Thanks to the knee doctor for editing assistance.
It was seven o'clock in the morning, and my wife was out in the driveway washing her car again. I got her the 1965 red Mustang convertible for our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. It was a special present, and I was hoping it would be well worth the twenty thousand dollars it cost me. I was wrong.
Julie had been having an affair with one of the guys who worked in my office complex. She thought that she was being discrete, but it just wasn't so. She was sloppy and careless about meeting him, and he had a big mouth. I found out about what was going on, when I started to get snickers from some of the guys in the break room. It wasn't hard to put it all together. Frank Toliver was enjoying my wife's company, and was bragging about it to all his work-mates. It had been going on for over six weeks now. Twice, I have mentioned to Julie that I had been hearing stories about her and Frank, and that I wanted them to stop. Both times, she denied that anything was going on. She also expressed great indignity: that I had the nerve to question her fidelity after twenty-five years of marriage.
We married straight out of high school. I realize now that we were just too young. I don't know if it was puppy love, or just a teenage crush, but it was about to end. We had one daughter, Sharon, who was a senior, getting ready to graduate. She would be leaving for Iowa State University in less than a month. Over the years, I had plenty of opportunities to spread some wild oats, but restrained myself, to preserve the marriage. What a waste. If it hadn't been for Frank's big mouth, I probably would have never found out about Julie's fling. Now I found myself wondering if it had happened before, and I was too dense to realize it. I had always trusted her.
Frank usually took Wednesday's off. I was betting that Julie would spend as much time washing her body this morning, as she did her precious car.
"Dad, are you going to drop me off on your way to work?" Sharon was ready to go, so I finished up my coffee and we hit the door. I stopped for a moment, beside my wife, as we walked to the car.
"This is the last time I am going to mention it. Stop seeing Frank Toliver."
All that got me was a nasty glare. "Damn it, John. Frank Toliver and I have nothing going on. I said it before, and I'll say it again, whoever is feeding you this bullshit is just trying to get your goat. Stop worrying yourself about something that is not happening."
Julie turned and continued drying her car as I just stood and stared at her. I finally walked to the car and backed out.
The first few minutes in the car were quiet. Sharon was looking out the window and I got the feeling that she was upset with me.
"What's wrong? Why are you being so moody?"
Without turning her head Sharon responded: "Dad, how long are you going to let her get away with this? It's been a while now, and I am really having a hard time putting up with the crap. Thank God I am going away in a couple of weeks. I am getting as disgusted with you for not doing anything, as I am with her for doing it."
"What crap are you putting up with? How is all of this affecting you? Your mother isn't doing anything at home is she?"
"No dad, it's Margie Toliver. She is dumping on me everyday about my slut mom stealing her dad away from the family. Her mom and dad have been divorced for over a year, but she just started bitching about three weeks ago. Apparently, her mother is fully aware of what is going on, between mom and Mister Toliver, and complains about it at home, everyday. Margie's home life sucks and she is passing it on to me."
"Sorry, I wasn't aware that you were getting flack about this. I have asked your mother three times to stop, and three times she has just denied it. I'll try and put a stop to it today."
The look my daughter gave me seemed to indicate that she didn't believe me. "Thanks for the ride anyhow, dad." I watched her walk up to the school, and I knew now that it was time to end things.
I knew where Frank Toliver lived. When he got divorced, his wife took the kids and moved in with her parents. Frank tried to sell the house, but owed too much on the mortgage to break even. With alimony and child support, he was having trouble just keeping up the house payments.
I have been avoiding the break room at work for the last month or so, so that I can miss the digs at my manhood. I stopped and got coffee before getting to work. After making my presence known to everyone, I told my secretary, Joyce, that I would be stuck in a meeting on the third floor over lunch, and for the rest of the day. She said she would hold my messages until I got back. It was easy to walk out the back door and drive away.
