Jon de Vos/The Friday Report
Grand County CO Colorado

I came home from work the other day and noticed the oven was on and there was a large foil-covered pan on the counter. My wife and I exchanged some pleasantries and I asked casually over my shoulder, “What’s for dinner?” as I started up the stairs to change clothes for the evening.

“Well,” she replied brightly, “I’ve got a big piece of squash in the pan just ready to pop in the oven. Should be ready in about an hour.” I immediately collapsed onto the floor, sobbing with great theatrical heaves and kicking my heels.

“So, what?” she said, “You don’t you like squash? It’s my mother’s recipe. You told her you liked it.” As if that made everything all right. She watched my tantrum, hands on her hips. “What’s not to like about squash?”

Sobbing uncontrollably, I blubbered, “They … they cross-pollinate, that’s what. I won’t have any cross-pollinating in my house. What would Pat Robertson say? You probably thought Brokeback Mountain was a date flick.”

“Well,” she said, “I suppose we could go out for pizza if you really don’t want squash.”

I’ve lived with this same woman for over two decades. She knows I carry bad feelings about squash. She knows I think that even the word “squash” is distasteful. It’s what you do to bugs. It’s what you do to people’s hopes, like some poor soul hoping for a good dinner.

I turned and stared at her. She returned my look with a tight-lipped glare and perhaps the hint of a sinister smile. Her chin was dangerously thrust forward, as if daring me to complain about a yucky old piece of squash. We stared silently at each other for a long time, each of us deliberating our options.

I could call her bluff. I think she secretly wants to go out to dinner. Suppose I said, “Gee, squash sounds great to me.” Fake enthusiasm, while a bold and enlightened move, is also a dangerous play. After all, the squash was already in the pan and I have actually seen her eat squash before.

Brinkmanship. It’s 1962 and Russia just put nuclear missiles in Cuba. We’re on the eve of destruction with foil-covered thermonuclear squash teetering on the abyss of the oven. What would John F. Kennedy do?

I squinted tighter and tighter until she began to resemble Nikita Kruschev.

Given the option of squash or pizza, I would have cheerfully picked up the car and jogged to the restaurant, but I was being blackmailed. So, like fools everywhere and every time, I dug in my heels, “Uh, what would we have with the squash?” I was hoping against hope to hear something like, oh, a rib-eye steak or a pork chop.

But from the tiny curl at the ends of her lips, I knew it was not the squash, but me that was cooked. “Oh,” she replied evenly, staring at me, “I think it would be good with soy sauce, or perhaps some balsamic vinegar and a light sprinkle of pepper. Wouldn’t that be nice?”

Yep, I’m cooked and her little smile shows she knows it. It’s the tenth round, she’s up on points, and I’m on the ropes.

Sophisticated husbands know that there’s more going on here than meets the eye, because the conclusion is foregone that we are going out for pizza. But what’s really happening is that I’m being squeezed into making the decision. Then, when it’s bank statement time, she can squint back at me and say accusingly: “We sure seem to eat out a lot.”

As if there was some virtue in staying home and nibbling plutonium-flavored squash.

Sure enough, that night it was, indeed, pizza. Foolishly, I thought that was the end of the matter. Sunday morning, she looked at me levelly over the top of her newspaper, and said, “Oh, look, Martha Stewart has a new recipe for squash pancakes.”

I dove for the car keys.

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