November 28, 2023

The Contract of Marriage


Of all the foibles possessed by mankind, the desire to center attention on the marvels of the locality in which one lives is the least understandable. Apparently, there simply exists the need to excite the envy or curiosity of others to the grandeur of the place people call home. A fellow can live by himself in the midst of a dust-bedeviled wilderness and he’ll find some way to advertise the place as the center of the natural world. If he has to build a rock castle or install a sand-blown golf course, he’ll work his heart out till he attracts press notices about his unusual corner or drops dead in the process.

Whether it’s a cave formation or the discovery of gold, people just can’t seem to enjoy the thing unless or until they tell the world about it. I knew a fellow once who thought he’d found the finest woman in the world, and he wanted to marry her. Trouble was he talked so glowingly about her to so many others, it wasn’t long before she found herself with any number of better options, and she eloped with a stock broker from Seattle. The jilted suitor was afterward sorry he’d been so vocal, but it was too late. He’d created need past the availability of supply. Still, he needn’t have blamed himself; it seems to be part of human nature. It’s what cities and states and universities do. It just seems to be part of the gene structure.

I mention all this because a group of Doodlebug citizens, proud of what they consider to be appropriate bragging rights, have coalesced into a quasi chamber of commerce and have been hard at work trying to attract visitors to our lovely little Island, especially those with expendable means at their disposal. You’ll understand just how hard this group has been working when you read the press notice they want printed in the paper I publish.

“‘Doodlebug’ is perhaps not the best name for a place, and yet it’s a wonderful name as well, for it exists more as an idea than a geographical reality; more as a wish than a fact. Like Shangri-La, it has the tangibility of ether, and yet compels us to linger and remember. It is a place for dreams anchored in daily events. It is the fulfillment of unrealized ambitions, secret hopes, a never-never land where childhood lasts forever and right always triumphs. It is the place broken things get mended, and character can be reforged!”

This drivel (my word) took the committee ten minutes to compose (their claim), which represents a major accomplishment considering their attention span is only eight. They want this insinuated in news articles and free advertising, and they plan, so far as a severely-restricted budget allows, to distribute pamphlets containing the same. So far, I’ve stalled the committee on the pretext I have too much work ahead of them. I’m hoping they’ll have a change of heart or a falling-out with one another so the whole thing can be shelved.

Not content with this, I made the mistake of airing the matter at home with my wife. She listened attentively as I railed against the idea of hordes of strangers traipsing through our lovely landscape ruining the very beauty the committee wants to advertise, and she continued to listen as I waxed eloquent on the geographically challenged who don’t seem to be able to simply enjoy a thing without making sure the rest of the world know all about it and have made plans to visit.

“By the way,” I added, “if some college psychology department wants to do something useful instead of focusing on the uselessly obvious, they might consider getting a handle on what motivates impulses like this.”

The smile that had been tugging at the corners of her mouth made it the full way, escalated quickly into a chuckle, a merry laugh, and finally a belly-holding, roaring cacophony of amusement.

“Forgive me, dear,” she said at last, “but you should see things from where I sit. You love to write about what you call ‘the inmates of our small asylum.’ And you tease people here that they are, until now, ‘an unexploited commodity.’ Aren’t you conducting your own advertising campaign? Is there a difference in notoriety between people and the places they live?”

My word, if I’d known there was so much honesty and candor called for in the details of the marriage contract, I might have asked for a prenuptial agreement.

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One Response to “The Contract of Marriage”

    I have always loved your work….hope all is well with you.

    Just in case you don’t remember….. 🙂 I am V enda’ s daughter the family and I think of you all often.

    XOXOX long live doodling island !!!

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