This story was submitted previously to another site. It has been "tidied-up" to clarify and correct minor shortcomings. There is no sex other than implied and that's what you'd expect from a scene set in the "uptight '50's".
Sometimes Kids shouldn't mess around with Grown-ups.
I'm not exactly sure why my mother and I were never close. I suppose it was because of how I saw her treat my dad. He was constantly being criticized from some sin or other; usually minor and often unjustified. It seemed like he had lived his whole married life in this state of harassment and I often wondered why he had married her when she was so obviously unhappy with him. I was born a year after their marriage and I was their only child. My mother was an attractive woman; now forty years old and as I looked at the early photos of her, she was a very beautiful young lady. Perhaps it was this physical attraction which captured my father; but whatever it was, the marriage had lasted a lot longer than the love. I had some dim memories of happy times when I was a little kid, but that was a long time ago. From the time I was thirteen, I was constantly expecting them to announce their divorce and yet it had never happened. I never got the sense that Mom wasn't angry at me, but that she was angry with everyone. I didn't have the courage to ask my father about their relationship. I was left to wonder on my own.
My name is Ron Francis. I'm sixteen and will be a senior in High School next month. I'll graduate with the '58 Class and with any luck, I'll be accepted at State and start working toward my college degree. My Dad is Sam Francis. I really like him. He's smart and knows a lot about the world and current events. He's a big help to me with my homework since he's also really good at math. My Mom is Helen Francis. I guess you've already got a picture of her. Both my Mom and Dad are what most people would call good-looking. I'm still growing I guess. I've been gaining some muscle since I joined the swim team and my girl friend says it's all in the right places. I trust her.
My father was a middle management officer in an insurance company and as such, made a decent income. Certainly enough that my mother didn't have to work and could stay home to look after me when I was young. After I reached fifteen, I wondered why she didn't get a job or volunteer, just to have something to do with her time. As far as I could tell, she didn't have any hobbies nor did she associate with many of the other neighborhood women. Since I was in school during the week, I wasn't really sure what she did with her days. On my summer vacations, I was lucky enough to have a job at the newest supermarket as a 'box boy'; helping people with their groceries and making the odd delivery on my bike. When I was old enough to drive, I used the market's van to deliver and I had lots to do, both on weekdays and on weekends. As a result, I didn't know how my mother spent her days during the summer months either.
I discovered my mother's secret quite by accident. It usually happens that way, doesn't it? I was delivering groceries to an ailing, elderly customer one afternoon and as I drove up to her house, I noticed a familiar car parked in front of the house next door. It was my mother's aging '49 Pontiac. I recognized the fender scrapes before I looked at the license plate for confirmation. I had no idea who lived at that house and after I delivered the groceries, I sat in the van, wondering who it could be. For whatever reason, I pulled out my notepad and wrote down the address with a big question mark beside it. I stuffed the notepad back in my shirt pocket and went on about my deliveries. I didn't think of the incident until that evening at dinner when my father and mother were talking.
"How was your day, dear?" my father asked as he always did.
"The usual." she said wearily. "I was home all day with not much to do. I just sat on the back porch in the shade and read for a while."
I looked up at her and couldn't see any sign that she was nervous or uncomfortable with his question, but I knew she was lying. I had a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach and it didn't go away. After dinner, I was up in my room, sitting at my desk, wondering about mother's statement. I pulled out the notebook and wrote down the address in my school binder and wondered how I could find out who she was visiting. I remembered that the library had a reverse directory and I could look up the address and find out who lived there. I made a note to look up that mystery address at the first opportunity.
The following day, I made time at lunch for a quick trip to the library and looked up the address and I got a phone number and a name: Edwin S. Robinson. I had no idea whether that was the only person living there, but at least I had a name. What I didn't know was what to do next. Today was Wednesday. I had delivered my groceries to the house next door at 2:30 Tuesday afternoon. Perhaps with a bit of planning, I could drive by today at the same time and see if my mother's car was there again.
By changing my normal route, I was able to drive past the Robinson address just before 2:45 the next afternoon, but my mother's car was nowhere in sight. I wondered if my spotting her car on Tuesday was just a single incident. On Thursday, however, I was in our own neighborhood and I noticed that her car was not in our driveway when I passed our house just after 2:00. I looked at my delivery scheduled and with a quick revision, I headed back toward Tuesday's location and was surprised to see her car once again in front of the same house. I now had a mystery, but once again, I had no clue on what to do next.
