Thursday, October 11, 2007

BEST OF: Short-sheeted ghost story

He lurched through the house, totally enveloped in white, encircled by a twisting, turning being that was devouring him, inch by painful inch.

In a panic, the terrified man fought to free himself from the evil, to contain the monster. But it was no use. There was no safe haven, no protected corner in which to hide.

A nightmare? A horror movie? A Stephen King novel?

No, no. Nothing that dramatic. It was just my valiant husband, Richard, trying one more time to fold a fitted sheet for a king-sized bed.

Hide in a corner? He can't even find the corners, let alone hide in one of them.

Mind you, I'm not complaining. Heavens no. At least I'm blessed with a husband who'll try to fold the sheet, instead of automatically assuming such a task is women's work.

We've been married a long time now, so his sheet-wrestling matches don't startle me anymore.

But now that I'm doing most of my work for The Cambrian from my home office, we have declared his faux-folding high-jinks off-limits during business hours, just in case I happen to be interviewing an unsuspecting someone here.

I do try to be empathetic to my husband's predicament. But, try as I might, I still don't understand the problem. I'm not one to boast, mind you, but I can take a fitted sheet and, in mere moments, fit it into a neat-and-tidy rectangle that would slide back in its original package with room to spare -- if I hadn't had to shred the original package to get the sheet out in the first place.

And tidy? When I fold a fitted sheet, the edges are even, the corners are flat and so is the sheet.

Please, no applause. I embarrass easily.

Besides, it's not perfect. You can't bounce a quarter off my folded sheet.

I couldn't even make that trick work when I was a motel maid, and the quarter-test was the final measure of a well-made bed. Now, when I go to a hotel and climb into a bed made up that snugly, all I can think of is that nasty motel supervisor (a true Sergeant Major if I ever saw one) when his coin landed on my freshly made bed and didn't bounce right back up.

I'll bet he can't fold fitted sheets, either.

My poor, sweet husband tries so hard. He looks at my tiny, tidy, package of sheet. He sets his shoulders, then works and wrestles and fights ... and winds up with a questionable art form that looks like William Calder fought Quasimodo's ghost, and both lost.

When he asks for help, I've showed him how I do it.

"Fold the sheet in half, and lay it on a bed. Then tuck the corners tightly into each other. Do it again, folding the sheet into quarters, with three corners tucked into the fourth. Fold the edge with the corners on it to the middle, fold up the other edge and..."

By then, I've looked up and realized that I've lost him somewhere in the neighborhood of corner tucking (which, by the way, sounds vaguely racy).

Now, this is not a dumb man. When he worked for Harrah's Club as a pit boss, he could watch 24 tables, chat up the high rollers, take over and deal a game ... all at the same time, and never miss a beat.

As our head baker at The Upper Crust, he'd watch four ovens, three mixers, 25 employees, a roomful of customers and still have enough gray matter available to remember that the chocolate custard was ready to refrigerate, the choux paste was ready to cook and the van's tires needed to be rotated.

These days, my "retired" honey reads three newspapers every day in search of items The Cambrian might need. He cuts gorgeous opals from the ugliest rocks you ever saw. He is the Tanners' CFO. And he's a backstop photographer for the newspapers, having had years more experience with a camera than I have.

So, what's with the fitted sheet? Is it in his DNA, a regressive folding gene? Is it a mental block? Is he too tall to do it?

Or are all men defeated by large pieces of material with elastic in the corners? Is this a guy thing?

Until he figures it out, I'll keep giving him comfort and reassurance, and then I'll go and refold the sheets myself. Hey, I have to sleep in that bed, too. It's not very restful when it's 60-by-80 inches of crinkled, wrinkled, fold-ridden cloth. It's sort of like trying to catch 40 winks in a crisp origami project.

So, we'll give husband Richard credit for trying, time after time after time. And I promise, I'll try not to laugh when he lurches into the kitchen, wrapped in yet another sheet that's defeated him, crying, "get me oooouuuuuuuuuuuut of here!"

But there could be another silver lining to this. Maybe I'll just rent him out for Halloween.

This column ran in The Cambrian in October, 2002. That year, after submitting this and two other columns, I won a California Newspaper Publishers Association award as columnist of the year for weekly newspapers with circulation under 4,500 a week.

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