Lapinel Arts


Story Archive

The Race


My wife Cathy and I are both competitive but just below the obnoxious threshold where you can still call it fun. Our relationship has always been that way and hopefully will remain so as we get old. I’ll probably upgrade my wheelchair with racing bearings to allow the wheels to spin faster when we get to that age. I guess I have to start thinking about what Cathy might be planning with her wheelchair.

Much of our competition is of the unspoken kind where there is a winner and a loser but no actual discussion…maybe just a smile from both of us.

A contest can be found in the most unlikely situations. Who can bring the groceries in faster? Who can cook a meal most efficiently? Who can mow the lawn with better stripes? We used to laugh about people that had real lawns in our pre-children life as farmers. We would use the four foot bush hog on the large tractor to mow down the weeds in several acres of pasture and…to mow the crabgrass that we called “our lawn”. Cathy could whip around raising dust at a high throttle and her steering was better than mine so this event was a toss up. Cathy would get the job done with flair and with a better finish and I would get it done faster.

Cathy always won the new car competition since she shuttled the kids around and that was more important than my commuting vehicle. I won the new tool competition since my activities mandated fancier and cooler looking tools than she required.

Getting lost while driving and navigating in new territory was a loser for both of us. I would guess by using spatial guessing and Cathy would rely on the defined landmarks. We tend to get lost. Lose the trail when hiking and both our guesses end up being wrong. I’m pretty sure that’s why I carry a topo map, compass, backup compass, GPS, whistle etc…when I go into the deep wilderness of Idaho.

This is how we live and we enjoy this interaction. Cook a meal and ask the kids how they liked it.
“Really good Dad!”
“Better than your Mom’s cooking”? I would always ask this knowing this would make them squirm and cause Cathy’s eye’s to sharpen their stare onto mine. Of course the kids learned fast how to avoid that trap so the pleasure of that set-up was lost.

Now in tennis, ahh, all bets are off. Of course my knee and foot and neck will be acting up and of course Cathy has a sore knee also and is tired from competing in her league that morning. Cathy thinks that I think she will take it easy on me, but she won’t, unless I’m truly in pain. I think that Cathy thinks I won’t try hard for fear of reinjuring my old ailments, but I will try hard and I suspect Cathy knows this.

Cathy’s pretty good so I have to try every psychological trick I can to just survive or even win on occasion. I’m good at the net so I make certain that I am good and loud when I rush up so that Cathy “thinks” about my presence at the net. More often than not she hits low or long, but when she slides that ball by me for a winning point I have to start a new approach.

As this is a subtle underlying game with us, you never quite know when a new battle is on.

One of those times occurred recently after we took two cars over to drop Lauren off at the bus for a trip to a sports camp. We both had done different errands that day and arrived at the designated time to watch our daughter take off for Washington.

“How should we head home” I ask.

Then I spotted it. I wouldn’t describe it as a near smile or even an obvious tell of any nature…just that little glint in the eyes that are focused a bit more than usual.

“You lead the way on your new route back” says Cathy.

Now I really suspected she has something planned since she was making fun of my “shortcut”.
I know she will try to get home first, using her more extensive knowledge of the city streets. Of course this has to be done with a casualness that could allow for deniability in case of failure.
We agree to meet at Blockbuster to get a video first. That’s good since I’m the underdog in this match and shortening the distance will help. I stay relaxed as I can while my heart pumps and I start planning an execution of a perfect return home.

I start out East heading toward Vista Street, planning to cut through on Front Street.

Suddenly Cathy who was semi hidden behind another car makes a quick breakaway and cuts to the left turn lane on Orchard.

“Clever girl” I say to myself as I look around to see if anyone saw me talking to myself.
I stomp the gas pedal and pull behind Cathy. I started first and she’s already ahead of me. I imagine that now she will take emerald street then cut west to blockbuster. I will be safe and just follow. I can’t risk trying to get to blockbuster first.

Once again this tricky wife of mine fools me and passes emerald to take the connector home. Now I realize that I was lucky she was in front, she would have soundly beaten me to Blockbuster if I had taken Emerald.

We pull into Blockbuster and without speaking of the race we casually search and find a movie to watch. No smiles, no hidden looks, everything seems normal and even I start to wonder if the game is on.

Cathy says she needs to get gas and tells me to go home but…. no way…she’s not going to stop what (I think) she started so I tell Cathy that I’ll get gas as well. We take off with me in the lead. Now I’m at 15th ready to turn to the gas station but I’m stuck. The light doesn’t favor left turns so you have to jump just as the light turns red….Where’s Cathy?

I look in my rearview and see no sign of my secretive wife. I wonder if she is already at the gas station. Finally my opportunity arrives and I jump left and just in time to see Cathy, as she approached from another cross street and almost beat me to the station.

We stop at separate pumps, with me just in front. I do my best John Wayne walk over while my car fills and loudly compliment her beauty and ask her for her phone number. This has no effect of embarrassment as I desired. Instead she diligently cleans the windshield of the car.

I run back not to be outdone and clean the windshield as well. Maybe that’s part of the rules?

Silence, then a click…my pump has finished. Our eyes meet as if at a noon showdown like James Stewart and what’s his face. We both draw and reach for the pump handles at the same time and then... it happened.

Gasoline starts flying through the air as Cathy realizes that the click wasn’t from her pump finishing. She tries to control the living beast of spewing gas and finally in a panic she thrusts it back into the tank and she knows she is lost.

I survey the mess and being a true gentleman I check to make sure she is alright and remind my dear wife that she should really wipe that gas off the car with the towels. I turn slowly as I imagine John Wayne would, and I hop back into my ride to take the leisurely finish trot home.

Once home, I get as much done as possible to make it clear that I had won with plenty of time. Cathy arrives with the newly washed car and tries to act casual at first but then finally fesses that it had been, a race.