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The Good Life of Frank and Francis

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Francis Noaks was a very pretty girl.  She was not stuck up or arrogant, so most of the kids who knew her at Wilhelm Wilson Secondary School liked her.  That would include Franklin Olivier Bathgate, the school’s athletic hero.  He was not one of those superior-acting athletic heroes.  He was surprisingly quiet, perhaps shy, and hung about on the periphery of his classmates cliques. He found Francis very attractive, but didn’t know how to approach her, or even if he should approach her.

Frank Bathgate would never know that Francis Noaks was planning to meet him, but had not yet worked out how to do it.  She had seen him in Donovan Park on a Sunday morning.  She was walking her German Sheppard and she saw him sitting under a tree,  eating a donut and reading a book.  Her Sheppard, Damion, loved donuts.  She suddenly saw her opportunity and let Damion off his leash.  He immediately loped over to Bathgate and stood staring at the donut.  When Francis strode up to her dog, she saw Frank twitching uncomfortably as he glanced nervously at the large, staring dog.

   “Damion, you naughty boy.  Let the nice man alone. Oh, it’s you, Franklin.  I didn’t realize…,” she said.  “I’m so sorry.  I hope we haven’t interrupted your reading.  It’s a lovely morning, isn’t it?  A bit warm, but it’s nice and cool, here in the shade.  You’ve picked a perfect spot to relax,” she said as she sat down beside him.  “Do you mind if I share your spot.”  She snapped Damion’s leash onto his thick, leather collar and said, “What are you reading?” Frank turned the book to show Francis the cover.

   “The Book Thief,” Frank replied.

   “Is it any good?” Francis said.  “Y’know, they’ve made a movie of it.  I’m going to see it tonight.  Wanna come?”

   “No, thanks.  I don’t go to movies.”

   “Ever?”

   “No, Never,” Frank said.  He looked into Francis’ face for the first time.  His nervous system quaked as he viewed her at close range for the first time.  He was simultaneously happy that she was sitting with him, and eager for her to depart.  He was never nervous on the playing fields or in the gymnasium, but talking face to face with Francis Noaks had him weak in the knees.

   “Why not?”  Francis was genuinely curious.

  “It bothers me when people cough when a key word is spoken on screen, or when they laugh in the wrong places, or rattle candy wrappers during meaningful scenes.”

   “I’d really like to see that movie with you,” Francis sighed.  “I have an idea!  My Dad has a sixty-inch flat screen television.  He won’t mind if we watch it there.  We just have to rent the DVD somewhere.”

   “I don’t know…,” Frank replied feebly.

Not to beleaguer the thing, Francis maneuvered poor Frank into an young marriage.  As the years passed, Frank grew increasingly depressed and grouchy.  Francis never changed.  Always a bright outlook, tolerant and generous of spirit.  However, everyone has their limit, as we know.  One day, some time after their thirtieth anniversary, Francis was knitting in her comfortable chair while Frank sat in his own favourite chair, silently glaring at Francis.  Her remarkable cheerfulness was driving Frank ’round the bend, as he’d say to no one in particular.  Just to the room, and the only other one there was Francis.

Francis smiled to herself, benignly as always, absorbed in her knitting and perhaps her own thoughts.  She was knitting a scarf in a pattern of smiley faces.  Frank found that excessively cheerful.  With great stealth, he picked up the stitch at the far end of the scarf where it had been started.  Vengefully, he began to deconstruct the scarf, winding the kinked, two coloured strand of yarn into a ball.

Faster than Francis could add rows, Frank was ripping the scarf and harvesting the wool.  After a while, Francis noticed that the scarf was rapidly shrinking instead of growing longer as she knitted.  She looked over at Frank and at the ball of wool in his hand.  The benign smile did not leave Francis’ face.  She put her knitting down and left her chair to go to their library.  She returned a moment later with a cigar box.

   “I’m sorry, Frank, that I’ve never been able to give you relief from your suffering.  Even when we were kids and we fell in love, you showed signs of depression.  We’ve had all the years, all the experiences together, and through it all, you’ve become more dissatisfied, more self-oriented, and generally more unpleasant.  Finally, I have to help you lose your demons so we can both find peace.

  “It can’t be done,” Frank snapped.  “If it could have been done, I’d have done it long ago.”

  “I’ve got the solution right here in this box,” Francis said as she flipped open the top of the cigar box.”

   “What’s that?” Frank grumbled.

   “A Smith and Wesson twenty-two caliber revolver,” Francis smiled.  She leveled the gun at her husband of more than thirty years and put a bullet into his forehead.  “I’ve wanted to do that for a long time, Frank,” she said to the lifeless cadaver.  “Unraveling the lovely, cheerful pattern that I was putting into our daughter’s Christmas gift was just too much.”

Francis Noaks Bathgate went to her comfortable chair, picked up her knitting, and with a benign smile on her face, resumed knitting the smiley face scarf for Noreen.

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