How to Settle an Argument
by William Michaelian

When I came home from work, I found my two uncles, Simon and Vasken, sitting at our kitchen table, having a bitter argument about who was going to win the World Series. Theyíve been like this for at least an hour, my wife said from behind the stove. Please do something before I lose my mind.

Okay, I said. Relax. Iíll take care of everything.

Before addressing my uncles, I washed my hands and poured myself a shot of arak, which I finished in one gulp. The first rule of settling an argument, I told my wife quietly, is to be relaxed. While she looked on, I poured myself a second shot and quickly gulped it down. There, I said. That ought to do it. Now, if you donít mind, I need a small piece of bread so I donít end up with a hole in my stomach.

In a hurry for her problem to be solved, my wife brought me a piece of bread.

Thank you, I said. All I need now is a piece of cheese. By the way, do we have any olives?

Of course, my wife said, and she brought me some cheese and olives.

Thatís wonderful, I said. Now, if you will kindly slice up several cucumbers and salt them lightly, that should take care of everything.

What about those lunatics at the table? my wife said. I thought you were going to stop them from fighting.

Donít worry, I said. I told you I would take care of everything, and I will.

While my wife was busy peeling, slicing, and salting several cucumbers, I had two more shots of arak. The second rule of settling an argument, I said to myself, is to realize there is nothing in the world worth arguing about. When this is understood, everything else will fall into place. Then, in order to congratulate myself on saying something so wise, I had one more shot.

Here are your cucumbers, my wife said.

Are they lightly salted? I said.

Of course, she said. Now, if you will please talk to your uncles, I have work to do.

I took a bite of one of the cucumbers. By the way, I said, what are you making for supper?

Lamb chops, my wife replied after uttering a heavy sigh. But I wonít be able to get them ready unless you take care of those two madmen. Look. Theyíre at each otherís throats.

Yes, I said. They do seem to be angry. Take care of your lamb chops and Iíll have a word with them.

While my wife was at the refrigerator getting out her lamb chops, I had another shot of arak. But only a small one. As my dear father always says, practice moderation in all things and you will live to be one hundred. He says other things, too, but they donít make much sense because heís so old.

Letís see, now. Where was I? Oh, yes. I poured myself another shot of arak and toasted my father, who, thank God, is living at my sisterís house. Then I ate several olives, a piece of cheese, some bread, and some more cucumber.

By this time, Simon and Vasken had reached the point where they were banging their fists against the table. The funny thing about it was, after listening to them for a few seconds, I realized they didnít even know who was in the World Series.

Do something! my wife pleaded. Please, before our table is broken.

To show her that I had heard what she said, I nodded vigorously and cleared my throat. Then I poured myself another shot of arak and toasted my fatherís father, Vahan, who died many decades ago in the shadow of Mt. Ararat. And as I thought about that long ago time, I began to weep. Poor Vahan, I said to myself. What terrible thing did he do that he deserved to die? While I waited for the answer, I had another shot. Meanwhile, Uncle Simon and Uncle Vasken continued to pound their fists against the table.

My trouble is, I am a peace-loving man. I donít believe in violence. When I open the newspaper and read about all of the terrible things that are going on in the world, I become very upset. The history books are also full of sad stories. Why donít people learn? I was about to ask my wife this very question when she said, Do something now, you jackass, or I will.

I love my wife. She is a wonderful woman. Youíre right, I said. The time has come to do something. So, I had another shot of arak and ate some more cucumber. Then I went to what was left of our kitchen table and greeted my uncles. Hey, Simon, I said, hey, Vasken, whatís new?

A minute or two later, Simon and Vasken stopped banging their fists against the table and looked at me. Where did you come from? Simon shouted. I didnít hear you come in.

Of course you didnít, Vasken shouted. Youíre deaf.

What did you say? Simon shouted.

Hah? Vasken shouted. I said youíre deaf. Levon, how are you?

Drunk as a skunk, I said.

What did he say? Simon shouted.

I donít know, Vasken shouted. I couldnít hear him.

I said Iím drunk as a skunk, I said, raising my voice.

You donít have to shout, Simon shouted at Vasken.

Look whoís talking, Vasken shouted back.

And, lo and behold, they started arguing again.

I went into the kitchen. Look at them, I said to my wife. This is all your fault.

My fault? she said. How can it be my fault?

Quickly, I poured myself another shot of arak. Simple, I said. It canít be Simon and Vaskenís fault, because they are old and deaf and donít know any better. And it canít be my fault, because it was already going on when I came in. Therefore it has to be your fault.

Confronted with my brilliant logic, my wife did the only thing she could do. She picked up the bottle of arak and poured herself a shot. After that, what happened, I can no longer remember.

William Michaelianís newest releases are two poetry collections, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, published in paperback by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. His short stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in many literary magazines and newspapers. His novel,
A Listening Thing, is published here in its first complete online edition. For information on Michaelianís other books and links to this siteís other sections, please go to the Main Page or visit Flippantly Answered Questions.

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