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Senior Correspondent


ETHEL:       Harold, I’d like to talk to you.
HAROLD:       Ethel, I’m watching the rerun of the highlights of Monday night’s game.  Can’t it wait?
ETHEL:   No, dear.  We have to talk right now.
HAROLD:       OK.  What do you want?
ETHEL:   Well, as you may know, we are due for a renewal.
HAROLD:       What renewal?  Do you mean our renewal for Colliers magazine?  I told you I want to cancel our subscription because they’re slow on delivery.
ETHEL:   No!  I’m talking about our marriage contract.  It’s up in three days.
HAROLD:       So?
ETHEL:   So I want your answer now.  Do you intend to renew with me?
HAROLD [brusquely]:  Do you expect me to make a major decision like that in a few seconds?  Let’s talk about it tonight.
ETHEL:   I can’t wait, Harold.
HAROLD:       Why not, for heaven’s sake?
ETHEL:   Because I’m ordering stationery with my initials on it, and I have to know if I’m keeping the same ones.
HAROLD [getting angrier]:  Ethel!  Will you leave me alone and lemme watch this little league game?
ETHEL:   Well, we could negotiate that, Dearie.
HAROLD:       What do you mean, ne-go-ti-ate?
ETHEL [smoothly]:  Look.  It’s very simple.  If you renew with me, for an example, I won’t bug you when you sit around all day doing absolutely nothing around the house besides watching TV.
HAROLD:       Hey, that sounds terrific.  It’s a deal.
ETHEL [archly]:  Just one minute, Sweetheart.  In return, we don’t see your mother so frequently, OK?
HAROLD:       My mother?  I thought she was your cleaning lady.  I mean, I’ve never seen the house look so clean.  Just kidding.  OK, that sounds reasonable.  How about promising you’ll never starch my button-down collars?
ETHEL:   If you never leave the gas tank empty, Harold.
HAROLD:       Gee!  This is getting exciting.  Will you vow never to make that lousy liver casserole again?
ETHEL:   Sure, if you pledge to take me to first-run movies and not gripe about the crowds or the cost, for that matter.
HAROLD:       And you will learn to modulate your sweet little voice.
ETHEL:   You won’t whistle in the morning before I’ve had my coffee.
HAROLD:       You’ll keep your icy feet off my backside at night.
ETHEL:   That’s going a little too far, Harold.
HAROLD:       Well, at least approach me slowly, OK?
HAROLD:       And Ethel, no more yawning when I tell a joke you may have heard once before.
ETHEL:   You mean 200 times before.  Which reminds me.  Promise to learn a new one.
HAROLD:       If you won’t interrupt when I tell it.
ETHEL:   OK.  And remember to let me drive home if you’ve had too much to drink.
HAROLD:       Are you implying that I drink too much?
ETHEL:   No, I just said if.
HAROLD:       Hmm.  Fair enough.  Well, I guess that takes care of everything.  Here, I’ll sign the paper after you.  Let’s shake hands.
ETHEL [with airy sweetness]:  You are wonderful, darling.
HAROLD:       I know.  I know.  Now, please let me watch the rest of the game in peace.
ETHEL:   Certainly, darling.

       [A little later]

ETHEL:       Harold.
HAROLD:       What is it now, Ethel?
ETHEL [defensively]:  How come you never talk to me?  It’s always football, baseball, soccer, basketball then football re-runs again.
HAROLD [aghast]:  I can’t believe it.  I just cannot believe it.  We just signed a contract, didn’t we?
ETHEL:   Yes.
HAROLD:       I made all those concessions so you would let me watch all my games without interruptions, right?
ETHEL:   Right.
HAROLD:       So why are you bugging me now?
ETHEL:   Because, my Darling, all those agreements were for our new contract.  We still have three days to go on the old one, and it seems such a pity to waste it.  Gee, they had a special on liver today.  I think I’ll make a casserole … Harold.  Stop it.  That’s enough.  Oh, geez. You know how I hate to see you cry. I should have mentioned that when we were making a deal. Harold, are you aware that it is a federal crime to rip up and spit on a legal contract? Harold …

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