Marital Secrets

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If there is one thing I have learned after being married for 17 years, it is that every marriage has secrets. Anybody who tells you different has never been married.

Most secrets can be classified into three categories:

Benign: “I don’t see what the big idea is, a lot of middle-​aged men collect ‘Hello Kitty’ merchandise!”

Creepy: “Ruth Buzzi was hot!”

Deal-​breakers — think Bruce/​Caitlyn Jenner.

During our 2nd basement cleanup in 18 years, I discovered a secret somewhere between “benign” and “creepy.” Two large storage tubs, stacked in the corner, amid cobwebs and unused sports equipment (why did we have a croquet set anyway?), revealed a whole new side to my hubby.

I wiped off the ½-​inch thick layer of dust, popped open a tub and was assaulted by a powerful, rancid odor. I staggered back. A black, tarry, slightly furry fungus blanketed everything.

Nauseated but curious, I pulled out the wet, fuzzy, black contents and wiped them clean. Distilled water, rope, first-​aid kit, iodine tablets, surplus WWII gas masks, hunting knife. A distinct theme was emerging, along with an unavoidable conclusion: I married a Prepper!

I have always had a passing fascination with the end of the world. Not enough to really plan, but enough to watch movies about it. So I can at least be mentally prepared.

Using my extensive movie knowledge, I have ascertained that the end of humankind will without a doubt be from one of these sources: a zombie infestation, a virus resulting in a pandemic (with infected zombie-​like people), an environmental catastrophe, or nuclear war.

I am not the person to look to in any emergency situation, so my plan is to just…die. Maybe run around screaming like an idiot, then die. Eric, on the other hand, is calm, cool, and collected. The perfect ally in times of panic, he thought ahead enough to plan for the end, and I should be thankful for his foresight. And I am, for the most part.

But every calm, stoic hero has an Achilles’s heel, a fatal flaw.

Eric not only was a Prepper, he was a frugal Prepper. He was willing to plan for the Apocalypse, but on a tight budget, and he obviously didn’t do much research.

Not wanting to splurge on emergency food kits packed with freeze-​dried pre-​portioned meal kits (“Savory Stroganoff” and “Whey Alternative Beverage” anyone?), he settled for canned green beans, spaghetti rings pasta, and corn flakes — all Walmart’s high-​quality store brand. All expired in 2002.

Mylar vacuum-​sealed food pouches have a shelf life of 25 years; his Walmart food had either exploded, putrefied, or liquefied in 15.

I told him it was bad enough that the world was ending — couldn’t we at least live it up during our last days on Franco-​American SpaghettiOs? And there was enough food in the tubs to last us maybe four days, tops.

Eric suddenly became serious, held up the hunting knife, and solemnly said, “I would go out and hunt for us.”

Not sure how the mighty hunter would fare in the wild, considering that he refuses to kill even the rogue stinkbug he finds in the house, and that when we discover a toad in the garden, he seems a bit too eager to let the kids pick it up.

Another strange item in the Apocalypse tubs was stool softener. Lots of stool softener. I told him that if it was “The End,” I really wouldn’t be that concerned about regularity. However, our gastrointestinal health was high on his list of concerns, as he included TUMS and Pepto-​Bismol in the tub. Or rather Equate (read “Walmart”) brand Antacid Tablets and Liquid Antacid.

Aquafresh toothpaste and toothbrushes were also in there. Funny, I thought he was a Crest man. Other unusual items included Glade French Vanilla Air Freshener — ironically the only canister in the tub that didn’t explode — some cleaning sponges, and a compact mirror. A small box of Band-​aids (oops, make that “Adhesive Plastic Bandages”) and the all-​important roll of duct tape completed the contents.

I counted four gas masks: 3 child-​sized and 1 adult. In our family of five, it amounted to apocalyptic musical chairs. Who would be odd man out?

His only answer was a big smile and a cheery “I better get back to work!”

Looks like that hunting knife may come in handy after all.

Elizabeth Wiethorn

Elizabeth is a freelance writer and lifetime Pittsburgher who resides in the North Hills. She has worked in adult literacy, at a financial investment firm, as a kindergarten teacher’s aide, as a debt collector, and even as an entrepreneur. Her BA in English from the University of Dayton and her MBA from Duquesne University provide her with the unusual combination of being able to “cook the books” but also write a concise, grammatically-​correct statement denying all wrongdoing. She finds humor in the everyday and loves to laugh, especially at other people. All emails praising her undeniable talent can be sent to .

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