“Training Marcus” by Jeanine DeHoney

We’d like to present a new Feature Story here at Metro Fiction. Please check the Welcome page for more information about us. In this week’s story, we consider the merits of training your partner.

Please enjoy our Feature Story: “Training Marcus” by Jeanine DeHoney:

There were only a few things I wanted from my husband Marcus. A morning kiss before he got out of bed, for him to hold my hand when we were out instead of walking ten paces ahead of me, and for him to stand up for me at his mother’s house.

Marcus’s mother never liked me. She wanted him to marry Cassandra Washington who was his childhood sweetheart and she made a point of reminding me of this every time I saw her. Even if the conversation was about the weather, she’d bring up her name. “It’s cloudy outside but I bet the weather’s perfect in sunny Florida where Cassandra lives.”

I always hoped Marcus was in earshot of her snide remarks so he could come to my rescue. He never was so I’d stay in my respective corner until Marcus finally came to me and said, “You ready to go, babe?”

Sometimes I imagined myself standing in the middle of his mother’s shaggy beige carpeted floor, saying, “Oh boy, am I ready to go. I was ready when I first walked in the door. Better yet, I was ready when we turned down this block and pulled into your mother’s driveway. One better, I was ready before I put on my black thong. Yes, mother-in-law I wear thongs.” But instead, I smiled, blew my mother-in-law an air kiss and headed out the door, Marcus ten paces in front of me as usual.

If only I could train him like my mother once suggested I do when I hinted that I was unhappy with some of Marcus’s ways.

“I had to train your father,” she told me. “He was far worse than Marcus. He went out with his drinking buddies every weekend, didn’t help much around the house, and hardly ever did anything with you and your brother Richard except watch television. Not that he was a bad father. He was just following the example of his own father. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. He had an old-fashioned and a bit sexist view of marriage,” my mother said.

“Train him how? Dad’s not a dog or a dinosaur,” I added with a smile, remembering the funny book, “Buying, Training And Caring For Your Dinosaur,” I often read to my kindergarten class.

“Nope, but I was desperate to see a change in him,” she said.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was insulting to say that any man needed training, especially my father.

“When you and Richard were toddlers,” she continued, “we lived in an apartment building that was right across the street from a park. I used to take the two of you there in the afternoon. I always used to see this elderly man with a large dog that would never listen to him. One day we struck up a conversation and I asked how long he had the dog.

“‘A few months,’ he said, ‘but I might have to give him to someone who can better handle him. He’s quite a handful. He has a mind of his own, always pulling me in an opposite direction and I’m afraid he’ll run out in the street and get hit by a car.’

“He then told me he had lost his wife a year ago and got the dog for companionship. I could tell he was torn about what to do having already experienced loss. I told him maybe he should think about getting a smaller dog since he wouldn’t want anything to happen to that one. Well, the next week you had a stomach virus so we stayed home. The following week Richard came down with the same bug so a few weeks passed before we went back to the park. Once we walked inside I saw the elderly man with the same dog. When I asked why he kept him, he said he bought a book on dog training.

“‘The book was a lifesaver for both of us,’ he told me. ‘I learned to praise and reward him when he did something correctly. And to assert my control so he wouldn’t think he’s in charge. I keep him on a shorter leash and he knows I’m the leader, not him, so he doesn’t drag me. He is so much better, indeed a man’s best friend,’ he said, bolstered with pride.

“I was amazed at the dog’s transformation. That week I went to the library and picked up a book on dog training and applied the same principles to your father and they seemed to work.”

I have to admit, for a brief moment I thought about seeing if my mother’s training theory would work for Marcus. But the next moment I knew that I could never train another human being to meet my emotional needs nor would I want them to do that with me. Marcus and I were in a marriage, not an obedience class. I also recalled the practical words of my father. “Show people how to treat you by treating them the best way first.”

I don’t remember why and when he told me that but after that conversation with my mother, I took his advice. Now when I hear Marcus getting ready to get up in the morning, I reach for him and plant a kiss on his lips. When we are walking and he is ten paces ahead of me, I do my best Jackie Joyner-Kersee sprint to catch up with him and take his hand. And if my mother-in-law mentions Cassandra Washington during our visits, I smile and tell her she should take a nice vacation and go visit her in sunny Florida. Then I go find Marcus.

“It’s getting late, babe. I’m ready to go.”

Jeanine DeHoney is a former early childhood assistant teacher from Brooklyn. As a freelance writer she has been published in several magazines and online blogs including Mused-Bella Online, Mothering.com. Literary Mama, The Mom Egg and Wow: Woman on Writing- The Muffin’s Friday Speak-out. Jeanine is an essayist in “Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul” and currently is a contributing writer for Esteem Yourself E-magazine.

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