The 17 Year Itch

For the past 17 years Joe had rarely looked at himself in the mirror.  For a while he had stopped on the way to work every morning to get a shave, but he eventually abandoned this indulgence and just grew a beard.  He took a deep breath and looked straight
into the mirror and at Janet’s request, started to shave.

Just 15 minutes ago he had been sitting at breakfast reading the arts section while Janet sat across from him engrossed in the sports section.  When they were first married, he had tried to break the silence with insightful comments on the Cubs, politics, fashion, whatever, but he got nothing but a stony silence.  By their second anniversary he just gave up.  He tried to pretend that the utter stillness was something to be expected in an
old married couple who were so attuned to each other that conversation was no
long necessary.  The sound of the grandfather clock in the front hall used to drive him to distraction – a symbol of his failure as husband to provoke the slightest interest from his wife.  Now it never even occurred to him to attempt at conversation and he loved the steady ticking of the clock.

He suddenly heard the crinkle of the paper as Janet folded it and set it aside.  He looked up and there she was staring at him – such a strange sensation that he felt his forehead flush.  “Joe,” she said softly, “remember when I first met you and you didn’t have your beard?” He could scarcely believe the tenderness in her voice.

“Janet, I can’t believe that you bring this up – do you know what day it is today?”   She squirmed in her chair and shrugged, but something had to be on her mind.  “Janet,
it is almost 17 years ago to the day that we met at Ravinia – can you guess how I know?”  She nodded and pushed the paper and pointed.  Joe looked at the headline.

“Yes, I can’t believe it.  I saw a cicada yesterday and now here’s the headline that the cicadas will be here in droves any day now.”  She bit her lip and nodded.  Joe thought he saw a glimpse of tears and was joyous at the first sign of tenderness after their whirlwind courtship and wedding.

“That was some night at Ravinia,” said Joe.   We could hardly hear Joe Cocker over the noise of the cicadas and as we were sitting under the tree we could feel them trying to emerge under our blanket.  I couldn’t believe it, you seemed to know everything about cicadas – you said that all the thrumming we were hearing was the sound of pure sexual energy as the cicadas had only 2 weeks every 17 years to find a mate.  You were very excited, and I’m afraid that you took advantage of me, my dear,” said Joe as he
tentatively placed his hand atop hers.

Janet recoiled.  “I would like you to shave your beard off,” she said.

Joe leapt to his feet and headed to the bathroom and rummaged around to find one of Janet’s razors.  He had always known that he was not a good looking man.  He was a  victim of an unfortunate genetic synergy between his father’s sallow skin and hooked nose and his mother’s tendency to a double chin and sagging cheek bones.  People had
startled at his appearance and he had occasionally heard titters on the bus, but he had grown used to it.  In fact, his mother had told him many times that it was not the worst thing in the world to be ugly, after all, she had survived just fine.  That was why he was so pleased when someone as pretty as Janet had thrown herself relentlessly at him.  He
had readily accepted her marriage proposal.

His mother had been skeptical, “Joe what’s up with this girl? Why would such a knock out settle for someone like you?  Now don’t get me wrong, I love you dearly, but let’s be realistic.  Don’t you think that someone plainer, I mean someone who shares your same scale of physical beauty might make a better life partner?  I just don’t want your heart to
be broken.  Your father and I have been very happy all these years, because we each know that we are not attractive to other people.”

His mother’s attempts to manage his amorous expectations seemed irrelevant at that point.  Janet was constantly calling him and showing up unannounced at work.  One time she insisted that they take a long walk in the woods where they eventually joined
the cicadas in their sexual frenzy.  When he returned to work several hours later, he received knowing looks from his colleagues, one of whom leaned over his cubicle and plucked out all the leaves that were stuck in the back of his hair.

“Well for two weeks that summer, I really had it going,” he thought as he took the first swipe with the razor, revealing tender skin that that shuddered at the exposure to fresh air.  “If she wants me to shave, that is what I will do.”  He hummed in grateful
anticipation as the sink filled with his thick black hair.

“How are you coming, honey?” called Janet.

“Honey,” thought Joe, “this can’t be true, she has not even called me by my name for ages.”  He trembled in excitement and nicked his chin.  A tiny trickle of blood ran down
his neck, but he left it where it was.

“Who knows, this could be a turn on for Janet,” he thought.  He looked at himself, clean shaven at last and was horrified.  The magnitude of his nose was horrifying.  His eyes seemed to pop out, creating a definite prehistoric look.  He heard a slight tap and a whirring noise next to the bathroom window.  As he looked over he came face to face with a cicada and stared into its oversized eye.

“Honey, how are you doing” cooed Janet, “I’m in the bedroom, wearing the nightgown you gave me on our wedding night.  I can’t wait much longer.  I think that we should both call
in sick today.  I will make it worth your while.”

The trapped bug frenzied some more and Joe grabbed it by his wings and looked at himself and the cicada and himself side by side in the mirror.  “Oh my god,” thought Joe, “I look like a cicada, even the blood trickle is the same pattern as the veins on its wing.  I look like a fucking cicada, my wife is in love with cicadas.”

The morning was just warm enough and the thrumming of the cicadas began.
Janet joined them.  “Well, it certainly has been a fallow 17 years,” thought Joe, “so I will really have to make the next 2 weeks count.”  He rushed into the bedroom.

The missing words in the following poem are anagrams (i.e. share the same letters like spot, stop and post) and the number of asterisks indicate the number of letters.  One of the words will rhyme with the preceding or following line, giving you a big hint.  Your job is to solve for the missing words based on the above rules and the context of the poem.  SCroll down for answers.

He thought that the sun, moon and stars must have been perfectly ——-,

So that his beautiful wife viewed his ugliness with an eye that was blind.

But he didn’t realize that he was ——- with a cicada in human guise

And she was only attracted to his prehistoric look and bugged out eyes.

Her frigidity and disdain were the ——- causes of his frustration and tears,

Until he realized that she was sexually active for only 2 weeks every 17 years.






aligned, dealing, leading

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