They say the biggest problems in marriage are caused by arguments over sex and money. What do they know? The biggest problems are caused by the way a couple wakes up on weekends.

There are waker-uppers and there are sleeper-inners. Woe be to the one who marries the other.

My wife is a sleeper-inner. I’m a waker-upper.

I’m not fanatic about it. I don’t wake up too early, like those people who plant a rosebush, build a deck, and read three news­papers before breakfast. I just wake up early, as in, if I putz around long enough, maybe my wife will wake up and we can go over the list I’ve made.

That, I think, is where the problem comes in.

On this particular Saturday, I wake up to a morning so blissful that if a bluebird happened by, her song would be carried on the air in cartoon notes. It is a great day to wake up early.

Of course, every Saturday is a great day to wake up early. Saturdays are a day to get things done. They have an industrious, masculine quality about them. Boxes are slung around, bushes are sawed off, subs are gobbled down.

How anybody can sleep in on a Saturday is a mystery.

But there she is, my wife, Jessica, in bed as always on a Saturday, slumbering away as if this perfect morning were not going to be improved by The Things We Have To Do list. She thinks Saturday mornings are for Sleeping In And Not Doing Anything We Quote Unquote Have To Do.

So I let her sleep. I walk downstairs and put on a pot of coffee. While it brews, I go outside and get the newspaper. The morning only gets better: I make it down the porch steps to the sidewalk, scoop up the paper, and return to the house without any of the neighbors spotting me. What is so terrific about that? I am in my boxers.

I’m telling ya, this is a great Saturday!

I pour a cup of coffee, carry it over to the living room, sit down on the couch, prop my feet up, and open the paper. YES! A story about the latest adventures of the snakehead fish. This morning just can’t get any better. Since being introduced into local waters a year ago, the Asian fish has all but terrorized the newspaper-reading public. If my understanding is correct, it not only is killing every aquatic thing in its sight, it also walks on land and eats small children. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the headline: SNAKEHEAD FISH ELECTED SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE. (It’s possible this has already happened and I missed it.)

After getting up to speed on the snakehead, my mind starts wandering to all the things we should do today. I make a list.

In order to accomplish everything on the list, I figure I ought to show it to Jessica.

Trouble is, she is not a list person. She is not a morning person, either. Unless you let her, as she puts it, “sleep until I wake up.”

I go upstairs to see if Jessica is making any progress toward waking up.

She isn’t. She lays contentedly not just on the pillow, but in the pillow. She loves sleep. It is one of the true passions in her life. While others become nostalgic for the wild days of their adolescence, Jessica gets all gauzy-eyed when retelling how she used to sleep past noon.

I rummage around in a drawer, hoping it will make enough inadvertent noise to wake her. She remains asleep.

Finally, I can’t take it anymore.

“Jessica,” I whisper.

She doesn’t stir.

I ever-so-gently nudge her. “Jessica.”


This is a hopeful sign, except now I don’t know what to do. The last thing I want is to wake her and have her aware that it was me who did it.

“Do you know where my running shoes are?” I say.

She nuzzles deeper into the pillow. She says something like, “Rnshs?”

She could be forgiven the question. I haven’t run in roughly two years.

“Yeah, I thought I might get some exercise.”

“Jm,” she mutters, leaving out the vowel.


“Why are you waking me up?”

“I’m not. I just wanna know where my running shoes are. Do you know?”

“Try the basement.”

“The basement? Why would they be there?”

“Jim!” This time the vowel is clear.


“You just can’t let a person sleep, can you?”

“What? I just …”

“You just can’t stand it.”

“No. No, no, no. Go back to sleep. Really. No big deal.”

She harrumphs.

I stroke her cheek. Then I take my life in my hands. “I’ve got a list. Wanna see it?”