The frown he'd been investigating the want ads with turned into a scowl when he opened her present.
"Of all things, why this?"
"I know you hate them," she said, "but I thought one might come in handy if you're offered a job where they're required. Besides," she continued when he'd finished cursing, "for someone who refuses to have anything to do with ties, you have to admit you've been pretty obsessed with them lately."
"Not with all ties. Not with ties in general. Just his."
He closed the newspaper and pointed to a picture of me on the front page in which I was sporting an elegant striped four-in-hand.
"Whenever you see him, he always seems to have on a different one--have you noticed?"
She thought it over for a moment. "You could be right."
"My guess is he never wears the same one twice."
She laughed. "You're not suggesting he throws them away after a single use? I know he has more money than God, but why would he do a thing like that?"
"Maybe he gets off on the idea that, with what each tie he trashes sells for, you could keep an entire favela in Rio in beans for a month."
So offensive did I find this conjecture that, though I usually make a point of keeping clear of domestic disputes, I felt compelled to step out of the photo.
"You're right that I wear my ties only once--why wouldn't I when I own several thousand?--but to jump from that to the conclusion I throw them straight in the garbage is ridiculous. Okay, so if my ties were like the one you've got there--which I assume was made in a sweatshop in Bangladesh and cost under twenty-five dollars--I might not bother to hang on to them. But, as it happens, they're hand-cut by skilled craftsmen from the finest silk, so why would I be so stupid as to toss them when I can resell them at a big profit?"
She nodded. "I'm pleased to see you're into recycling."
"As a lifelong friend of the environment, you bet--and all the more so because you'd be surprised how much collectors are willing to fork out for a tie that's been in contact with my person. They'll double their bids, too, if the tie is soiled, so I never worry about the sauce from my double cheeseburgers dripping off my chin. Needless to say, I make out just as well with my dirty socks--and still better with my BVDs."
This brought him to his feet. "I don't know how you sleep at night."
"Like a log, on satin sheets that fetch a small fortune when I offer them online. But look, I realize you're going through rough waters right now--"
"As if you could begin to understand what it's like to be broke!"
"--so, on this special occasion, to prove I don't hold grudges, I hope you'll let me do something for you that should help keep you afloat."
Before he could stop me, I snatched the tie from him, blew my nose in it, and handed it back.
"Many happy returns!"
Stephen Baily has published short fiction in some forty journals. He’s also the author of ten plays and three novels, including “Markus Klyner, MD, FBI,” which is available as a Kindle e-book. He lives in France.