by Jenifer Tull-Gauger
Fred, like you and me, wanted to be good and yet he was a flawed human. He had learned as a kid to just go along with things, to not rock the boat. When asked if he wanted a drink of water, he’d mumble a reply, “yeah” or “nah.” Sometimes he’d be served the water, sometimes not. He just took what came to him. He didn’t suffer… much.
One day his girlfriend asked, “Whadda ya think Fred, you wanna get married?”
Fred froze at the thought of commitment. He wanted to put marriage off into some future time. Then again, he really liked Mandy. He’d hate to lose her over this. Fred shrugged his shoulders, dipped his chin and mumbled his ambiguous reply. He meant, I don’t know Mandy, why don’t we think this over more? Maybe in the future…
Mandy took the dip of Fred’s chin as a nod yes. The next day she had paperwork. She had an appointment with the Justice of the Peace.
Fred didn’t want to hurt Mandy’s feelings and he didn’t want to be alone. There was no gracious, comfortable way to get out of it. He went along and got married.
Marriage was okay. Fred seemed to get what he needed in life. He mumbled his way through his job as a cook. He didn’t communicate clearly enough to work with customers. In the job interview, he had given unclear answers and he just seemed to fall into that position.
Fred took up Karate, with Mandy’s support. He started standing up straighter.
One day while sparring, Fred’s partner socked him good in the belly.
“Maté!” the sensei paused the match. “Was that too hard Fred?”
He mumbled through his mouthpiece, “Yeah.”
But it sounded like, “Nah.”
“Hajime go!” The instructor gave the go-ahead, and Fred took some more hard punches.
By now Fred and Mandy had a daughter. By now Mandy noticed how ambiguous Fred was about their life together.
He was mumbly and shruggy, but Fred was no dummy. He slowly but surely learned from karate. He started speaking more clearly. His new confidence showed in his walk and his talk. Fred learned the habit of saying, “yes” and “no.” It was difficult at first, but with time it became second nature.
With Mandy’s help, Fred fell into an interview for a chef position. He made eye contact and spoke clearly. He stood out with his sure demeanor, and he got the job.
Mandy, after forming a theory, came to Fred one day. “I’m afraid I pushed you into marriage. Are you happy with our life together?”
Fred thought of their daughter, who meant more to him than life itself. He remembered all the times Mandy had helped him. He was happy. He sat up straight, looked her in the eye, and said, “Yes.”