Tipping Point
Chapter 1: Slip Slidin' Away

Copyright© 2010 by Coaster2

Sex Story: Chapter 1: Slip Slidin' Away - Stan Copely reaches a point where he knows he must change his life's path. What he can't foresee is just how big that change will be.

Caution: This Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa   Consensual   Cheating   Safe Sex   Oral Sex   Slow  

It was late Friday afternoon and I was half asleep, sitting ... or more accurately slouching in one of those "designed for discomfort" chairs that every airport features. I'd flown in from North Platte, Nebraska, with a tight connection to home base, Cincinnati. No such luck. My commuter flight was on time, but the 737 was nowhere to be found when I got to Denver. It was the airline's hub, but there was no aircraft at my gate. "A mechanical," the girl at the counter said. "We'll let you know." Yeah, right!

I flipped open my cell phone and called home. It rang five times before the answer machine kicked in. I left a message for my wife, Sylvia, telling her that I was delayed and wouldn't be home until late. I looked at my watch and realized she wouldn't be home until later anyway. Friday night had become her night out with "the girls." Ever since she went back to work five years ago she had been exerting her independence. I wondered how much that had to do with her deteriorating attitude toward me and our son, Tommy.

I admit I've been on the road far too much lately; lately being the last three years. It's all a result of the company's "belt tightening." Things hadn't been going well at Faraday and Crosse. We'd been losing market share to competitors. The company made packaging equipment, and had for many years. Old Jonas Faraday, still alive at nearly ninety, founded the company following WWII. At one time, Faraday & Crosse had been a big player in the packaging business across North America. Lately, however, it hadn't been much of a player at all.

We'd been caught and passed by several competitors, both domestic and foreign, and that had resulted in some drastic cutbacks at the plant, as well as in the field. I've got seniority, so that was the good news. I'm also the best service tech the company has. That's not bragging, it's just a matter of having been around longer than the others. Most of the other guys who had worked with me have either retired or quit.

What started out as a six man department was now down to three. On top of that, our quality had been slipping, so I spend more time fixing things that should never have left the factory. Then there was the cost cutting edict. Bonuses disappeared, along with a lot of other benefits. Gone was the company's contribution to the pension plan, the accumulated time-off benefit, and the sick days benefit. I never took advantage of them anyway, but they meant something to a lot of other people.

A couple of years ago we changed travel agents, and at the same time a new epistle came down from above. Any travel had to be authorized by the individual's supervisor. All extended travel (three days or more) should commence on Sunday to avoid wasting a day's work. Return travel was not to commence until after 4pm unless no other option was available that same day. Then there was the matter of our new travel agent.

I was assigned to a woman name Sue Fracas. What an appropriate name! Sue's mandate, I found out later, was to route my travel by the most economic (read cheap) method possible. In addition, our schedule would be set by our supervisor to maximize efficiency. That meant leaving Sunday and getting back Friday after being in two or three different customer plants. It didn't matter how urgent the situation was with our customer, we were going to be efficient, no matter what.

Once the assignments were set, the supervisor would contact the travel agent and she would make the flight, hotel, and rental car arrangements. Take a wild guess how well that worked. After several colossal screw-ups, not to mention irate customers, the plan was scrapped and we went back to making our own travel arrangements. Well, our own except the travel agent would book the flights, hotels, and rental cars, but we would get to tell them where and when we wanted to go, and when we wanted to return. The result was little different. The capper was when Mrs. Fracas routed me home to Cincinnati on a Friday night from St. Louis via Dallas. Apparently, she saved the company fifty dollars.

My son, Tommy, had been listening to my complaints about this woman and suggested I book my trips on my own computer. It was easy to do, he said, and was happy to show me how. In a moment of brainlessness, I agreed, and we set up my next week's travel. Tommy was right. It was easy. On top of that, I could get discounts at various motels and car rental places that I know we weren't getting now.

I was pretty proud of myself right up until the moment the General Manager called me into his office and proceeded to drill me a new rectum. I turned out that Mrs. Sue Fracas was a personal friend of Mrs. Joan Whipple, wife of said General Manager. She found out about my handling my own travel and complained to Mrs. Whipple, who filled the ear of Mr. Whipple. Hence my whipping from Mr. Whipple.

It was at that point I knew I was beaten. He didn't give a damn about my personal comfort or how many hours I spent in airports or hotels. As far as he was concerned, I was living the good life, and I had a lot of damn nerve complaining about it. It was the old joke we shared with the sales reps and my fellow tech reps: The glamour of travel. The accounting mentality now had a vise grip on Faraday and Crosse.

As I sat waiting for the next installment of my flight delay, I was doing some serious thinking. Now this probably wasn't the best time for it, since I was already in a lousy mood, but I got to thinking just what my life was like at this particular moment. I didn't like the answer I was getting. Sylvia had been sniping at me fairly regularly lately. She seemed unhappy about everything, but I couldn't get her to open up and tell me what was bothering her. We seemed to be talking to each other less and less with each passing day.

When I tried to think back to when it all started, the only point I could find was after she started her new career. When Tommy turned sixteen, she took a job in an insurance company office, and within a year she had earned a promotion, and then two years later, another. She was now the manager of claims for a large branch of a national company, and her salary reflected it. When we filed our income tax returns earlier this year, I was surprised to see that her income was nearly as much as mine. That brought about another point of friction.

When I saw what she was earning, I asked her where the money was going. It certainly wasn't going into our savings account. True, she had bought a fancy new car, complete with payments, but aside from groceries and her clothes, all the rest of the household expenses were born by me. That included the first two years of Tommy's college tuition. I was probably a little irritated when I asked her where the money was, but I wasn't prepared for the reaction I got in return.

"It's my money, and I'll do what I like with it." She was speaking in a tone that would indicate she thought the matter was closed. It wasn't.

"Since you live in this house and you are married to me, I expect a civil answer to a reasonable question. Where is the money going?"

"If you must know, it's going into a non-taxable savings account. I'm planning for our retirement, even if you aren't."

"I'm saving whatever we can, but it doesn't help when you don't contribute."

"I told you, I am contributing. It's just not to your fund. Now quit pestering me about it."

That ended the conversation, but it left me with an uneasy feeling about what she was doing with her income. In typical fashion, though, I pushed it down into my memory recesses and let it go. Now it was back up, front and center. As I thought about it, Sylvia and I hadn't been getting along for at least as long as the three years since travel had been intensified. I'd been using the old "rope-a-dope" technique, trying not to absorb any heavy blows, letting her shots bounce off me. Why?

Why had I decided to tolerate her nearly abusive behavior? Not hard to answer that. It was the easy way out. Just like sticking with my lousy job for all these years. It was easier to go with the flow than make waves. I am forty-three years old, the same age as Sylvia. Half my life is past me, but I'm still in what most people would think of as their prime. I have twenty-four years of experience behind me and surely someone would value that. Hell, my customers regularly told me that if I ever wanted a job to come see them.

So, what was keeping me from changing everything? Inertia? Yeah, probably. Better the devil you know than the one you don't. Fear? That too. Where would I go? What would I do? So instead, I just learned to live with it. I felt like I was walking close to the edge of a cliff. Another few steps and I would be over ... falling into what? All I had to do was stop, turn around, and walk the other way. So easy to say, so difficult to do.

It was almost seven o'clock when they announced our aircraft would be at the gate in five minutes, and after a quick crew change, we would be boarding. I walked over to the growing lineup of people anxious to be on their way. I noticed quite a few had disappeared since our original flight time. Had they found other ways to get home, or had they just given up? And why did that sound like the same question I had been asking myself over the last several hours?

It was almost seven-thirty when we finally pushed back from the gate and taxied to the runway. It was a three hour and fifteen minute flight, plus a two hour time change. If I was lucky, I would be home sometime after one o'clock. Wonderful! In fact it was almost one-thirty when I hauled my suitcase and briefcase-cum-tool-kit through my front door. I was too tired to drag them upstairs and left them by the hall closet. I would get them in the morning when I did my laundry.

I was as quiet as I could be when climbed the stairs to our bedroom. I need not have bothered. When I entered, the ensuite light was providing enough illumination that I could see the bed was still made. Where was Sylvia? What the hell was she doing out at one-thirty on a Friday night? I sat on the edge of the bed, then decided to strip and have a shower. I hoped I would feel better after that. By the time I finally crawled into bed, the clock radio told me it was almost two a.m. I didn't have the energy to dwell on my wife's absence. I was asleep in seconds.

When I awoke on Saturday morning, a November sun was shining for a change, and I looked at the clock. Almost nine-thirty. I wondered what time Sylvia got home? She was sound asleep beside me, and didn't look like she was going to wake up any time soon. I got up, got dressed, and headed for the kitchen. I made the coffee and sat down to look at my list of chores. Nothing! That was a nice surprise. No snow to shovel, no leaky taps to fix, just the laundry. I finished the first cup and walked out to the front to get my suitcase.

I had just finished loading the wash into the dryer when Sylvia finally made an appearance.

"Good morning," I offered in a calm voice.

"G'mornin'," she rasped, squinting at me. "What time did you get home?"

"One thirty. I was surprised to see you weren't here. You weren't home at two when I finally got to bed. Where were you?"

"Out with the girls. You know I always go out with them on Fridays."

"Until sometime after two a.m?"

She shrugged. She wasn't looking at me, but down into her coffee cup as far as I could tell.

"Just what the hell could you and your "girls" be doing at that time of night?"

"Talking ... just ... talking. Why, don't you trust me?" she said suddenly, looking up at me.

"Trust you? I don't know. Give me a reasonable answer to why you would be out all hours of the night and maybe I could answer that."

"You don't, do you. You don't trust me. Well I'm not going to answer any questions in this inquisition. If you don't like it, you can go to hell!" she spat.

I stood there for a moment, almost teetering in my anger and frustration. And then it was over. I knew I was done and it was over. She had pushed me to the brink, and I had decided to turn and push back.

I walked to the laundry room and opened my suitcase. As soon as the dryer shut off, I began taking my clothes out and folded them the best I could before putting them in the suitcase. When I was done, I took the bag upstairs to the bedroom and began to systematically remove my clothes, shoes, bathroom kit, and anything I could think of that I would need. It took two suitcases to carry everything I wanted to take with me.

Sylvia had remained in the kitchen, drinking coffee and ignoring me. Fine, I could live with that. When I came downstairs with the first case and placed it at the front door, she suddenly came alive.

"What are doing? Where are you going with that?"

I didn't answer her, heading instead back upstairs to get the second suitcase. That brought about another more alarmed question from my wife.

"What are you doing, Stan? What have you got in those suitcases?"

I turned to her, looked at her as calmly as I could manage and said, "I'm leaving you. I'm taking my things and leaving here. I've had enough, and I won't be back."

"Don't be so stupid!" she snapped. "Just because I stayed out a little late last night is no good reason to leave. This is just a childish stunt on your part."

"This isn't just about last night, Sylvia. This is about your disrespect and antagonism toward me. This is about your selfishness and your constant carping and complaining. This is about a loss of love ... by both of us." I turned my back and walked to the front door.

I stepped out onto the front porch, closing the storm door behind me, making two trips carrying the three cases to my car. My car, the one that didn't rate a space in the garage. The seven-year-old sedan that I kept in perfect condition to make it last as long as possible. The garage was reserved for Sylvia's new car, and a collection of old furniture she refused to allow me to sell or give away.

I didn't bother to look back and see if she was watching me. She had said nothing since my last outburst, but I was sure she was watching, wondering just what the hell this was all about. I drove away without a backward glance. I had a strange feeling inside me; almost one of excitement. I had done something I never dreamed I would do, and I had no sense of regret, nor any second thoughts. This morning was the tipping point that I had imagined last night.

It wasn't difficult to find a modest motel with weekly rates. I prepaid a week on my credit card, realizing I would have to start looking right away for an apartment. The motel room had two useful features. It had a kitchenette with a sink, small refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker. It also had free wireless Internet connection.

I hadn't had any breakfast and it was fast approaching noon, so I walked up the street a couple of blocks to a restaurant and fed myself. I was calmer and less worried about myself than I expected to be. This afternoon, I would sit down and figure out a budget, make some financial arrangements on-line, and generally ready myself for an eventful week beginning on Monday.

Now that I had begun to push back, I had one more big step to take. I was going to resign from Faraday and Crosse, and I was going to do it first thing Monday morning. I would put my faith in myself for once in my adult life. I was determined now that I was going to recreate myself in an image I would be happy with. Today was only a first step.

I logged on to our banking site and shifted two thirds of our savings into my personal business account. It was usually reserved for travel and prepaid expenses, but from this day forward, it would be my only account. I looked at the joint checking account, then withdrew two thirds of that as well. Let Sylvia use her own money from now on. There would be enough in there to cover the already written checks, but not much more. On Monday, I would go to the bank and check the safe deposit box. Life insurance policies and a few stock certificates were mine, and I wanted to remove them from Sylvia's reach.

It took me over an hour to write a letter of resignation. Every time I tried to tell them in polite language what a bunch of insensitive assholes they were, I had to stop and start again. In the end, I did the usual thing and simply wrote that I was resigning with two weeks notice. No reason was given. When they asked, I wondered what I would say. The way I felt at that moment, I'd probably tell them exactly how if felt. Burn, baby, burn!

The one thing I hadn't given any thought to was our son, Tommy. I felt guilty about overlooking him. I owed him an explanation. I couldn't imagine that he was oblivious to the tension between his mother and me, but I shouldn't take it for granted. I didn't know which side he would fall on, but we were pretty close, and I suspected he would side with me. After all, he'd been an equal recipient of his mother's miserable nature too. I remembered he now had a cell phone, and I looked up the number in my address book and called him.

"Hi Tommy, it's Dad."

"Hi Dad, where are you?" He seemed pleased to hear from me.

"I'm at the Riverbend Inn, on Stateline, room 241. I just wanted you to know I've left your mother. I'm sorry to have to tell you like this, but I couldn't take it any more."

"I know, Dad, I heard some of your argument this morning. I can't blame you. I don't know what's wrong with her, but she's not very nice to be around any more."

"Yeah. Well, maybe it's about all the time I'm on the road. I don't know. When I asked her about it, she wouldn't tell me."

"Dad ... can I come and see you. At the motel, I mean."

"Sure. Anytime. I guess we should talk about what comes next. Just don't tell your mother where I am, please."

"Okay. I'll be there in a few minutes. Thanks, Dad."

I hung up. Tommy didn't sound surprised or angry with me. It sounded like he almost expected what I'd done. He arrived a half hour later, and I let him into the room.

"Would you like a beer?" I asked. I'd stocked up at the convenience store next door.

I extracted two bottles from the mini fridge and dropped a bag of pretzels on the coffee table near the window. We were sitting in what passed for easy chairs, and I waited for Tommy to begin.

"This must feel strange, Dad. I mean, leaving home with all your stuff. Like I said, I can't blame you. I can't take much more either."

I shook my head. "I didn't think it would ever come to this, but this morning was the straw the broke the camel's back."

"I don't know how to say this, Dad, but I think Mom might be fooling around with some guy. When you're away, she goes out at night sometimes, and doesn't come home until after I've gone to bed."

"What makes you think she's fooling around, as you put it?"

"Just how she acts. When I ask her about where she's going, she never really tells me. It's just 'out with friends' or to see a movie. But when she goes out, she's wearing makeup and sometimes a dress, like she's going somewhere special. And she never does it when you're home, just when you're away."

I nodded. I felt an emptiness in my gut as he told me. I might have suspected something, but didn't want to face it, just like I hadn't wanted to face a lot of things about my life lately.

"I suppose it's partly my fault, Tommy. I've been on the road so much lately. I'm sure she got lonely. I tried to talk to her about it, but she never really wanted to tell me how she felt. I guess that explains her attitude lately. It also means I'm going to do something I never thought I would. I'm going to file for divorce."

My son looked at me solemnly, only briefly nodding his head. "I understand." We sat silently for a while, just sipping our beer. After a while, Tommy spoke.

"Dad ... can I stay with you for now? I don't want to be at home any more if you're not there. I can help pay for the room ... or maybe we can find an apartment to share. I've got some money."

"Sure. I was going to look for a place to live, so we might as well look together. But what about Jilly?"

Jillian Forester was Tommy's girlfriend, and both Sylvia and I expected them to announce their engagement sometime soon.

"She'll understand. When I quit college, she was really upset, but I told her it wasn't permanent. I just needed to earn some money and then I could go back."

"I don't understand, Tommy. I ... we were looking after your tuition. You know I was upset when you dropped out. Your grades were fine. I didn't understand it then and I don't understand it now. Talk to me, please."

"I'm sorry, Dad. I should have told you what my plan was. It's just that things were so ... upsetting at home. I didn't think you needed another problem. I had a plan, and I didn't want you to have to worry about me, what with Mom being like she was."

"Tell me about your plan, then. Help me understand."

"After two years, I realized I wasn't getting the education I wanted. Lots of theory and case study, but no practical knowledge. I wanted to learn how to design and develop computer systems. I wanted some hands-on knowledge. I figured my best chance would be at South Ohio Tech.

"Their tuition isn't bad, but instead of going full time, I decided to enroll in night-time adult classes. I was accepted, but couldn't get in until this coming January. My plan was to work during the day and take classes at night. Instead of two years, it would take me three or more, but I would have the knowledge and hands-on experience I needed. Dad, everyone who graduates from SOT has a guaranteed job. They even recruit some of the drop-outs."

"Why didn't you tell us this? We would have supported you."

"I didn't think you'd approve. It's not an accredited college. It only grants certificates of merit. I know how much you wanted me to graduate from a proper college. But their reputation is amazing in the business world. Ask anyone about an SOT graduate. They'll tell you."

"You don't need to convince me, Tommy. I've seen some of their graduates on the job and you're right. They come ready to work and more than capable. If that's what you want, then you'll have all the support I can give you."

The smile on my son's face was worth everything at that moment. It was the one bright spot in the past two days. I reached over and hugged him, and received a warm hug in return.

"What are you going to do now, Dad?"

"Well ... I'm going to resign from Faraday and Crosse on Monday. I've had it with them and their miserable attitude. I'll find somewhere to work. I know my skills and I know my customers. I've had offers before, but I never treated them seriously. I didn't think your mother would be very happy to move, or to see me start all over again. Well ... none of that matters any more. I can do what I want ... what I think is best for me."

"Good for you, Dad. I have a feeling you're going to be okay."

"Yeah ... me too," I smiled, hoping he was right.

Tommy went home with the intention of packing his clothes and belongings and coming back to the motel. He was back by five that afternoon. There had been no confrontation at home, his mother wasn't there. I intended to go back Monday afternoon and collect all the miscellaneous things I hadn't packed this morning. Neither of us wanted another confrontation. I was surprised, however, that I hadn't heard from Sylvia. She knew my cell phone number.

I took Tommy out to dinner, and we decided to do something different. We went across the river to the Kentucky Ranch House. It was a noisy barbeque roadhouse with a live band. I would not normally have chosen it as a place for dinner, but both Tommy and I were keyed up with our new arrangement, and we decided to celebrate. The ribs were great, and the music was country.

Saturday night at the "Kane-Tuck" was lively. There were a lot of single men and women in the place. The big dance floor was seldom empty and I envied how much fun most of the people were having. I couldn't remember the last time I'd enjoyed myself this much. I felt a bit sorry for Tommy. I'm sure if Jilly were here, they'd be out on the dance floor, stompin' with the best of them.

Since Tommy was the designated driver that night, I nursed a couple of beers. What surprised me was the number of women who passed by that asked me or Tommy to dance. Tommy accepted a couple of invites, and I guess that gave me some courage too. I had several dances with different women. None of them propositioned me, but that wasn't a surprise. It was just nice to be asked.

We got back to the motel shortly after midnight, and both of us went straight to bed. The room had two queen size beds, so we had plenty of room. I slept like the dead and didn't hear a thing until after nine on Sunday morning. When I stirred and finally rose, I must have wakened Tommy. I made a quick trip to the bathroom, and then came back to give Tommy a chance.

When we had showered and shaved, we headed out for a late breakfast. Tommy's Focus was left behind, and we took my Pontiac to the nearby Denny's. This was no thrill for me. I'd seen the insides of far too many Denny's in this country, but the food was predictable and the prices reasonable. As usual, I was automatically watching my pennies.

"So, are you really going to divorce Mom and quit your job, Dad?" Tommy seemed to be having a hard time believing I was going to take such radical action.

"Yeah. Besides, if what you say is true, and your mother is cheating on me, well that's reason enough, even without being the bit ... nasty person she's been lately."

Tommy grinned. "It's okay, Dad. A bitch is a bitch, and Mom certainly qualifies."

I shook my head, having a hard time realizing we were having a conversation that I never imagined we would. "Don't think too badly of her, Tommy. I've been away so much in the past three years that I may have contributed to her deciding to stray. She's still your mother, and I don't want you to forget that."

"Yeah, well, that's real noble of you Dad, but the truth is, whether she cheated or not, you couldn't go on being treated the way she was treating you. Did she ever say she wanted you to quit traveling?"

"No ... not really."

"Well ... then I don't think she's justified in whatever caused her to act the way she has."

"How about we change the topic?"

"Okay ... what did you think about all the women that wanted to dance with you last night?"

I laughed. "They must have been desperate. But to tell the truth, it was good for my ego, and I needed that."

