Maryanne Sutton Myers, former Miss Pittsfield of 1989, former Prom Queen of the 1990 Pittsfield High School graduating class, junior class president in 1989, captain of the cheerleading squad 2 years running and girl voted Most Likely to Succeed sat in an old chair staring at her sleeping husband. Her fingers toyed with the frayed upholstery as she listened to his resonant snoring. He had been on that faded couch all afternoon, sawing logs. It was where he could be found most days since being laid off at the plastics plant where he had worked as a tool and dye maker.
It had been four months since he had held a job and Maryanne was the one bringing home the money on which they lived. He believed that his unemployment check was enough. And it might be if he would just get off his butt and do something constructive with his time. She worked fifty-eight hours a week at two jobs to support him and their two children. Then she came home to cook, clean and do laundry. And he could be found either on the couch asleep or in his tired old chair flipping through the TV channels—if he was home at all—while the children ran wild in the neighborhood.
How she hated the sight of him. It wasn't as if he was getting fat. Somehow he had a superhuman ability to stay in fairly good shape despite his inactivity. And it wasn't his laziness that spurred her to this point of loathing. She had been willing to do anything for the man that had swept her off her feet and married her. She had loved him in those days. Like most women in love she was capable of giving all she had to her husband.
What caused this escalating sense of animosity was his lack of attention. As time went by he became increasingly distant. Maryanne was working her ass off for their family and he didn't seem to appreciate it. More and more she was feeling like a machine whose only function was to see to his comfort. He never touched her anymore. It had been almost a year since they had made love. He complained when his meals were late or the house was a mess. He bellowed at the boys but refused to parent them. And when he felt that he was not getting his demands met he would storm out of the house to sit in a pub with his buddies, swilling beer with money they could not afford to be spending. Sometimes he would be gone for hours. A couple of times he was gone all night.
With a grunt of disgust Maryanne vaulted out her chair to get her cleaning supplies. She had to be at her night job in 3 hours and that left little time for her to get her chores done. Upon opening the hall closet she saw the unutilized vacuum cleaner. With a malicious smile on her face she pulled the rickety old appliance out, plugged it in and began sweeping the worn living room carpet.
Before long her vindictive cleaning frenzy had its desired effect. Russ was awake. From the look on his face he was pissed as hell at being disturbed. "Turn that fucking thing off!" he yelled but Maryanne continued her task as if she hadn't heard him. He jumped off the couch and yanked the cord out of the wall socket.
She turned the switch on the vacuum to off as Russ returned to the couch. She quickly marched back over to the wall and stuck the plug back into the outlet. She returned to the sweeper and switched it on again. Russ flew off the couch again and grabbed the cord. He gave it a mighty yank, dislodging the plug from the cord and sending a shower of sparks flying into the air.
"Happy now?" he asked her.
"No," she stated flatly. "You're still here."
"I can fix that." He left the room. When he came back in he was wearing his favorite boozing shirt and ball cap. "I'm taking your car, mine's out of gas."
Normally Maryanne would have been angry with him for this but she just wanted him out of her sight. It meant that she would have to buy gas for his car but she decided that was a small price to pay. Besides, she paid for most of his gas, and everything else that he thought he needed so why should this be different. She wrapped up what was left of the sweeper cord then went to the fuse box to shut the power off. She removed the damaged plug from the outlet and tossed it in the trash. She decided the housekeeping could wait and went to look for her boys. She found them in the nick of time as they were about to spray paint graffiti on the back of the neighbor's house. A lesser woman would swallow a gunshot, she thought as she herded them into their tiny, rundown home. It was inconceivable that one eight-year-old and one five-year-old could get into so much trouble. She sent the boys to their room and dialed the number of their babysitter. Maryanne breathed a sigh of relief when she was told that Amanda was available.
After a soak in the bathtub Maryanne got ready for work. Jeans, plaid shirt and apron were the required uniform at the western-styled restaurant where she worked every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights as a waitress. She hoped that tips would be good that night. Bills were over-due.
As she waited for Amanda to arrive she decided that she needed to inspect Russ' car. He often left beer cans and even half-smoked marijuana joints in the vehicle. She didn't want to go to jail just because he was a slob and some cop decided to pull her over as she drove home after midnight. She grabbed a bag to toss all the trash in and aimed herself toward the carport, stopping for a moment to tell the boys to settle down in their room.
As she suspected Maryanne found all manner of garbage lying on the floor of his 1995 Chevy. With a sigh born of resignation she bent to the task of scooping the filth out of the interior. Four beer cans, six empty fast-food containers and two old newspapers later she saw something under the seat that left her cold. She pulled it out with her thumb and forefinger, holding it up in front of her. It was an empty condom box. And it was HIS favorite brand.
She stared at that inanimate bit of cardboard for several minutes. There had been no need to use them in their marriage since she had her tubes tied two years previous. She had cleaned his car out just the week before and it hadn't been there then. She thought of all those evenings when she sat at home alone or was forced to pay someone to sit with her children while she went to work. She thought of all the times when he came home without offering an explanation for where he had been. And she thought of the times when he hadn't come home at all. She had tried not to think that there might be someone else.
She dropped the bag of trash and carried the empty little box into the house. She dialed Amanda's number, just catching the girl before she left her house, and explained that her services wouldn't be needed that night after all. Then she dialed her friend's number.
After three rings there was finally an answer. "Kathy," Maryanne said. "I need a big favor."
"Sure, honey, what can I do?" Kathy was always there to help Maryanne and Maryanne really treasured her friendship.
"It's a lot to ask but could you keep the boys for me tonight? I have a problem and I have to work it out."
"Sure, Mare, anything you need. Is everything all right?"
"No, but I'll explain it to you later."
"Do you want me to come get them?"
"That would really be great. You're a good friend."
"Okay, hun, I'll be there in a few."
Maryanne disconnected and went to pack a few things for the boys. She informed them that they would be on their best behavior or she would give them an old-fashioned whipping. Then she called the manager of The Western Roundup and told him that she wouldn't be in due to a family emergency. She slammed the phone down while he was still screaming at her. When Kathy arrived Maryanne handed the kids off to her and promised to have them picked up by noon the next day. Then she looked at the empty prophylactic container.
The box looked new. There would be no arguing that it had been in his car for years because she was the one who cleaned the vehicle out whenever it was in dire need. She knew for a fact that it had not been in there longer than a week. She had to decide what to do. She had to try to figure out who he sneaking around with. All she could think about was the time several weeks earlier when she came home early from her office job. She was a block and a half from home when she saw Cheryl George driving toward her.
Cheryl George was a real piece of work. The woman had dated Russ before he met Maryanne. Russ had told Maryanne that the reason they broke up was because Cheryl was crazy. She was jealous and mean and he just couldn't stand to be around her anymore. But Maryanne could remember all the times when she would just HAPPEN to show up at the social functions they used to attend before times had gotten hard.
She scooped the box into a paper sack and stuffed it into her purse. The phone book revealed Cheryl's address, which Maryanne jotted down on the envelope of a past-due bill. She left the house with the intention of finding out for herself just what was going on.
It took a mere fifteen minutes to find the nicely built home of Cheryl George. In her driveway was Maryanne's red 1998 Saturn SL. It was a slap in the face of a neglected wife. It was too much to bear. She sat parked in front of the house for what seemed hours before a plan emerged.
Maryanne got out of the car and crept quietly up to the house. Peering through the front window she saw no signs of life. Her skin began to crawl. She walked to her Saturn and found the spare key on her key ring. It only took a minute to find the disposable camera she kept in the glove box in case of traffic accidents.
.... There is more of this story ...