“How is that?” asked the average-looking boy. “Because I’m handsome,” Mole said. “Handsome?” said the average boy. “You’re more rodent than human.”
“But I think I’m handsome,” said Mole. The average-looking boy thought about it — and immediately became a handsome man, perhaps the handsomest man who ever lived.
His newfound handsomeness wound up saving him plenty of cash and discomfort over the years. For example, the handsomest man who ever lived didn’t need to spend money on fashionable clothes. He needed only one fashion — comfortable and baggy — although his wife thought otherwise.
They have been together for 25 years. At the beginning he would outfit himself and she’d say, “Where do you think you’re going dressed like that?” In the middle years she refined it to simply “No!” Now, after 25 years, they just cut to the chase.
Their routine is well honed. On this evening they’re heading to the ladies’ book club’s annual wine-and-cheese party. Husbands are invited. He’s sitting on the edge of the bed in his underwear, waiting for his wife to pick out his clothes for the occasion. He’s not good at clothes. He doesn’t recall ever buying clothes on purpose.
They go through their customary negotiations. Good wife: But you look so handsome in your turtleneck sweater. Handsome man: I look handsome anyway, no matter what I wear — and turtleneck sweaters “bunch” me; they make me uncomfortable. They compromise, and he is especially comfortable with the shoes they have chosen. The high-top sneakers are out, but so are the stiff new loafers. The shoes he wears are relaxed. Good wife: I wish you would have gotten a haircut.
Handsome man: You didn’t tell me to get
He’s not good at hair. He doesn’t recall ever getting a haircut on purpose. When he was single, he didn’t go to barbers. When his hair fell into his eyes, he’d cut it off with a knife — and, because of his handsome condition, it was good enough. There’s no danger of hair falling in his eyes anymore, unless one of the 12 strands left, clinging to life on the far back of his head detaches and magically floats to his eyeball. Nonetheless, the 12 strands are handsome strands, very handsome, maybe the handsomest strands ever on an otherwise bald bean. The social affair: The table full of wines and cheeses runs the length of the room. They are medium-cost wines and cheeses, he thinks, but he doesn’t know for sure — he’s not good at wines and cheeses. He doesn’t recall ever buying wine or cheese on purpose. He tried some expensive wine once, at a wedding, but it didn’t fit him. It was probably because his handsomeness caused him to be low-maintenance, not only in clothes but also in food and drink. And then he sees it, there at the end of the table full of wine and cheese: a bottle of Ripple. Someone has brought it as a joke. As you might suspect, the handsome man, because of his low-maintenance condition, would like some Ripple. It would go well with some Spam, he thinks, Spam fried up as he likes it, with slightly burnt edges. Nice people here; conversations about new books and politics are everywhere. But the handsome man reads only old books, the classics, and he has no interest in politics, except for its entertainment value. Right now he is rereading the classic Bat Boy Lives!, which he found at the grocery-store checkout. No one here is familiar with the story.
And his first attempt at conversation, about how well turtleneck sweaters hide turkey-skin necks, causes the two fellows he is talking to step back. He intends it to be funny, because he himself has a turkey neck, albeit a handsome turkey neck, a very handsome turkey neck, maybe the handsomest turkey neck that every flopped down. He’s not an intentionally insensitive man, so he tries another topic: “I’m not a wine drinker, not that there’s anything wrong with wine drinkers. It’s just that I wouldn’t want one in a foxhole with me.”
The two other men in turtlenecks take their wineglasses to the next room. It’s a slow-moving evening, and the handsome man spends most of it going from room to room and watching as each room he enters politely empties out. His wife stays in the den, discussing Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals with an attentive crowd.
All the people here are of a certain age, so the party ends at 10 p.m. Good wife (on their ride home): I was thinking of a late-night snack when we get home — maybe fry up some Spam. Handsome man: With burnt edges? Good wife: Of course! And you look very handsome in your turtleneck sweater. Handsome man: I know.
Contact Doug Bybee Sr. at email@example.com.