There is a little ballet that occurs at our house every night after dinner. It involves the newspaper. (Yes, the wife and I are of that generation that still loves the tactile experience of flipping through pages trying to find the end of the story you started on page one.)

The rule at our house is whoever goes out to the mailbox to retrieve the newspaper gets to read it first; a very fair rule I made up for my own selfish purposes. I love to be able to announce who died in the obituaries. I know, it’s dark.

So, every night before the last fork full of peas and little pearl onions is consumed, I always leap up and twirl out the door (ergo, the ballet reference) to get the newspaper before the wife does, so I can read it first.

This does not make the wife happy because she always wants the crossword puzzle first. She doesn’t want to wait for me (an extremely slow reader, I still move my lips when I read) to be finished.

“Just let me cut out the crossword,” she suggested flashing her scissors. “It’s a scientific fact that crossword puzzles improve brain function. Yesterday, I forgot to get cling peaches in heavy syrup for a peach cobbler I want to make. Without the peaches it’s just a cobbler, so you see I need that crossword stat.”

“But what if you cut off a part of the comics? How will I know how Dilbert ends? Will his boss insult him again? What shenanigans are the Elbonions up to? Will Dogbert ever make up with Catbert?”

“Oh, puullleeese,” the wife said. “If I don’t do a crossword my brain will turn to mush.” Then she circled her head with the cutting tool.

Biting my tongue into several symmetrical pieces I said, “Fine. Cut out the garsh darn crossword.” And with a flourish and a bow, I handed her the paper.

Problem solved, we both settled down to accomplish our goals, me to consume the latest local and national news, and the wife, to solidify the gray matter in her head and avoid an embarrassing brain leakage from her ears.

As I am about to read the intricate details of a 70 year-old woman who was hit in the head by a flying turtle (true story), the wife interrupts with, “What’s a three-letter word for hippopotamus?”

“First of all, there is no three-letter word for hippopotamus. Secondly, I’m trying to find out how a woman got hit in the head with a flying turtle here,” I said.

“Sorry, I meant five-letter word.”

“Um, hippo? Now can I please find out how turtles can fly?”

This dance repeats itself, the wife interrupting and me waving her off with a graceful hand gesture until the crossword is finished, or I have solved the mystery of flying reptiles. (Incidentally, the turtle was hit by a car and flipped through the windshield of and unsuspecting lad y… now she has a turtle neck.)

As irritating as it is at the time, I love our little nightly ballet. I twirl out the door to get the paper and the wife’s silver sharp scissors clip and snip the crossword in a rhythmic pattern that will save her sanity. In a world full of pandemics, tragedies, disasters and uncertainty, it’s nice to know there are some things you can still count on.

For the wife and I, it’s the newspaper ballet.

Raul Ascunce is a freelance columnist for the Sentinel-Tribune. He may be contacted at