His rusty old Studebaker pick-up was in the coffee shop parking lot so I was not surprised to find my irascible old buddy, Eb Griper, sitting in his favorite booth. You never know what kind of mood Eb is in so I was prepared for anything.
"Got room for another coffee drinker," I asked.
Eb smiled and said, "Sure, have a seat."
"You look happy today, Eb," I said. "What's wrong?"
"It's a good day," he said with a smile. "Hilda's youngest brother, Edwin, is moving out of our house today."
"He's been living with you? For how long?"
"For the past 11 months," Eb answered. "His wife kicked him out and divorced him and Hilda felt sorry for him."
"He's a big pain in the butt," Eb interrupted. "He's lazy, he's selfish and he's a moocher."
"Well then, you're lucky he's saying goodbye. How did you get him to leave?" I asked.
Eb smiled. "Technology."
"I don't understand."
Eb smiled again. "You remember that I got a laptop computer a couple of years ago?"
"Well, I showed Edwin how to meet women online. It took him a while to find a match, but, by golly, he found a woman in Texas and he's leaving for Austin this afternoon."
"So, have you met this woman?"
"Nope. Neither has he. It's been a totally online romance."
"Well, good for both of them and for you," I said. "The internet sure has changed dating practices."
"Yep," Eb said, "much better than those old lonely hearts clubs."
"Oh yeah, I remember reading about them," I said. "So what do you know about lonely hearts clubs? I thought you and Hilda married right out of high school."
Eb fidgeted a bit and took a sip of coffee. "Well," he said, "a couple of years after we got married Hilda kicked me out of the house. We were separated for about a year."
I knew nothing of that. "Hilda kicked you out? Why?"
"She said I was a dirty rotten two-timer."
"Why did she say that?"
"Because I was a dirty rotten two-timer. Anyway, while we were separated I sent a 5x7 photo of myself to a lonely hearts club. Thought I would see if I could find anything better."
"So did you?"
"No," Eb said with a sigh, "they returned my photo with a note that said they weren't that lonely."
"That's too bad," I said, stifling a chuckle.
"No, that was a good thing. I realized Hilda was who I really wanted and I went crawling back to her on my hands and knees and asked for forgiveness."
"Apparently she forgave you."
"Not at first," Eb said. "But she came around. I must have spent $20 on flowers and candy that year. Of course it was my good looks and charm that finally melted her heart."
"And your frugality," I quipped.
Eb glared at me over his eyeglasses.
"So you two have gotten along well since then?" I asked.
"Oh, we've had our ups and downs," Eb reflected. "But I wouldn't trade her for any of these modern women you see in town. They're too skinny for me. I like a woman with some meat on her bones."
I wasn't sure how to respond to that so I simply said, "Yes, Hilda is a buxom woman."
"Be careful how you talk about my wife, buddy."
"Don't worry; I was paying a compliment."
"Okay, if you say so, but watch yourself."
"You're a lucky guy to have a good woman who loves you, Eb. So after that rocky start how have you and Hilda stayed together all these years?"
"Hilda came up with a system that we have followed carefully," Eb explained. "It's a management program that has worked out pretty well for us."
I had never heard of a marriage management program. "How does that work?" I asked.
"It's a simple system," Eb explained. "I rule the roost and she rules the rooster."