Howard Winn’s poetry and fiction has been published recently in Dalhousie Review, Galway Review, Taj Mahal Review, Descant (Canada), Antigonish Review, Southern Humanities Review, Chaffin Review, Evansville Review, and Blueline. He has a B. A. from Vassar College and an M. A. from the Stanford University Writing Program. His doctoral work was done at N. Y. U. He is a Professor of English at the State University of New York.
THE WOMAN WHO MARRIED A PENGUIN
By Howard Winn
Of course, I had suitors, to use the old fashioned term, before him. I would not want you to think I just settled. I had options.
The first one was a rooster. I was such a child then, really, and was fascinated by the upright red cockscomb and the strut. So self confident, he appeared, although I later realized that huge ego had no basis in reality. In fact, he was a definite dweeb and became a bore quickly. Insufferable, in fact. It was all about him, him, him. Narcissistic. Adolescent testosterone poisoning. Yuck.
Most later ones were dogs. One was a Rottweiler, in fact. When I was younger I went for the edgy ones, flirting with danger, I suppose. But he was too risky. Never knew when he would explode and do something really hurtful. To total strangers he did not like. To me on occasion, I am afraid. And he was always sniffing around. That was hard to take.
Next was a spaniel. It was partly the contrast with his predecessor, I can say in hindsight. I was seduced by those sad eyes, I suppose, but one can take utter, single-minded soppy devotion just so long. A little spine, I thought, for god’s sake. Spunk. That one did not last very long.
I really thought I had found the one when I met the Border Collie. Very smart and charming, but nervous and the wish to be doing something all the time. And he wanted to lead and make decisions for me. He just wanted to go somewhere all the time and it was usually where he wanted. I needed some independence. I knew where I wanted to go sometimes and it was not where he wanted. Hard to divert him, in fact, once he started.
The last one before I married was a Doberman. New York black with just a touch of tan here and there to set it off. Sleek and mostly well mannered, a one person dog, supposedly, but just let a bitch in heat come within inhalation distance and he would be off and running. Not reliable in that way. I did not want to share. Just something about that that turned me off. I know it wasn’t sophisticated, but maybe I am just an old-fashioned girl at heart.
And with a lot of hands-on experience, I must admit. You do learn something after a while from experience, which is something I did not realize when I was younger and still wet behind the ears.
None of them were like the penguin I finally married. Dignified. Smart. Polite. Caring. A family man. Monogamous. Would take good care of the children, I knew.
Any drawbacks, you ask?
Well, I could never get him to take off the tux. This is not a formal affair, this marriage, I would say. Relax, I would say.
Can’t do that he would reply. The outside reflects the inside. You get what you see. You can tell a book by its cover, since that is what sells it in the marketplace. Besides the garb is my nature.
I suppose he was right about that.
And he was shorter than I am, although that did not seem to matter to either of us. We were both bigger than that, since it was the relationship that mattered, not a few inches in height. I know some of our friends joked about it. Not to our faces, of course.
So it has been a really happy marriage. We seem to complement one another. I know his needs and he knows mine. Even when we are separated for a while, on business, we find each other when either of us returns, back to the right nest, so to speak. That is such a joy. It feels so secure, you know, to have that confidence in your spouse.
I was right about his taking care of the children. He looks over them just as much as I do, maybe more, I sometimes think. Coddles them, He seems to like them then particularly as very young. I hope he does not spoil them. They will have to be independent eventually, of course. I love to watch him, though. I do cherish him, you know.
And as he says, he is close to becoming an endangered species. He needs to be looked after, nearly as much as the children. Maybe more so. And I have the strength to do that.
My delightful hustling and helpful husband.
If only he would just relax more.