Dear Miss Nancy Answers: My spouse neglects me for fish.

Elberta stared at the sentence she wrote, and wondered if the grammar was correct. She scowled slightly at her note pad, salmon-colored, with the printed heading “Olaf’s World Of Herring, Poulsbo, Washington,” then glanced up at the “Fish of North America” clock hanging on the kitchen wall. It was almost quarter to muskellunge, and she wanted to finish the letter and get it to the mailbox before the afternoon pickup. Elberta picked up her shiny sliver plastic novelty trout pen and continued.

’Trent’ and I have been married almost 30 years. We have no children. He is a good provider, doesn’t drink or carouse, and…” Here Elberta paused to think. “…always takes his shoes off at the front door and puts the toilet seat down.” She nodded. It was true, too. She kept writing. “However, over the years ‘Trent’ seems somehow to have developed an obsession with fish.” She stopped again. Was “obsession” too harsh? Elberta looked around. “Trent,” whose real name was Dwayne, had filled every available space in their home with some kind of fish-themed item. There by the front door was his fish-brella, waiting for a rainy day. On the kitchen counter, a flounder-shaped cookie jar, filled instead with neon-orange Goldfish crackers. There were fish throw rugs, fish pillows, books about fish, paintings of fish. In the bathroom, Elberta had to stand behind a fish shower curtain and step onto a fish bathmat every morning. In the evening, she had to sleep under a comforter depicting Caribbean Sea creatures, a 6-ft. stuffed marlin bought on Ebay hanging on the wall over the headboard, with a DVD on the bedroom television playing a blurbling “virtual aquarium.” That was the only way he could fall asleep, said Dwayne.

No, Elberta decided, pursing her lips, “obsession” was a reasonable term. She brought fish pen to paper once more.

This predilection with aquaculture has become ‘Trent’s’ sole interest (no pun intended), and I feel cast out (no pun intended) in my own home. I have tried to join ‘Trent’ in his passion – vacations to whale watch , swim with the dolphins, a tour of a cod processing plant in Alaska. I make some kind of seafood for dinner every single night. I even…” Elberta cringed visibly, then buoyed by anonymity, went on, “…wear the Little Mermaid costume he requires in order to finish his marital duties.” She moved the pen down to conclude the letter.“I miss the days early on in our relationship when we could go bowling or eat a hamburger or even just sit and watch something besides ‘The Deadliest Catch’ on the television. Please help me. Sincerely, ‘Angelina’.” Elberta folded the note into an envelope, addressed it to Miss Nancy Answers at the local newspaper offices, put a USPS “Great Lakes Bass” stamp on it, and walked outside to the mailbox, passing the large grey spitting-fish-and-sea-nymph fountain in their front yard.

When Dwayne arrived home that evening promptly at 5:50PM as expected, he took his shoes off at the front door and padded over to the dining table, where Elberta was just serving up tilapia in a garlic-butter sauce. He seemed excited, more than Elberta would have expected over tilapia. As he ate a chunk of the flaky whitefish, he began to speak, his words tumbling out rapidly. Elberta moved her fork around her plate, absently thinking of spaghetti and meatballs, and listened.

“Elberta, the most marvelous opportunity has arisen! Today I met with a most amenable loan officer at our bank, and he has informed me that we can secure a second mortgage for $250,000, which shall cover the cost of a 30-passenger hydrofoil glass-bottom boat and its shipping from the European factory from where it is manufactured!”

Elberta, blindsided by this revelation, placed her fork on her plate gently, and brought her head level with Dwayne’s and stared as he giddily rattled on.

“Oh, it’s a beauty – 35 feet in length, a 370-horsepower Volvo diesel engine, anti-fouling paint, anti-corrosion anodes, bottom glass with a generous oval fish-viewing gallery, cockpit carpet, anti-slipping cover, hydraulic steering system, steering console, bow hydrofoil, tachometer, trim indicator, fuel meter, 320 liters fuel tank, pilot and passenger seats, accumulator, cockpit cover, bow and stern cleats, bilge pump, oh my!”

“B-but, Dwayne…,” Elberta stammered, stunned, “We…live…in…Nebraska.”

“Oh…well…yes, of course we do, now!” The clock struck bluegill. “As soon as we can pay down some of the costs, we will take the boat and begin a new life running glass-bottom boat tours off the Baja Peninsula! I’ve already looked into the feasibility and the best locations for both fish viewing variety and seasonal migration patterns. I’ve spoken with the boat manufacturer and the Mexican Consulate and I have the mortgage papers in my briefcase ready for you to co-sign.” Dwayne chewed merrily on his tilapia and seemed to be levitating slightly off his dining room chair.

Elberta looked down at the tilapia on her plate, the butter now beginning to congeal. “Excuse me, please,” she muttered as she rose from the table, taking the plate to the kitchen and scraping its contents down the Disposal with a fishspatula.

“Oh, of course! Excellent meal, dear!” Dwayne kept eating and smiling, and turned on the television. Shark Week on the Discovery Channel!

Elberta walked to the bedroom and closed the door behind her. Through the open closet door, she could see the Little Mermaid costume hanging, all blue-green and shimmery with iridescent fabric scales. She thought she saw the marlin winking at her, but was not quite sure of it.

A week later, after serving Dwayne his breakfast of kippers and eggs and sending him on his way to work, she picked up the morning newspaper from the doorstep and brought it to the table. As she sipped her coffee from a large mug with a cartoon fish dressed like a sexy lady that read, “You’re AL-‘LURE’-ING,” she opened the paper to Miss Nancy Answers’ column, as she had every day since sending the letter. Elberta’s heart jumped as she recognized her words in print, skimming over them to get to the answer.

“Dear ‘Angelina,’ Get a cat and a divorce lawyer. Love, Miss Nancy Answers.”

Elberta sat and stared at the columnist’s advice for a few minutes. It was 30 minutes past sturgeon.

A year later, Elberta and “Mr. Fluffy Paws” are living happily in an apartment in Lincoln. She began dating an English professor from the University of Nebraska who enjoys bike riding, historical fiction, and the cuisine of Northern Italy. He does not care for sushi. Dwayne sold the house, canceled the boat order, and moved to Alaska, where he is Assistant Manager of Operations at the cod processing plant. He is thinking about asking out a female co-worker who has collagen-enhanced lips. The “Fish of North America” clock was damaged in transit to Alaska, and United Movers cut Dwayne a check for $29.95.

Miss Nancy Answers was fired by the newspaper corporate headquarters in a staffing slash, and replaced by an unpaid journalism intern with a Magic 8-Ball.