Beverly Meeks determined long ago that if she couldn’t find Mr. Wonderful, by God she was going to create him, and she even had the vision boards from over the years which proved her lifelong devotion to the cause.
Beverly had first dreamt of marrying the perfect man as a little girl pretending to wed the tux-clad family dog. The years of her youth were spent plotting out her elaborate wedding and her dream life, but as a teen and 20-something, she had hit a wall. However, despite a constant volley of first-and-only-dates and failed relationships, she still hadn’t given up the vision. He was out there.
Her dream never far from her mind, she was halfway through a degree in clinical psychology when she spontaneously decided to pack it all in and become a wedding planner. This career change, which initially seemed an optimal fit for her interests, ultimately caused her complete disillusionment: judging by her clientele, the perfect man did not exist organically, so she quit the job in disgust and threw out the lace-and-tulle-choked vision boards from that era.
Now well into adulthood, she kicked herself for leaving a degree program that held the potential to explain – dare she hope: reshape? – the unfathomable “not him”-ness of the men she had thus far encountered.
Returning to college had never been in the cards, so she eloped to Vegas with a basic model named Daniel Meeks before settling into a life filled with love – at least, for her, because she inadvertently discovered that she loved performing behavior modification experiments on Dan. So much so, in fact, that she swapped her vision boards of old for a score-keeping kitchen chalkboard and set up her own clandestine, single-client cottage industry: the Beverly Meeks Clinical Research Facility.
As Beverly ambled about the kitchen one morning preparing her own breakfast, Dan was already hollering from the table that he had burnt his tongue again on his too-hot scrambled eggs.
“I’m so sorry, darling! I swear I’m not making them any differently than I have every day for years,” she truthfully responded, then made a tick-mark in one of the sections of her kitchen chalkboard, cackling to herself. It was the 5th day in a row, and he still hadn’t noticed that she was now placing his spoon in with the eggs themselves (rather than on the side) when serving them to him, thus elevating the temperature of the direct metal-to-mouth experience.
(In a separate chalkboard section, she made another tick: switching him between regular coffee and decaf every other morning definitely made him crankier and kept him amusingly off-balance. One had to explore all variables… for science!)
Beverly had performed these little experiments on Dan for years, now; often, she even bet herself a new pair of shoes as to how long it would take for him to finally modify his behavior in response. She really had thought it would be by Day 3 on this particular trial, but he was still going strong: she hadn’t factored in the earliness of the hour nor his lowered brain function from the occasional decaf swap.
It was too late to change her bet, but Beverly consoled herself with the fact that, at least by the time of the experiment’s successful conclusion, he should no longer be wolfing down his meals and would wait for her to join him in dining, for a change.
For his part, Dan had not an inkling that his wife of 17 years was constantly toying with him like a human lab rat. His biggest complaint with her was the enormous collection of shoes which she possessed.
Just prior to the inception of “Thesis:Molten Spoon,” Beverly’s “Thesis:Snack Attack” had ended on a high note. The genesis of that experiment had been Dan’s recent habit of requesting a warm chocolate croissant every night before bed… specifically after Beverly had already settled in and gotten comfortable for the night.
Generally his foibles delighted her, since it gave her objectives for yet more fine-tuning. This one, however, was a burr in her saddle, since it required so much extra effort and dirtied up a kitchen she had already cleaned each night before bed. She hotlisted it.
Dan preferred the freshly-warmed filling to be piped in just before serving, and so two weeks ago – about a week after his nightly requests had begun – she began sprinkling a spoonful of chocolate-flavored laxative shavings into the ganache.
Whereas he had initially praised her execution of the bedtime snack (his version of suggesting that she was going to be doing it a lot more often), she noticed that he had not been so effusive about it the day after the switch. He had been up and down that night more than usual, but he never suspected foul play.
After 3 nights of the “new recipe,” Dan had finally had enough. “Damned if I’m not allergic to those things! I think they are giving me the runs every single night.”
“Oh sweetheart, I am so sorry to hear that. Okay, no more of those, then, and I will be sure to take them off the shopping list!”
Success! And so – the experiment now concluded – she had erased that particular section of the chalkboard entirely, turned on some lively Christmas music, opened a bottle of Jägermeister, and set about ordering some shoes.
At that moment, the ringing doorbell broke her reverie: the shoes in question had, in fact, just arrived. “I’ll get it!” she shouted excitedly, but there was no need. Dan, having finished burning his tongue at breakfast, was now ensconced in the garage for the day to tinker with one project or another.
Oh. Huh. She stared blankly at her latest acquisition, which was peeking out through the center of the tissue paper wrapping: neon pink and purple leopard-print high heels. She vaguely remembered being about five “Noëls” deep into a personal drinking game of “Take a Shot” when she finally got around to placing that last order. Recalling the song she had been listening to for the key phrase of “Noël” made her stomach revolt, so she vowed to avoid Christmas music altogether until at least the following year. Also, Jägermeister.
“Bev!” Dan shouted. She set the shoes aside and sauntered through the kitchen to the garage door. He was at his workbench, Allen wrench suspended mid-air, furiously digging through a drawer. “Where’s my 3/16ths drill bit?”
“My 3/16ths drill bit. It has its own space like everything else, and it is missing.”
“I’m not sure, sweetheart. Did you leave it out the last time you used it?”
“No, the damn thing was where it’s always at, in the bit box!”
“Is there somewhere in town that I could pop over to and grab one for you?” The gauntlet had been thrown. Was he going to go for it?
Beverly kept several distinct sections on her chalkboard. This question was associated with the one – “Thesis:Exhaustion” – intended to prevent Dan from constantly asking her to run errands for him. Significant towing costs and other major vehicle inconveniences were usually drawn upon for this one.
One eyebrow cocked, she stood there with a researcher’s rapt attention, awaiting his response.
Dan, who had been distracted since calling out to her, paused. Clearly his brain had switched over to a thread at which it had been picking for some time. “Er…”
“It’d really be no trouble, darling! I could pick up some more beer for you while I’m out, and if you have the keys on you, I could just go right now and be back before you know it.” She endeavored to project a look of innocent altruism.
“... You know, come to think of it, I don’t really feel like working on this right now. I think I will just lie down, watch some golf and have a few beers until it’s time for lunch.”
“Okay, sweetheart, if you’re sure I can’t go get it for you?”
“Alright love, you go prop your feet up, and I’ll bring you some cold ones just as soon as I finish getting breakfast cleaned up.”
Back in the kitchen, just out of earshot of the garage, Beverly cackled as she gleefully erased the longest-running experiment yet off her board – a whopping 16 weeks! She’d had her eye on some red suede cowgirl boots, and her initial projection was close enough to call it a win: behavior modified, problem solved!
Stealthily, she snuck the 3/16ths bit from her apron pocket and returned it to the garage before taking Dan his beers, then went to place her order. He’d be out like a light in no time, so she had all day to pursue her own interests.
He was becoming the perfect man for her, after all.