Have you ever had one of those life changing moments? Sometimes you don't even recognized it as such. I was called upstairs to the president's office Monday morning. Mary, the secretary, directed me to go into the boardroom where the president, the two vice-presidents and all four of the other division managers were sitting. The three senior members looked at me and smiled as I sat down. The four managers never looked directly at me.
I thought, "Oh oh, this doesn't look good. The rumors are true then about the combining of some of the divisions." I surveyed the room as I sat there thinking. My thoughts continued, "Last one in, first one out, and--yes, that would be me!"
Jim Burns, president, spoke quietly. "Burt I'm sorry, but we, in the corporation, have had to downsize. We have looked at all aspects of our operation and it is our decision that we will be closing down the division you manage. We find that we can out source the work your division does and we can save several million dollars a year. Your position is being eliminated and we do not have a position for you any longer. This is a sad day for us. You have been here with the company since its inception.
"We do have a very attractive severance package for you and a few other perks to ease the pain of your termination. We wish you well and hope you find another position soon with another company. It is a sorry day when we have to treat a loyal employee like this and it wasn't my wish to have you leave. The board has spoken and it is my job to inform you, which hurts me more than you know." So there it was, a life changing moment.
I spent an hour with the comptroller receiving the details of the "wonderful" package the corporation provided. It did amount to a lot. Twice my salary for a year, a month's salary for every year I had been with the company, paid medical for eighteen months and an office to use for a job search. I acted calmly, as there was nothing to gain by being bitter and angry.
When asked where I wanted his severance deposited, I said, "Cut me a check and I won't be availing myself of the office you so kindly offered." I walked out the door at two-thirty that afternoon with a check for $827,540.00. Stopping by my bank, I put the check in the newly rented safety deposit drawer. I had a year to cash it and needed to make the decision as to what to do with the money. That could come later.
God I felt free. Then I started laughing as I had always managed the division in a quiet unassuming way. My mid-level managers, chosen by me, had made the division run smoothly under my direction. Just dropping anyone unfamiliar into anyone of the various segments would bollocks things up. The way Jim Burns spoke, most of the mid-level personnel were going to be terminated. Not bragging I thought, "They will be looking to hire me back in six months."
Driving out into the valley, I wondered if Cory was home. She would be surprised as I seldom arrived much before six-thirty and it wasn't even four yet. I parked my BMW on the left of the three car garage. I had to squeeze by an unfamiliar vehicle in the drive and noticed that Cory's car was already parked in her stall. I went in through the kitchen and into the dining room where Cory and a strange man were working on some papers spread all over the table.
Cory looked up when I entered. "Hi Burt, are you sick?"
"Nope, afternoon off."
"I'm glad you are here, then Bill won't have to return later. Here, look at these papers while Bill and I finish up with these figures."
I took the legal looking documents and sat down next to the window. Bill was nervously watching me. Opening up the papers I was surprised to see that it was a petition for a divorce drawn up for my wife. I read the papers thoroughly, noting the cause was for irreconcilable differences. Laying the folder on the couch, I went over to the sideboard and opening the wet bar made myself a scotch and soda.
Seeing Bill watching me, I raised the bottle in a question to ask if he wanted one. He quickly shook his head no. I went back to the couch and re-read the papers again and then sat sipping on my drink, waiting.
Finally, shuffling the papers on the table into some semblance of order, Cory spoke. "I'm divorcing you Burt. This is Bill, an accountant I hired to make sure things were split evenly. I have cut our salaries off at the end of last month, so anything you or I make this month is not involved. We both have well paying jobs, so I guess the divorce won't affect our lifestyle much. Do you want to look these figures over?"
"I'm sure they are what you say they are. I've always trusted you in everything. Do you want me to sign anything besides the divorce papers?"
Cory and Bill conferred. "Well if you want to, Bill has the forms here. He just has to fill in the blanks. Would you go get the neighbors, Paul and Kim Buford to witness our signatures? By the time you get back he'll have everything ready."
The papers were signed. Paul and Kim just witnessed, not knowing what the papers were. I poured them a drink. Bill declined and by six Cory and I were alone. Cory turned to me, "Well?"
I thought, "Another one of those life changing moments. I didn't see this one coming either."
