Watching the Belmont Stakes and seeing a horse named Mucho Macho Man reminded me of a funny story that my husband told me. Anyone who knows him would acknowledge that he is a big man with massive shoulders, developed in his early twenties, when he invested time in intensive body building. Throughout his thirties and forties, he demonstrated his amazing athleticism and earned the nickname, “The Vacuum” because of how adeptly he fielded grounders as the short stop for the local softball team. Meanwhile, well into his late forties, he was arguably the best racquetball player in our local tennis club-- where he spent every Friday night participating in a round robin league.
He would dupe new players by walking onto the course wearing complex knee braces leading his opponent to think that he would be playing against a virtual cripple. Then, when my husband entered the court, his sheer size, although he is just 5 10, so let’s say… his notable width, pervaded the court. He would position himself in such a way that a mere flick of his wrist would send his opponent scurrying after that blue ball, in every direction, until he was spent. Dripping wet, the new player would shake hands and concede that my husband was, indeed, the best racquetball player in the club.
It’s true, that now that my husband is 65, some of his shoulders have sunk into a sloping belly, but he’s still an imposing figure. With his dark black hair and beard, gold horn and pinkie ring, black Lincoln Continental and trunk, big enough for cement shoes and a body, he’s someone not to be messed-with.
That’s why I was surprised when he entered our condo dripping with sweat after leaving the cavernous underground garage in our building. He heaved to catch his breath and was doing that dance little boys do when they have to go to the bathroom urgently. At the same time, he was bending over laughing and laughing, unable to stop. After visiting the bathroom, he resurfaced again, still bent over, holding his stomach, unable to control his laughter.
He eventually told me the story. Our neighbor, Benny, and he were in the basement garage area talking. Bennie is a former Wall Street trader that resembles Sean Connery, with his salt and pepper hair but with tough New York talk and city swagger. Benny and my husband had the main building garage doors opened to let in the ocean breeze because they were both going to do projects in their respective garages. While they chatted, my husband saw a spider enter the garage. He said, “This spider was so big, it cast a shadow. I swear to God. It was walking towards us.”
“Step on it, Bennie.”
Bennie jumped back and grimaced. “I’m not stepping on it. I’m wearing sandals. You step on it.”
My husband said, “No way, I’m not stepping on it either. It’s too big. I’m not going near it!”
Like Batman seeing the Bat Signal and heading to the Bat Cave, Bennie’s tone turned ominous and he instructed, “Wait, here.”
He went to his individual garage with his unit number 207 on the outside in fake gold letters.
Like Bruce Wayne, he punched a secret code into his keypad. His garage door opened, revealing his sky blue Mercedes convertible. My husband waited, a little confused, as he heard the tweet of the key fob and soon Bennie pulled- out of the garage, moving his arm to push the button to roll down the front window. He called my husband over to him, pointed to the tires, and said, “We’ll run him over!”
They both guffawed and then instantly took on the serious tone of former leaders of men with a mission. My husband used his broad shoulders to take a position in between the car and the spider. He lifted both arms simultaneously like a member of a ground crew signaling a plane’s arrival at the gate. He put his pointer fingers up and waived Benny forward. The men’s eyes met and mirrored each other’s intense focus.
“To the left, Bennie, left. A little more. No, missed him. Back up. Back up now. Go back!” Frank mumbled, “Get in the game, for Christ sake! Concentrate.”
Bennie, who is a little hard of hearing, put his head out the window and asked, “Did we get him?”
“No! We didn’t get him. Come on!” Frank shook his head in frustration. “No, we missed him.”
My husband moved closer to Bennie than back. “Try it again. Finesse it!”
My husband took his position, spread his legs to give him extra balance, lifted up his arms and directed Bennie. The wide Mercedes tire was eventually directly in front of the spider.
“Little more. Little more. Go Right. Right. Little More… Got him!”
My husband’s feet left the floor as he and Bennie cheered. They hooted as if the NY Giants had just scored a field goal to again win the Super Bowl. My husband rushed up to the car and the two Olympians high fived.
“Good job,” Bennie shouted. “That was teamwork!”
Bennie backed up his Mercedes passed his garage to the one for Unit 210. Then, turned right and pulled his car into the garage. He closed the garage using the keypad and said, “Hey that was a workout. I’m going to have a scotch to celebrate.”
“See you later,” my husband said feeling content. He headed up the steps instead of using the elevator to get to the second floor. Midway up, he partially collapsed because the ridiculousness of it all hit him at once. He just couldn’t stop laughing. “I was laughing so hard I was afraid I wasn’t going to make it up here without peeing my pants.”
His laughter was contagious so the two of us stood in the kitchen laughing as we haven’t had in a while.
Then, when my husband finally caught his breath and said, “Another job well done. Time for a nap."