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Something to Talk About

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People often wonder if it was Shirley or Denny who changed. They don’t wonder anywhere that might heard by the subjects in question, of course! The name of the firm is Crane, Poole, and Schmidt, and holy hell is she ever Schmidt, and honestly, they really would enjoy a day where the refrain ‘Denny Crane’ wasn’t stuck in their heads like some perverted jingle.

They wonder because both personalities are so gargantuan, so legendary, and so much a part of what the firm is that no one could imagine them being otherwise.

They know, naturally, that why the firm still is, is Paul, but Paul’s like one of those fish. The ones without the shiny, brightly-colored scales, that cleans your fish tank every hour of every day, even though you only bother to name and make faces at the golden ones. But, what the firm is, is Denny and Shirley, and they were once married. To each other, even.

No one can picture it as anything other than a repeated image of Shirley slapping Denny in outrage (and liking that just a little bit); no one except Alan, who pictures Shirley slapping him in outrage and liking it quite a lot.

How could they have woken up and eaten breakfast together? How could two such vast characters share a bathroom or a kitchen? How did Shirley not murder him in frustration? Is it possible that Denny could have made her cry? No one even questions the divorce. It was inevitable, obviously.

The only thing that makes sense is that at least one of them has changed, because the universe hasn’t imploded and that would be the result if these two people were to marry now.

Has Denny let the madness of his genius take the reins just a few times too many? Has Shirley become more unforgiving and stern?

To some extent, they’re all right : it was never meant to last, the marriage between Shirley and Denny. But they are so very wrong when they think that they know these named partners.

They see Denny Crane: a madcap, lecherous, legend and Shirley Schmidt: a furnace that quietly but efficiently incinerates all that comes within range of her fires.

They don’t see Shirley reading to her invalid father in the evenings, even after she realizes, to her shock, that she is actually the most sought-after female in the office, at age sixty-one. They certainly don’t see Denny in fear, threatening to take Paul down at the whiff of mutiny and they don’t see him intensely and firmly refusing, at risk to his career, to defend a child rapist.

And maybe if all those people did see that, their marriage still would be unthinkable and improbable, but it could be that they were going for that in the first place.