This Year's Exoskeleton

by Dean Marshall Tuck

I keep my exoskeletons in the closet. An odd thing to do, I know, but somehow I just can't let that part of me go. Every year after the shedding, I slide a coat-hanger in through…well, use your imagination…and I file them away behind business suits in my closet.

Sometimes I go through them, noting the differences: “Oh, seven summers ago I was much slimmer; five, no furrows on the brow; four, no crows' feet; three, thicker round the middle; two summers ago…two chins ago…and if someone found this year's exoskeleton, they'd think I'd been a fat councilman all my life.”

But so muscular ten years ago! Look at those calves, the biceps, the well-defined stomach, like a Macy's mannequin. And those strong shoulders! My wife, Dana, always said, “I don't know how you shed so easily; your shoulders are broad as bison's.” But it's as easy as rising from a lukewarm bath.

At first, it really drove her crazy when she'd go to hang up a dress shirt or jacket and she'd see the file of bald skin-skeletons hanging there. The first few were the ones that really bothered her, though. The older ones near the back, she seemed fascinated with.

One night I got home early from a city council meeting. I made my way through the house; I couldn't find her. Then, in the back bedroom, I saw myself, or rather, an older skeleton-self, draped across the bed, grinning and disheveled. Dana was in the bathroom. I could hear the water running. Well, what the hell do you do when something terribly awkward happens in your life? You just pretend nothing ever happened and hope that it all goes away. Right? Well, that's what I do. So, I drove around the block and tried to think it through, but after an hour or so, I just decided the best thing for me to do was not disturb things, and in the future, I would call if the meeting adjourned early. And I thought that would be the last of it, but then the exoskeleton came back to haunt me.

I'd planned a very romantic evening: I baked a boneless chicken with a Dijon tarragon glaze; I bought a beautiful bottle of cabernet; I lit candles, everything. Dana was ravishing to say the least. Dinner was perfect, and the wine was working, and the two of us were kissing each other's necks, and the next thing I knew, I was carrying her to the bedroom when I stopped dead—there it lay on the bed waiting, watching, when she whispered in my ear, “Couldn't you just try it on?”