In Cold Blood
“Here’s my story,
Sad but true,
About a girl that I once knew,
She took my heart and ran around,
with every single guy in town...”
It’s me Larry Gallagher. I’ve read stories about how some guy gets cuckold and his marriage ends in ruins. They all sound the same; the guy gets suspicious, snoops around, maybe hires a private investigator, catches his wife, and they go on and on usually ending up with the guy winning some kind a great settlement. After that the wife gets ostracized, gains fifty pounds, and ends up with bad breath working the night shift at a Walmart for minimum wage. The guy meanwhile rediscovers some lost love, marries again and lives happily ever after. I wondered if any of that stuff was ever true. Then it happened to me, and I found out there are the storybook endings and the real ones.
This is one of those stories. So here we go; down ... down ... down ... down.
I never got suspicious, not a hint of anything. I thought everything was fine; the idyllic marriage, beautiful wife, happy home, planning on kids, and then in one evening it all blew up in my face.
My wife and I decided to go out to eat one Sunday night. It was a cool fall evening, the Ravens had won a close game, my wife had just returned from the state teacher’s convention over in Ocean City, and I’d just come home from the Outer Banks where I’d sold a boat. Life looked good; it seemed like a good opportunity to celebrate.
We selected a local sports restaurant-tavern; the kind of place that has those large TV screens all over the place. The Steelers were playing a later game, and if they lost our team might be first in the Division.
We got there fairly early, a little after 6:00, and the early crowd was leaving so we only had to wait a few minutes. Our waitress smiled and led us to a table strategically near one of those TVs. Susan, my wife knew how much I was interested in the upcoming late game so she sat on the side with her back to the TV letting me keep an eye on the game and the scores.
Our waitress came back fairly quickly. We ordered two small pizzas; one with just extra cheese, and a second meat lover’s pizza. I got a local beer. Susan got a wine cooler and a small salad. I guessed I knew who was eating pizza.
Things had been looking up. Our finances were good, and we seldom argued. Just the same I was a little worried. I felt like Susan and I had been drifting apart. I wanted children and she said she did too, but we just weren’t able to get pregnant. I’d gotten myself tested and knew it wasn’t me. I wanted to ask Susan to consider getting checked out or maybe just get some fertility drugs. We spent the next few minutes with the usual small talk. At 6:30 our waitress came back out with the food.
The game had a scheduled start for 8:30 so there really wasn’t much of a chance of seeing any of it, but the TV was in and out with local high school stuff, a few remarks about the Ravens, and yeah the Eagles too.
6:30 was the scheduled time for the start of the local nightly news.
Me being a hardcore Republican and her a liberal Democrat we kept politics to a minimum, but other stuff like the ins and outs of local people, the school board, and local politicians was always mildly fun to watch. I wasn’t paying much attention, but then suddenly something flashed on the screen.
I looked up and there was a side by side shot of my wife with a guy named David Westcott. Westcott was an older man. He owned a car dealership, was married with kids, and he’d been involved off and on in local political affairs. The restaurant had a good crowd, and there was some noise, but I did catch one word - ‘affair’. Then I caught something about Tolchester, a beach house, and something about emails.
Susan must have heard it too because she turned around. She saw and heard everything I had. We stared at each other across the table for a few seconds. There were a few acquaintances sitting nearby, and they’d gone silent. Something was wrong.
I didn’t know what to say so I said, “That was you and David Westcott?”
My wife had started fidgeting. She got out her cell phone and started tapping stuff into it. I just sat there watching and waiting. There had to be some explanation, but Susan wouldn’t look at me so I was left to draw my own conclusion.
I got eye contact with our waitress, and she came over. I told her’ “We’ll be needing our check now, and some boxes for the pizzas and the salad.”
I recall she asked, “Everything all right?”
I told her, “The food’s fine, but we need to leave.” I got up and looked at Susan, “Time to go home.”
The waitress was back with our boxes. I slid the pizzas in, and looked at my wife again. She was still fumbling with her phone and decidedly avoiding eye contact with me. I said, “I’m leaving now. You coming?”
Nervously my wife put her phone back in her purse, slid out of her chair, and followed me out of the restaurant. We got to our car. I unlocked it, and climbed in the driver’s seat while Susan got her own door and sat down. Neither of us said anything all the way home.
We got home, I got out, went to the front door, unlocked it, and took the pizzas to the kitchen. Susan followed silently.
We lived in a modest three bedroom two bathroom ranch house. We had an attached garage, but like most garages it was piled up with junk. Once in the kitchen I got out a couple paper plates, sat down and plopped a piece of cheese pizza on one of them. Susan followed me in and reached for her salad. I asked her, “You got anything to say?”
