“No more yodeling, John, I can’t stand it!” Joan clutched her ears like she was clinging to a stout tree in a hurricane.
I peered at my wife’s pained visage, a face that after 40 years I no longer tried to spare any torment, and shrugged.
“Maybe I’m calling out to you, if only you could hear.”
“Like I’m a fat cow in the Alps and you’re a shepherd?!” Joan cried. “We live in New York, John. People don’t yodel in the city.”
Peering through our expansive windows at a Matterhorn of concrete, I started to warble but stifled the urge. Taking a different tack, I pivoted to confront Joan.
“Elmer’s a peasant, he belongs in the Alps. He and Julie Andrews can sing their hearts out!” Joan volleyed back. I took a hit but stood my ground.
“Yodeling is more than singing, Joan. The subtle pitches and measured breathing, it calms me, and it reminds me of our younger days. Remember when we used to travel? That time in Austria on our honeymoon, I wore a Tyrolean hat with a feather and short pants?” I offered my aging bride a wan smile. “Yodeling makes me happy,” I said softly, “Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo.”
“It’s torture for me!” Joan bellowed in agony. “You’re a sadist, John, ever since your surgery. . .”
I winced and turned away. Joan swept past me and slapped a cell phone in my hand.
“From now on, if you want to call out to me, use your phone.”
My friend Elmer reacted philosophically.
“And she doesn’t do anything to annoy you?” Elmer rubbed his salt-and-pepper chin stubble. He didn’t wait for my bitter response, launching into a discourse about yodeling’s global roots.
“Yodeling transcends the Alps, John. Yodeling in America actually came from Africa. It can be traced to the African Pygmy and Bantu tribes known for their pitch hopping songs.”
Smiling, I mimicked Carol Burnett’s iconic Tarzan yell, but Elmer didn’t miss a beat.
“Johnny Weissmuller reached back to his childhood yodeling in the Allegheny Mountains to play Tarzan.”
“Me Tarzan, you Joan,” I yodeled again then grimaced. “My wife would’ve cut the vine a long time ago.”
Elmer rubbed my sagging shoulders.
“My wife, Beth, bless her soul, loved my yodeling. Like you, yodeling was more than just a hobby. It was how I expressed my passion,” Elmer chuckled to himself.
“I admit it surprised Beth the first time I belted out one. I explained I loved her so much I couldn’t contain my joy.”
“So you yodeled?” I gave my yodeling Yoda a wry look.
“Everywhere—camping, canoeing, climbing hills. We loved the outdoors and yodeling filled the open spaces.”
Elmer paused a beat to dab his eye.
“Then as Beth got sicker and we stopped doing much of anything, yodeling filled the space between us and kept us close. I still yodel to Beth.”
“In the city?”
“My voice bounces off the walls and all the cars and trash cans, scares the hell out of the pigeons. I imagine Beth is laughing. . . .”
Joan didn’t laugh when I presented her with a gift of headphones. “You don’t have to listen to me yodel but when you see my lips quiver, just know I’m calling to you. I still need you.”
I tentatively reached for Joan’s cheek but she recoiled then softened.
“Oh, all right, do it,” Joan braced herself.
Brightening, I took a deep breath, pursed my lips but seeing a shadow again cross Joan’s face let the passion subside. Joan sighed.
About Marc Littman:
My stories have been published in the Saturday Evening Post online and other publications. I also have penned two novels and am an emerging playwright. A former journalist, I earned an Emmy for public affairs broadcasting.
This is his first feature on The Fictional Café.