Note to the readership:
I have noticed, in recent times, that many commenters have criticized the undeniable truth that I mostly use similar—they are never exactly the same—themes and plot lines in my stories. Hmm, guilty. Not apologetic at all, but definitely guilty. Why do I do it? Simple, I like the theme. The ideas are not all original either, and any number of LIT and SOL authors follow the same script. That said...
I have also noted that some of my most virulent detractors still never fail to read my stuff. I am still waiting for anyone—I mean anyone—to tell me why. Since none have so dared, I am left to conclude that they, my detractors, don't know why, and/or that they secretly love my stuff and can't get enough of it. I find this curious.
I am always writing, and if it matters, I am about to seriously launch into a new genre—romance—which I tested the waters with in Beauty and the Beast some little time back. Interesting result with that one. The score was high and the comments and letters were almost universally favorable (score 4.38; 19 letters; and 14 comments); but, that said, the downloads for B&B were the lowest I have ever had per any story that I have written (currently 9,700 after five months). John and Chloe, my latest LW formulaic story, after just eight hours, reads out at: 3.62, 23 comments, and 9,000 downloads). Makes one wonder.
So, while I am about to makes some pretty major changes on the one hand; I will still be doing the LW stuff as well. I just hope that those out there who hate me keep reading. Though, I would, at some point, sure like to know why. I bettin' it'd be a kick.
My best to all, especially to those who threaten, cajole, and insult me.
My name is Michael Metcalf Longden, no relation to the famous jockey—well, that I know of. The gods hate me. No, that's not a misprint, not a typo, not a mistake of any kind; and, I do mean that they hate me, and I mean they "all" hate me, all of the Olympian gods. Evidence? Oh I have evidence. Boy, do I ever have evidence.
It had been a long day at the plant, but at least it was a TGIF situation. I work for WESTCO mfg. I do electrical installations. WESTCO fabricates houses believe it or not, and they are selling like hotcakes. And why not? They go for half the price of brick and mortar places and they are just as durable and good. But, it can be hard work, especially if schedules are not being met, and that is exactly what's been going on these last weeks.
I came in through the back door, and collapsed onto the couch hoping to get a little TLC from the little woman. What I got instead rocked my ship for damn sure.
"You look tired, Mike. You okay?" she said.
"I am, and yes," I said, responding to her concerns.
"Mike, can we talk? Would that be all right?' she said. I had the feeling that this was not going to be one of those conversations that made my day, but I nodded in the affirmative.
"Sure, I guess so," I said.
"Mike, I want a divorce?" she said. Suddenly I was no longer tired, well I was, but I was also alert as hell!
"What the fuck?" I said.
"It isn't working for us, Mike. You know it. I know it. Hell, half of our friends know it," she said. "I still love you on some level; I do. But, I can't go on anymore; It's like were just free-floating, aimlessly, from day to day, with no end in sight.
"Who the hell is this 'we' that says it isn't working for us, and what do you mean by that, Florence Longden, nee Bromley? I've never given you any reason to think, that I thought, our marriage wasn't working! Is something going on here that I've been missing, Flo? Is there!" I said.
"Mike, it isn't working. There's no spark there anymore. You're always working at the plant. I'm always working at the salon, mister Fielding's. We're just aging with no real future worth looking forward to. Mike, I think it's time for us to end it, for both our sakes," she said.
"You've got a lover, don't you, Flo. Tell me straight, that's it isn't it Flo. Good lookin' woman like you. Sure you do," I said. "Who is he, Flo? Who!" I said. She bridled at my rising tone of voice.
"It doesn't matter, and it doesn't alter the fact that our marriage is dead and has been for a long time," she said.
"Who is it Flo? Who's been fucking mama bear in my bed?" I said. I could see her gathering herself; she was about to go on the offensive.
"It's Mark Fielding. But, I was thinking about this long before I hooked up with Mark.
"Look, I'm not going to be asking for anything. Mark will be taking care of me. You can have the house and everything in it. I only ask that you make this as easy as possible for us, and not make any waves. I'm concerned about the children and their reactions. I am trying to not hurt you anymore than is necessary, Mike. I know this is a surprise. But frankly, Mike, you've just got to man up and deal with it.
"You're young enough to find yourself another woman, Mike. Do it, and get on with your life; and, let me and Mark get on with ours. Okay?" she said. I was fuming and bitter and angry and all kinds of—well—jealous.