She had her phone out again. She replied, “No.”
I did. I said, “I’ll get your luggage while you start to pull out your things.” That’s when she started.
She was nervous and shaking. I saw the beginnings of tears. Did I care? I wanted to kill her. She sobbed, “Larry listen. You don’t know. It’s not what...”
I cut her off, “You’re kidding. I saw it on TV. You’re having an affair with David Westcott. Now get your shit together. You’re getting out.”
The tears flooded out, “Larry I don’t have anywhere to go. My family lives on the other side of the Bay. I have school tomorrow. I’ll need my computer. I need my supplies. Larry...”
I was tuned in. School supplies, work, a place to sleep, but what about our marriage? Me? Where’s the guilt? A murder’s been committed, and she’s worried about a computer. Believe me I was tuned in, “You can pack everything in your car. There’s a Marriott down the road. You’ll make out just fine.”
She gave me some kind of sad hang dog look like she thought I was buying bullshit. Not a chance. She saw it wasn’t making a difference so she got up and started for our bedroom to get her stuff.
Her suitcases were stored in the rafters with the canoes in the garage so I went out. When I got back she was in the living room talking on the phone. I stepped in, “Susan there’s nothing in here for you. Why aren’t you getting your shit together?”
She said, “I wanted to call my parents.”
I looked at her. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, “Tell your mom and dad you’ll be needing them.”
Whatever it was she’d been saying she stopped. She whispered in the phone, “Bye mom. I’ll call you later.”
Nervously and still teary eyed she sped back to our bedroom. I followed. She was packed and ready to go very quickly. I carried her bags through the house and out to her car, a Nissan. I opened and held her door for her. Just before she got in she said, “Can’t I at least explain?”
I was smoldering. I replied, “I’ll be in touch.”
As she got in I got a, “Larry.”
“Good bye,” was all I said.
She sat down, found her key, started her car up and backed down the drive. She didn’t look up or back, not once.
As she drove away I thought, ‘Now what? Well I had to go inside and try to figure out what exactly was what. No matter, I knew my life had turned a page.’
The Back Story:
Susan and I met in college; that would be the University of Maryland at College Park. I was from the Eastern Shore of Maryland just outside a town called Rock Hall. My father worked for the state roads. My mother was an elementary school teacher. I had two older brothers; one who’d enlisted in the army and was further south at Fort Benning, Georgia the other was married and lived nearby.
I’d graduated high school, gone to community college. After finishing an A.A. I kissed my high school sweetheart good bye, and took off for College Park. Susan was a sophomore when I got there. I lived off campus. She lived in one of the dorms. We met at a party, started dating, and that was pretty much that.
Oh there were a couple scrapes. She got hooked up with a basketball player for a while. I think she thought he was bound for glory and she might tag along, the NBA and all. That didn’t happen. It hurt a little bit I guess, but I’d dumped my high school sweetie, that had hurt her so I supposed this was my turn.
Life went on. I dated a few; met a wannabe cheer leader. Anyway Susan and I found each other again my senior year. It was at a football game. Maryland lost to Penn State, no surprise there. I was with my ‘Wannabe’, and Susan was with some jock. She saw me and I guess between the two of us we made all the right moves. By December we were a couple again. That time it stuck.
I graduated and thanks to my dad and his pull I got a job with the state in their natural resources department near our home town. I told Susan about it over the phone and she was glad I found something. I wasn’t. I started with the state, but got bored. Originally I thought I’d be outside, but the job was mostly clerical stuff, and I didn’t want to be stuck in an office all day long.
We’d all grown up around the water, and I’d been pretty good helping out on head boats and such when in high school. There was a large marina not far, and my dad knew the owner real well. I went down and got a job. The pay wasn’t the greatest, but the owner showed me a couple older vessels that were up for sale. I saw my dad, and he and mom agreed to lend me some money. I bought the better of the two and went to work restoring it. So I was out of school, working, and planning for my future, while Susan finished up her senior year.
Susan had majored in math and minored in education. She and I didn’t see a lot of each other her last year, but we stayed a couple, and stayed in touch mostly by email. I believed she stayed faithful. I know I had, and that was in spite of all the home town girls I knew.
Susan graduated, but said she wanted to take some time to travel before settling down. I was good with that. I kept working and saving. She backpacked across Europe. We didn’t talk or email much, but every few weeks she’d send me some postcards. It looked like she was really broadening her horizons. The end of August she came home. She looked more beautiful than ever. That was when I popped the question; I asked her to marry me. I even gave her a ring.
