I sat on the couch. The flashing glow of a sitcom about a stupid husband and his hot wife bounced off my face in a room darkened by the late, late hour of 8 p.m. My hot wife was already in bed.
Hey, to the parents of two kids under five years old, 8 p.m. is like pulling an all-nighter. By 9 p.m. my wife and I start hallucinating.
Then something happened. Something so dark, so foul, I know communists, Corporate America, the Clinton Administration, or quite possibly pixies were behind it.
While sliding into an advertising-induced trance, I twirled something mindlessly with my fingers, realizing that, yes, I could make my whites whiter, I’d be much more fun, stylish, and clever if I owned a Macintosh instead of a PC, and black angus must taste better than any other cow. Then, like my 32-inch waist, my dreams of being an astronaut, my hair, and my youth, the thing in my hand was just gone.
I’d lost my wedding ring.
Let me pause while the ladies gather rocks. Look by train tracks. Railroad companies use hand-sized chunks of granite to bed the ties. Granite makes a nice thump when it hits the cranium.
Do you know how panic twists your intestines into a really uncomfortable ball that won’t bounce? No? Well, then I guess you’ve never 1) been attacked by a bear, 2) seen an FBI badge, or 3) lost the everlasting symbol of your love.
“Good lord,” ran through my head. Although I recognized this exact formula from every 1970s TV comedy and knew how Mr. Kotter solved the problem, I was sure in my case hilarity would not ensue.
I dropped to the floor and, yes, it hurt.
The ring wasn’t on the carpet. I checked by sight, hand swipes, and X-Men power I don’t have, and the Snoopy dance in my bare feet. Under the couch cushions were something sticky, 24 cents, and a two-inch plastic crossbow that fit a toy we’d never owned. And nothing but concrete Cheerios and a scattering of very bare foot-unfriendly toys were on the hardwood floor.
Yes, I would have heard my ring dinging across wood, but after years of listening to Iron Maiden at decibel levels equal to that of having my head strapped to a tractor engine, I needed to check. It could be anywhere.
It wasn’t. The ring was gone.
This, I thought, was worse than telling my kids the truth about Santa Claus*, it was really me who ate the last cupcake and not a thief who also stole the kids’ Raffi collection, or admitting to my wife I was actually a mob informant in the witness relocation program and the paperboy doesn’t come anymore because I “iced” him. Throw a paper in my bushes? I don’t think so.
This is the unpardonable sin. The only thing that ever makes losing a wedding ring acceptable is if your finger goes with it in a thresher accident.
“Honey,” I said, waking my wife because problems are a lot easier to deal with if you bring them up immediately, and your wife’s really, really sleepy. “I lost my wedding ring.”
“That’s OK,” she mumbled, patting my hand. “It’ll turn up.”
She was like that the next day.
And the next.
And the next.
“You don’t need a ring to show your love,” she said in the tone Hollywood uses in movies where women hack men to death in their sleep. That was OK, I was too nervous to eat. “You’re stuck, and there’s no way out.”
I eventually found the ring. It was buried so far in the couch I also pulled out three Smurfs, two Borrowers, and a pixie.
Pixies. I knew it had to be pixies.
*NOTE TO PARENTS: This mention of a highly loved character in Western culture has nothing to do with questioning his existence. It’s all about meth.
Jason Offutt is an award-winning humorist who also writes stuff scary enough you’ll wet your pants. You can get Jason’s books on the paranormal, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at www.amazon.com.