Just Tell The Men – A short story by Henry W. Cleage

Henry with his sisters  Barbara and Gladys.  Early 1940s Detroit

“After all,” said George, waving his drink around impressively, “a rolling stone is worth two bushes.”  He finished his drink and swaggered to the couch and sat down.
This bit of logic gave our little party pause.  For who could deny it?
George and his wife, Vel, Louis and his wife, Melba, and I and my wife, Barbara, and Paul and his girl, Gloria, were gathered together, as was our custom on Saturday nights at George’s house.  It had started out like an enjoyable evening.  Plenty of liquor and good friends.  But then somehow the conversation wiggled around to the girls’ favorite topic.  To wit:  Why Gloria should not marry Paul.  Of course we fellows had a position to defend and we argued, to wit: vice versa.
You see the argument wasn’t really about Gloria and Paul.  We all knew they would marry as soon as she graduated from Wayne U. this coming June.  The girls just used this discussion as an excuse to get their licks in concerning our husbandly weaknesses.
Like what Barbara said, “How can she marry him?” she shrieked, “always buying boats and fishing poles and shotguns and going away for two months vacations.  He’ll never save any money.”
This boat business was their latest and most intense beef.  We four fellows had bought a small cabin cruiser together.  Everything was fine when we all dressed up in yachting caps and cruised along the Lake Shore Drive and around the Belle Isle Bridge.  But when we started going up into the lakes fishing, the girls suddenly tired of the sport.  Besides no one could recognize them from the bridge anyway.
And so as the liquor flowed, our little party grew tense.  Just like the last weeks’ party and the one before that.  Everyone was swelling up.  Faces were getting that strained look.  Cords were standing out in the girls’ necks as they screamed their illogical accusations.  The more they drank, the louder and higher they shouted and also vice versa.  They weren’t the sweet little girls we used to know.
We men, I realized, were nowhere. We had logic, truth and compassion on our side.  The girls had volume.  And what availeth logic against a woman’s hard breathing, shrill and rasping emotional tantrum?  I was drinking to escape when George dropped his atom bomb amongest them.  You could almost hear the air escaping from their sails.
“I repeat,” said George, pressing home his point, “A rolling stone is worth two bushes.”  He blew out a cloud of cigarette smoke.  “Even with moss on them,” he added.
The girls looked dazed.  Gloria sniffed her drink.  She wasn’t married yet.
“Umm,” said Melba pointedly.
Ah,” said Barbara shrewdly.
“Huh?” said Paul.  He wasn’t married yet either.
“Of course, as you say,”  George continued thoughtfully, “it’s better to have loved and lost, than never the twain shall meet.”  He poured himself a drink and I noticed that his hand was shaking.  It was strong medicine that he was using, but the case called for it.
“Yeah,” said I.
“Yeah,” said Louis.
“Huh,” said Paul, he wasn’t married yet.
It was unanswerable logic that George was uttering.  This was plain to Louis and me in our condition.  Maybe Paul too.  However, the girls weren’t quite convinced.  Their condition was comparable though.
“That’s silly,” said Vel.
George blanched.
“Yeah,” said Melba.
“Yeah,” said Barbara.
“Yeah,” said Gloria.  She wasn’t married yet but she was a woman.
“Silly?” George tried to sound preposterous and failed miserable.  He sounded silly.
“Who ever heard of two bushes with moss on them?” asked Vel, looking around for help.
“Yeah,” said Barbara shakily.
“Yeah,” said Melba in a daze.
“Yeah,” said Gloria belligerently, she still wasn’t married yet.
The color was coming back to George’s face.  “Have you ever heard of one bush with moss on it?”  he asked, raising one (left) eyebrow.  It was a stunning question.
Vel was plainly confused.  She looked around for help, but the girls were very busy drinking and looking the other way.
“Why y-yes,” she stammered.
“Just like I said,” shouted George triumphantly.  “What’s sauce for the goose is nine sour grapes in time.”
“Yeah,” said Louis.
“Sour grapes, indeed,” said Barbara fighting a losing battle.
She looked heavily at Melba.  Melba looked heavily at Vel, who in turn, looked heavily at Gloria, who in turn looked heavenly.  Gloria was single.
They finished their drinks with four gulps and refilled.  They hitched themselves closer together.  They looked at each other again, this time wild eyed.  They had no more to say.
Paul was looking wild eyed too.  So we hurried him into the kitchen before he queered the works.  We wanted to examine this thing we had discovered, too.
“Sensational,” said Louis, looking admiringly at George, who was leaning against the refrigerator with his hand on his navel, like Napoleon.
Uncanny,”  said I, dancing with glee.
“What?” said Paul.
“It will revolutionize men,” said George modestly, looking narrowly into the distance.
“It will revolutionize women,” said Louis in awe.
“It will revolutionize the world,” said Paul who wasn’t married yet.
George held up his hand for silence.  “Tell them,” he began scowling with the weight of his message.
“Tell who? Asked Paul.
“Mankind,” shouted George, irked at this ignorance.  “Mo,” he retracted, “Just tell the men.”
“Tell them,” he began again, “never to make the mistake of arguing with a woman logically.”
“Hear, hear,” cried Louis and I.
“Hear, hear,” cried Paul, seeing the light.
“For in that direction,” he continued, “madness lies.”  He was pacing up and down before us now, filled with the message.  “We must talk trash,” he said “Yes, trash,” he thundered.  “Plain, unadulterated trash.”
He was winded. I went to the kitchen table and poured four drinks.  With a certain dignity I gave to each his own.  We touched glasses.
George spoke.  “I firmly believe,” he said firmly, “that we men can be as silly as the next woman.”
“If not sillier,” said Paul.  He wasn’t married yet.
We drank.

2 thoughts on “Just Tell The Men – A short story by Henry W. Cleage”

  1. Oh Kristin, I want to be related to your Henry! He makes my family seem so very boring. Witty, wonderful story.

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