She was delighted. She told me yes, but she wanted to hold off a little longer. One of her new girlfriends, a person she’d met in Europe who lived in California invited her out for the fall. I was good with that. Hell I was still busy. I’d sold one boat and was busy with another plus working at the marina.
She came back from California right after Christmas. I went out to Gaithersburg and got reacquainted with her parents. They wanted to know what I was doing. They sounded pleased. Susan told us all about California, Europe, and all the wonderful people she’d met.
After that Susan settled into a new niche. She enrolled in a graduate program at Maryland, and over the spring, the summer, and all the following year she fleshed it out. So it took a while, but a few years after I’d graduated we tied the knot. We did it in her home town.
At first Susan wanted me to move to Gaithersburg, but I showed her my account books. Once she saw how much I could earn she understood the value of her moving to the Shore. She moved down and thanks to my mom she easily found a job teaching. We still married in her hometown of Gaithersburg to please her parents.
I had some money saved, and an uncle who was a real estate lawyer. We bought a house; the rancher, and the two of us moved right in. She and I agreed to wait to start a family. So for the next couple years Susan taught math a the public middle school, while I worked at the marina, repaired and sold used boats, and operated a small fishing tourist operation.
Then a few years down the road I got my restaurant surprise.
So what was up? What was I going to do? What was wrong with my wife? Was this her first time? Why’d she do it? Could I take her back? And what about me? Was it me? The questions kept piling up.
The car salesman, David Westcott was in his fifties. He had to be more than twenty years older than Susan. What was it with him? Why him? Should I care? Well I did. To be honest I was fried. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat; all I thought about was my Susan in another man’s arms.
I knew I had to do something so first things first. Take time off. Call a lawyer and find out my options. Then what? Then we’d see. First thing Monday I checked around, and made an appointment for late that afternoon.
That afternoon the man who’d be my lawyer, Horace Bradley, and I met. Here’s how he laid it out.
“Mr. Gallagher you’ve got a damn good case. Your wife’s relationship has been all over the local news and the newspapers. Can’t say for sure, but it seems Mrs. Westcott hired herself an investigator. The word is the Westcott’s have a cottage on the beach near Tolchester, and it’s probably jointly owned so any sound or video would all be legally obtained. If its divorce you’re after Mrs. Westcott’s evidence can be used by us. Have you decided what you want to do?”
I replied, “I don’t know. I’ve loved her a long time, but I’ve always believed infidelity was a game breaker. What I mean is I’d like to think I could find a way to forgive her and put this behind us. Sounds crazy I know.”
He replied, “I understand. I’ve seen this before, happens more often than most people realize. And sure, I know it hurts...”
I interrupted, “Yes it does hurt. I mean in a way it’s as bad as someone dying. Something has died. I just don’t know.”
He said, “Well hang in there for now. We could start with a simple legal ‘separation agreement’. She moves out. You provide some support, and maybe she gets to come back and visit. No sex though. You might even agree to let her move back home, but I wouldn’t advise it.”
I asked, “You think that’s an idea that could work?”
He said, “A separation like that isn’t necessarily permanent. You might change your mind. You might let her back in. You might go for divorce. The good thing is if you go for divorce you’ve shown you started with the willingness to consider reconciliation.”
“So a legal separation...”
He held up a hand, “Is a start. Let’s suppose there’s more to this relationship your wife has been having. There might have been some form of coercion. Westcott might have plied her with drugs. Think about it; we see cases like this all over the news. Then there’re other considerations.”
“We have to consider all the possibilities. She might’ve initiated the affair. This might not have been her only affair. Can you account for her every moment?”
I was stumbling, “You think?”
“I have no idea about anything beyond the Westbrook matter; only what I’ve read in the papers, which is apparently all you know as well.”
Just being a guy who worked around boats and such maybe I was being a little diffident, “So what should I do?”
He smiled, “Let’s get your finances in order. If you’ll give me limited power of attorney I’ll proceed to rearrange your accounts. We won’t put her in penury, but we need to protect all your assets. Is she on your insurance?”
“No, I’m on hers.”
“We’ll keep that quiet for now. Also I’d like to hire someone.”
“Yes I’d like to get an investigator to look into your wife’s activities. Nothing serious, but let’s check around. How serious has this been? How long has it been going on? Has there been anyone else?”
I asked, “Anyone else? Like other lovers? How much will all this cost?”
He smiled blandly, “You talked to my secretary. You know my rates. We’ll keep it at the low end for now. How’s that?”
“You’ll do the finances?”
“No additional cost.”
I said, “All right.”
He tapped his intercom, “Marge draw up something giving us limited power attorney for Mr. Gallagher here.”
I heard some indistinguishable mumbling, and then asked, “Is that all?”
