“Stuffed Feelings”

Mary Kate hurried Sean out the front door. She handed him one of the two stuffed animals, which she clutched in her hands. “We’re going to be late for marriage counselling. Here’s Sylvester. I’m taking Tweety.”

Sean had purchased Tweety for her on their honeymoon in Paris. It was six months later and his patience was wearing thin.

Sean stuffed the cartoon cat inside his jacket. “This is stupid,” said Sean. “That therapist’s an idiot.”

“Marriage counselling was your idea. Remember?”

            The therapist’s waiting room resembled the others Sean had frequented. There were stacks of games, toys, and other stuffed animals in one corner for the fragile children of Masonville and a bookshelf full of self-help manuals. He already knew that men were from Mars but sometimes wished that Mary Kate would get on a one-way rocket ship to Venus. Mary Kate put her head on his shoulder. Sean held Sylvester up in front of his face and mimicked the character’s lisp, “Everything’s going to be fine,” he said. “You’ll see.”

            Mary Kate’s sighed. She wondered if Sean would ever be satisfied. She had provided him with a good home, good meals, and good sex. All she wanted in return was love and support. It didn’t have to be this complicated.

The therapist came out of his office and held the door for them. “Sean. Mary Kate. I’m Doctor Billingsly. Come on in.”

            Dr. Billingsly was in his late fifties, wore a salt and pepper beard and looked like he’d been outfitted at LL Bean. The only thing missing was a hatchet which Sean hoped to bury with Mary Kate, but preferably not in each other’s skulls.

Sean and Mary Kate plopped down on opposite sides of a couch while the therapist sat on a straight-backed wooden chair across from them. “So,” said Dr. Billingsly. “How long have you two been married?”

Mary Kate picked up Tweety, held it front of her face and did her best Tweety impression. “Six months, doc.”

The doctor chuckled. “It’s not necessary to use the props yet.”

Sean smiled at his wife’s antics. He acknowledged that she could be endearing at times and reflected back on how they had first met two years ago at a singles dance. He had been instantly attracted to the woman in the flower patterned dress whose pretty face and tight bodice reminded him of the cartoon women who had graced the pinball machines of his youth.

            “Are you married?” Mary Kate had immediately asked him.

            “No, but I’d like to be,” he said. He really meant it, too. He had watched most of his childhood friends settle down and have families while he had wasted half his adult life in bars and clubs pursuing his dream girl. The relationships he formed in those places never lasted beyond a few months.

Sean and Mary Kate danced to a few fast tunes that night and sat at a table and attempted to hold a conversation over the music blasting from the speakers. Mary Kate was a few years younger than him at 42 and had never been married either. That convinced him that their meeting must be God’s will. Sean returned home that night and got on his knees and begged God like he’d only done once before. That was two years before after his last drunk when he’d asked God to help him get sober.

            They consummated their love the following weekend in his apartment on the living room floor during a commercial break from the Golden Globe Awards. After this they continued to see each other on a weekly basis and called or e-mailed every day. Mary Kate was still as enamored as when they first met. He wrote her love letters in which he expressed his continued ardor, but a few doubts began to form in his mind.

Sean was brought out of his reveries by the doctor’s voice. “Mary Kate,” said Dr. Billingsly. “Can you tell me in what areas of the marriage that you’re dissatisfied?”

            Mary Kate pressed Tweety to her breasts. “He’s the one who’s dissatisfied. He told me right after the honeymoon that the marriage had been a mistake.”

            The psychologist shifted his gaze to Sean. “Is that right, Sean?”

            Sean gave a nervous laugh. “Yeah, that’s true, but I decided to give it a year anyway.”

            “Sounds like a sentence. Why did you get married in the first place if you obviously had doubts?”

            “I did love her at first but then…”

            “Then what?”

            “I got to know her family, or I should say, her father.”

Mary Kate’s father, Phil, had celebrated his seventieth birthday with friends and family on a June weekend two years before. Legend had it that he had lost his right arm in a hunting accident in Idaho with a certain author known for bull fights, big game hunting, and marlin fishing. Prior to this, his type-A personality had enabled him to have a successful career as a bonds trader. After being introduced, Sean followed Phil out to the backyard to the grill. When the old man tried to lift the lid off of the Weber grill it clanged to the ground like one of those gongs in an old black and white adventure movie. Sean picked it up and tried to replace it.

“Put that down,” screamed Phil.

Sean’s first instinct was to gong the old man with it, but he just turned away and went back inside. He found Mary Kate in the kitchen. She noticed his grimace. “What’s the matter?” she asked.

            “I’m all right. I’m just not used to being screamed at by someone who I was trying to help.”

            Mary Kate glanced out the kitchen window to where her father was grilling steaks and chuckled. “Oh. Daddy. I’m sorry about that. He just gets a little sensitive about his disability.”

Sean resisted the urge to run out the front door over Mary Kate’s genealogy. “I’ll get over it.”

Dr. Billingsly got up and walked over to a shelf full of stuffed animals. He picked up Wily Coyote and Road Runner and set them back down facing each other. He turned back to the real couple. “Mary Kate, if I were to ask you what your biggest problem with Sean was what would it be?

            “I think..,” she started to say.

            “Now you can use Tweety.”

Mary Kate held Tweety in front of her face and in her own voice said, “It’s the way he shuts down emotionally. I know where he gets that from.”

            “Really? Where?”

“He told me. It’s how he dealt with growing up with a mentally ill father. Witnessing his nervous breakdowns.”

            “Is that true Sean? Use the puppet.”

            Sean held up Sylvester and lisped, “Yeah, to some extent I think that’s true. It’s was my way of avoiding pain at least until I discovered alcohol.”

            “Okay. Maybe we’re beginning to get somewhere here. Sean, besides Mary Kate’s dad, what irritates you about her the most?”

            Sean hit Tweety with Sylvester. “She’s got a Jekyll and Hyde personality. She’s always in a bad mood when I come home.”

Mary Kate pushed her husband’s alter-ego away and stroked Tweety. “I have a very stressful job,” said Mary Kate. “He’s totally disinterested in what I do.”

            “Is that right, Sean?”

“I could care less about insurance,” lisped Sean.

            “What do you two argue about?”

            “Everything.”

            Mary Kate hit Sean in the groin with the stuffed bird. “That’s his perception,” said Mary Kate. “It’s normal for couples to fight.”

Sean threw Sylvester across the room where he landed on top of the Roadrunner. “Suffering succotash! Not about everything,” said Sean. “Why did she want to marry me if she didn’t like who I was? She even tried to change my personal preferences for deodorant and toothpaste.”

“Mary Kate, why do you insist on buying Sean different products than what he prefers?”

“I’m just trying to save money. Why should it matter what kind of deodorant he uses when I can get a sale…”

“You see, doc,” said Sean. “It’s all about control.”

 “Mary Kate, maybe you could lighten up a little in that department. What can Sean do to make your marriage better?”

Mary Kate looked at Tweety and smiled. “He could start by respecting my property.”

Sean grabbed Tweety out of her arms and punched it in the face.“Your property, said Sean. “Exactly.”

Mary Kate reached over to retrieve Tweety. The couple grappled over it until its head came off. She hit Sean over the head with the headless canary until all its stuffing covered the floor. “You never even loved me in the first place.”

Sean threw Tweety’s carcass across the room. “No, I didn’t. The only reason I married you was because I felt sorry for you. I never should have went through with it.”

Dr. Billingsly grabbed Porky Pig off of the shelf and stuffed it between them. “That’s all folks,” he pronounced.