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by Rose Madeline Mula

My friend Sarah knocked on my door last night, sobbing uncontrollably.

“Sarah!” I asked. “What’s wrong?”

She blubbered incoherently as I led her into the living room where she crumpled onto the couch. I had never seen Sarah — or anyone, for that matter — so upset. Obviously something tragic had happened. I hugged her, trying to calm her.

“What is it? Tell me!”

She only cried louder.

“Is something wrong with one of the kids?” I asked.

She shook her head wildly, spraying tears.

“Not one of the grandkids?” I tried again.

“No!” she finally managed to blurt. “It’s Dan.”

“Oh, my God!” I said. “What happened?” I could imagine only the worst, considering the state she was in. I gulped. “Is he dead?”

“Not yet,” she said, “but soon.”

I hugged her again. “Oh, Sweetie,” I said. “How awful! What is it? Cancer? His heart?”

“No,” she said, suddenly coherent and seething. “A bullet to the brain. I’m going to kill him!”

Dan and Sarah were the ideal couple, the ones the rest of us secretly (in fact, often openly) envied. They were devoted to each other, and it was apparent the romance had never gone out of their marriage. Dan marked every anniversary with a beautiful gift and an originally composed poem. He had flowers delivered to Sarah not only on her birthday but also on the birthdays of their three children and even on February 2— to celebrate the beginning of spring if the groundhog didn’t see his shadow, or to cheer Sarah up about the prospect of six more weeks of winter if he did.

Just last week, we had all been invited to a party to celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary. At dinner Dan announced that he, of course, was planning a wonderful surprise present for Sarah but he planned to give it to her in a few days, when they could enjoy it alone.

Of course we imagined all kinds of things. Sexy lingerie from Victoria’s Secret? That full-length mink coat he had promised for years that he was going to buy for Sarah “some day”? A four-carat flawless diamond from Tiffany’s? Or maybe a round-the-world cruise in the honeymoon suite on the Queen Mary 2?

Rumors were rampant, fueled mainly by Sarah herself who called me daily with new speculations, including all the above and more. She was even more excited than a five-year-old waiting for Santa’s visit.

And now she was threatening homicide? That was quite a leap. Could Dan’s “surprise” have been a cruel announcement that he was leaving her for another woman — or maybe another man? Impossible. I’d find it easier to believe that Columbus’s discovery that the world is round had been a hoax — that he had sailed on a bit further than the new world and had actually fallen off the edge of the planet.

I poured Sarah a Scotch and forced her to take several sips.

“Okay,” I said, when she had regained some composure. “What in heaven’s name is going on?”

“My wonderful surprise gift!” She was irate. “It didn’t come in a big box. It didn’t come in a little box. It came in an envelope!”

So that was it. Dan had given her a generous gift certificate so she could buy the present of her dreams. Maybe a copout that requires little or no thought, but still…

“I know how you feel, Honey, but a gift certificate isn’t a motive for murder,” I said.

“No,” Sarah corrected. “Not a gift certificate. A deed!”

Had he bought a new house for them to move to? It must be far away for Sarah to be this distraught. Now I was getting upset, too. I love Sarah and Dan. I’d miss them.

But maybe it was just a vacation getaway — a condo in the Outer Banks, which Sarah loves … a pied-a-terre in Paris … a penthouse in Manhattan for theater week-ends … Was she upset because he had made such an important commitment without consulting her first to determine her preference?

“A deed for a second home?” I asked, hopefully.

“Oh, it’s a deed for a home, all right,” fumed Sarah. “But not a second home! Our final home!”

“Huh?” I asked.

“It’s a deed to a cemetery plot!” she exploded, chug-a-lugging the rest of her Scotch. “And that’s not all! He also prepaid our funerals! The nerve of him!”

“But that’s wonderful!” I said. “What a great idea!”

Sarah’s mouth gaped open in disbelief. It was her turn to say, “Huh?”

“I mean it,” I said. “None of us likes to think about the inevitable, Sarah; and now you don’t have to! You can relax and enjoy the rest of your life. I can’t imagine a more thoughtful gift. I think it’s sweet.”

“Sweet!? I don’t believe you! In ten or twenty years, maybe. Not this soon! What’s his damn hurry?”

Right now, she said, she would have definitely preferred the lingerie, the mink coat, the diamond, the cruise, a vacation home ….

“And the worst part is,” she continued. “He has the nerve to be disappointed in me! He’s as bad as you … he thought I’d love it! He said nothing could be more romantic than a gift that insures that we’ll be lying side by side for eternity!”

I don’t know about eternity, but I have a distinct feeling that Sarah and Dan won’t be sharing a resting place again on this side of the Pearly Gates until he puts that plot and those prepaid funerals up for sale on E-Bay and uses the proceeds for a spectacular appeasement gift.

No. I’m not talking nursing home insurance.

Rose's new book, If These Are Laugh Lines I'm Having Way Too Much Fun, published by Pelican Publishing Company, is now available

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.


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