“For now yes. We’ll call you tomorrow about the separation papers. We’ll need your signature for that,” he paused, “Think about your wife’s behavior lately, ask around. Talk to friends and neighbors. Find out if they’ve seen anything. Remember of course, people tend to take sides. And one more thing; if you don’t intend to let her back home have the locks changed.” Then he stood up and held out his hand, “we’ll keep in touch.”
We shook hands. I went outside where Marge was finishing up the agreement for me to sign. I signed it and left.
Outside in my car I sat and thought. Change the locks? Ask around if my wife has been seen cheating? Had it come to this? I guess that’s when the reality of the situation sank in. Heretofore I supposed I’d been kind of numb. Now it hit me; this was for real. My wife had been cheating on me. She’d ruined everything. I felt dirty, not dirty from hard work; no, more like being sullied, like slipping into a cesspool.
Those stupid stories I’d read, the people I’d met; this was real! I’ve always had a pretty strong constitution, but this was heavy stuff. I opened my car door and leaned out. I felt like I had to throw up. Nothing came out. I hadn’t had anything to eat all day, no appetite, only a gnawing feeling of emptiness. It felt like something was just withering away. I’d read stories, “The Count of Monte Cristo”. My head hurt. My digestive system was doing flips. Maybe if I drank some water? My lower spine was really sore. I was going to be ill; not just sick but really ill. This really was like a death. My wife had killed me. I was going to die.
I drove home. Of course the house was empty. Normally Susan would’ve been there. She would have had the TV or the radio on. She’d be chattering about this or that. I walked in and it was like a morgue. Everything was exactly the way I’d left it. It was a forlorn lonely feeling. Everything was wrong. I looked around. The pictures were still there; our wedding picture we took in front of the church was still on the wall. In the dining room the China closet still had the plastic domed thing with the bride and groom in it. There was a solo shot of Susan from some seminar. Had she been faithful then? I didn’t know.
I got dinner started, leftover pizza in the microwave, and called a locksmith. They said they’d be out the next day. After dinner I watched some TV; then I sat down to make a couple lists. First I made a list of people I’d want to talk to. Second I tried to write down everything I could remember about Susan’s activities the past few weeks. That was unnerving. I spent more time remembering my life before than anything else. I wondered about Europe and California a little bit too, but we hadn’t been married yet even if I hadn’t done anything. She’d never mentioned men, and I’d supposed she’d been like me.
I went out to the living room to think things over. What if I was wrong? What if she’d been tricked or blackmailed? What if the whole thing was just some awful mistake? Then again, if any of that was true why hadn’t she tried to come back or at least call? What was I supposed to do? What was I supposed to believe? I know what I wanted to believe. My lawyer said to talk to people. Maybe someone knows something? Who could I call?
I guessed I should start at the top. I decided to call Susan. I got out my phone and punched up her number. She used that Def Leopard thing “Ramble On” on her phone. It rang five times and went to voice mail. I shut mine off. She’d see I tried.
Susan’s best friend at work was Marian Hildebrand. They teamed together; Susan math, Marian science. I looked through my listings, found Marian’s number and hit dial. I hoped it wasn’t too late. Turned out it wasn’t.
After the second noise, why do people always have to have those stupid songs, Marian clicked on, “Hi Larry?”
“Yes, I was wondering if...”
“Gee, I’m sorry,” she said, “I saw on TV and read about it in the papers. Susan and a car salesman. Crazy. How’re you doing?”
“Not too good Marian. Marian look. I was wondering. Have you ... seen anything? I mean out of the ordinary?”
“Um, gosh Larry. I don’t know what to say. You don’t know anything do you.”
“No, I ... What do you mean?”
There was a long pause on the other end. Then Marian responded, “I mean about Susan and ... you know.”
I started to have this creepy feeling, “Know what? I don’t know anything except what I saw and read. Is there something else? Was he like blackmailing or her or something? Was it something I ought to know?”
“Larry I don’t think I should talk about it. I mean you know ... she and I ... well we work together, and ... our...”
“About what? This is about blackmail isn’t it?”
Marian’s voice was like real nervous, “No not that, nothing like that.”
“Well tell me Marian. What is it?”
“Larry I’ve got to hang up. Bye,” and with that Marian shut off her phone.
I sat there and stared at my IPhone and thought, ‘What was that about? Maybe I should try someone else. Who should I call? I thought; ‘Terry Reinhold! Terry was another teacher on Susan’s team. He taught English.
I found Terry’s number and punched it in. It only rang one time. It was Terry right away; he started jabbering, “Look Larry it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t know...
I was numb, “Didn’t know what?”