Everyone needs someone to confide in. In my case, my girlfriend, Penny Lane, was the one person I could talk to about the strange occurrences I had observed in the past two days without everyone in town knowing about it. I forgot to mention; I live in a small town. Everyone knows everyone; or so they say. In fact, it isn't true. Either our town isn't that small or we don't socialize the way small town people used to, but I can't honestly say I know half of the people in this town; either by name or by neighborhood. True, there is only one high school and two Supermarkets and one Drive-In Movie Theatre, but still, there are lots of things about my town that I don't know. Penny (her real name is Peony) and I both were born and grew up here and we'll both be in the same senior class in school. We've been friends for as long as I can remember and over that last couple of years, we've started to see each other in a more adult way, I guess. She's a really good looking girl and I'm lucky I'm her steady boyfriend. She's also really smart, so when I need an idea, she's the logical person to ask. I don't know any grown-ups I could confide in; certainly not my mother and in this case, definitely not my father.
Penny and I see each other almost every day, so I didn't have to wait long to tell her what's been going on and ask her if she had any ideas about what to do next. She didn't disappoint me.
"Well, there's a couple of things we could try." she offered.
"Really? Like what?" I was surprised she was able to think of something this quickly after just having heard my mystery.
"Well, I could pretend to be doing a survey and could ask them some questions. Say I was with the newspaper and they wanted to know what people liked and didn't like in the paper. Then I could ask them how many people read the paper in that house and if they were male or female, adult or children; you know, the usual stuff." But there was a catch.
"When those people come to our house, my mother just slams the door in their face." I said solemnly.
"It's always a risk they won't answer, but if they do, you get some important information." she said brightly.
"Why are you doing the survey and not me? It's my problem."
"You don't know what they know about your family or you. Maybe someone has a picture of you. It's better this way." she said simply. "Why don't we get started and figure out what questions we need to ask?"
And so we did. Penny said she had learned something about surveys and how they are designed to get certain kinds of information without people really realizing it at the time. We spent about an hour coming up with the least number of questions we could to get the most amount of information. In the end, we had seven questions that would, she was sure, give us a lot of information about the Robinson household.
Penny said she would go around to the Robinson house at about ten the next morning. She thought that if there was a Mrs. Robinson, that would be the best time to talk to her. If there was no one home, she would go about seven that evening. But that was when I learned my part in the plan.
"Pete, I want you to be at that house by seven tomorrow morning. I want to know who comes out and when. If there are kids, they won't be off to school, but they may have a baby-sitter. I'm guessing the man of the house will leave sometime between seven and eight to go to work. If the wife works, she'll probably leave shortly after the kids are gone or maybe she'll even drive them. If she does, wait around and see if she comes home. Got it?" she asked brightly.
"Yah. I think so." All I had to do was think of a reason to be up and out of the house that early. I decided on a story about some inventory counting at the store before it opened. Penny approved.
We were all set up for the next morning and I was actually looking forward to it. It was like being an amateur detective, except I was the assistant and Penny was the 'brains' of the outfit. We agreed that if the mother didn't come back to the house, I would phone Penny at nine so that she wouldn't waste her time coming over at ten. She thinks of everything, that girl.
I was all set up at 6:50am the next morning and it's a good thing I was. I was strategically hidden behind a large hedge across the street and I was sure no one on the other side could see me. A man who I assumed was Mr. Robinson, walked out the front door within five minutes of my arrival with the morning paper under one arm and a small briefcase in the other hand. He strolled over to the car in the driveway and put his briefcase and paper in the back seat and slid into the driver's seat and started the car. He just sat there letting the motor idle for a couple of minutes before the front door opened again and a woman stepped out, turning to lock the front door and walked down the steps and to the passenger side door of the car. She got in without saying anything that I could hear and he backed out of the driveway onto the street and headed in the general direction of town. Well, that answered that question. No kids and both left at the same time. Was he driving her to work or did they both work in the same place? We still had a pretty good mystery to solve.
I rode my bike down to the nearest phone box; slipping a nickel into the slot and dialed Penny's home. She answered almost right away and I imagined that she had been sitting beside the phone waiting for my call.
"Well, what happened?" she asked in an excited voice.
