Archibald Millwood McLeod MD
I bought a new car last year. I use the word “car” in the generic sense, but that gives you no concept of the vehicle. If I had called it a buggy I wouldn’t have been more misleading.
First of all, it’s an SUV, but that’s not its main wonder. I’ve been driving SUVs since Toyota came out with the Land Cruiser. That got me hooked. It had the ride of a farm buckboard and a throaty roar that told everybody how masculine you were. When you came to a steep mountain trail you could get out, lock the hubs, climb in, put her in bull-low and go up that mountain sounding like a grizzly bear.
My wife, Laura, liked it well enough though it lacked the feminine conveniences she preferred, so the next SUV we bought had a little smoother ride, wasn’t so noisy and you didn’t have to get out to lock the hubs. We eventually gave that one to our daughter.
Our next SUV was what they mistakenly called an “upgrade.” It had a Kleenex holder in the console and a make-up mirror on the back of the sun visor. It had a gentle ride even on mountain trails and it made so little noise that nobody turned to watch you go by. But at least you could take it into the mountains.
We gave that one to another daughter.
For the next SUV, I voted for a domestic brand. I told Laura I was doing it out of patriotism, but I had actually seen a Jeep Rubicon advertised in Field and Stream Magazine. The vehicle was tearing up a nearly vertical cliff, a guy in a cowboy hat driving. That would be me.
They had about a hundred and fifty Jeeps at the dealership. I thought we’d be there all day, but I spotted the one I wanted right off. It was a dull forest green with spot-lights above the cab and a winch in front. The interior could be described as “early boxcar.” To me it looked perfect, but Laura found it wanting.
As a mature married couple, we discussed the issue and finally came to a compromise.
We decided on a delicate Champaign-tinted beige Ford Explorer with Air Cushion Ride. It had eight cylinders and you couldn’t hear the engine running unless you held your ear close to the hood.
That served us well, but it was aging by the time we moved into our retirement home. We passed it on to the next generation and went shopping for a new SUV.
I hadn’t gotten the image out of my mind of that cowboy driving his Jeep up a cliff. If I was going to do that, I had to do it soon, so I was ready to put my foot down. As usual, though, I didn’t put it down fast enough. Laura was three steps ahead of me. She had memorized the contents of that month’s Consumer Reports.
She said, “In their latest survey, the best SUV scored 83 out of a hundred. The next closest was only 69.5.”
“Uuu… which SUV was that?” I asked, although my suspicion was rising.
“It’s the 2015 Subarota.” (I’m purposely disguising the brand).
So we went to the dealership and were met by a very respectable gentleman, not in the red checkered sports jacket I expected of a proper car salesman. He wore a slightly off-beige, double breasted camel hair.
He had just the SUV we were looking for right there in the show room. It was cream-colored with metallic flecks in the paint that glowed like jewels in the soft overhead lighting.
He laid a hand on the door and said, “This baby is our LoveCruiser model.”
Laura, of course, swooned. The double breasted guy beamed at her. Then he lifted an eyebrow in my direction and slapped the hood.
“It’s a beauty, sir, don’t you think?”
“Oh, you bet,” I said, “but can you take it off road?”
I felt bad as soon as I’d asked. I’d hurt his feelings.
“You most certainly can, sir,” he said. “It will handle any county road in the State.”
“No,” I said, “I don’t mean gravel roads, I mean mountain trails like in the National Forest.”
He gaped at me as if I’d made an indelicate noise. “Sir,” he said patiently, “This isn’t one of those Terminator models you see on the Tractor-Pull Channel. I don’t think you want one of those. You don’t look like the Arnold Schwarzenegger type.”
By this time, Laura had hopped inside and was cooing over the interior. She ran her hand over the passenger’s seat and gave a slight frown. “Are they heated?” she asked.
“No, Ma’am, but I have one in stock. Only seven fifty more.”
This time I did put my foot down and I don’t mind telling you I put it down pretty firmly too, even though I was wearing my crepe-soled loafers. “No way,” I said. “This one will do fine.”
Laura and the guy looked shocked at my naked defiance. He gave her a consoling look and said, “It’s okay Ma’am. We have a special on dashboard flower-holders today. I’ll install one free of charge.”
I held my tongue. I know when to pick my fights.
A VIKING HUSBAND
Archibald Millwood McLeod MD
Oh my gosh! She got me one of those gene-testing kits from 23and me. It was right there on the kitchen table when I got up this morning. Talk about a thoughtful wife! But Laura is intuitive about these things. She must have picked up on a hint or two I dropped whenever that TV commercial came on about these gene-kits, you know, the one that ends “The Incredible You”?
She told me she thought obsessing about where your ancestors came from was self-centered, even a bit silly, but I reminded her that my Scottish ancestors came from the Outer Hebrides. Those islands were occupied for centuries by the Vikings and every time I look in the mirror these days I can see the resemblance. I’m even getting Dupuytren’s contracture in my left hand. That’s a common condition in Scandinavia, so I hardly need more proof. (For added proof, see illustration below.)
But now I have this kit. I’m sending it off in the morning mail with the DNA I swabbed from between my cheek and gum. The brochure doesn’t tell you how soon you’ll get the results back, but as far as I’m concerned they are a foregone conclusion.
I’m doing this to convince Laura. Being an accountant and all, she’s the kind of person who wants proof of something, not intuition or speculation. She has to nail it down with facts, but I’m always one step ahead of her. I am guided by imagination which, in this case will prove my point.
When I found this kit on the breakfast table my first suspicion was that she was out to prove me wrong, that I’m just garden variety Scotch-English. I still can’t rule that out as her motive, but now that I’m a writer I tend to go deeper into people’s psyches.
Suddenly, it comes to me. Laurna is secretly hoping that she is married to a Viking. It’s one of those girlish fantasies women get. I’ll bet she imagines me carrying her off into the northern mists in my longboat. It makes me wish I had a bear-skin coat and a broadsword. I checked on line and you can get one of those horned helmets from Amazon.
This is turning out to be more exciting the more I think about it. It’s the sort of thing that can rejuvenate a marriage.
Come to think of it, this is our sixtieth wedding anniversary. That must be why she got me this card, too. It is gratifying to know Laura still has these fantasies even though we’re in our eighties.
I just hope, once she knows she has a Viking husband, that she doesn’t expect too much pillaging and ravishing.
Any unbiased observer, but not Laura, can see the family resemblance
CONFESSIONS OF ARCHIBALD
Archibald Millwood McLeod MD is 85 and is writing his memoir with the help of Keith Marwood McDonald MD. Laura, Archibald's wife of sixty years, will not vouch for the accuracy of his memoir, and has been only partly successful in keeping him within tolerable limits. Archibald insisted that some chapters be illustrated, which was a simple task for his friend, Keith. A few illustrated chapters are shared on this page, but Archibald's public will have to wait in suspense until the entire collection is published.
And, by the way, nobody calls him "Archie", not Laura, not anybody.