There seemed to be another one of those pregnant moments, then Terry said, “I didn’t know about ... um ... the car salesman. I would’ve told you. It wasn’t my fault.”
“No of course it wasn’t your fault, but can you tell me anything?”
“Uh no. Hey have you asked Marian? She might know something.”
“I already called her.”
“Oh you did. Did she say anything about ... anything?”
“No, only ... hey wait a minute; what about Gary Sizemore?”
“The school principal,” replied Terry, “oh I wouldn’t ask him anything.”
Terry seemed to be breathing heavily, “I don’t know. I just wouldn’t ask him. You know; he’s our boss and all, Susan’s job.”
I replied, “Oh yeah sure.” We both hung up. I was getting nowhere. I needed to free up some time. I checked my log. I had fishing trips scheduled for the end of the week, plus I was expected to put in some time around the marina. The marina I thought I could do, but the trips? No, I better do the trips too.
The next morning I got up, and I called my lawyer’s office. Marge his secretary said the separation agreement was prepared. She further advised me it wasn’t technically called a separation agreement in Maryland, but a ‘limited divorce’. She said I should stop by to sign it, and then a copy would be presented to Susan.
I got to Mr. Bradley’s office and signed it. When they asked where Susan’s copy should be delivered I couldn’t answer, but I’d find out right away. What I did was pull out my IPhone and located her car. As expected it was on her school’s lot. Mr. Bradley had stepped out to his secretary’s desk by then. I asked him if it would be appropriate if she got the papers where she worked. Mr. Bradley smiled and said it would be legal so I told him we should go ahead. He said he’d take care of it.
Relieved somewhat that Susan would be notified we would separate but not necessarily divorce. I was sure once she got the papers she’d call and want to talk things over; something I guess we should have done the night I found out. I guess I was feeling a little guilty I never let her tell her side.
Comfortable with what I’d done I drove over to see my mom and dad. I was kind of surprised. This was Tuesday, the television had put out the story on Sunday, and no one in the family had called. I supposed they were trying to be considerate; let us work out our problems without interference. Just the same I needed to talk to mom and dad, especially dad.
When I got to my parent’s I realized both were at work. Damn, that would have to wait. Hungry I decided to stop off at Rory’s Breakfast Nook.
Rory’s was one of those places that had been around ever since I could remember. The owner operator was a Vietnam veteran; he’d used his G.I. benefits to go to college and then start his own business. He’d married some Jewish girl he’d met in Philadelphia, and after a few years they’d squeezed out a couple kids. Older now he only stayed open week day mornings.
One of his kids was Lisa-Ann; she’d been my old high school sweetheart, the one I’d left behind when I went off to College Park. Lisa-Ann had gotten married after I left, but no one knew where her husband got off to. They’d divorced and he’d run off. No one knew why. They never had any kids either. I supposed everyone in Rock Hall was sterile or on something.
Lisa-Ann’s always been an interesting girl, smarter than most of the rest of us, but quiet and shy around groups. She’s always had opinions though; a real Bella Abzug that one. Good thing she kept quiet; the Eastern Shore had always been pretty red necked. I’m a red neck I guess. She’s a short girl, heavy but not what I’d call fat; tiny waist, nice breasts and a firm ass. She had long thick black hair, real dark brown eyes, but a pasty white complexion. She’d had an acne problem in high school but had most of the scars scraped off so no one could tell. I liked her when we dated, maybe even loved her a little, but that deep abiding stuff, that wasn’t me back then. Nowadays she worked at her dad’s restaurant waiting tables.
She’s always had a kind of caustic way about her; hard to get used to if you didn’t know her. I always thought it was her way to protect herself; the acne really bothered her when we were in school. I never teased her about it, but there were others, the ‘crater face’ thing from that old movie “Grease”. She had some visual problems too. Nothing serious, but she had flat corneas or something so she couldn’t wear contacts. She wore wire rimmed glasses mostly. They made her look even smarter but sort of squirrely too.
The thing about Lisa-Ann was she was always the girl who studied the hardest, did all the homework, got the best grades, never missed a day, and always knew the answers to all the questions no matter what the class was. She intimidated people. She sure intimidated me. I liked her, but I always felt stupid around her. Everyone figured she’d take off for some big Ivy League school. She never did though; she stayed home and helped her mom and dad.
I pulled in Rory’s lot, got out, and went in. It was close to their closing time and not very busy, but I figured since they knew me and I was a ‘regular’ I’d at least get some toast. It’s a seat yourself place so I found a seat at a booth and quietly waited, and waited, and waited.
I sat there and watched as nobody else came in and Lisa-Ann sat on a counter stool, had a coffee, and watched me. Finally she came over, “Morning Larry. Need anything?”
