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The Prague Review 2013 Czech Republic

December 7, 2013



Ira and Wendy Gottlieb left separately from their couple’s therapy session. Neither was happy with Dr.Simon. He had pointed out Ira’s use of WMDs (words of metaphoric destruction) when he was angry at Wendy. Gottlieb knew it was true but he also knew it only happened when he was provoked and he believed he was being unjustly accused by both the shrink and Wendy. He had a feeling they were talking together outside these therapy sessions and he vowed he’d trick her into admitting it in their next set to.

Wendy sat in her car and cried. How dare Dr.Simon accuse her of intentionally provoking fights? Guys stick together she told herself. I knew this would come out some day. And tonight we were only supposed to discuss his suggestion on stopping these battles before they escalate. Safe words—he said we'd discuss the simple power of safe words.  Maybe we should be in separation counseling, she thought.

It was her turn to bring home dinner—Ira brought meat loaf, broccoli and mashed potatoes last Thursday. Comfort food he called it. She didn’t recall feeling comforted—the meat loaf hung inside her like a weight and the broccoli gave her gas. Some night!

Gottlieb opened a bottle of Coppola Pinot Noir and left it to breath on the kitchen counter. He put Creedence on the stereo and set the table wondering what Wendywas going to bring home for dinner—undoubtedly something healthy and taste free. Maybe he should open two bottles but that alone would be grounds for a fracas.

Wendy walked in with a smile and a pizza. If a white clam pizza from Pepe’s wasn’t a peace offering then nothing would be.Ira checked out the medium pie loaded with fresh clams and wondered what Wendy had up her sleeve for the night. None-the-less he smiled and gave her a kiss, rubbing his hands together and for an instant thought good and erotic thoughts. The aroma wafted back and forth between them and he poured the wine. Neither spoke as they took their first bites, sat back, and in unison said “ahhh.”

“I cried when we lef tDr.Simon’s office,”Wendy said. She took another slice.

“Well, I didn’t cry,”Ira said, “but I was angry and feeling ganged up on.”

“YOU! You were feeling ganged up on? That’s why I was crying. I felt ganged up on.”

“Well, if we both felt crappy Simon either did a really good or a really bad job. Do you see him outside these Thursday sessions?”

“Do you mean socially?”Wendy asked.

“No, for individual therapy.”

“Of course not. What in the world would make you think that?”

“I felt you two were in tune against me and somehow it seemed planned.”

“And I felt it was two guys against a woman,”Wendy said.

They both sipped their wine and ate another slice in silence.

“Why don’t we use “pizza” as our safe word?” Ira asked, breaking the silence.

“No. I’ve been thinking of words that would fit the scenario and ‘pizza’ doesn’t do it for me.”

“It doesn’t have to fit. It only has to be used, ”Ira’s exasperation showed.

“Well I want it to fit.”

“Okay, what do you have in mind?”

“Bixby,”Wendy said proudly.

“What the fuck’s a Bixby,” Gottlieb managed to get out even with a mouthful of clam pizza.

“Bixby was my first goldfish when I was a little girl. Whenever I came home from school I would sit next to Bixby’s bowl in my room and tell him how my day went and ask for his advice.”

“Ask for advice from a goldfish? How old were you?”


“And your parents didn’t have you committed?”

“That’s cruel. Don’t say anything cruel. Bixby. Bixby. Bixby. Now you have to stop.”

“Wait, that doesn’t count. It's supposed to be a word that we can both agree on and my chances of remembering Bixby and taking him serious are extremely slim.”

“The meaning of the word shouldn’t matter—it should just be a word we agree on.”

“Okay. I don’t agree on Bixby.”

“Couldn’t you give in this one time and go along with this tiny request.”

“I’ll tell you why I can’t. It’ll feel like you and Bixby are ganging up on me—two against one.”

Wendy put back the slice she had just taken and with tears welling in her eyes asked, “Me and a dead goldfish are ganging up on you? So, what’s your word?”

“Pizza works for me. So does Pepe’s.

“They don’t work for me because they’re too common and if were eating pizza and talking like we are now yelling Pizza could mean pass me another slice.”

“Okay. Let me think.”

“If you have to think too hard you might as well use Bixby.”

“What happens if I go to use Bixby and I say Bixums or Brisby by mistake since I’m not all that familiar with the late goldfish? Will you understand and accept it.”

“No. You can learn that simple word and use it. Otherwise there can be tricks played, such as I didn’t really mean Bixby or I didn’t say Bixby.”

“I’m going to sleep on it. This is much too important a word to make an impulsive decision.”

“Are you saying my decision was impulsive? There you go criticizing again.”

“No. I’m saying I need to not make an impulsive decision.”

“Do you expect to have one in the morning?”

Gottlieb stuffed his mouth with the last piece and washed it down with wine. “I only expect it will come to me and hopefully the sooner the better.”

"Why don't we have Dr.Simonassign us a safe word?" Wendy suggested.

"Probably because neither of us really trusts him," Gottlieb said.

"I got it,"Wendy said.

"Can it wait until the morning?"

"It can wait but we put off so many things in our life that we shouldn't so let's try to settle this amicably tonight."

"How's this," Gottlieb said. "If we settle this in the next fifteen minutes we celebrate with a roll in the hay?"

"I got it,"Wendy said. "Do you remember when we were dating a while and still hadn't slept together?"

"Sure, you liked to talk about sex—only you never said the word sex—you said this made up thing called "Mufky Pufky".

"And it drove you crazy."

“I was never into silly lovey-dovey talk and you saw it as romantic."

"Okay. So how's about we use Mufky Pufky as our safe word? We'd never use it any other time and wouldn't drop it inadvertently into a conversation."

"The only trouble is that Mufky Pufky is two words."

"How about if we hyphenate it into one word?"

"Accepted." Gottlieb said. "Now how bout we go upstairs for some long overdue Mufky Pufky?"

"You can't say that," Wendy said. "That's our safe word."

"Agreed, but I didn't hyphenate it," Gottlieb said, so technically . . ."

"Mufky-Pufky . . . Mufky-Pufky," Wendy rattled off in an agitated stage.

Gottlieb help up both hands in a surrender motion. "You're right and when you're right you're right," He said. "Wanna Mufky?"



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