It all started when Max, my husband, saw Buddha-shaped pears had been grown in China.
         “Would you look at that?” he said, clicking through Yahoo! Photos of the day, the bright green fruit Buddha in the foreground, a blurry Asian farmer in the background. After glancing at the photo, I spun my chair back around to my own desk and monitor, multiple documents open on my screen. I’d been writing the next quarter’s assignment sheets all afternoon, and just wanted to finish. Someone had to do their job. Or rather, someone had a job to do, and that someone was me, not Max.
         “Do you think Buddhists would be offended if someone sunk their teeth into a Buddha face?” I asked, and then continued, “And how’s the job search going today, honey?” I tried to keep my voice sweet as I asked, but it might have been a bit saccharine that time.
         “A.,” he answered, “No, I don’t think they’d be bothered, and B., not so hot.”
         I squeezed my eyes shut, glad he couldn’t see the deepening lines around my mouth. A year ago he was the type to wake up early, go for a run, then drive to work in khakis and a polo shirt, a big thermal mug of hot coffee wedged between his knees, a Bluetooth attached to his ear. No time for breakfast or email. Lean and clean, a runner’s body, direct deposit. After the lay-offs, he sat in front of his computer all day long, growing his gut and a beard, searching Monster.com when I was looking, surfing porn when I wasn’t. I knew he’d found a favorite site—one that featured twenty second clips for free, like Youtube but dirtier, categorized into every desire you could think of and many you hadn’t. At least it was free. He didn’t know I knew, but Mozilla keeps track of every site you go to, even if you think you’ve cleared your browsing history.
         “Whoa,” he exclaimed.
         “Each Buddha pear sells for around seven dollars U.S.”
         “Um-hmm,” I said.
         That September Max had started whittling. By then I’d lost track of the hobbies he began to counteract job-hunting burn-out. First he whittled with a little pocket knife we’d picked up during our first and only camping trip. We’d spent a whole week in a Florida state park early in our marriage. Heaven was getting away from Max’s mother and swimming in the ocean every day, countless fish tickling our bare legs, our arms around each other while we bobbed in the waves as if no one could figure out what was happening below the surface. Max wasn’t exactly the outdoorsy type, but he tried, almost burning his eyebrows off by starting a campfire with a bottle of butane.
         His mother is always calling people “evil” and “demons”. She believes that demons are always around us. Satan is always peeking over our shoulders, blowing into our ears, seducing us into joining his evil ways. It took over three years to convince Max that it would be all right to refuse her invitations to plays complete with glossolalia, parties that turned into Bible studies and Revelations-inspired “Harvest Trails” filled with aborted fetus imagery.
         “You’re not a bad man, Max,” I told him, kissing below his earlobe as he let the answering machine pick up her calls. Four in less than an hour. “Just because she’s your mother doesn’t mean you have to believe what she believes.”
         We have his mother over for brunch one Sunday per month. She’s his mother, after all. Since we’d chosen not to give her any grandchildren in favor of our careers, Quiche Lorraine and fresh fruit was the least we could do. On top of not producing a baby to carry on my hip, we’d done even worse before that: we didn’t marry in a church. Max and I met in a Victorian Literature course. I was there because I wanted to be; he was there because it fulfilled a requirement toward his business degree. Reading about dark nights of the soul had brought us together. Much to his mother’s dismay, it carried over to our ceremony at the courthouse downtown, officiated by a female justice of the peace instead of a preacher.
         “And she wouldn’t even wear white,” Ruth Ann complained after Max had showed her the photos after our honeymoon. I could hear her crying through the receiver when she called, telling him she wished he’d married his high school sweetheart instead, and then offering to loan him money for an annulment.
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