"The weak ones," Fred answers, adding
"Bank of America is down a half
and the Cubs lost."
The conversation inevitably drifts to better days
the Golden Age
which always seems to be when they were in their teens
or perhaps twenties.
The good war.
Proper rules of courtship.
Hard work, lower taxes.
Wives at home, vacuuming in pearls.
"I think women are better off now than they ever have been."
She is met with silence.
Her husband stirs, shifting his weight, and she realizes
she has endangered her tenuously extended membership.
"I might vacuum more," she adds, quietly, "if I had a
better string of pearls, Frank."
She laughs, and the men laugh with her
because they know that in truth,
that is what all this hugger-mugger comes down to.
She has saved herself
by becoming what she hates most.
While I Was Away?"
No matter how long I've been gone
or what occurred in the interim
the answer is always the same: