" ... Last night you both kept dancing
When the music ceased to play
Is it all over, do you still love me
Am I standing in your way..."
It is such a fucking cliché, what happened to me.
I was a physical ruin as I left work today; I'm a carpet installer. If you've never done it, you have no idea. At any rate I would soon be dropping in at Tribes to imbibe some liquid revitalizer. Tribes is a very large bar with a very small dance floor and a very ancient country music only jukebox to facilitate the hoofers. Most of the patrons are blue collar types and cowboy wannabes. The local constabulary also usually has a presence, and that, with the total support of the owner and top gun bartender Larry Herndon.
Larry saw me first and grabbed my attention. "Clyde, I don't want no trouble. Got it," he said. He'd seen me in action more than once.
"Huh?" I said.
"Adrienne's here again, Clyde—with Alan. That's them dancing," he nodded out toward the far side of the dance floor.
I turned to see my wife and my new worst enemy swaying rhythmically to an old country tune, "Am I standing in your way..." They were glued to each other and not at all concerned about who saw them.
I was hurt, I was angry, and I was about to be gettin' divorced. Oh yeah, this was the livin' end. She'd trashed my pride too many times. She'd disrespected me too many times. It was "too" definitely over now.
Adrienne and I had been having troubles of late, but we had also been making the effort; or so I'd thought, to fix our problems. I guess I was wrong. I was suddenly glad we'd got no kids; that would not have been convenient, not after this.
I didn't want to end up in the slam for kickin' Whitley's pimply ass, so I calmed myself down and watched.
"On the house," said Larry, setting my usual Lite in front of me. I swigged half the glass and returned to my informal sleuthing.
I was at the end of the bar in a kinda darkened spot, my back was to it, the bar, elbows pushed back half supporting me while I watched them. She finally spotted me.
She smiled weakly in my direction—busted—but she kept on dancing with him. Oh, him? He's Alan Whitley: a trucker and womanizer; oh, and didn't I mention? Professional asshole! I flipped her the bird, took a final sip of my beer and started to leave. She made to come to me, but he held her, and she didn't fight him. I left.
It was around 6:30 before I'd finally packed everything I needed. I headed downstairs. I had just reached the bottom of the stairs when she burst into the kitchen from the back and sailed into the front room. Alan was with her. She came in somewhat breathless.
"Clyde, where are you going? I came home to apologize. Alan too. Clyde, we were just funnin', no big deal. We weren't doin' nuthin'. We weren't gonna do anything! Honey, come on back in," she said.
"Why, Adrienne? Why? Do you still love me?" I said.
"Clyde this isn't about love. It's—something else," she said.
"Yeah, sex, right Adrienne? And I noticed you didn't answer me. Well, that good 'ole asshole standing beside you can be funnin' you now, Adrienne."
"Clyde, come on, man. She's right; it was just gonna be sex. Some foolin' that's all. She loves you not me. I mean it man," said Alan.
"Shut the hell up, Alan; you weren't getting' into my pants tonight and you know it," shouted Adrienne.
I was standing half in and half out of the front door. "Fuck you," I said to him, "her too."
"What did you say asshole," said Alan, as his demeanor suddenly morphed.
"I said to intercourse yourself, fuckwad, and her too!"
He came at me and I laid him out, easy-peezy. "I ain't gonna be standin' in your way no more, Adrienne. You can screw butthead there until your pussy fossilizes," I pointed at the writhing form below me, "or anybody else you want anytime you want from now on."
"Clyde! Please, we have to talk. It was only sex—I mean we didn't even do anything. It wasn't nuthin," she wailed. But, I was gone. I was sure I'd interrupted her plans, but she was gonna do it; it was on her mind, and I sure as hell knew it was on his. If it hadn't been so tragic it would have been funny.
I drove around for some time. I found myself pulling into the Starlight Motor Lodge. Forty bucks a night and found. Found means free breakfast if you city folks ain't into cowboy talk. It would do for a while.
I got me a room, and paid up for a week. I had to be at work in the morning; I was gonna need the money. It was only Thursday; tomorrow was a work day. I'd be finding me a lawyer during lunch time and a more permanent place on the weekend.
Sacked out on the lumpy motel mattress, I was thinking. What do I want? What am I gonna do? I got a good job. Good friends. My bartender knows me by name. Hey, if all I gotta fuck with is a whore wife, I'll just get away from her, and everything will be fine. Hey I got prospects, I told myself.
I slept the sleep of the just.
At lunch the next day. I used a phone number the boss gave me and set the wheels of the divorce in motion. I went in and signed the necessary forms after work, and arranged to have her served at her work. She's a secretary for Marston Trucking; the same one, ironical as hell, that Alan Whitley works for. May the two of them rot forever in the place reserved for the devil and his stinking traitorous angels!
Morgan Halsey, a direct, though distant, relative of the WW II admiral was my law dog.
"Clyde, you get half and she gets half; that's pretty much it," he said. "You ain't got no children, so that makes it a pretty simple split. You okay with all of that?"
"Yeah, do it," I said. "I just want out. My woman has to be my woman. I don't share."
"Okay, my man, you got it," I said. It was almost 6:00PM and I wanted to get someplace where I could shed some stress.
"I wasn't there but I hear there was quite a scene in the Marston main office yesterday," I said to the man sitting next to me. It was Monday, and I knew the bitch had been served.
"Yeah, Clyde, do yuh think! You nailed the bitch pretty good. I was there and I can tell you the tears never stopped falling. I think the bitch still loves you. Pity she feels the need to loan her ass out to all comers like that," said Ben.
Ben Gilchrist was my long time friend, and coincidentally, the office manager at Marston. He'd actually introduced me to Adrienne twenty years before. I'd been in my mid-twenties then and Adrienne a few years younger. She and I had hit it off, dated for a few months, and finally married on Christmas Eve nineteen years ago. Now, it seems, it had all come to naught. I felt free, but I did not feel good. You don't have that much psychologically invested in someone and just forget about 'em and go on. I still loved the whore, but I couldn't deal with the betrayal; that was going to damn far.
I punched in and headed for the coffee machine. Helen, the boss' secretary, waved me over. "You got a couple of messages from your wife, Clyde. She sounded pretty upset."
"I ain't takin' no more messages from her, Helen. If she calls again tell her to call Morgan. She knows the number," I said.
"Okay, if that's what you want," she said, and she headed off toward her office.
Yeah, I expected the calls. But, I don't know why she was tryin' to call me. She knew that bein' with that man would kill any feelings I had for her—well, almost anyway.
The woman sitting next to her was almost sneering. "I don't know Adrienne. I mean I don't know why you're whining like this. You've been talking about getting away from him almost since I've known you, and that's ten years, girl," said Mavis Billings.
"I just don't know what I want," said Adrienne. "Yes, I know what I've said in the past, but now that it's come to this, I just don't know.
"Look," said Mavis, "Alan's a good looking guy. He's got a good job. If it's his dick you want, go for it, girl."
Adrienne, looked up at her long time friend. "Maybe you're right, but I just don't know, Mavis. We've been together so long. We know everything about each other. He's had my back on any number of occasions, and me his. It just don't seem right him dumping me like this. If I could just talk to him, but; but, he won't come near me."
"Well, that should tell you something," said Mavis. "If he really cared, he wouldn't be getting' so all fired hot under the collar about a little playin' on the side.
"I remember you telling me that you told him what you might be doin' when he asked you o marry him. I also remember you told me he said that he could handle it. Well, he clearly can't," said Mavis.
"Yes, but that was just going out with the girls and having a good time, not—you know. But we changed over time. And then, Alan..."
Mavis looked exasperated. "Sign the damn papers, Adrienne, and let's get on with your life. There's a ton of guys out there dying to have a shot at you.
"You know, Alan has money, or will when his aunt dies. He told me so a long time ago and he wasn't lyin'."
Adrienne perked up. "Money?"
"Darn straight. Fifty-thousand dollars," pronounced Mavis. "That, girl, is a pretty good chunk of green."
"That is a lot," said Adrienne. She shook herself. "Maybe you're right. I guess I could do a lot worse than Alan Whitley."
She caught me at my place of work just as I was getting in to start my day. "Clyde?" She came to me looking a little unsure; I waited.
"Whaddya want?" I said.
She passed me the manila envelope. "I signed the papers," she said, "just like you wanted. I didn't want to just give them to the lawyer without saying a final word to you though.
"Clyde, if this is what you want then, okay. I would have thought you'd have given me a chance. But, okay. I will be moving on with my life now, I hope you will be doing good, Clyde. Goodbye."
I nodded. I was doing what I had to do; but it was the saddest moment of my life. She turned and walked away.
I saw her get into a car across the lot. It was Alan Whitley's car.
Six months later it was all over. The day after I got the final papers, I got seriously smashed.
I was sittin' at my usual place at Tribes when Ben came in. He took a seat beside me. "Buy me a drink," he said, "I'll tell you your fortune."
"That oughta be a worth a beer or two," I said. "Do I get to die? I wanna die."
For the next four days in a row, Ben and I met for drinks at the Tribes. I cried a little, complained a little, and sighed a lot. I was divorced, really and truly divorced from the love of my life, but I was not happy about it.
It was Saturday, the fifth day, that my life changed.
I was startin' in early at the bar. It was just after noon. I was alone. Ben hadn't arrived yet. I think his wife, Susie, was a little miffed at him for bein' late every day for the past several.
"You Clyde Bristow?" said a complete stranger.
"Who wants to know," I said. I checked him up and down. He was all business.
"I'm Mason Kellerman. I'm a lawyer. You're kind a hard to find, Mr. Bristow."
"Didn't know anybody was lookin'," I said.
"Well, as you are well aware your daddy died some time ago," he said.
"In 2000, so?" I said
"Well, he left you a few things. I mean in his will," he said "One of..."
"Will? What will? My dad said he was leaving everything to me, but he didn't say he had no will.
"Look I got all my daddy's stuff when we left Texas. That was four years ago. I gave away dad's the trailer to my cousin; I didn't want it. So if this has anything to do with that—"
"No, no, nothing to do with that. It's about the stock he had. A thousand shares of Allied Chemical. He bought them when the company was new—more than fifty years ago actually. He bought in at ten dollars a share. I believe he worked for the company for quite a number of years too," said Mr. Kellerman. "Anyway, my father was his stockbroker."
"Stockbroker?" I mumbled.
"My dad did work for ACI. I remember that. I guess I was maybe twelve when we moved and he changed jobs.He became a real estate salesman. Never made much money at it though. We was always lookin' for the next buck. After my mom died, I left home and got me a job. Only saw my dad on holidays after that, and maybe a few other times, until his last illness."
"Yes, well, he changed careers, Mr. Bristow, but he kept the stock. With accumulated dividends, numerous share spits over the years and the success of the company over time; you have four-thousand shares now. The stock price opened yesterday at $123 per share. Well, to put it simply, you've got roughly a half million dollars were you to liquidate today," he said.
I suppose I looked at him kinda funny. "Huh?"
"And, that's just the stock. You're dad has—had—land in Texas too. There's oil on it. Never been tapped. He didn't care about the oil, so my dad told me, or money either if it came to that. Anyhow, one of the big oil companies has submitted a bid on it, I mean the land. That's the main reason why I'm here.
"Frankly, I would have been here sooner, but you were; as I mentioned earlier, real hard to find. I mean Kentucky? It took a private investigator to do the job," he said.
"A bid? An oil company?" It was beginning to register. I had money.
"Yes, I have the papers with me. They're offering two million. For the six hundred and forty acres including all rights."
I nearly fainted. We talked for a little while longer. We made an appointment to meet with Morgan in the morning.
The meeting was cut and dried. The stock would be liquidated and put into a guaranteed fixed annuity offered by my life insurance company. I was guaranteed $2500 a month for life. Ninety percent of money from the land sale after taxes I put into long term CDs at seven percent interest. I was single. I had a small but cheap room; I'd given the house to Adrienne in the divorce. There was no alimony or any of that. So, I wanted her to have something; she got the house and the furniture. I just took my personal things and some pictures and books. My pickup was paid for. My needs were few.
I finally was able to quit my job. My knees were getting' a bit beatin' up layin' carpet, so the money was timely. With what I was getting' from my annuity added to my social security down the line—fifteen years down the line—I would be havin' somethin' close to four grand monthly for my old age. Not too bad, and that didn't even count the big money. I was feelin' sassy.
I was feelin' sassy, but I was also feelin' careful. I made sure Morgan knew this windfall, for such it was, was not to be put out there for others to know about. I had a few of my dad's genes, I guess, I really didn't care about the money apart from the fact that I was able to quit layin' carpet and maybe do something else.
Times were good. I got on as a part time barkeep at Tribes. Well, I was a big guy, and I had plenty of experience messin' with drunk assholes. For his part, Larry was glad to have me on his side for once. But, truth told I hadn't started anything since the breakup with Adrienne. My heart wasn't in it anymore. Now, I helped keep the peace and learned to be a good purveyor of alcohol. Adrienne had married Whitley, I knew that, and they had moved out of town, 'Bama, I heard. My heart broke anew when I heard that. It almost broke again tonight.