Cory went out into the kitchen to prepare something for dinner. I made myself another scotch and soda. I'm sure Cory was going to tell me why she started divorce proceedings. I reflected on our life together. Thirty years of it. The two kids, Brent and Kim, were grown and off working at their own successful careers. Cory had started her own upward career ten years ago, working as an educator. She was now in charge of the whole school system here in the city.
Me, well I had moved up as high as I could in the corporation that had just fired me. I suppose I should feel sad about that, but I didn't. I guess the only regret I was going to have was to lose this home--not home, the house, I should say. Cory and I had designed it together, and put into it what each of us wanted. The completed home--damn, I have to stop thinking like that--had two wings. One was for our enjoyment and the other was for the kids to grow up in. The common area held a large kitchen, formal dining room, a huge living room and a spare bedroom for guests.
Cory and I had met in college, fell in love and after each of us had become established in our chosen field, married and started a family. My former company was the only company that had employed me. Cory was a stay-at-home-mom for ten years while the kids were small, but eventually returned to teaching.
I had poured all of my efforts into being a successful division head at work. Cory had taken over the managing of the household, including all of the financial details. At tax time I just signed my name. In the bedroom she was in charge too. I don't think I ever disappointed her. I think I gave her everything she wanted. Maybe not, though, that might be what precipitated the divorce. I would have to ask. No, she would tell me. Why change her system at this late date.
I could smell dinner still cooking. I had time. I went to the phone and called Roger. "Hey, Buddy, did you get the ax too?"
I listened as Roger gave me a run down on who had been terminated from the company that day. "Roger how about all of us getting together for a drink at The Spot--say nine or nine-thirty? Spread the word and I will meet you. I may be late, as I have some issues here at home."
Cory started to bring the food into the dining room. "Cory, just leave the food on the counter in the kitchen. We can eat there and it will be easier to clean up. I expect we won't be having Rhonda in as a housekeeper anymore. I'll be going out this evening. You put together dinner, and to be fair, I'll do the dishes, but I don't want to spend much time at it."
Cory gave me a surprised look. Never in the last few years had I ever told her what to do, or what I was going to do. "Okay, you will stay long enough for me to tell you why I am divorcing you, won't you?"
"Yes, of course. I am a little curious about that." I was feeling sarcastic. We ate in silence. Cory didn't look as if she was enjoying her food too much. As we finished our meal, I picked up everything and loaded the dishwasher. I wiped up and turned to face her. "Okay, I'm about to be divorced and you are about to be divorced. We have to have a hearing in court and there will be a waiting period of three months I think. You must have been planning this for awhile or you wouldn't have had all the papers ready today. Tell me about it."
Cory spoke with a sad look on her face. "We don't have a marriage anymore. We are just two people living in the same house. We have sex when one of us thinks maybe we should, but it is just an act we go through. We both make pretty good money, so neither of us is going to be hurt that way. I've been thinking about this for a few months and I just don't see why we are together anymore. We never talk or even discuss the weather. I have decided I want out, so I have done something about it."
"I grant you everything you say is true. Let me ask you, do you think so little of me that I wasn't worth being consulted?"
"Burt, I've made all the decisions in our life for the last ten years. Why would you want to change that now?"
"You have made all these decisions. Would you have wanted it any other way?"
"No, I suppose not. You never seemed to care though."
"It might have something to do with you being a manipulative bitch. Did you ever think of that?"
Cory, shocked, said, "Burt, you've been so good about this, you don't have to get nasty."
"Do you have someone in mind to replace me--or have you already?"
"I'm working on it and it promises to be a hell of a lot more exciting than you." She was being sarcastic now.
"Now who is being the nasty one?"
"I'm sorry Burt. I shouldn't have said that. We have had some very good years together and I want to remember them. It will be sad to give up the house we both love so much. Neither one of us can afford it on our own."
"That is what hurts me the most too. Could we coexist by each having a wing and a common area?"
"I hadn't thought of that. God if we only could. Can we talk about this? I'll get some paper and we can write down the basic rules and suggestions on how to make it work."
"I can't now Cory. I'm meeting some of my guys at a bar for drinks in a few minutes. You work on it and I'll look at it tomorrow if I have time. One thing you are going to have to keep in mind though, I still think you have manipulated me, and that is about to change."
I got to The Spot and I was about three drinks behind. There were the five managers that I had hired, trained and badgered into the kind of personnel that gave me the results I wanted. At this point no one was crying in their beer. That would come later, I'm sure.
Before they all got too loaded, I said, "You know we all work very well together. Our division attends to all of the procurement that takes place for the whole company. Why doesn't everyone give a thought to starting our own company? When the snafus start happening where we used to work, we can step in to get it straightened out. Think it over for two or three days and then we will get together at my house. Now tonight let's do some serious drinking."
When last call was announced, I said, "I have a well-stocked wet bar at my house. Let's go see if we can empty it. Barry, you seem to be getting along with our waitress. See if you can't convince her to come along and mix drinks for us. One thing, though, nobody tells my wife I was fired today."
Barry was single so he was okay. The other four called their wives and said in honor of being unemployed, they were partying tonight at good old Burt's place. When we all came in, Cory came out of our room with her robe on. She had been asleep, I guess, but the racket we made opened her eyes pretty wide. I don't know if it was noise or seeing me half drunk and having a good time.
Babe came in and went right to the bar and started mixing drinks. Seeing Cory watching from across the room she shouted, "What's your pleasure, Missy? If you're joining the crowd, you better get over here. I'll mix something for you that'll tickle your tonsils and curl your toes."
Cory whipped around and slammed into our room. Well, her room, I guess. I doubt if I would ever sleep there again. Actually the steam ran out of the crowd after an hour or so. I called the wives to come collect their husbands. I put Babe and Barry down in the guest bedroom. Relaxing as I sat on the couch, I thought that this had been quite a day. Then I chuckled when I thought of Babe calling Cory, "Missy."
I sat there nursing my drink. I was just debating which room I was going to sleep in when I looked up and saw Cory staring at me. "Want a drink? I think I could find you something."
Cory came towards me. "What in hell is this all about? Did you know that there is a man and woman making love in the guest room? What are you going to do about it?"
"Nothing, Cory. I'm not going to do anything. Besides I don't think they are making love. I think they are fucking."
"Damn it Burt, have you gone crazy? Where is your respect for me? You shouldn't have brought that whore here."
"Come off it Cory. You are a great one to talk. You told me a few hours ago that you had your eye on someone and you were anticipating an exciting time. You have gone part way and maybe further. Then you've sat down and planned your divorce from me. Maybe you've gone the distance, I wouldn't know. So, who is the whore here?"
"Ohhh, you make me so mad!"
"Mad enough to divorce me? Oops, that's in the works already. Maybe if I had fucked you instead of loved you all of these years, I'd still have a woman to crawl into bed with. Get the hell out of my sight. Go to bed. I'm just going to sit here and get drunk and I certainly don't need you around for that." I got up and went over to the bar for a refill. When I turned around Cory had disappeared.
I slept right there on the couch the rest of the night. Babe was making breakfast when I woke up. "Barry is taking a shower. How are you feeling? Here, this is Tabasco sauce and tomato juice. Down that and take a couple of aspirin. You have a nice home here. I hope I didn't insult your wife last night. Where is she anyway?"
"I imagine she went out the back entrance. I said some things to her last night that were worse than anything you said. She has filed for a divorce, anyway, so it doesn't matter."
"I'm sorry. That sucks. I'm divorced myself. My old man was running around on me and I caught him. It hurts. How did you get caught?"
"It wasn't me. She just wanted a divorce because I'm not exciting enough for her." I felt like crying all of a sudden.
"Well cheer up. I don't know what you will be looking for out there, but the way your friends were talking about you, you're a really decent guy. When you start looking, go for class. If you can't find anyone with class there is always me or someone like me."
"Thanks Babe, you make me feel a lot better, and you just got rid of my headache."
Barry came out and joined us at breakfast. Babe gave him the same remedy that she had given me. "Is the woman that Babe shouted at last night your wife?"
"I have seen her a couple of times with someone I know, that's all."
"Jim Burns. They were going into the hotel lounge adjacent to my apartment."
"Jim has met her, but I don't know why he would be going into a hotel with her." I thought a minute. "God you don't think that had anything to do with me getting fired, do you? No, it couldn't. He fired all of you guys too. You know, our division is what the corporation runs on. They are going to be in deep shit in less than three months if they can't get the stuff they need to keep the rest of the factories going. There is nobody left that knows the ins and outs of procurement like we do."
I thought for a few minutes. "Barry, you get in touch with the guys. I don't think we have any time to lose. Let's get on the ball. I think old Jim-boy is going to make us rich. If we set up a company to do what we have been doing and line up these suppliers and ask them to go through us, we can take a cut off the top. Our old company will have to pay a premium just to get the supplies they need to stay in business."
Barry caught my excitement. "Boy, it just might work. I'm on my way. Babe you want a ride? Am I going to see you tonight? I wish you didn't have to work such late hours."
"Babe, have you ever worked in an office before?"
"Yes, I have. I was office manager where my husband worked. When I divorced him, my job went with him."
"Good, you are now officially hired for some company that doesn't even have a name yet. You tell us what we need to equip an office. Confer with Barry and the others. You can take notes, I assume. We will have to have a place to meet. It can't be here if Jim is screwing my wife. Barry did you get any stock options for severance?"
"Yes, and they have a guaranteed buy-back after three months. How is that going to help us?"
"They are just as good as cash in the bank. If everyone wants to put them up, we can borrow all the money we need to get started. They are just as good as a certificate of deposit. Honest."
Babe and Barry left to get things rolling. I went down to the guest room to straighten it up. Babe had stripped the sheets and remade the bed. The dirty linen was on the washer. When I came back to the dining room, I could see that she had the glasses all washed at the bar and the trash had been taken out. Cory might think of Babe as a whore, but I saw a lot of class in the woman.
I went to my home office and pulled up all of the suppliers that my former company dealt with. I got on the phone and those I couldn't reach that way I sent e-mails to. By noon I had the promise from more than half that when the corporation ordered anything they would deal with us as representatives. The suppliers loved the idea. They could send out a salesman and rather than having to cool their heels waiting in an office for someone to talk to, they would come to us and be taken care of immediately.
When Cory came in, she was in a foul mood. Somehow I expected it. Not only that, she was acting terribly guilty. I had the feeling that if she hadn't broken our marriage vows before, they were broken now. Nothing was said as I put dinner on the table. I had made a roast of pork and a green salad. Peas, cauliflower with cheese sauce and some rolls I had run to the bakery for and were all ready warm.
"You didn't work today?" Cory almost growled when she said this.
"No I didn't feel well this morning. I had a couple of drinks too many, I guess. Babe fixed me up, though, so my headache didn't last long."
"How can you stand someone like that? She is nothing but a floozy."
I laughed. "Floozy. I haven't heard anyone called that since I was a kid. How would you define floozy anyway?"
"You know, someone of loose morals."
"Oh come on. She and Barry are single and they are consenting adults. It would be different if they were married and were cheating on their spouse by going to a hotel for sex or something." I looked Cory right in the face as I said this. She turned pale and for a minute I thought she might pass out. I didn't let it go. "Are you okay. My dinner didn't make you sick or anything?"
She pulled herself together and nibbled a little, breaking her roll into little pieces and then suddenly realizing what she was doing said, "I'm not hungry, I guess. I'm going to go lay down. You kept me from sleeping."
"Cory, I'm sorry about that. I promise I won't bring my co-workers here anymore."
"I thought they got fired. Did you get fired too?"
"Where did you hear that?"
Again I thought Cory was going to faint. The only one she could have heard it from was Jim Burns. She had to have been with him sometime today. She didn't answer and headed for our room. Damn, there I go again, calling it our room.
Barry called telling me how excited everyone was about putting together a new company. I told him that we were well on our way, for I had the suppliers in line. It might take a while for the corporation to realize that they would have to do business with us. Babe had been a popular waitress for the last few months and they all knew her. Apparently she knew what was needed to set up an office. She had made lists right down to paper supplies and paper clips.
Kent had a sister who owned a secondhand clothing store. It dealt in upscale name brand goods for its inventory. There was room for an office in part of the building she rented. Kent was sure it would be sufficient for our needs, short term. He gave me the address and I said we would all meet there at nine tomorrow morning. After hanging up I sat back, well satisfied with today's progress.
I knocked on Cory's bedroom door and opened it. I could see she had been crying. "Are you feeling any better?"
"What's the matter? Are you trying to decide if you did the right thing by filing for a divorce from me? Just remember, you put this into play. Is illicit love as much fun as you thought it would be? One other thing before I let you rest. Would you remember that you are chairman of the city's school board. It won't look too good if your name is splashed all over the front page of the newspaper saying the chairman is having an affair. Parents can be awfully unforgiving where their children and schools are concerned."
I closed the door and went back and mixed me a drink. My beautiful, stupid, bitch of a wife had a lot to think about. What I really wanted to do was go in and hold her and let her cry it out. Very rarely in our thirty years of marriage had something this grave ever come up. Now when it had, we were not in a position where we could face it together.
I debated where to sleep tonight. I had a choice of four beds. One in our wing, the guest bedroom where Babe and Barry slept last night or either one in the kids wing. I opted to spend it in the guest room. Not too subtle, just a way to twist the knife a little more that I was only a guest in my own home.
Over coffee in the morning, I asked if Cory wanted me to move out. "I thought we talked about each having our own wing. Didn't you sleep there last night?"
"No, I slept in the guest room. I thought I'd better until you decided what you wanted me to do."
"Damn it Burt, you're being nasty again. Do what you want to do. You have always been able to, you just have left all of the decisions up to me."
"Okay then I'll move into Brent's room. By the way, have you told the kids that you are divorcing me?"
"No. I thought I would wait and see how you took it."
"I guess I'm taking it all right. I'll call them tonight."
"Burt, let me tell them. I don't trust you not to turn them against me."
"Cory, I wouldn't do that. Why don't we put on the speaker phone and tell them together? I really am not trying to one up you, but remember you are the one that made the split, not me. I won't come off being the bad guy here."
This would prevent Cory from slanting the divorce her way. I had no idea what she was going to say, but I imagined it would be different with me present.
"Are we still going to the Country Club dance Saturday night? If we are, will it be as a couple?"
"If you don't mind. You don't have to dance with me though. How come you want to go, anyway?"
"Maybe it is the only way I can hold you in my arms--or maybe I want to check out what's available when we are divorced. Cory, in the future, I am not going to become a sad, bitter recluse, just because I don't have a wife."
Babe was a find. She had phones in, had interviewed two electronic stores for equipment, decided on one and even thought of a name for the company, "Group Procurement." The business cards and letterheads were being printed. The phone was being hooked up on Friday. How she accomplished this, I don't know. I gave her the list of suppliers I had contacted. She had all of us talking about the business constantly and had a better vision of where we were headed than we did.
Late Friday afternoon we had a group meeting in our new quarters. Last Friday I had been employed by a corporation. This Friday I was head of my own company. I said head because it was my idea and I was the one that had talked my bank's commercial division into financing our start-up.
Just before we adjourned, I said, "Men, we are on our way. This would not be possible except for one person that is central to our company. She is going to continue to be the one to go to, to make things work. I suggest we make Babe an equal partner in our enterprise. Any objections?"
Cory was out getting her hair styled Saturday morning. I moved all of my clothes and some of my personal items into my son's old room. Dinner at the club was at eight-thirty. When Cory came out into the living room where I was waiting for her, she looked fabulous. Tall and dark, she wore her hair up which accentuated her long neck. She was small busted and was blessed with a small waist, but then her hips rounded out and her butt moved with every step she took. Her stride was long and confident and the whole package was a joy to watch.
Christ I thought, when did I stop looking at her? Tonight she had on a black cocktail gown. Myself, I had on a new suit that she hadn't seen before. When asked, I just said the alterations were finished this morning so I could wear it tonight. At fifty-five years of age, I think we did make a handsome couple.
After dinner I went to the bar for drinks. Peter, one of my old division managers and now my partner, was there with his wife, and we sat at the same table. I stepped up to order and Jim Burns spoke from my left. "Hi Burt. I see you made it tonight. No hard feelings, I hope. You are smart and will find something soon. I saw you and your wife come in. Maybe we can exchange partners for a dance or two."
I thought, sure you are screwing her, you might as well dance with her. All I said was, "Sure, why not?" This was no place to make a scene even if I wanted too.