IT'S three days before Valentine's Day, and my life is in a shambles, because I can't afford flowers.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I must have a few bucks tucked away somewhere. But the money in my change jar won't cover the gazillion bucks it would cost to buy a dozen long-stemmed roses on Valentine's Day.
Never mind that those same flowers cost 20 bucks any other time of year. It's Valentine's Day, and the flower hustlers know that men must purchase roses or face a year in relationship purgatory.
Granted, LaVeta said that I didn't have to buy her any flowers this time around. But I've been in this thing for almost 14 years, and if I know anything about marriage, I know this: When your wife absolves you of flower responsibility on Valentine's Day, you must immediately get on the phone and call an exorcist, because a demon has taken over her body.
Bottom line? Wives want flowers, gentlemen, and they want them delivered so at least one other woman can see them and become envious. This is the central tenet of Valentine's Day, and because I failed to plan properly, my wife won't get to experience that.
Looking back now, there are things I could've done. I could've put the flowers on layaway, for example. Just $100 a month, starting last February, and I would've had enough for at least six flowers and a vase. But like a fool, I waited until the last minute, praying all the while that two weeks' pay would cover the flowers.
Then the unthinkable happened. Our washing machine broke, and my whole plan went to hell in a hand basket.
If it were just about the money to replace the washing machine, it wouldn't be so bad. But that washing machine was more than an appliance. It was an enduring symbol of our love.
It washed our underwear together. It cleaned the sheets from our love nest. It intermingled our dirty towels in an unending pool of OxiClean. For 14 years, that washing machine did what nothing else could do: It laundered our funky clothes and made us one.
That's why it's fitting for the washing machine to play the central role in the scheme that will save my Valentine's Day, and quite possibly save my marriage.
I've been thinking about this for a few days, and the way I figure it, there's only one way to make the flower thing irrelevant, and that's to celebrate another holiday in place of Valentine's Day. And thanks to my sources at my son's school, I've got just the thing - Black Friday.
According to a source I spoke with during the performance of Little Solomon's fourth-grade Christmas play, LaVeta told more than one person, and I quote, "Every day is Black Friday for me!"
"Solomon might not like it," she said, "but it's true."
After learning this useful bit of intelligence from my confidential Christmas play informant, I tucked it away for a few days, then sprung it on my shopaholic wife when she was least expecting it.
"So I heard Black Friday was every day for you," I said with a gotcha grin.
There was a pregnant pause. Then she started backpedaling like Deion Sanders in his prime.
"Well, I didn't mean I buy things every day," she said. "I meant that I find sales every day. Who told you that, anyway?"
Like any good reporter, I refused to reveal my sources, but I kept that Black Friday tidbit in my back pocket, holding on to it until I needed it. And boy, do I need it now.
The way I look at it, there's only one thing to save me from flower purgatory, and that's Black Friday. If I buy a new washing machine and buy my wife a single rose - you know, because she's too special for a dozen - I might escape Valentine's Day unscathed. But only if I step aside as LaVeta engages in her Black Friday ritual.
Her holiday will begin as it always does - with midnight window shopping on her iPod. Next, she'll select three to four items to place in her shopping cart. For the next 24 hours she will scour online reviews, agonizing over her shopping choices and asking my opinion on her selections.
When the moment of truth arrives, she will engage in the almighty click, and track her item as it's shipped from some godforsaken warehouse in Butte, Mont. When it arrives on Valentine's Day, she will greet the UPS guy by name, sign for the package and try her purchase(s) on.
Then in her final step of Black Friday bliss, she'll send it back, and start the ritual over once more.
Happy Valentine's Day, LaVeta. I'm glad it's Black Friday for you.