“Hi Lisa. Could I get some eggs?
“No mom’s cleaning the grill.”
“How about some toast?”
“White or whole wheat?”
“Whole wheat I guess.”
“No, only got white.”
“White’ll do. Can I get some coffee?”
“Maybe a little cream.”
“No, well OK. Be right back.”
She walked back behind the counter. I watched her as she dropped the bread in the toaster and poured my coffee. I saw her open a fresh carton of Half & Half, and guessed that was why she’d first said no about the cream. She dropped the Half & Half container on the floor. Yeah, that was Lisa.
She came back with the coffee, “Read about things at home. Sorry.”
I started to fidget. Lisa always made me nervous. I knew she was a lot smarter than me. I knew this, because she always used to throw it up to me about how stupid I was in math. She’d been my ‘assigned’ math and science tutor; that’s how she came to be my girlfriend. I think the teachers set it up that way since no one wanted to take her anyplace, and she never got asked to any of the dances or ever had a date for her class’s special activities. My English teacher even told me I should take her to the school dances, and her mom and dad paid all my costs for her class trips. What was surprising was, except for the acne, she was very pretty. Pretty until she opened her mouth.
So she said she was sorry about Susan. I said, “Yeah me too,” then I had a hunch, “Lisa tell me, you get people in and out of here all the time. Have you heard anything?”
She looked at me like I was a moron. I knew it; out it came, “You’re an idiot Larry,” she turned back toward the counter.
Now what was that about? I left my toast and coffee and followed her to the counter, “What was that about?”
She’d already seated herself, that ass of hers looked great hanging there on that stool, “Larry you’re a nice guy. I like you. Don’t I always treat you nice when you come in here?”
I replied, “I come in every morning.”
“And don’t I have your coffee ready?”
“Ok, but what did you mean. Why’d you call me an idiot?”
She was looking at me like you’d look at an old dog or somebody’s pet goose that had to be put down. Did you want to put it out of its misery today or wait till tomorrow? She said, “Look stupid I just work here. I don’t ask people what they’re talking about. I just serve up eggs and sausage and such.”
She pissed me off, “You didn’t have to call me stupid. I just asked a question.”
“Well it was a stupid question,” she said.
She was taunting me. I asked again, but in a different way, “Nothing? You’ve heard nothing?”
She looked at me a different way, “You want answers? Go to church.”
I could get smart too, “Christ Lisa-Ann I’m Methodist. All we do is eat and sing.”
“Change churches,” was her answer.
“Lisa you know something. Come on.”
She shrugged and looked to where I’d been sitting, “Yeah, your toast is cold.”
Just then Mr. Kemmerick called over, “Lisa you’re mom wants you to help with the trash.”
Lisa answered her dad, “Be right there,” she turned back to me, “just eat your toast and go to work,” she looked at her watch, a cheap Timex, “you’re already late. Mr. Willoughby will probably dock you.”
Mr. Willoughby owned the marina. He never got to work before noon. Lisa got up and walked back to the rear of the restaurant. Her dad had just mopped the floor. I half expected her to slip and fall on her gorgeous round ass, but she didn’t.
‘So much for that, ‘ I thought. I walked back to my dried out toast. Took a couple bites, sans butter, and dropped a $5.00 on the table. As I started for the door I heard the crash of dishes breaking on the floor, and Mrs. Kemmerick shouting, “Lisa!”
I chuckled quietly, “Yeah, that’s Lisa.” Then I left for the marina.
On the way down I got two texts. One was from Mr. Bradley’s office, the papers had been delivered. The second was from Susan. All it said was, “F.U.”
F.U.? F.U.! I hadn’t expected that. I thought she’d call and want to talk. I drove on to the marina.
Understand, just for the record, while I’m not someone who likes to fight, I’ve been in a few, won some, lost some. I’ve been around the water. I’ve worked around some pretty tough customers; hard assed water-men, down on their luck pier-side workers, and half-drunk smart aleck rich kids with their stuffed shirt big mouthed know-it-all fathers, and that’s not to mention the panhandlers and addicts. I’d put a few in their place, and I’d seen my name at the top of the page for it too. Add to that, like my two older brothers I’d been in the military. My oldest brother still is. Me and Johnny my next oldest brother both served in the National Guard; Johnny in supply, me in the motor pool. Dad’s orders; gotta serve you know, do your part. Maybe I’d not been in some ‘Special Forces’ unit, but I’d gotten some training. I didn’t hand out any shit, but I didn’t take any either.
I got to the marina and right away I knew something was up, and it was more than just the car salesman. I tried to ignore a group of hourly workers by just walking past them. One of them had to say something. It was one of the smaller weaker guys. Isn’t that how it always is?