"Yeah, well, they thought you looked pretty cool for an old guy," he grinned. "No offense."

"None taken. I haven't been single for so long that I've forgotten what it's like."

"Doesn't look like you're going to have any trouble finding dates, if that was any indication."

"To tell the truth, Son, I'm not sure if I'm ready to look for female companionship right now. I'm still married to your mother, and I've never cheated on her in all the years we've been married. I've been tempted a few times, but I always remembered that promise I made to her in front of the preacher all those years ago. Those are things you don't forget."

"I know, Dad. I wish I believed Mom was living up to that same promise. I hope I'm wrong. Maybe I am. I hope so."

"Me too. Now let's get off this topic. We have some serious choices to make this afternoon. Like, which NFL game to watch, what kind of beer to get, where to go to dinner tonight. You know, all the important stuff." I was trying to lighten the mood from the rather gloomy topic of separation from our home.

"Well, the Bengals are in New York against the Jets. I like Miller Genuine Draft, and maybe we can find an Olive Garden nearby. How's that?"

"I can live with that. It's good to have a plan, I always say."

It was a good afternoon we spent in that motel room. I stepped out to get a dozen MGDs just before the game started. Our Bengals stomped the Jets as they continued their unexpected resurgence. Later, the Olive Garden had a nice clam fettuccini special that went well with a glass of dark red Italian wine. I can't remember a more pleasant Sunday than Tommy and I spent. It helped me keep my mind off the next morning and my confrontation with Wendell Morrison, my soon-to-be ex-boss.

I slept well that night. I didn't give Sylvia a thought, nor did I experience even a moment of guilt. I had turned off my cell phone to circumvent any attempt by her to talk to me. I had a lot to do Monday, including picking up the rest of my things from the house.

Monday dawned another cold, sunny day in southern Ohio. Tommy was up before me, off to work early so that he could grab breakfast on the way. I would have to remember to go shopping for some essentials today. We couldn't keep eating at restaurants. I showered and shaved, preparing to head to the office and present my resignation. I was strangely calm, considering the seriousness of my decision. I didn't have any doubt that I was going to do this.

I arrived at the office about twenty minutes later than my usual time, attracting the notice of quite a few people. I just didn't do that. I was noted for my predictability and punctuality. I was always a bit early, but today was a notable exception.

I sat down at my desk, oblivious to the looks that I was getting and the comments that were being directed my way. They weren't mean-spirited. I had a good relationship with virtually everyone in the office, and I had surprised them with my tardiness. I pulled the printed letter from my inside jacket pocket and looked at it once more. Only three sentences. Barely thirty words. Not much to say for twenty-four years of service to a company I once considered my one and only job. But nothing had changed from Saturday. I was going to put an end to this. Today!

I used the photocopier to make two additional copies of my letter, then walked down the hall to Wendell Morrison's office and tapped on the door. I got a gruff "come" in response.

I entered and closed the door behind me, another change in behavior. Usually the door was left open.

"Well, what is it, Copely?"

"I'm here to tender my resignation," I said quietly. I pulled the letter from my jacket pocket and handed it to my superior.

Morrison looked up at me as if I had three eyes. Almost absently he took the letter from me and continued to stare at me.

"What did you say? Resignation? What's this about, Copely?"

"Read the letter. It's self-explanatory," I replied in a calm, quiet voice.

He looked down at the folded paper and opened it. It didn't take him long to read it.

"Why are you resigning? Do you have a better job? You think this is a way to get us to pay you more, Copely?"

"Nope. I don't have a better job. I don't have any job at all. I'm just fed up with the way I'm being treated here and I've decided to quit. It's as simple as that."

"Are you crazy? In this economy? You can't afford to quit. You need this job. Who's going to pay the mortgage on your house? How are you going to put food on the table? You better think this over, Copely, before I accept it. You need us more than we need you."

"I don't need you at all, Mr. Morrison. I'm through with Faraday and Crosse. I've given you twenty-four years of loyal service, and in return, lately I've been subjected to more abuse and humiliation than I care to think about. You treat me and my colleagues like dirt. Well, enough is enough. It's up to you to decide if you want me gone today, or if you want me to finish out the next two weeks of my schedule. It's your call."

Morrison was quite red-faced at this point. I could see he didn't like my attitude at all, and was about to strike back.

"You can't talk to me like that. That's insubordination. I'll have you fired for it."

"Too late. I've already quit. So make your mind up. Do I work out my two weeks notice, or would you prefer I leave now?"