I sat down the street from the Toliver house waiting for my wife. It was only twenty minutes later when she showed up. She actually had her own garage door opener for his house. After the door closed, I waited thirty minutes before I walked up to the house. No one noticed as I tried the side door to the garage. It was unlocked. Julie had the convertible top down on the Mustang. Frank had a little BMW convertible- Z car or something like that. I don't know much about cars, but I knew it was expensive. I picked up Julie's purse which she had left sitting on her car seat.
I would have loved to go into the house and surprise them in bed, but that was not my plan. I didn't need to see it, to believe it. Frank had a five gallon can of gasoline sitting by his lawn mower. There was enough in it to douse both cars, and spread some around his shop storage area. By the time they realized the garage was on fire, there would be nothing they could do to stop it. I had to hustle a little to get back to my car before there were any indications. In my rear view mirror, I was just able to make out a few wisps of smoke, as I turned the corner. Ten minutes later, I was back at work and told my secretary the meeting was canceled. It was as if I had never left the building.
When I got home, Sharon was sitting in the living room watching TV. Julie was not there, and Sharon had no idea where she was. I was a little worried. Did the two lovers get trapped in the house? Were they overcome with smoke or burned alive? Were they at the hospital being treated for something? I was beginning to regret what I had done, when the phone rang.
The phone call was from Julie's sister.
"Hi John. It's Candice. I just wanted to let you know that Julie is over at my place. She had an accident with the Mustang. She is all right but the Mustang is ruined. She is a little nervous right now, and can't talk. I'll bring her home later tonight, and she can explain everything then."
"Do you want us to come over there and pick her up?"
"No. John, she is pretty upset and I think it would be better if you wait until I bring her home. She is sorry about the car."
"Okay. Where is the car right now?"
"I am not sure. I think they towed it to a lot somewhere. Julie can tell you about it later. Thanks John. I was sure you would understand."
When I hung up the phone, I had a big grin on my face. Sharon noticed it, said nothing, and smiled back.
"I think you should take my car and drive over to see your aunt Candice. Your mother seems to have had an accident with the Mustang, and she does not want to talk to me right now. You could offer to help, and quietly stick your nose into things. I would love to know what happened, but I can't ask. Maybe you will get lucky. Just a suggestion, in case you are interested."
"You know I am. Give me your keys. Do you want me to bring her home, or leave her there?"
"Surprise me." I said.
She was lightly laughing, as she walked out the door.
I settled down to a quiet evening of beer and TV. Sharon came home about a couple of hours later, with a bigger smile than she had when she left.
"I didn't think you had it in you. You are one rotten son-of-a-bitch, dad. I love it."
I was being very careful. There was no way I was going to admit to anything. Any conclusions that my daughter might come to, would be on her own.
"Where is the car?"
"I am not sure, but it can't be moved until the insurance company checks it out. Mom did not want to talk about it, and was very evasive."
"Where is your mom? Why didn't she come home with you?"
"It appears that she is concerned with how you are going to react. I asked her to explain, and she became flustered. Candice said she would be staying there for a few days, until things straightened out. I don't know what that means. I asked for explanations and didn't get any answers."
"I hope you don't have any questions for me, because I won't answer them either."
"Good boy, dad. I don't want to know any more. I can wait for the sequel."
Sharon went to bed and I got another beer. Things worked out just right.
The next day at work, things were a little different. There were no snide remarks from the break-room gang. My secretary, Joyce, was even a little more attentive than normal. Frank Toliver did not show up for work. I did not inquire about him, and nobody offered any information. A few of the guys seemed to be avoiding me. That afternoon, a small bouquet of daisies was delivered to my desk. The note said, "Thank you, M.T." Frank's wife was named Marsha. I didn't know any other people with those initials. Joyce was now smiling every time she looked at me. I was a little worried that Marsha had jumped to that conclusion as fast as she did. I was hoping the police didn't do the same thing.
.... There is more of this story ...