The guy Marcus Haslip shot me a look and a remark, “Hey cuckie.” Some of the others laughed. The ring leader was a big fucker named Roland McCreary. I use the term ring leader advisedly; McCreary was a tough son-of-a-bitch, real veteran, seen action, never talked about it. He didn’t have to wear some hat to tell you he did something; the real ones never did. He never looked for trouble, but he could knock you on your ass if he wanted to, hard worker when he wasn’t drunk. Like me he couldn’t handle staying inside, but his was PTSD. He and I’d had always gotten along.
I tried to ignore them.
The pipsqueak yelled louder, “Hey needle peter!”
All right, a fellow turns the cheek once; but a second time? I stopped and played the Robert Di Nero, “You talkin to me?”
He laughed and smirked out, “Know anybody else whose wife’s passing it around?”
I was fast! Before he knew what hit him he was on the ground, and based on the cracking sound, holding a broken jaw. I wasn’t feeling my oats long though. Roland McCreary leapt the distance; he plowed his first fist right in my gut and a second in my face, and just like that I was on the ground beside Haslip.
McCreary, bigger than shit, standing almost astride me said, “You think the only one who got that poor stupid bitch you call a wife was some car salesman? Look around.”
I just sat there on my ass and stared at him. Then I saw the look on Clay Meadows face.
Clay said, “I’m sorry Larry. It was her not me.”
I was dumbfounded, “What?”
“She came on to me man. I’d been drinking, and before I knew it ... well.”
I rolled over on my hands and knees. My stomach was so fucked up! But I couldn’t throw up.
McCreary looked down at me, “Happens to the best of us Larry.” Then he looked at the others, “Come on. He’s had enough.”
Clay started to walk away with the others, but he looked back once, “Sorry man.”
I sat there on the ground and watched them leave. My best friend. My fucking best friend. A couple businessmen walked by and looked at me. I guessed they were headed for their boats. One asked, “You all right?”
I slowly got up, “Yeah. I’m OK.” I walked on down to where my vessel was tied up. At least I didn’t have anyone scheduled to go out. But what was I going to do? Well I got out my IPhone and called my lawyer. I told him what I found out. He asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I didn’t know. I needed to talk to my wife.
I spent the rest of the day hiding in my boat. I thought about things. I thought about McCreary; he’d got it pretty good, same girl all through middle school and high school, goes overseas for his country, gets the ‘dear John’, comes home, she’s married to some urologist twice her age, and he’s got what, a bronze star and a fucking thank you. Around 2:00 p.m. I finally got up enough nerve to go back out.
When I got to my home I got a surprise. Both my parents were there. So was my brother Johnny. They’d already let themselves in and were sitting in the living room. Johnny was drinking a beer.
I went in and said, “Hi.”
Dad said, “We’re sorry son.”
Mom had this stricken look on her face. Johnny looked like death warmed over.
Dad looked at Johnny, “Tell him.”
I thought, ‘Oh no what now. Had something happened to Susan?’ I asked, “Tell me what?”
Johnny looked at me, “Larry...”
“What is it Johnny?”
“You know your wife?”
“Well I got her too.”
I fell back on the sofa. This was too much. First some shit assed salesman, then my best friend, and now my own brother.
Johnny went on, “What can I say. You came back from Cancun...”
Cancun had been where we’d spent our honeymoon.
“She came over the day after you got back. My wife was at work. You know I worked the third shift back then. She said she wanted to try me out, and I’d been hanging around drinking beer. I thought why not. She slipped off her sundress and we did it on my sofa.”
I said, “Oh shit. This can’t be happening.”
Dad glared at Johnny, “Finish it son.”
“Well she told me she’d fucked Rich a couple days before you two left. She said she got him the night before her bachelorette party.”
Rich is my oldest brother. I didn’t know what to say or think, “Rich, and then you?”
“Jesus I’m sorry Larry. She said she wanted to compare. She wanted to see which of us was best.”
I was numb. I just couldn’t think of anything. My stomach was torn to shreds. I felt like I had an ulcer. I could hardly breathe.
Johnny kind of nodded, “I don’t know if it means anything, but she said you were the best. I mean she said you gave her the biggest ... you know ... thrill.”
My heart was beating so hard it felt like it would explode. I was going to pass out. I said, “Well thanks Johnny. That’s a real vote of confidence. Anything else?”
“Yeah,” he said, “that guy Terry at her work. He got her too. I overheard him bragging about it once. I told him he better shut up. I don’t think he said anything after that.”
I said, “I need a drink of water.”
