Ever think about words and their meaning? I do, sometimes.
Cliche is one of my favorites. In most dictionaries the standard definition is: "A phrase dulled in meaning by repetition".
In my case the cliche was a cheating spouse. I know, I know, the cliche of cliches. An occurrence so common in marriages we seem to have a whole section of the judicial system dedicated to it.
Even that has become cliche. It's no longer an infrequent event, allowing the system to become jaded, bandying around "irreconcilable differences" and "no fault" in increasing volume and boredom. So what? Big deal! It happened, now get over it Or not. Doesn't matter to the system. Deal with it. This is the age of "no fault."
Unless it happens to you. And it's always someone's fault.
Another word I find interesting is "ratshot". Ratshot is a type of ammunition, usually in .22 caliber, but available for a variety of weapons. It's basically a miniature shotgun shell, holding a few tiny balls of lead. Not lethal, unless you're a rat.
I discovered ratshot when I was twelve. We lived about a half mile from the county landfill, a mecca for scavengers, especially rats and vultures. That particular year conditions were perfect for the rat population to explode.
I had an old twenty two single shot rifle, and dad bought me two boxes of ratshot.
"Thin'em down boy, they're startin' to get into the chicken feed."
My ten year old brother and I had a ball. Dad had to buy us two more boxes of ammo. We had pretty much annihilated the rat population around the house, so we ventured farther afield.
We were in a field beside the dump, shooting rats as fast as we could reload. They were huge suckers, easily a pound or more.
I had just reloaded and handed it to my brother. I stepped back, we we gun savvy enough to stay out of the field of fire. Just then what must have been the king rat burst out of some brush at my feet.
"Look Jimmy" I yelled "Get him."
Jimmy took my advice, but not before I was clear. He got the rat, but he also put two pellets in my ankle.
I discovered two unsettling truths about myself that day. I DID NOT like pain, and I tended to react badly to being hurt. I also discovered I had a terrible temper, because when I realized what I was doing, I had my brother on the ground screaming and crying, while I screamed and cursed.
"You dumb son of a bitch, I'm gonna shove this rifle up your ass and pop a cap, see how you like it!"
Luckily, the rifle wasn't loaded. I may have actually shot him. I let him go and threw the rifle across the field. I calmed my brother down, apologized, and we agreed never to speak of it. For one thing, we were both afraid of what our dad might do, and at the very least he would never let us near firearms again. So we told out mom I scratched my ankle on a wire fence. I guess over time the pellets melted away, but who knows, they may still be in my ankle.
My temper surfaced a few times during my high school years. Soon enough word got around to not get me started because I didn't know when to quit. Although through most of high school I was only five seven and a hundred and forty pounds, nobody really pushed me. I got my last growth spurt in my senior year, going to five ten and one seventy.
I went to college on a scholarship, getting a degree in accounting and inventory control, along with a veneer of gentility and a few good friends. I had a roommate for the last three years that was from a moderately successful family, and he taught me a lot about manners and social graces. I taught him how to not take shit from anyone, ever. I think what I taught him helped him become a really good trial lawyer. I actually met my future wife at one of the parties his family hosted, although we didn't actually get together for a few years, she went to the west coast and I stayed local.
It was four years after graduation. We were celebrating Ron passing the bar. I hadn't seen many of the guest since my graduation, so there was a lot of whatever happened to so and so going on.
I asked one of our old classmates about Jenny.
"Man, that woman was hot! I bet she's married to some CEO by now, tanning by the country club pool, polishing her jewelry. Or maybe by now she's the CEO, and pays someone to polish her jewelry. The only thing hotter than her body was her brain."
Scotty and Ron were standing there grinning like idiots. I instantly knew I had said something wrong.
"What? The way you're looking at me she's standing right behind me."
I looked at Ron as he tried to keep a straight face. I knew then.
"Hello Jenny" I said without turning around.
"Give me a second while I pull this foot out of my mouth."
As I turned I saw her pull her hand off her mouth as she, Ron, and Scotty collapsed into laughter.
I picked her up and twirled her around.
"Damn, you even smell as good as you used to. Back for a visit?"
Her smile stopped.
"No, I've moved home. Things on the west coast didn't work out for me as well as I expected."
I hugged her.
"Their loss. Welcome back."
We all chatted for a few minutes before one of her girlfriends dragged her away. I looked at Ron.
"I don't know any details. My mom said she got married, but she came back alone without any rings. I'm sure she'll tell us if she wants her to know."
I was leaving, making the rounds and saying goodbye, when Jenny came up to me.
"Since you're leaving, could you give me a ride home? I'm staying with my mom, and I know it's on our way."
I smiled. A little time alone with a beautiful girl? It would do wonders for my mood.
"Sure thing. Do you need a minute to let who you came with know?"
Her frown spoke volumes.
"I would if I could find her. Sarah left with Scotty a few minutes ago. We probably won't see her for the next two days."
My frown matched hers, but for a different reason. She noticed.
In the car she asked about it.
Sarah was the slut of the group, just like every group. And Scot was the horn dog. Married, engaged, single, under age, he never passed up a chance to nail a girl, and brag about it later. I barely tolerated him through school. My attitude towards Scotty mellowed a bit after he got married. And Sarah, well she was just Sarah. Always up for a good time. She married right after she graduated, to a pretty nice guy. He had a job that required travel, just overnight every two or three weeks. She lasted a year before she went out with the girls while he was gone. In three months she was banging everybody. He caught her, and she didn't fight the divorce.
I talked to her about six months after the breakup, actually took her out. There was no spark, we were just two old friends having dinner.
She asked about my love life, I was the last of the group that was still single. I told her that when I found the right one I would settle down and be just another boring suburban husband, worrying about the mortgage and the kids getting braces. She laughed when I asked about her love life.
"I'm a party girl, Sam. I have lots of lovers but no boyfriends. I found out the hard way I'm not real good wife material. I hurt Harry a lot, and I still regret it. The next time I get in a serious relationship is when I can be sure in my mind I'll never betray him. And I mean when I'm really sure, not just when I think I'm sure."
"That's why you and I will never share a bed. You're the most serious of us all, and if we slept together it would have to mean something to you."
"That's my curse. I've heard the stories, and I'd love to stress test your mattress, but I can't because you're my only male friend, and in an odd sort of way I've always held feelings for you. Is any of this making any sort of sense?"
It was. I understood her. She had always been my best female friend, next to Jenny. I wasn't going to let sex screw up our friendship.
Still, even if it was Scotty, she knew he was married.
"Don't be too hard on her, Sam. She was pretty blitzed and you know how quick Scotty will take advantage. I'm sure she'll chew him out tomorrow. I'm a little worried about her."
I made a mental note to have a talk with Sarah the first chance I got. I tried to change the subject.
"What's the story, Jen? Are you back for good, or just paying a visit? You know everybody talks, and they noted you don't have your rings on."
She didn't say anything for a minute, watching the night sky pass by her window.
"It wasn't love at first sight, more like lust. We slept together on our first date, moved in together in three months, married four months later. We were good for each other, at least for a while. Then the cracks appeared. He liked to party more than me. I wanted kids, something we didn't talk about. He made it clear IF we had children, he only wanted one, and wanted to wait at least eight years, so we could get 'established'. He liked to buy stuff but he didn't like paying bills. What it all came down to was I had saddled myself with an immature boy, not a man. When I started telling him no, we drifted apart. One day he was just gone. I'm ashamed to say I was glad."
"My good job went the way of the economy. Without the job and a husband, there was no reason to stay. So I came home. End of story."
I didn't really know what to say.
.... There is more of this story ...