Jerry and Cheryl-Ann generally got along like pigs and horses, but had their first fight in quite some time; well, since the time she discovered the still in the back of the barn, which was not really Jerry’s still, but belonged to Walter, who couldn’t put it in his barn because Emily would have hit the roof, even though it was just a scientific experiment, he said, and Jerry miscalculated– not since the still had they fought. But on this cruise, up the inside passage from Vancouver, BC to Alaska, they had a doozy.
Cheryl-Ann had a few too many gin fizzes and wanted to sing karaoke, you see. After dinner they had been to the Broadway review, which was a tribute to Gene Simmons, and then popped in at their favourite quiet ship’s bar, The Pink Rhino. Unfortunately it was Wednesday, Pink Rhino Karaoke Night. Jerry wanted nothing to do with karaoke, and certainly did not want Cheryl-Ann up there performing. That could be disastrous.
Cheryl-Ann was painfully shy, as a rule. And she didn’t drink much, as a rule. But she hated Gene Simmons, and loved Patsy Cline, and she was dizzy with gin, and wanting to sing to Jerry, because the glaciers made her feel romantic, and the microphone on the small improvised stage beckoned. It was a Cheryl-Ann/karaoke perfect storm.
So Cheryl-Ann kept standing up, a bit wobbly, with the intention of heading for the stage. Jerry kept taking her arm, gently, and sitting her back down again. “Let’s go back to the suite,” he whispered. “You can sing to me there.”
Cheryl-Ann flushed with anger. “Do you think I’m stupid?” she cried. “I’m not stupid.”
“No, no, I don’t think that.”
“You think I can’t sing, but I can!”
“I know you can, Cheryl-Ann.”
“You always tell me to shush.”
“Not at home, I don’t,” said Jerry.
“Because you are ashamed of me!”
“Hey, let’s go to Sweet Suzy’s Castle and grab a banana split before bed!” Jerry said.
“Do you think I’m stupid? I’m not stupid,” said Cheryl-Ann, and burst into tears.
This caused some folks at other tables to sit up and take notice. People didn’t cry in cruise ship bars, it was like a rule. Life was good on a cruise. Go to your cabin and cry, seemed to be the unsympathetic attitude in the Pink Rhino.
Cheryl-Ann was wearing her favourite cruise outfit, a red crepe suit with a peplum jacket, and a white silk frilled blouse. She wore gold high-heeled sandals, which made it even more difficult to get back to their cabin, as the ship was swaying as if they were in a storm.
They were in a storm. A storm outside the portholes and a storm inside the VIP suite where Cheryl-Ann and Jerry continued raising their voices.
“I’m tired of you thinking I’m stupid,” Cheryl-Ann said. She had a cotton handkerchief, and was wiping mascara streaks from her cheek.
Jerry started to reply, to make his usual placating remark– when in a moment of epiphany, he realized he did think she was stupid. Anyway, it was his habit to treat her as if she was, as if she was slightly dim-witted and needed his protection. She did the farm finances, cooked as well as a chef, was on the rural tourism board, and watched PBS almost every week. But he thought Cheryl-Ann liked it when he treated her as if she was a bit slow; didn’t women like that? It wasn’t an insult, it was loving care. Had it taken her unprecedented consumption of three gin fizzes on an Alaskan cruise for Jeremy to realize she was as at least as capable as he was?
“Honey, I honestly don’t think you are stupid,” Jerry said. “Let me make some coffee, there’s some stuff we need to talk about.”
“I’ll make the coffee,” said Cheryl-Ann, dabbing at her nose, which was running. “Go get me a banana split. To have with the coffee. Oh and get a couple of ice cream sandwiches to have later.”
She was never bothered by a storm at sea. Never seasick. Never bothered by turbulence. Jerry left the cabin, holding onto the wall rails as he made his way to Sweet Suzy’s, and hoped she could ride out one more storm.