Mom jumped up and rushed in the kitchen. I looked at my watch. Man the chickens had come home to roost. And I hadn’t even done anything! This was futile. I asked Johnny, “Anybody else?”
Mom handed me a water.
Johnny said, “I think she does her principal, a teacher I think, and sometimes one or two of the guys at the marina. That’s all I think, but I’m not sure.”
I looked at my mom and dad. What the fuck? I asked, “Dad did you do her?”
Dad looked real sad, “Son.”
I said, “That a no or a yes.”
He said, “That’s a no son.”
I said, “Just making sure,” then I said, “Look I’d like to be alone for a while. That OK with all of you?”
They got up to go. As they reached the door Johnny looked back, “I’m sorry Larry.”
I helped the three of them out the door, “Thanks Johnny.”
A few minutes later I was wondering, ‘is this what happens when someone gets shell shocked?’ Honest, I just didn’t feel anything. It was like it was all happening to someone else. I kept feeling confused and all disoriented. Like this was all some crazy nightmare. I could hardly breathe. My head hurt. My back ached. My whole body ached! I was dying.
I went back to the living room and stretched out on the couch. I felt so bad! I got up and walked to the bathroom where we kept all the prescriptions. I’d hurt my back doing something unnecessary, we thought it was serious enough to see a specialist. Of course these days nobody saw a specialist without going through someone else first. I saw a P.A. He did an X-Ray, said an M.R.I. was pointless and prescribed something he said was new. He said to take it every twelve hours, but warned me there were a few minor side effects, one being drowsiness. I hadn’t tried it yet; thought this might be the time. I took one pill, got a beer, went back in the living room, popped the thing in my mouth, took a swig and that we the last thing I remembered. Or so I thought...
The big well ... wake up?
Suddenly I felt somebody pushing against me. I kept hearing, “Larry! Larry! Wake up! Snap out of it. Come on honey!”
I rolled over. It was my wife, “Oh Susan. Oh.”
“Come on honey. You must have been having a bad dream.”
I sat up. I was so sore. Every muscle ached. My head hurt.
She said, “Jesus honey. You all right?”
My Susan was up and rushing across our bedroom, “Stay there. I’ll get you a water.”
I crawled over the covers, “Oh Susan. I was so scared. You’d been doing things. You’d been screwing my brothers and all my friends. Oh Jesus. Oh Susan...”
“Quiet now sweetie. Here drink this,” she put the water to my lips, “It’s that Lyrica. I knew you shouldn’t have tried it.”
“I was at the marina on my boat. You were having sex with all our friends.”
She started crying and laughing at the same time, “Me, an affair; my sweet adorable boy.” She hugged me to her chest and rubbed my head, “Gee Larry you’ve been banged up from all that hard work. Come on let’s get you up. I’ll make a pot of coffee. Look at the time, 4:00 a.m. We’ll both take tomorrow off. We’ll get you back to the doctor, a real doctor this time. I told you not to try to climb that old mast without someone on hand.”
I hugged my wife, “In my dream I was still working on my first boat. We’d just bought the house.”
“Gee Larry that was years ago, that old boat? I’m glad you sold it, gosh Larry? Me and your brothers? They’re nice, but cripes! I married you!”
“They were younger than me in my dream, and do you remember that big basketball player who got fresh with you in college?”
“You mean the one I was slow dancing with at the Fraternity dance?”
“Yeah the one who started pawing you.”
She laughed, “The one who was seven feet tall and put his hands on my shoulders?”
“Yeah that one.”
“You mean the one who put his hand in your face and pushed you to the floor when you tried to charge him?”
“He caught me off guard.”
“All five foot ten of you.”
“He was getting fresh and you were my girl.”
“I remember. That was the night I knew I loved you. You looked so silly down there on the floor. Do you recall I had to help you up?”
“He was a nice guy Larry. He apologized. Remember you took me home right after.”
“Yeah. I remember.”
“Remember we made love for the first time that night?”
“He still cheated.”
“Larry you were my hero.”
“Kathy was in it too.”
“She was an old girlfriend, but she looked just like you.”
Susan laughed. It was one of those silly tear filled laughs, “I’ll bet she’d be glad to hear that.”
She stood back up and pulled me to her breast, “Come on; let’s get downstairs. We’ll watch a movie or something till it’s time to call in. I don’t like that stuff he gave you anyway,” she grabbed my little soldier, “that stupid P.A. told us there were side effects. This time we’ll skip right by him. We’ll get a real doctor. We’ll make them give you an MRI. This is just bullshit. Then we’ll really see.”
I said, “OK,” then I followed my wonderful little wife downstairs, all 130 pounds of her. OK she’d gained a little weight, so what. She’s mine and I love her.