‘You did that on purpose, didn’t you?’
This was said by my wife, as she fixed me with that look. The one reserved for the kids when they had done something really naughty, and for me when I had done the same.
I looked at my wife and realised this was a Kenny Rogers moment.
The meaning of this moment originated six decades ago when I was a boy. My father loved Kenny Rogers, his favourite song being ‘The Gambler.’ He was always singing the verse ‘know to when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.’
One day we were building a concrete path in the back yard. Having fun, father and son, digging. Suddenly mum appeared. ‘Stop this minute. The path isn’t going there, I want it here.’
Dutifully I changed my digging, when dad quietly said, ‘Bruce keep digging where I said.’
I was amazed; mum wore the pants in our house. Dad was totally domestically compliant. But he must have wanted to make a stand finally. Like Kenny Rogers would.
Mum was also amazed at this mutiny, and for the first time, I saw her totally gobsmacked. Dad was probably amazed, but he held his ground, stared at her, and said again, ‘Bruce, keep digging.’
Mum just looked, then stormed inside. Dad muttered under his breath, ‘yes, know when to hold, thanks Kenny,’ trying to calm his shaking hands. Then I realised why he liked that song. Like an old sheriff he knew that some day he would have to stand up to the bad guy. That day had arrived. He had been practicing with that song. Kenny was his coach.
The path went where Dad intended it should, and every time I hear that song, I remember that time when he held firm in his Kenny Rogers moment. I have followed his example ever since. When any difficult situation occurs, I think ‘what would Kenny do.’
My Kenny Rogers moment had finally arrived.
Because I broke the TV and now had to hold my cards firmly.
This happened after we moved house. Our first house contained an ancient Astor TV. A huge beast of a thing, veneered chipboard, standing on legs with castors. It just received the main channels, but channel 28 was blurry and distorted. It stood in the lounge corner, standing out, but there was no other place for it. For years I promised myself that when we moved to a bigger house I would replace it with a modern sleek, flat screen model.
We finally moved and to my pleasure the family room had a built in wall unit with a space for a TV. I started looking at the Harvey Norman catalogues. But my wife insisted we needed a new oven instead of a TV. This dispute went on and on, with the beast sitting on the brick floor, next to the beckoning wall unit, standing out like a really sore thumb. I reckon the oven worked fine, it turned out a mean roast, but it didn’t brown potatoes properly. Who cares? The old TV continued to crank out static laden pictures, while I plotted how to destroy it.
My chance came by accident. We were reorganising furniture and my job was to lift one side of the TV so a cord could go around it. Talk about serendipity. I dutifully lifted one leg, the castors rolled on the slippery brick floor and the beast toppled over. Mortally wounded. Mission accomplished.
That’s when the accusation came ‘You did that on purpose, didn’t you?’
Faced with my wife’s accusing stare, I remembered Kenny’s advice. In my head the words were clear. ‘You betcha I did it on purpose, now clean up the mess while I hightail it down to Harvey Norman.’ I faced up to my darling, took a deep breath, but my internal electronics must have had a meltdown. Because what came out of my mouth was a pathetic bare faced lie. Because don’t forget, Kenny also said ‘know when to fold and know when to run.’
‘No, it was an accident, it’s top heavy, my hand just slipped. It’s that old injury I got helping Dad dig that path years ago. I swear.’
‘You’re lying. I can always tell. Your eyes have that shifty look. You used this as an excuse to buy a new TV.”
Finding myself in a hole much deeper than the old path, I frantically started shovelling. First came the religious spade. ‘I swear on a stack of bibles that I’m telling the truth, it was an accident.’
‘Listen bozo, you’re an atheist, that’s not convincing, is it.’
‘OK, I swear on our children’s heads that it was an accident.’
‘Listen dumbo, you don’t even know when their birthdays are, who their grade six teachers were; you even forget you have children. That one won’t work.’
She continued sarcastically. ‘You think you’re a creative writer, please don’t insult me, what about you try a little bit of creative thinking.’
Leaning on my metaphysical shovel I frantically wondered what Kenny would do. Why, he would bring out the ace. Time to end this poker game and collect my winnings.
‘I swear it was an accident. I swear this on my John Deere ride on mower.’
The ace worked. My wife knew my John Deere was the love of my life, sacred to me; I couldn’t include it in a lie. I would like to think that she also knew you don’t mess with a man who drives a John Deere. But that was pure fantasy. Anyway, while she was looking scathingly into my eyes, I stealthily crossed my fingers behind my back. Technically I was not really lying.
She chose to believe me. ‘All right, the damage is done. Clean up the mess, and get yourself off to Harvey Norman. I don’t want to miss “The Bill” tonight.’
Like my dear old Dad, I whispered ‘thanks Kenny,’ and uncrossed my fingers.
But there was something wrong, something was jarring. I suddenly realised that when the monster fell, there was no loud sound of shattering glass, just a big thud. I looked at the beast lying dormant on the bricks. The screen was still intact. Instead of great shards of glass over the floor, there was only a small nick of glass missing from a corner. With a sense of foreboding I hoisted it upright and switched it on. To my dismay, it was still alive; in fact channel 28 now had a great picture.
‘Fantastic’, said my wife. ‘I can use the money you were going to waste on a TV on a new oven. I’m going down to Harvey Norman.’
To this day, I still don’t know if it was an accident. Maybe I did lift the legs just that bit high, maybe in that nano second as it started to topple, I could have caught it, maybe this, maybe that, who knows, who cares.
The beast finally died of old age, and the new TV fitted nicely into the wall unit. It was a lovely moment hearing the screen loudly smash as I hurled the old TV into the council dumpster.
I still like Kenny Rogers. I just don’t take his advice any more.
Bruce McCorkill August 2014