From Chicken Soup for the Romantic Soul

Just Call Me Cupid

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

Victor Borge

It burns me up the way they’ve commercialized Valentine’s Day. As I told Maggie, my wife, we’ve lost the spirit of it. “Originally a valentine was something personal, from the heart. A fellow would write some verses to his girl, something like that.”

“It’s certainly cheaper that way,” she said.

“That has nothing to do with it,” I said. “But a valentine should have a person’s individual stamp. Nobody cares about the personal touch anymore. Take our boys . . .”

The boys had been after us to buy valentines to give their classmates. Sammy is in first grade and Roy’s in third.

“Wouldn’t it be more fun to make your own?” I asked them. They said no. Maggie said that made three of them. I was getting annoyed.

“Don’t you want your children to learn to do things for themselves?” I asked her. “Instead of buying everything like a couple of robots?”

“Robots don’t buy things,” Roy said. “They make what they want.”

Next day I decided to give the boys one more chance. I bought them a valentine kit big enough to make sixty-five valentines. After supper we spread it out on the dining-room table. I showed them how to punch out the parts and paste on the hearts and the lace. They got paste all over the table and started fighting over the scissors. I told them to cut it out. “You two are going to learn the joy of making something with your own hands,” I told them, “if I have to rap your heads together.” I went out to fix myself a drink.

When I got back the boys were gone. Maggie looked in to ask how it was going. I picked up a valentine to show her and the lace fell off. Cheap paste. It wouldn’t stick to the paper. It stuck to everything else okay. My glass. My cigar.

The boys still weren’t back. I mixed another drink. The first one had got spilled. At about 11:00 Maggie came in. She took a sip of my drink and picked up a valentine. “Interesting,” she said. “The drink tastes like paste and the valentine smells like bourbon.” I said I’d noticed. “You’ve done eight,” she said. “Only fifty-seven to go.”

I gave in and bought a couple of boxes of ready-made ones. They were pretty sleazy, and after the boys had put the names on, I slipped a chocolate heart in each envelope for a surprise. When I got home the next day, the boys wouldn’t speak to me. It seems every kid in class had got a candy heart except Roy and Sammy. I hadn’t thought of that.

“Okay,” I told Maggie, “I’ll go back and get them some.”

Sammy wanted to go along to leave a valentine at a girl’s house. When we finally located it, he wouldn’t go up to the door—he said he couldn’t reach the mailbox. So I delivered it. A couple of blocks later he said, “There it is. That’s Sharon’s house.” We’d left the valentine at the wrong place.

We went back and I got the valentine out of the mailbox. As I started down the porch steps I met a man coming up. “You looking for me?” he said. I said no. He came up another step. “What do you want?” I said I wanted to deliver a valentine to a girl named Sharon.

“She doesn’t live here,” he said. I said I knew but I’d left the valentine by mistake and had to come back to get it. I showed it to him. The man sniffed. “You been drinking?” I said no, it was the valentine. I went down the steps. He followed me. “We’ve been bothered by prowlers here lately,” he said, grabbing me by the sleeve. I pointed to my car: “If I was going prowling would I take a six-year-old boy along?”

“I never met a prowler before,” he said. “How the hell do I know how your mind works?”

A woman called out from the house and wanted to know what was the matter. The man called back, “Fellow here says he’s got a valentine for somebody named Karen.” “Sharon,” I said. “Sharon,” the man said. The woman said nobody named “Sharon” lived there. “Oh, for cripe’s sake,” the man said, “don’t you suppose I know that?” They were still arguing as I went back to the car.

Sammy said, “You sure took a long time.”

“If you don’t like the way I deliver your valentines,” I said, “you can do it yourself.”

When we got back from the candy store, Maggie said the boys had been invited to spend the night with their friend Buster. So I drove them over. I said they might as well give the rest of the chocolate hearts to Buster’s mother—a little valentine present. Back home, I got the box with Maggie’s present off the rear seat and took it in.

She acted surprised. “A valentine?” She opened the box and looked in. “Mmm—chocolates.” I said what did she mean, chocolates? She held out the box.

“The boys were supposed to give those to Buster’s mother,” I said. “My God, they must have given her your present. They were both on the back seat.”

She said, “Maybe they didn’t give her anything.”

“Yes, they did,” I said. “She came to the door and said thanks for the valentine. I told her to enjoy it and think of me. I thought it was the candy.”

Maggie looked at me. “It wasn’t candy?”

“No,” I said, “it was a nightgown with hearts on it. A peek-a-boo nightgown.” Maggie started to laugh.

“Damn it all,” I said. “I was only trying to do something nice—and where did it get me?”

Maggie put her hands over her face and shook her head. She seemed to be crying. I patted her on the shoulder. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I wanted to give you a nice surprise.”

“You did.” She wiped her eyes. “Just the thought . . .” and she started to laugh again.

“I realized that trying to be original was only a way of showing off,” I said. “So this year I was going to buy you a valentine just like other husbands. I wanted—something sentimental and romantic. . . .”

“Come here.” She held out her arms. I went over to her. “Do I have to wear a fancy nightie to be sentimental and a romantic?”

“Not for me,” I said.

After a minute she said, “This is the nicest Valentine’s Day I can remember.” It was beginning to look better to me, too. The phone rang.

“Probably Buster’s mother,” Maggie said. I said probably. It kept on ringing. “It could be Buster’s father,” she said. “Could be,” I said.

“Let it ring,” Maggie said.

Will Stanton

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