"Not much. He came out just before seven and what must have been his wife came out a couple of minutes later. They got in their car and headed for town. No sign of kids at all. She locked the door when they left, so I don't think there's anyone inside." I concluded.
"Good work, Ron. What were they wearing?" she asked; almost as an afterthought.
"Uh, well, he was wearing a suit and tie and a narrow brim fedora... you know... business clothes... and she had a dress on; pretty plain, grey and blue I think." I said trying to remember.
"OK... sounds like they both work. The next thing we have to do is follow them. Can you do that tomorrow?" she asked breathlessly.
"I can try, I guess. I don't know if I can keep up to them on my bike though." I explained.
"Yah... that could be a problem. Hmmmm." Penny was obviously deep in thought and I had learned to let her do it without interruption. It was something she was good at.
"Ron... I think we should go to the library and look up the voter's registration list. It shows occupations. It should tell us what they do."
I would never have thought of that. "OK... can you do that for me? I have to work and I don't know if I can find the time today."
"Sure... leave it to me. In the meantime, don't forget to check the house around two this afternoon." she reminded me. "I'll meet you at my house after dinner. Don't be late... I want to try that survey thing out on them." she warned.
"Got it. See you then. Good luck and... thanks, Penny. You're a good friend." I said sincerely.
"Be careful Ron. Don't do anything silly. We don't know what's going on in this situation." she cautioned.
"Yah... I'll be OK. See you later." I finished and hung up the phone. I rode my bike down to the store and pushed it into the loading shed as usual. I picked the van keys up from the shipping counter and headed inside for my first deliveries. I usually did the restaurant run first thing and today would be no exception. I have to say that my mind wasn't completely on my job that day. I was upset with what I thought might be going on between my mother and Mr. Edwin S. Robinson. It was one thing for her to be nasty; but it was quite another for her to be an adulteress. I had looked that word up in my dictionary and the description was not very nice. It was a woman who cheated on her husband with another man and had sex with him. It was hard to believe, but I began to think it was possible.
I was busy for almost the whole day, so I didn't get to spend too much time thinking about mother and her strange visits. I drove by the Robinson house but there was no sign of mother's car. As I was riding home after work, I thought about what I would do if it was true that she was fooling around on Dad. Would I tell him? I didn't know if I could. I didn't want to hurt him but I couldn't let her just get away with it. Jeez, I was already convinced she was guilty and I didn't have any evidence. I didn't like her very much so I guess I just decided she was probably guilty. It didn't feel very good. Maybe there was a completely innocent reason for her to be there those two days. After all, she wasn't there today; but then, this was Friday, the odd day and she seemed to be there on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I hurried through my dinner and excused myself to go to Penny's. Mother reminded me of the dishes and I had to wait for them to finish their dinner before I whipped the plates away and started washing them. It didn't take me long to clean up the kitchen and I was off to Penny's. Dad gave me the OK to use the car as long as I was home by nine sharp. I wouldn't disappoint him tonight.
I got there about 6:30 and she was obviously waiting for me.
"You all set?" I asked. You will note that I completely forgot to ask her about the voter's list information. I was like that at times; a bit absent minded.
"Yes... I have the questionnaire here. I typed it out on my dad's stationery. It'll look more official that way." she said. "The voter's list shows his occupation as salesman and his wife as secretary. Both of them are on the list." she concluded.
She got in the car and we headed off toward the Robinson house. It was still light but nearing sunset in another hour or so. Penny was wearing a plain, navy blue skirt and white blouse with plain black shoes. She wanted to look as professional as possible. She needed these people to co-operate.
I stopped the car almost a block from the Robinson house and Penny got out.
"Wish me luck!" she said with a nervous smile.
"You'll be OK... I just know it." I said confidently. If anybody could pull this off, Penny could.
She was back ten minutes later and flushed with excitement. "Ron... you'll never guess." she gasped. "They both came to the door and they both answered the questions and then they got into an argument about which answer was right." Her eyes were bright and she was obviously excited by the results of her ploy. I was really proud of her.
"Well done. Let's go somewhere and figure out what we've learned." I suggested.
She nodded and we headed off to one of our favorite parking spots by the river and stopped. Penny had been reading her notes with deep concentration and once again I was reminded not to disturb her.
