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Chaos Theory

Through the Wringer

Laughter, rinse, repeat

By Cassie Bustamante

Questionable choices? I’ve made a few. After all, I’ve been known to snip my own bangs when I get bored, despite the fact that my husband, Chris, thinks they’re “awkward”. I’ve attempted to pop deep pimples even though the results are always the same — a bigger blemish with a scab on top. The last time I did that, I even pointed to it as I said to Chris, “I will learn nothing from this.”

But I’ve been known to make good decisions, too — like when I walked down the aisle — bangless, mind you — to marry Chris 20 years ago in late September, 2003. I know this to be true, because I’ve put him through the wringer in the two decades since saying “I do.” In fact, just a month or so after our nuptials, I tested the waters, accidentally, and discovered just how my new husband would handle a costly slip-up.

That fall, I was employed as a personal trainer at Cross Gates Athletic Club, a family-friendly gym in Slidell, Louisiana. As is often the case in that profession, I worked split shifts, training in the early- to mid-morning hours and again in the evening.

On one particular morning, my stomach churns, a cacophony of gurgling, rumbling sounds. You know the ones. I rush home for my midday break, parking my car in the driveway, certain I’ll pop some Pepto and be back on my feet. But things get progressively worse and the realization strikes: I’ve been hit with food poisoning.

I call into the gym to cancel any remaining appointments and decide to move my car, a standard transmission VW Jetta, into the garage since I won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

Once in the driver’s seat, I turn the key in the ignition, catching a blur of activity in the corner of my eye. In my unwell haze, I’ve not fully closed the door from the kitchen to the garage, and Charlie, our Houdini-like beagle, has spied his opportunity for freedom, shoving the door fully open with his snout.

In my panic, I drop the clutch and the Jetta jolts forward, crashing right into our washing machine. Stunned, I glance back at the kitchen door, but Charlie is nowhere to be found.

After turning the car off, I dash inside and find him trembling under our bed on the complete opposite end of the house. He’s petrified, but at least he’s safe.

Back in the garage, I stare at the washing machine in disbelief. Nervously, I dial Chris.

“Hey, so . . . um . . . I kind of ran my car into the washing machine,” I tell him, explaining the events that led to the collision.

There’s a pregnant pause as I prepare for his wrath. Instead, he explodes in laughter. Once he’s able to speak again, he asks, “OK, well, does it still work?”

“Lemme check. Oooooh, yes! Water is running!” I pause. “Scratch that, all the water is coming out at the bottom.”

“OK, well, it’s no big deal,” he says. “We’ll go get a new washing machine this weekend,” he continues. “You’re all right and so is Charlie.” Another giggle escapes his lips and I picture him on the other end of the line, shaking his head.

A week later, as Sears delivers our brand-new machine with the bonus free haul-away service for the old appliance, the driver says, “I’m not even going to ask what happened.”

But I’ll tell you what happened. I discovered that I’d married a man who would help me find the lightness in tough situations and be by my side “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,” with bangs or without. And while appliances can come with a high price tag, knowing I’ve chosen a great partner is priceless.  OH

Cassie Bustamante is editor of O.Henry magazine.