The third step from the bottom of our staircase up to the second floor, the floor where we have the bedroom and the little office and a bathroom, creak when you step on it. Both Mark and I have a habit of stepping over it on the way up or down. Sometimes we forget, particularly when I’m aiming to ambush my man by jabbing a finger into his side. He makes such a pleasant squealing noise when he’s surprised.

The key to the successful ambush is to spare the victim most of the time. One shouldn’t do it too often, or he starts to expect it and counter it. Instead of standing oblivious against the kitchen sink when doing the dishes, he stands ready for my jab. That won’t do, so I have to control my urges. Strategy, I need a strategy. Only then will my ambush tactics work.

But there’s that third step. Usually we step over it, and when we forget apprehension rises, and instead of him standing there against the sink, he’s turned toward me with a spatula or a wooden spoon raised to an en garde as if it was a sword.

That means I will have to wrestle him, and that’s no good since he’s physically stronger than me. And then I’ll be accused of cheating when I stick my finger into his side, because doing that incapacitates him into laughter and thrashing on the floor.

It’s a matter of pride. It’s the difference between a successful ambush and the coward’s escape from a test of strength. The former is a nice piece of stratagem we can laugh at together at a later time. The latter is a moral failure where he can mock and point and laugh at me.

Sometimes I think our marriage and relationship is just a series of mind-games where we look at ways to one-up each other. Sometimes I think that this is the greatest thing we take from it. The after-glow of the successful ambush, or the foiling of one such…

I failed today because of that step, but I’ll get him. When he has forgotten about my tickling him during the wrestling. But it’s his own fault. He could stop trying to become a muscle hunk and even the playing field. It’s not my fault that I’m just skin and bones. He should play fair, he should.