"Well... here's what we've learned." she began. "They both work. They have no children. He is a route salesman for a paper box company and she's a secretary at the Columbia State Bank. He goes out of town for the day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She takes the bus home on those days. Ron... it was amazing. Once I got them started, I couldn't shut them up. They would tell me anything. I made up a couple of questions just standing there." she confessed.
"Wow. What else did you learn?" I asked excitedly.
"Well, he's from here... a local boy. She's from BendRiver. They met when he came back from Europe after the war. I gather she can't have children. He's not a bad looking guy. Maybe that's what your mom sees too." she suggested. "Anyway, they seem to be doing OK. They have been buying some new furniture and just bought a new HiFi and get this; a new Dumont 21" Television. He said he'd be putting up the aerial this weekend."
"OK... so now we know something about them. It doesn't really tell us what is going on does it?" I asked.
"Perhaps not... but remember, he's out on the road and in town all day each Tuesday and Thursday. He can get over to his house easily for the afternoon and still have time afterwards to pick his wife up from work." Penny said with a wrinkled brow. "I think the cops call that 'opportunity' when they arrest someone."
"Oh... and one other thing. What school did your mother go to?" she asked excitedly.
"Jefferson... It's gone now." I answered
"That's the same school he went to!" she said triumphantly. "That was one of my made-up questions." she grinned with satisfaction.
"You are amazing, Penny." I said with pride. I was lucky to have Penny as my girl friend and I wanted her to be more than just my girl friend when I got a little older.
I had to admit, Penny got all the information that she set out to get and then some. I also had to admit that it didn't make me feel any better. Penny established that Mom and Mr. Robinson were about the same age and went to the same High School. They must have known each other. It stands to reason. So what was going on? I sat in the car and was quiet for a few moments while Penny just sat and watched me.
"This isn't good... is it?" Penny finally spoke.
"No... it isn't. Still, we don't have any proof. I don't know what to do next. I just can't think of anything that would tell us more." I said morosely.
Penny was silent for a long time before she finally spoke again.
"What if we scare her... your mom, I mean?" she asked.
"I saw a movie the other night on TV. It was about a guy who got an anonymous letter telling him he was in danger. He didn't know who it came from. It drove him crazy. Later he got another letter telling him his days were numbered. It was a really spooky movie and he finally killed himself because he didn't know what was going to happen to him." Penny said all this in a detached voice as if it was coming from somewhere else.
"What are you suggesting Penny... that we should drive mom crazy?" I asked incredulously.
"No... but we can scare her. Maybe it will force her to quit what she's doing or something." she suggested.
"What would the letter say?" I asked, curious now.
"How about... 'Who is Edwin S. Robinson?' and have it typed on plain paper in a plain envelope and no return address?" she suggested.
"OK... that would rattle her I'll bet." I offered. It didn't sound harmful and yet it would get her upset I imagined. And then I had another thought.
"What if it doesn't work?" I asked her.
Penny thought for a moment and then, as usual, had a good answer. "We send another letter with something like 'does your husband know about Mr. Robinson?'" she smiled.
"Yah... I like that. Then what?" I continued. I was beginning to get into this game.
"I don't know. Why don't we wait and see how your mother reacts to the first letter or even the second before we decide." she said emphatically.
"OK... jeez Penny... you are really good at this... mystery solving I mean." My compliment was meant sincerely.
"We haven't solved anything yet, Ron. We need to figure this out and I'm really keen to get to the bottom of this; one way or another."
Trust Penny to bring me down to earth. I drove her home, gave her a kiss on the cheek and headed for my home with a thousand questions in my head. What was my mother up to? Was she really an adulteress? One part of me hoped it wasn't true and yet another part said it may be the answer to my father's pain. The law was pretty hard on adultery; even in this enlightened age of 1957. He could get a divorce and she would be sent away with almost nothing but her clothes. In the old days, there would have been a mark of shame on her forehead. We're a lot more civilized now. But I wondered if Dad would think twice about sending her away.
I got home a little before nine, so I knew I wouldn't get a lecture from Mom. I headed up for my room to think about what I'd learned and what I would do next. As I lay on my bed, I wondered if my father knew anything about this. I wondered if he had any idea that she might be seeing someone else when he wasn't around. He was a smart guy. It was hard to believe my mother could fool him for a long period of time.
