Mike's Wife

Aired on KQUED

San Francisco's NPR

        Mike’s wife is a nice girl. I’d heard this often from my grandfather who has an opinion on most things. He lives on a farm in a tiny town in the Montana Rockies called, Trout Creek. In fact, I don’t know anyone in Trout Creek who has a bad thing to say about Mike’s wife. I don’t know her name. I’ve never heard her referred to in any other way. 

 

       “She’s a real nice girl,” Grandpa said, sitting king-like in his leather Lazyboy. “Nice and quiet.” 

       “Yes, she’s a nice girl,” Aunt Helen nodded, “such a quiet girl.”  

       

       I thought of all the times I’d raised my voice in front of my grandfather or expressed my views in a way that may have been less than ladylike. My thighs stuck to the Naugahyde as I squirmed in my chair. I wondered if it was too late to redeem my image. Maybe I could be quiet in the future. Maybe I too could be seen as a nice girl in their eyes. I folded my hands in my lap and crossed my legs at the ankles. I sat in silence listening to their conversation.

       

       Aunt Helen described how Mike’s wife rode a thousand miles—all the way from North Dakota to Trout Creek on the back of Mike’s motorcycle—while she was pregnant. “She didn’t complain once,” Aunt Helen beamed. 

       

       I tried to imagine myself pregnant, sitting astride a vibrating motorcycle seat for a thousand miles without complaining. I couldn’t see it. 

       

       A giant picture window gave my grandfather a presiding view over a rolling expanse of clover and alfalfa meadows. Clusters of Angus and white-faced Herefords grazed, heads bowed. The old tire swing swayed from a thick, sturdy branch of a crab-apple tree.

       

       Growing up, Mike’s wife would have washed the dinner dishes without complaint while her little brother roamed outside on a warm August evening. Mike’s wife wouldn’t have told her grandfather to shut up when he referred to her seventh-grade boyfriend as a coon.  Mike’s wife would have learned early the costs of crossing my grandfather on hard subjects, like God, or duty. 

       

       I felt something akin to sibling rivalry. They liked Mike’s wife the best. Mike’s wife was quiet.

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© 2020  Tracy Marie Oliver  

Santa Cruz, California