Well, isn't that just wonderful, I thought, as I looked down. Beth came screaming into the living room, saying the toilet exploded. By the looks of it, it had. Knowing very well Beth wouldn't do it, I cleaned the bathroom up, then went outside to check the cleanout plug. As soon as I opened it there was a gush, and I had to go take a shower.
It was Saturday afternoon, and I was wondering how expensive an emergency call was going to be, when Beth marched by me, suitcase in hand.
"I'm going to stay with my sister until you get this fixed. Call me when you get it done."
I went back inside, stripping just inside the back door. Screw this, I'm taking a shower. The water can just flow across the back yard. I thought as the water washed over me about my life. Married eighteen years, one daughter seventeen, away as a counselor at a summer camp, saving every dime for college.
Thought about Beth, and the growing distance between us. Seems I was even more clueless and fumbling now than when we were first married. And sex was history. She was only forty-one, still good looking. Maybe it was a female thing. I'd read about early onset menopause while I was in the doctor's office last month. Maybe that was it. Whatever, her attitude was starting to bleed over to Amy, and the hurt on her face when her mother went off was more than I was willing to bear. We were going to talk when she got home. I'd hit my limit, and honestly, if she didn't like it, I didn't give a shit. I was tired of living in a toxic environment.
Clean, I decided to go out to the pub, get one of those great burgers, maybe have a beer or two. And I'd make sure that if I needed to go, I'd do it there.
I was going out, and saw Gus getting his evening paper. The light bulb went on. Gus used to own a septic tank service. He'd still have contacts, maybe he could get someone over.
I stopped, and we shot the breeze for a few minutes before I got around to my question. He laughed.
"Wanna save two-fifty?"
"Damn right I would. How?"
"I'll bet you the tank isn't full. I think your filter is clogged. All you need to do is clean it out. Tell you what, I'll come by tomorrow after church and show you how to fix it."
I was so happy I invited him and his wife to the pub. They spent the next two hours talking about the strange things they'd pulled out of septic tanks. Seems his wife Mabel was a dispatcher where he worked, and sometimes rode along if nothing was going on. One woman had lost her engagement ring, and she paid to have the whole tank filtered looking for it, only to find it behind a plant on her counter. Another guy followed them to the dump station, seems he thought he was about to be busted, and had dumped eighty thousand dollars worth of cocaine down the toilet. They actually found the cocaine, and he got a nice long jail term.
The next afternoon they were there at one-thirty. We located the cover and pulled it. There was the filter plain as day. Gus had me man the hose as he pulled it. He started grinning about the time it was halfway up.
His wife looked down and giggled.
"I've found your problem, Chad. Might want to toss these in the wastebasket from now on."
I looked at what he was holding. My filter was blocked with condoms. Twenty-three, I found out later. Stupidly, I wondered how a bunch of condoms had managed to find their way into my septic system. Then it hit me how.
My face must have showed something, because Gus and Mabel quit talking for a minute.
"I'm sure there's an explanation, Chad. Maybe you've had guests lately? Or maybe, uh, Amy had some friends over when you weren't there?"
"Really, Mabel? You think I'd have guests over long enough for them to get it on this many times? Or that my seventeen year old daughter is suddenly hosting orgies? No, there is only one explanation here."
They spent another forty-five minutes talking me down before they left. I waited until they left, got some thick rubber gardening gloves, and picked the rubbers up carefully, putting them into a triple layered baggie, then into a plastic container, and putting it into the little freezer in the top of my shop fridge.
Then I went in to the house to think. Fucking Bitch! A lot of things fell into place. We were done. No negotiation, no apologies. Finished. Only one thing stopped me from pulling the trigger. I wanted to know who it was.
I didn't bother to call Beth. Let her stay where she was for awhile. I had plans to make. I spent the rest of the day in my shop.
Amy needed picking up the next day, and I had already put in for a vacation day to do it. It was the first time I'd seen her in seven weeks.
