By Dick Wolfsie
---- — It was Friday night and I had been at it for almost six minutes. "At your age, I'm not sure your heart can take this," said my wife. Then to show how concerned she was, Mary Ellen burst out laughing.Achoo! If I had known it was this easy to get such an appreciative response, I'd have sneezed 35 times in a row a lot earlier in our marriage. Here I am, every week, trying to write this column and the most I hope for is a smile and an approving nod. With any luck, I'll then be granted a solid B for my endeavors. But my persistent sternutation (that's sneezing) was, for some reason, a source of great merriment, far outweighing my fall last week down a full flight of stairs while I was vacuuming. In fairness to my wife, before the guffawing there is a brief span of time while she confirms I have not broken my spine or suffered a head trauma. Then let the fun begin.As a student of slapstick comedy, I'd say a vacuum cleaner with a long hose is an excellent prop to accompany a pratfall, especially if you are backing up at the time and you then pinwheel down the steps. FYI: The more 360s you do, the better, and be sure to land squarely on your butt — especially if you are also looking to bring sheer joy into the life of your significant other.Achoo! (Number 36), although in all honesty this is just an estimate, because you don't start counting sneezes until you realize it may be the beginning of a historic run, and then it may be too late to get an accurate count. I don't feel this way about hiccups, where I begin a careful tally from the very first one, hoping to break an old record of 52 set in college in 1968 when I hiccupped through my entire American Poetry final.Achoo! (Number 37) and now Mary Ellen was wiping away the tears, asking me if there was possibly some grass stuck up my nose. At least I think that's what she said. It was hard to understand her. However, in 33 years of marriage, that would have been the first inquiry of this nature. And we grew up in the '60s.Achoo! (Number 38) and we were nearing a point where my wife's side was starting to ache. I wondered if her reaction to my situation had now equaled her hysterical response to my walking into a glass door at the Haversticks' or banging my head under the kitchen sink after fixing the garbage disposal.Achoo! (Number 39) and my sneezes were now more closely spaced which meant that poor Mary Ellen had virtually no time to breathe and was gasping for air. I felt bad for her. She had been having such a good time.Achoo! (Number 40), but at that sneeze, I sensed a slight decline in her enjoyment of my predicament. Then I made the mistake of asking for a Kleenex. She handed me one of those tiny squares from a little package in her purse and for some reason this made her start laughing all over again.There was no 41st sneeze. Calm reigned in the Wolfsie home. I wanted to watch a movie on cable so I picked an old favorite: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Mary Ellen went upstairs to read. She said she wasn't in the mood to laugh.Dick Wolfsie is a television news reporter, syndicated humor columnist and author. He can be reached at Wolfsie@aol.com.