Milton and Martha

“You know, there are some jobs women are simply not cut out for. Changing the station on the television is at the top of the list, now would you give me that damn clicker!” Milton’s patience was wearing thin as he watched his wife, Martha, control the television.

Warm summer air blew through an open window in the living room. The gentle breeze picked up the few stray hairs on Milton’s head and set them into motion. Martha caught sight of the dancing grays, as she called them, and snickered before returning to channel surfing.

“You women, you change channels like a chicken scratches for food. Peck, change a channel.” With his right hand, Milton formed a make-shift beak and pecked at the air. “Stop and stare, mosey about for a bit.” His hand frozen in the air, turned slowly from side to side, as if to look around the room, before going back to work. “Peck peck, change a channel, peck peck.” With every hand gesture, Milton’s legs made a sucking sound as they pulled away from the protective vinyl couch cover.

A single bead of sweat emerged from Milton’s short cropped side burn. At a sudden twitch, the droplet streaked down his wrinkled skin, slowing down slightly as it passed through his silver five-oclock shadow. He swiped it away before it could fall on his faded blue tshirt and continued on with his rant. “Now men on the other hand, we change channels with a purpose. I can tell you in less than one point five seconds if the show is worth watching. Thats it, one point five, tops, and I’m movin’ on.”

As if to intentionally break up the conversation, the bell of an old rotary telephone sounded. “Would you be a dear and get the phone while I peck around some more.” Martha’s tone was both sweet and poisonous. With a shake of the head and a scrunching of his face, Milton pulled himself free of the vinyl cover and walked to the phone

“Yellow? Distance, what d’ya mean you’re selling distance? Martha, would you please turn down that racket I’m trying to talk to this man about buying some distance.” Martha’s pecking had landed her on a VH1 special detailing the one-hundred greatest songs of the 1980’s.

“First off, this isn’t racket, its Bobby McFerrin. Second, we don’t have long distance so just hang up” Martha spoke the words through a sweet smile as she tapped her foot and swayed her head to the sounds of Don’t Worry Be Happy

With the phone at his side, Milton began shouting over the television in an attempt to dramatize its loudness. “McFerrin? He don’t look like no Irishman I’ve ever met. I’ll talk to this man if I damn well please, maybe I want some distance.” To punctuate his mood, Milton mumbled under his breath “Especially if it is between me and you, you wench.”

“I heard that you old bigot!”

“What kind of Irishman parades around in a white suite and yellow bow tie, tell me that?” Milton waved and pointed with the phone. Its long coiled cord flopped around on the floor as he did so.

“The man can wear whatever he wants, it makes little difference to me, I like the song. It makes me happy.

“The music makes me want to stick this here phone in my ear, now turn down that racket!”

“I will not! You want distance, take the long way out to the kitchen and continue your conversation there!”

“Yellow, yellow? See what you did, you scared off the man selling distance. Screaming like a banshee, its no wonder he hung up.” Milton dropped the receiver onto its base and made his way back over to the couch where Martha sat, smiling and swaying to the beat.


Todays piece of creative writing was inspired by Write Anything’s Fiction Friday. The prompt which stirred the idea was Strains of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” floated into the room”. I wasn’t sure exactly where I wanted it to go but the idea of a humorous old couple put a smile on my face.

This piece has also been submitted to the #FridayFlash Twitter Group. For more information on that group, and a collective of the submissions, head over to JM Strother’s Mad Utopia.

16 comments On Milton and Martha

  • I love the idea of buying distance. Is it expensive? No matter. I’m sure it’s worth it.

  • Wasn’t intentional on ol’ Milton’s part, but that’s a great way to get the telemarketers off the phone. Hopefully the video never ends for poor Martha so she doesn’t have to put up with the ol’ bigot anymore. Good story!

  • Well, that doesn’t sound *at all* like my husband and me… 😀

    Cute story!

  • This was a ripper, Walt. The dialogue was great, witty, it made me laugh and reminded me of some of my idiosyncrasies *gulp* Still laughing. And I loved the opening phone conversation of “Yellow?” Great to hear that term crosses continents and oceans as we use it here in Australia. Well done.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  • I agree with Adam, that ‘Yellow’ is great. Really good light hearted piece, I enjoyed it. It’s nice to be reminded you don’t just have a gory graphic mind and can write ‘nice’ stuff 🙂

  • I love it. I was laughing the whole time. I especially liked the bit about the chicken pecking channel changing. The relationship between the two comes across as real. The dialog is just right. You can tell that they still love each other even as they enjoy pushing each others’ buttons.

    btw I noticed the baby photos on your sidebar. What a sweetheart!!

  • I pictured the whole thing like it was happening right in front of me. Hilarious! Loved the old guy’s rant and her simple reply. Indicates this is normal behavior for him and she just rolls with it but gets her little digs in too. Great ‘distance’ thing too. Its a keeper! Nicely done.

  • Such witty banter between the couple. You could tell they are kind of stuck together for better or worse. I love the dialogue and setup. The use of detail is great too.

  • I loved this piece. It captured perfectly that rhythm between long-time married couples. And the never ending battle for the remote! Great job.

  • What a terrific job of character study you’ve done here! Great job showing a lot with a few words; There’s a whole history which comes through here so clearly. Nice work!

  • Oh, this is a funny, funny story. Reminds me of the way my grandparents used to bicker. The description of Walt demonstrating her channel-surfing is brilliant.

  • I think I know those people. Great dialogue. Sounds like my grandparents. So cute and real.

  • This doesn’t remind me of myself and my wife at all, either. Did you plant a bug in my house?

  • Obviously you must have been very busy researching this story as I see from the comments you’ve been hiding in other people’s houses as well as mine, taking notes. Let me assure you all the evesdropping has paid off big time, this is a wonderful story – great characters and some wonderful dialogue.

  • Heehee I loved the pecking too! Lovely light-hearted story, thanks!

  • I’d love to have been the salesman on the other end of the phone, getting to hear that conversation!! Wonderfully ‘real’ in all its details.

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