"Damn you, Copely. You know perfectly well we don't have anyone to cover your assignments. You'll work out those two weeks, that's for certain."

"Nothing is for certain any more, Mr. Morrison. And one more thing. If I find you trying to short me or cheat me in any way, I will advise my lawyer to prosecute F & C and you individually for constructive dismissal. You should look it up under Ohio labor law."

My last comment was an empty threat. I'd heard something about it on a radio talk show, and decided that my mythical lawyer could file a mythical law suit against my idiot boss. Just the same, based on how he was reacting to my comment, he seemed taken aback by my warning. Knowing how lazy he was, I doubted he would bother to look up the statutes for confirmation.

I turned and left his office without another word, closing the door quietly behind me. I sat at my desk, looked at the assignment sheet, and phoned my customers to arrange my visits in the second week. When that was done, I logged onto my computer and booked my travel, hotel, and car reservations. It was another chance to thumb my nose at the hidebound establishment that had become Faraday and Crosse.

When I handed in my expense report at the accounting office, I told them that I was resigning, but would have further expenses during the next two weeks. I stopped off at Human Resources and advised them of my resignation, giving them a copy of the letter I had handed Wendell Morrison. I also advised them that I was no longer living at my previous address and would ask that all communications be via my cell phone. I asked them to switch the bank account for the deposit of my paycheck to the account I used for my expenses, and would like that to be handled immediately.

Dana Miles, my contact in H.R., was distraught. She'd seen too many of us long-timers leave in the last few years, and her equally long service made her feel more and more alone. On the other hand, she wasn't oblivious to what was going on in the company, or with my job. She was sympathetic, but sad to see me go.

I left the office at noon and didn't return. I no longer felt any obligation to fall into my normal regimen. I was certain by now word of my quitting had circulated throughout the staff. I picked up a sandwich and a bottle of pop at the local deli and headed for my home ... my former home. I was reasonably certain that Sylvia would be at work, but just to be sure, I swung by her office and checked the parking lot. As expected, her car was there. I drove directly to the house, parking my car inside the garage and out of sight.

I prowled through the house, uncertain what I wanted from what was left. I had my clothes, toiletries, and laptop. Maybe my snow boots, gloves and hats? I suddenly realized I still had all my customer files in the little room I laughingly called an office. It was a tiny space below the stairs that housed a small desk, a two drawer file cabinet, one swivel chair and a fluorescent lamp fixture. More often than not, I had to leave the door open just to make sure there was enough oxygen in the room.

I made a quick trip to the local stationery store and purchased a pack of five legal size file boxes. I returned to the house and carefully transferred my files from the cabinet to the boxes. There were over twenty years of customer call records, repair notes, and expense reports in those files. I may just want them in future. When I finished, I put the cartons in my trunk and returned to the house.

To be honest, I was feeling pretty down when I looked around the home that Sylvia and I had shared for so many years. It all seemed such a waste. The marriage, now destined for the divorce court, wasn't all bad. Hell, a lot of it was pretty good. What caused it to fall apart? Was I to blame with all the travel? Was Sylvia? Both of us? I didn't know. The last room was our bedroom and I noticed a photo album in the closet. I hadn't looked at it in a long time. Perhaps there would be something there I wanted.

I thumbed through the pages, pulling out some pictures of Tommy and our family from happier years. It was all I wanted until I came to some loose photos. They were of Sylvia, taken by a professional photographer on the announcement of her most recent promotion. These were proofs that she had kept. I looked at them and selected a couple that I thought were quite good. I was confident that she would never miss them. Surely she wouldn't begrudge me a couple of souvenirs of our marriage. I made one last trip through to make sure I hadn't left anything I truly wanted. I left my house key, garage door opener, and wedding ring on the kitchen table.

I didn't expect to feel as down as I did driving back to the motel. Second thoughts? I didn't think so. The memories of her criticisms and derision were still fresh. Yet, I didn't have that strange feeling of euphoria I had on Saturday. I hadn't won anything. I had just chosen not to lose.

I picked up a local paper at the newsstand, and began to look for an apartment for Tommy and me. I wouldn't mind having my son as a roommate, but I wondered how it would affect his relationship with Jilly. For that matter, what if I found someone ... a woman ... someone I might become involved with? I put the thought out of my mind. I was in no position to enter a relationship with any woman until my marriage to Sylvia was resolved. That would be some months down the road.

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