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Rusty Saber

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by Joe McAdoo

(As Joe McAdoo continues to recuperate from bypass surgery, we offer a staff favorite, selected from the best of the Rusty Saber as published in Joe's book, "McAdoo About Nothing.")

My palms begin to sweat. Soon a single drop of perspiration forms on my forehead. My knees buckle ever so slightly. A hollow feeling begins in the pit of my stomach. There is a quiver in my upper lip, and the muscles in my jaws tighten. I manage to remain somewhat calm on the outside; inside, I am wracked with terror.

Two options flash before me: turn tail and run, or stand my ground and face the challenge head-on.

What threat could affect me so? A simple four-word phrase brings on all these symptoms.

Actually, the phrase is the answer to a question. I can't find something (car keys, checkbook, credit card, whatever) and I ask my wife if she knows where it is. It is at this point that she utters those horrible words:

"Look in my purse."

The terror begins. I would much prefer she tell me the forgettable item is on the roof of the house, even if it were in the middle of a blizzard.

I would gladly get out the ladder and climb up on the roof in waist-deep snow if it meant I didn't have to look in her purse.

Whatever the item that is supposedly in her purse, I can never find it. Each time I am dispatched to that purse, I vow to myself that this time I will not be outsmarted by a leather bag.

I gird myself. I systematically go through the contents, one item at a time. When I am absolutely positive that she is wrong, that it isn't in the purse, I say so, with a high degree of triumph in my voice.

She gets that look on her face that mothers reserve for helpless children, then strides over to the purse, sticks in her hand without even looking inside and pulls out the item.

I have no answer to why I can never find what I may be looking for, nor do I know why she always seems to find it so effortlessly. It is, plainly and simply, the Curse of the Evil Purse. It strikes terror in my heart.

A part of the problem is that I have never understood women's purses.

How can so many things be stuffed into so small a space? If my wife were to take everything out of her purse, she couldn't fit it all into a large suitcase. But for some unexplained reason, she can get it all into one small purse. It's a curse, I tell you; the Curse of the Evil Purse.

There's Kleenex, bushels of Kleenex; yards of Kleenex; tons of Kleenex. One person couldn't use that much Kleenex in a lifetime. An elephant with enough sinus congestion to fill its trunk to the brim couldn't use that much Kleenex. But it is there inside The Purse!

I know there must be some organizational scheme compartments of her purse into which my wife places certain items. But each compartment is stuffed with Kleenex and items that look to be the same as those in all other compartments. If I could break the code and discover the key to her organization, I could find things in her purse. I know I could.

If Shakespeare's wife had carried a 20th century purse, he might have written: "Thy wife's purse (not conscience) doth make cowards of us all."

It certainly doth make one of me.

(Joe McAdoo is former chairman of the communication department at Drury College and a Springfield public relations consultant.)

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