happen to my baby, starving for fellowship outside these four walls, and from just plain boredom (how many times can you watch the PBS lineup before getting sick of it).

Baby shower time came and I feel into deeper depression.  I could not even properly register for the things we needed and wanted.  We started the process, but had to quit because I could feel my feet swelling from the rising blood pressure.  This should not be so hard to accept; it was just a luxury and I knew our family, friends and church members would make sure we had what we needed.  But I longed for everything to be as it should have been.  Even then, God assured me that this was part of His plan.

April came before long, and the doctors had made me their test subject.  I had to do a few 24-hour urine samples and store them in our fridge, yuck!  Then on April 21st, the doctors ran several tests and sent us out to wait closeby for the results.  We headed over to Barnes & Noble to peruse their new selection of books.  After what seemed like hours, they called us to come back.  “Are you ready to have this baby?” they asked.  I had not even packed my bags yet, oh great!  “We have a room ready for you.  We will induce your labor and since you are only 3 1/2 weeks early, all should be okay.”

We got settled in our room, called the family and prepared for the night.  They gave me the medicine to induce and at 5:10am the next morning my water broke.  Luke Christopher was born at 9:09am on April 22nd, just one minute shy of a 4 hour labor.  He was amazing!  This little life that we had been praying for was finally visible!   

Luke had his normal up’s-and-down’s as an infant.  Maybe a few more down’s because his lungs were a little underdeveloped, but now he is a healthy, happy, lively little boy.  I look back on those days and I can see how God protected us, provided for us and used it all to teach me about His faithfulness and His friendship.  All of this was in His plan.

The other day, while at the mall, my wife and I went through an oft-repeated routine: she entered a clothing store and I took a seat on a bench outside to wait for her.  Why did I not join her?  There are many reasons actually, but I will give only two.  First – as any married man could testify – entering a clothing store with your wife can be a very hazardous experience, for at some point you are certain to be asked a terrifyingly unanswerable question: “Does this make me look fat?”  If you answer “yes”, you will be called an insensitive pig and will be treated as such for the next two weeks; if you say “no”, you will be called a liar until you say “yes” which will gain you the expanded title of a lying, insensitive pig.  And if you choose to remain silent, your silence will be taken for a “yes” and you will be accused of being unable to communicate. Thus, the wise man upon hearing this question will respond by promptly faking a heart attack.

The second reason why I chose not to accompany my wife is that it gave me an excellent opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes: people watching.  Now, I realize that this may sound like some sort of deranged voyeurism, but I assure you that the kind of “people watching” to which I am referring is perfectly legal.  It consists in observing individuals whom you do not know and trying to guess something about them in that brief moment as they pass by.

The mall is a veritable smorgasbord of humanity and the perfect place for a people watcher.    Take, for example, one the newest trends in parenting: the child safety leash.  I counted at least three children (two boys and one girl) who were tethered to their parents by this strange device.  One of the little boys I saw kept darting in front of his mother only to be jerked back (yo-yo like) by a flick of his mother’s wrist.  She did this nonchalantly while chatting with a friend who walked beside her.  The friend, however, was visibly disturbed and she would wince every time the child was reined in.  I’m surprised that the mother never noticed. 

Then there was the rather large fellow wearing a denim shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots that clicked every time he took a step.  He sported a Fu Manchu and a mullet hairstyle that was billowy on top and stringy in the back.  In one of his meaty fists he clutched a tiny, pink shopping bag that he swung by his side to match his lumbering gait.  I noticed several shoppers point and snicker after passing him, and I must confess that the sight brought a smile to my own face.  Yet he was the epitome of self-confidence; wearing a silly grin as he strode by my bench.  Perhaps he had a gift for his girlfriend or wife in the bag – or maybe for his mother.

Shortly after, a pack of teenaged boys shuffled by.  Nearly everyone of them donned a baseball cap and a polo shirt with the collar turned up in the back.  They appeared to have developed a synchronized strut and seemed to be trying very hard to exude a macho presence to everyone about them.  One of the boys caught my eye in particular; it seemed as if his every gesture was calculated to please his peers.  His eyes darted to and fro from underneath the brim of his cap until once they locked with my own, lingered there for a moment, and then turned away.  I wondered if he was happy – as happy, say, as the big man with the little, pink bag.

All of this had taken quite a while, and I was beginning to worry about my wife (and my bank account).  A quick glance through the store window, revealed her standing at the checkout counter about to make her purchases.  I got up from the bench and strolled over to meet her at the entrance.  As I approached the store, I noticed a man and woman having a heated conversation within.  The man had his hands raised in an exasperated defense.  I smiled to myself.  Poor guy, he should have faked a heart attack.