I pulled the now dog-eared copy of Playboy out from under my mattress. It was the one with the terrific pictures of Julie Newmar and Tina Louise. I could get an erection just thinking about those two women. I thought about Penny and wondered what she looked like without her clothes on. Pretty sexy, I bet. She had bumps in all the right places. She didn't wear tight clothes, so it was hard to tell, but I was pretty sure she had a nice body.
Penny and I were going to the movies on Saturday night and when I picked her up in my Dad's shiny new white and gold Dodge, I was feeling pretty good. She had her best pink and charcoal poodle skirt and saddle shoes with white socks and a pink blouse. She looked super! I held the door for her and she slipped onto the brocade and vinyl passenger seat. When I got in, she handed me an unsealed plain envelope with my mother's name and address on the front and PRIVATE typed in capital letters. There was no return address on the envelope; just the four cent stamp. I opened it and unfolded the single page. The single line of type simply asked the question: 'Who is Mr. Edwin Robinson?'
I stared at the letter for a moment while my thoughts raced through my head. What would she think when she got this? How would she react? My mother always got to the mail first since the delivery was just before noon. I would give anything to see how she looked when she opened this letter. I knew that wasn't going to happen since I would be at work when the mailman made his rounds. I looked at Penny without saying anything for a moment before I handed it back to her. I pushed the D button on the dashboard console and we headed off toward the theatre.
I couldn't tell you much about the movie that night. I wasn't paying attention as my mind was wandering to all sorts of strange thoughts about what was going to happen in the next few days. We had set the wheels in motion and when that letter was put in the mailbox in front of the drug store, there was no going back.
I figured that the letter wouldn't show up until Tuesday, but just to be sure, I would watch how my mother acted on Monday evening when I got home from work. I couldn't see anything different and when Dad came home, she didn't react any differently that she would have on any other night. I came to the conclusion that it hadn't arrived yet. The next day was the day she had been going to Mr. Robinson's house. I made sure I swung by in the afternoon and to my surprise, her car wasn't there. What if she wanted to warn him, I thought. I went by the plant where he worked and looked for his car. He drove a turquoise and white '55 Chev sedan but I couldn't see it or Mom's car in their parking lot.
I was home as early as I could get there and decided to engage my mother in conversation to see if I could detect anything different. I had thought of a topic; my going to Junior College here in town rather than to State for the first couple of years. It would mean I would be living at home and I wanted to see how she reacted to that.
"Say Mom, there's something I wanted to talk to you and Dad about." I began.
She looked at me kind of funny. "Why don't you wait until your Dad is home?" she asked.
"Yah... I just wanted you to know that I've made a decision about college... I'm going to go to Junior College here instead of State for the first two years. I can save some money and still live at home. That way I can save for my last two years at State." I explained.
I saw her shoulders slump and she didn't answer right away. She turned to go back into the kitchen and said: "We'll talk about this when your Dad gets home."
I couldn't really tell anything from that. I went up to my room and sat at my desk for a few minutes. I heard Mom come upstairs and go to her bedroom and close the door. That was unusual. I remembered where she usually put the envelopes from the daily mail and I quietly headed downstairs to the laundry room and checked the waste paper pail. There it was... the envelope that I had mailed on Saturday night. There was no sign of the single page that was inside. So now I knew she had seen the question.
When Dad came home, I could tell that Mom wasn't her normal self. She didn't ignore him, but she stayed pretty well clear of him, it seemed to me. When I brought up the subject of Junior College at the dinner table, I don't think Dad was too excited about it. He said something about growing up by being on my own and I could get that at State, not here at home. I was a bit surprised, but then Dad was a good thinker and I had to respect his opinion. I dropped the subject; after all I still had my senior year and I had lots of time to decide. Mom hadn't said a word during the whole discussion.
After dinner, I rode my bike over to Penny's to report what had happened. She was as surprised as I was that my mother hadn't reacted more strongly to the letter. We talked about it a bit more and decided to see if she would be at the Robinson's on Thursday. I confessed to Penny that I had an empty feeling inside me and I didn't think anything good was going to come out of all this. We were playing with fire and someone was going to get burned. She gave me a big hug and it helped me feel better as well as a bit horny. We just sat and talked for a while and it was good to have someone to share all this with. I felt like I was carrying a big sack on my back and I wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible. I suggested we forget the whole thing and just ignore what was happening, but Penny reminded me of how unhappy I was before and didn't I want to see what was really going on? Of course, she was right.