Thanks to the Hip and Knee doctor for editing assistance.
It was one of those Sunday mornings when I just had the urge to go to Home Depot and kill time. I know, I should have been in church, but this was a hell of a lot more fun. I didn't really need anything, but since I hated golf, this was the best alternative. If I got lucky, the weed-and-feed would be on a year-end close out. Two years ago, I got four bags for one-fourth of the regular price.
"John. Fancy meeting you here." Barry Bartel was a family friend; not real close, but close enough to have a coffee and a chat with, even though I hadn't seen him for almost a year. Coincidently, Barry's wife, Greta, and my wife, Sheila, were leaving tomorrow morning for a week long Caribbean cruise. Since Barry wasn't able to get off work to go along, Sheila felt that I should stay home with the kids so that she and Greta could enjoy their time at sea together. She insisted that I would be a third wheel. Besides that, the two girls could save money by sharing a cabin. I didn't like it, but didn't feel like arguing about it.
I am sure that you can all see where this is going.
After a quick greeting ritual, we started wandering through the pest control section.
"John, I was sorry to hear that you couldn't get off work for the cruise. I was really looking forward to it." What the hell? He was the one that couldn't get off work. What was he trying to pull here?
"Hell, Barry, I already took the week off. I am going to be painting the kitchen while the girls are away. Sheila told me that you couldn't get off work."
"I work for my father, John. I can get off anytime that I want. I was actually packed when Greta told me that you couldn't make it."
Barry and I stood and looked at each other without speaking. The silence was broken by an old fart driving one of those motorized shopping carts.
"Are you guys going to stand there all day?"
I pushed my wagon to the side and looked at Barry. "Do you want to go get some coffee?"
We spent the next two hours at Mickey D's. It was not difficult at all for us to figure out that our wives had conspired to take a seven day Caribbean cruise without us. The big question was why they would do this? Both of us avoided the obvious until we couldn't stand it anymore. It was like the proverbial elephant in the room. I finally broke the barrier.
"So, Barry. Are they taking two guys with them or are they planning to hook up with a couple of strangers?"
He didn't want to answer. I don't think he even wanted to think about the possible answers. "John. Do you want a Danish?"
He wasn't trying to avoid the answer, but I got the feeling he was just trying to delay it. I nodded in the affirmative and also raised my empty coffee cup. Five minutes later, we had two hot buns and two steaming coffees.
"John, I can't imagine Greta picking up a stranger, so I have to go with some sort of a pre-arranged thing."
"I hate to say it, but I agree. What I don't understand is why they are taking a trip to do this. Wouldn't it be easier just to hook up with a guy some place around home?'
"Hell, maybe they are. I'll be real honest with you; I don't keep track of what Greta does or where she goes. I have always trusted her and never considered that she might be seeing any one."
"Why would two mothers with school aged kids even think about messing around?"
Both of us tried to drink the coffee, but it was so damn hot we had to give up. We put the cups down and stared out the window.
"John. It must be a couple of guys from work." Sheila and Greta both worked for International Casualty Insurance. What Barry said seemed to make sense.
"Is there anything that we can do to stop it?"
"Barry, if they know these guys well enough to go on a cruise with them, then we are probably too late already."
"What do you mean? Do you think they have already cheated on us?"
"I hate to say it, but I am starting to think that way." Barry got up and walked over to the service counter. A minute later he was back. "Damn. They charge 27 cents for a cup of ice. Why does anyone bother to come here anymore?"
We each dumped a little ice in with the hot Java. Neither of us spoke for several moments.
"John. Now that I think about it, Greta has been putting in a lot of extra evening and weekend hours at work lately. I never gave it much thought before. I hate to say this, but I am starting to agree with you."
"I am not going to stop Sheila from going, but I also am not going to just sit on my ass."
I finished my Danish and tossed what was left of the coffee in the trash. "Barry. Meet me here tomorrow right after the girls leave for the airport. We have to do a little planning. Don't say anything to Greta that would indicate that you know what is going on."
