She loved her old Scrabble set. The board was sturdy. The trays wooden, like small pews. Whenever she opened the game, she ran her hands through the smooth tiles as certain people might run their hands through money: over and under, around her fingers. Sometimes she scooped up the tiles and let them fall, clicking into a slippery heap.
Now, though, all the tiles were laid out neatly, the board a vast diagram of words. She had only three letters left to play.
"Why do you make that sound?" her husband asked, looking up at her from where he sat on the couch.
"That high sort of sigh. Like a whinny. Every time you think."
She laid her hand on her flannelly chest. She wore her nightgown even though it was just eight-thirty. She liked to change into it as soon as she got home from work. "Only when I play Scrabble, though, right? I don't do that when I'm thinking about other things." She imagined herself at Davis + Davis, whinnying, as Gordon put it, while she compiled quotes or made copies.
"Mostly during Scrabble. Sometimes when you sleep, too. Or balance the bank account." He thought for a moment, and then added, "When we're, you know...when I'm parking the Porsche in its garage."
She registered annoyance at another of Gordon's weird euphemisms for sex, but said, "Are you serious? Why is this the first I've heard of it?"
He shrugged, mumbled, "Seemed like a small thing. I'm really just curious if you're aware of it, is all," and reached for a handful of cashews from the side table bowl.
She said, "Small?"
"In the big scheme, yes."
She tried to concentrate on her three tiles, but could only hold her breath and try not to emit strange noises.
The faucet dripped. Her grandmother's antique mantel clock ticked. Gordon crunched his cashews.
Then there was the clatter of wooden Scrabble tiles, the soft thud of the board hitting the cushion next to Gordon, the rattle of the pews and heavy, wool-socked footfalls down the hallway. The slam of a door.
Gordon shook his head, wiped salty hands on his pants and stood, letting out a sigh of his own, though this one lower and less earnest than his wife's.
He knocked on the bathroom door. He called her name. He hated when she got like this. Things were humming along just fine. A nice Friday night with a Scrabble game, maybe a large pour of merlot later and the sports section before bed. But now. Now he'd spend his evening trying to appease her. Offering her wine. A foot massage. Specially smoothing out the Op-Ed and Cooking pages for her to peruse while they sat propped against their pillows, twin lamps throwing discs of light across their laps.
And she'd be reticent, reluctant. Making it clear she was doing him a favor by letting him wait on her.
Well, not this time.
He went to the hall closet and grabbed his heavy corduroy shirt, letting the hangers clang so she would know he meant business.
Gordon tramped three blocks to the Hot Spot, a grimy little outfit with a pool table, flashing trivia screens mounted to one end of the bar and rows of gleaming liquor bottles that, he suspected, never sat long enough to accumulate dust.
He drank two glasses of house red: a bitter, young blend of sub par grapes.
When he returned home sometime later, having lost badly at a trivia game to a couple who looked like they'd just ridden in on a truck bed filled with gasoline cans and snarly German Shepherds, he hung up his shirt and went right to the bedroom.
To his relief, she was asleep, whinnying. He turned to go into the bathroom when, in the light of the lamp she'd left on, something shiny caught his eye. He looked back at his wife. He stepped closer. He saw that her slumbering body was surrounded by right side up Scrabble tiles and that, above her head like a parenthesis, was the word, Sex. She'd taken a post-it, too, had drawn on it a long, black exclamation point and stuck it to the sheet to emphasize Sex!
He raked his hands through his hair, paced the creaky floor twice and came back to her. He plucked out the letters he needed and, across his own pillow, spelled, Weary and went to sleep on the couch.