You Think You Know a Person
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Moe"
Originally featured on 05-02-2008
As part of our series "Three For Violence (Violent Threesomes)"

She said it so nonchalantly at first it didn’t register. We were sitting on the sofa in the living room talking about politics and I thought her comment had something to do with the upcoming election. But a moment later, when it finally sunk in, I was stunned.

You think you know a person.

Katherine and I have been married for almost nine years. We dated for three before that, meeting at college in — of all places — a botany class, which we both later dropped. I was immediately drawn to her long auburn hair that she usually wore up in a haphazard ponytail. Short talks about classes and professors soon turned into long discussions about art, culture, and life in general. We clicked immediately; we liked the same films, same authors, and even had the same sexual proclivities (I won’t go into all the details, let’s just say we both really like feet).

It wasn’t long before we were spending all of our time together either in the school cafeteria or each other’s dorm room. After graduation we got a place together, found good jobs, got married, and lived happily ever after.

Or so it seemed.

I slowly turned to face her, desperately racking my brain, hoping to find a glimmer of understanding behind her statement.

“Wha?” was all I was able to get out.

Perhaps I had heard wrong. Because of an incident when I was ten involving a Q-tip and a rowdy terrier, the hearing in my right ear was only at about eighty-five percent.

She looked at me and smiled. There she is, I thought, there’s the amazing girl I fell in love with. Of course I heard wrong; those words could never have possibly come out of this beautiful creature’s mouth.

But then she said it again.

“I really think the Three Stooges are underrated.”

Instantly I felt the blood drain from my face and a sharp pain in my stomach. How was this possible? My world was shattered, suddenly nothing made sense anymore. We both loathed the Stooges. How many times had we described their sadistic buffoonery as the dregs of comedy? Called their material the kind of thing only the feeble-minded would find funny? How often, while perusing novelty catalogs, did we complain about all the Stooges merchandise from shirts to posters to cookbooks, while the far superior Marx Brothers had nary a necktie?

Katherine, perhaps confusing my shocked expression for one of interest, continued.

“I couldn’t sleep last night so I started watching TV. There wasn’t much on so I was just flipping around and one of those old movie channels was showing a few of their shorts. I know it’s not the most high-brow stuff but some of it was actually pretty funny. People kind of write them off as guys who just beat up on each other but some of the banter is quite witty. In one they were in the army and…”

I was reeling. My mind flooded with images of loud arguments, brown leather marriage-counselor-couches, medicine cabinets full of pill bottles.

“So Moe is leading them on a march through the jungle…”

Of course they’ll be a brief trial separation followed by an ugly divorce. I see lawyers in expensive suits and musty courtrooms and a new, tiny, one-bedroom apartment.

“So the one with the crazy hair — that’s Larry, right? — gets hurt and he says to a sergeant or colonel ‘I have to go take care of my weak back.’ And the sergeant says ‘How long have you had a weak back?’ And Larry says ‘About a week back.’”

Katherine burst into laughter. God I’m going to miss that sweet, lilting sound of her laugh, not to mention her delicious apple crumb cake and tender foot rubs.

But then the oddest thing happened. I felt my face twitch. Then the sides of my mouth, as if acting on their own, began to rise. I tried to fight it but it was no use. I smiled. Then a noise came out of my mouth, a kind of high-pitched squeal. It was a giggle.

“Funny, right?” Katherine said.

How was this possible? Me? Laughing at a joke from the Three Stooges?

You think you know a person.

Read More By Tim Josephs

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Portland Fiction Project

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