Barry gave me a thumbs-up as I walked out the door. It looked as if he was going to stay and finish his coffee. He didn't seem happy.
Things were pretty normal when I got home. Our two sons, Todd who is nine and Jason, ten, were firmly fixed in front of the Wii. I felt that they should have been outside, but I gave that fight up years ago. Sheila was acting the same as she always had. I sat and looked over the newspaper as she got a light lunch together. I expected her to be chatting about her trip, but she seemed to be avoiding any discussion about it. Of course, that in itself was interesting.
That afternoon I finally got the boys outside to kick the soccer ball around for a while. Shelia was busy inside getting her bags packed. She insisted on being ready so that she could leave with no problems in the morning. I found myself smiling as I glanced towards the house several times. How did I miss this? How stupid was I? Why didn't I figure it out long ago?
"Todd? Jason? I am going to be busy next week painting the house while your mother is gone. How do you feel about spending the week with Grand-mom and Grand-pop Clemmons?"
I never really received a reply. They both immediately headed for the house, and ten minutes later, they were packed. My parents had a farm about twenty miles outside of town and had horses. It was a no-brainer. Sheila squawked a little, but seemed hesitant to make too big a deal about it. By the time I got back home, my wife had supper ready.
After she cleaned up, Sheila took a shower. Of course this gave me an opportunity to do a quick check of her bags. My suspicions were confirmed. Three things stood out. First, most of her underwear and sleeping garments were far too sexy if she was spending her time with Greta. The second red flag was a brand new orange bikini that was carefully hidden inside her make-up case. The last, and worst discovery, was two ten-packs of condoms that were hidden in her hair dryer case with a tube of KY jelly. Why would my wife be taking condoms on a cruise? I kicked myself for even being stupid enough to ask myself that question.
Sheila wanted to get a good night sleep before her trip and I decided that I wanted to watch the Steven Segal movie marathon. There was no sex that night.
I did not have international coverage with my cell phone. Sheila used a cell phone that she got from work that did have world-wide service. I couldn't call her, but she agreed to call home daily, or if there were any problems. I told her not to worry if I didn't answer. I might be at my parent's house with the boys or busy with the painting. She seemed relieved at my answer.
Greta was already at the terminal when I dropped Sheila off. She smiled and waved to me as Sheila joined her. I was anxious to see Barry.
Barry waited until he saw me park and then got us a couple cups of coffee. He got the ice at the same time and complained about it again.
"John. Tell me you have some good news."
I just shook my head in the negative.
"Greta had two new dresses packed and underwear that most women would be embarrassed to wear."
"Unfortunately, I have the same bad news. A new bikini and a whole bunch of condoms."
"Oh hell. I didn't even think to look for anything like that. I didn't go into her make-up case at all. I don't know if I am glad I didn't find any or sorry that I didn't look harder."
For the next twenty minutes, Barry and I moaned and groaned about our dilemma. When the coffee was gone, it was time for us to get to work.
The first stop was International Casualty Insurance. We got past the receptionist by claiming to have employment interviews with Kermit Templeton, the head of the personnel department. Barry and I knew Kermit from high school. We weren't what you would call close friends, but we all got along.
"Oh shit. I was afraid of this." Kermit was not exactly happy to see us. "Close the door, will you?"
Barry and I sat and tried to get comfortable in a pair of chairs that were not designed for comfort.
"You know why we are here don't you, Kermit?"
"I have a damn good idea."
Barry and I were smiling, but our host wasn't.
"We were hoping that you could tell us how many people in the company were on vacation this week."
"Is that a question?"
Our smiles turned to frowns and Kermit quickly changed his attitude. He pushed a few computer keys and replied with a sigh. "Including Sheila and Greta, fourteen people are taking vacation."
"Could you print out a list for us?"
"No, but I think I can give you what you want." Kermit hit a few more computer keys and the printer by the side of his desk started humming away. He pushed two sheets of paper our way and waited for a response.
.... There is more of this story ...