She gave me a tremendous hug, and told me some of the adventures she'd had wrangling eleven year old girls who thought they were twenty. Really, that young? Man, was I getting old.
It wasn't until we were almost home before she asked about her mother. I told her about the septic tank. "So it's fixed?"
"Yes, it's fixed."
"Does Mom know?"
"No, I tried calling last night and this morning. Remember, she was supposed to be with me when I picked you up. We'd planned a whole day of family activities."
Amy pulled out her phone, and called her aunt. "Is Mom there?"
"No honey, your Mom is at work."
"Well then, how come everyone said she was off when I called?"
"Um, er, um."
"Here's the deal. Mom better call me back, from a company phone, not her cell, in the next twenty minutes. If not, I'll have Dad drive me over to check. And if she blew her own daughter off for some monkey business, this little bird is going to sing to her father. I know things. Twenty minutes."
Thirty minutes later she called, out of breath. "Hi, honey. I'm so glad you're home."
"Yeah, I could tell when you showed up to meet the bus."
"I had something come up."
"I can just bet. Goodbye, Mom."
She called me, ranting about how disrespectful she was. "Well, look who taught her. It will be tomorrow before the tank gets pumped. Amy will be at my parents tonight, if you're interested."
I hung up and looked at Amy. She sighed.
"You found out then. What are you going to do? And before you go off on me about not telling you, I found out at summer camp. Jenny, my best friend, had a cousin named Toni, who has a boyfriend, Jack, who lives three doors down from us. He told Toni what he'd seen, who told Jenny, and Jenny told me."
"Well, straight from the horse's mouth then. It must be gospel."
"Sarcasm doesn't suit you, at least towards your daughter. I was going to tell tonight. What are we going to do?"
"You're going to finish high school, having a ball senior year. You will most likely finish in a single parent household. As old as you are, the judge will probably let you pick who you want to live with. I'll respect your decision if it's your mom, just tell me you won't cut me out of your life. What do you think?"
"I think you're a pretty clueless guy most of the time. Of course I'll pick you. I could never manipulate her like I can you. She's spent so little time being with us, even in the same house, I bet she couldn't pick me out of a lineup. But what I really, really need to do right now is get the taste of camp food out of my mouth. I'd kill for a decent pizza or a good burger. So if you want to get to your only child's heart, do it through my stomach."
I took her to the local pizza place, and watched as she destroyed three quarters of a large meat lovers pie with extra cheese. She sat back, burped, and asked me what I was going to do about her mother.
She acted grown up and tough, but I could see the little girl in her eyes. This was going to be hard on us. I took her hand.
"Let me tell you where my priorities are, Andi. First, I have to make absolutely sure I handle this the right way. I need to figure out in the coming months how to minimize the impact of the divorce will be on you. Right now, you are the number one person in my life. I want you safe, and as happy as I can make you. A lot depends on how your mother reacts. You have my promise I'll do my best to keep you from getting caught in the middle. But pumpkin, if what I suspect is true, my marriage to your mother is dead."
It was a surreal conversation to be having with your daughter, but I'd always asked for her input in major family decisions since she was fourteen. Of course, some decisions she couldn't participate in, but I tried to get her involved in everything else. When we needed a car when she was fifteen, even though Mom wanted a sporty little car, she went with me in favor of the SUV. I ended up driving it anyway, hauling Toni and her friends around, and Beth got her little car the next year.
It was me who taught her to reflect before she made a decision, and consider all sides before giving advice. It stood her well, making her a natural leader, and confessor to her group of friends.
"You need to figure out how to keep the house, until I graduate, at least. Then let her have it, if it helps you financially. I'm still going to State, right? The money will be there, won't it?"
I rushed to assure her. "Honey, there's enough in your 529C to get you through the first three years. Even if your mother doesn't help, I'll have plenty of time to come up with the money to pay for your last year. I give you my solemn promise."
We got home, and I left her to unpack her things and think. By now I only wanted to know two things about her mother. How soon we could get divorced, and who's the asshole she's screwing.
.... There is more of this story ...