by THOMAS J. MISURACA
Everybody loved Roberta Swanson, but hated her husband Albert. She was a darling old woman who would do anything for you; he was a miserable old man who never had anything nice to say. If you told Albert it was a nice day, he’d reply, “Yeah, but it’ll probably rain tomorrow.” If it was raining, Roberta would say, “But the sun is shining behind those clouds.”
When Roberta met Albert, he was already what she called “a lovable curmudgeon”. He professed his dislike for other people, yet Roberta was the only person who didn't annoy him. Ever. He was quick to pop the question, knowing he’d never find another woman he could tolerate and vice versa. Roberta saw something in Albert that nobody else saw, so she was quick to accept. They built a life together and raised three respectable children who endeavored to be more like their mother than their father.
Those children now had children of their own and the Swansons found themselves in the role of grandparents. Roberta loved baking cookies for her grandchildren’s visits. Albert would eat most of them before the kids got there, but Roberta always hid an extra dozen.
Roberta dressed well every day of her life. Even for a day at home, she wore a nice outfit with some tasteful costume jewelry. “Why bother?” Albert asked her once. “It feels good to dress up,” she told him. Albert spent most of his time in loose-fitting slacks and stained t-shirts.
Every night, Roberta sat before he vanity mirror, removed all her jewelry, placed it in a gold-trimmed music box that Albert gave her for their first anniversary, and began her beauty treatment. This irritated Albert, who’d bark, “It’s not like you’re meeting anybody tonight.”
Albert barely slept anymore, while Roberta snored through the night. He got out of bed in the early hours of the morning and read the paper in the den. One night, he couldn’t find his reading glasses.
Roberta often used Albert’s glasses when she couldn’t find her own; this annoyed him to no end. She probably used them and mislaid them. He searched the den and the kitchen before going into the bedroom.
Albert assumed she threw them in her music box with the rest of her junk. He’d barely looked at the thing since he gave it to her over fifty years ago. He was surprised how new it appeared, the carved angels that fluttered over the box were not marked by age. The box felt warm.
He remembered clearly the day he found it in a souvenir shop while he was in San Francisco on a business trip. Usually, he wouldn’t think of bringing souvenirs back for Roberta, but she loved San Francisco so much and was very upset that she couldn’t accompany her husband. Though the box looked nothing like a memento of the city, it played “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” so Albert bought it. Roberta loved and treasured it, even though she never wound it so as not to disturb Albert with the music.
Albert lifted the lid and was caught off-guard by the light pouring out from it. He slammed the lid shut. It was impossible that something inside could be so bright. He opened the box again and its contents illuminated the room. A round, glowing object sat on top of Roberta’s costume jewelry. It seemed to be made out of light itself.
It looked like a halo.
Albert figured he wasn’t seeing it clearly without his glasses. One of the grandkids must have made her a necklace out of one of those stupid glow sticks she once bought for them.
He picked it up. Warmth ran up his arm. It was the most wonderful sensation he’d ever felt. Yet, he could find no words to explain it.
Instinctively, he placed the halo on his head.
It hovered slightly above his thinning hair. There was no way it could just float there, but Albert didn’t question. The warmth filled his body. An old emotion opened within him: happiness. The kind he hadn’t felt since he were a child. He also felt forgiveness to all those who took this feeling away from him in his youth. It was like a sun of love burned away the clouds of hate.
Joy swelled inside him. He wanted to do nothing but good for people. To help everybody in need. To tell his family how proud he was of them. Even those who failed, he admired how hard they tried. Especially in the shadow of Albert’s negativity.
He wanted to tell his wife how much he loved and appreciated her. How she was the only reason he was still alive. How she-
Roberta snorted in her sleep.
Albert removed the halo. It did not belong to him. His wife had earned it, most likely by putting up with him all these years. He could never deny her the pleasure the halo brought. She deserved to be the nice old lady that everybody loved, even if it meant being married to a miserable old cuss like him.
Albert back in the box and closed it.
He continued the search for his glasses. Where did that stupid wife of hive them?
Abut the author
I studied Writing, Publishing and Literature at Emerson College in my home town of Boston. Over eighty of my short stories have appeared in publications worldwide. Two of my novels have been published, including the vampire parody novel, Lifestyles of the Damned. I've focused more on theater recently. Over one hundred of my one-act plays have been produced or stage read globally. And my full-length musical, Geeks!, was produced Off-Off Broadway in October 2012.