"Deal with it? Man up? Well, fuck you, you cheating whore!" I grabbed my coat as I stalked out and away from the only woman I have ever loved.
I wanted to kill the both of them. Here we were at our common age of forty-three looking to be starting over. And our kids, Nell and Christina, off at college and graduating soon: Nell this year and Christina next. What were they going to be saying? Whatever it was, it wasn't going to be nice. Either they'd back her, or they'd back me; and either way there was going to be conflict. I was at the stage of life where I was wanting to travel some with my wife, have some fun—well deserved fun in my opinion—but now the rug had been pulled out from under me, and I was flat on my ass with no woman to share my—our—dreams with. And yes, we'd had dreams Flo and I. Well, cancel those!
I needed a drink real bad. Sinbad's would do just fine; they liked me there; better than my wife did apparently.
"Yeah, Jimmy, I need one and I need it bad. A double: some of that blue label Smirnoff," I added.
"You look down, kinda desperate, guy. Problems at home?" he said
"You could say that. Marriage just cratered. I'm here on a mission. A mission to forget. Think you can facilitate my aims here, good buddy?" I said.
"That's what I do best," he said. "He pointed to a picture of himself behind the bar with a tag under it that spelled it out: The Great Facilitator. He'd gotten the idea from former President Reagan's unofficial title of The Great Communicator; well, that's what he told everybody.
The night dragged on, and after a very short time I was just draggin'.
"Last call," he said. I'd been sitting there except for potty breaks for the past five hours. It was 1:00AM. "You okay to drive? I can call you a cab."
"Yeah, I'm okay, Jimmy. It's only a couple of miles to my place. I'll be okay," I said. He looked dubious, but he didn't push it. I appreciated that. Well, I did until five minutes later.
"Get out of the car, sir," said the uniform. I looked at him through what I knew were tear streaked eyes. Yeah, yeah, I'd been cryin' so shoot me in the ass.
I got out. "You been drinkin', sir?" he said. I decided to be straight with him. I'd read somewhere that lyin' to the cops was a sure fire way to piss 'em off.
"Yes sir, some," I said. He did the breathalyzer thing with me. I'd never done that one before. Shouldn't have done it this time; well, what choice would I have had anyway. He didn't cuff me, but he did put me in the back of his cruiser. I asked him about my car. He assured me it would be taken care of. It was only a week later that I discovered what he meant by "taken care of." It cost me five hundred; that on top of the $1,100 fine and seventy-two hours in the slam. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
I sat cooling my heels in the station along with half a dozen other perps waiting for someone to lock us up. The woman across from me was a nano-thread from breaking loose with the tears. Hell, I could relate; I'd been cryin' off and on half the night.
"You okay, girl?" I said. As if I could have done anything to help her out regardless. She ignored me, well, at first she ignored me. I just nodded when I realized she wasn't going to respond.
"No, I'm not all right," she said, finally. "They busted me, and the family will without a doubt soon be disowning me, and I have no money, and no one to call. So no, I'm fucked and have no hope. All right!" she said.
"What's your name? I said, not unkindly. I offered her my hanky; it was the only thing they hadn't taken away from me.
"Mildred Lake," she said. "Profession? Prostitute. Actually this was my first day on the job. Two guys screwed me, rather badly. Made myself a couple of hundred. The third one was a cop," she said. "Oh, and surprise-surprise, they confiscated all my money."
"Bad day for me too," I said. "Anyway, wish you luck."
"Yeah, well same to you," she said.
The big uniform came for us and we were transported to the lockup. I was informed about my arraignment and told I could ask for a lawyer or just take my chances with the judge. I opted for the latter. So far I'd done everything wrong and my latest decision just continued the tradition. I didn't see the woman, the Prostie, after the door slammed on the van that transported us. I wondered what happened to her.
Oh, and in case anyone is interested, no, I did not call my soon to be ex-wife to help me. What would have been the point? The humiliation would have been worse than everything else put together. This is one I had to handle myself.
The uniform had been straight with me; I was arraigned the following morning, pled guilty, and got what I deserved. I had the money for the fine, but there was no bailing me out of the seventy-two hours; I had to serve 'em.
The neophyte prostitute was right behind me in court. They offered her bail, and no seventy-two hours for her. Well, hers was a victimless crime, I guess.
"I don't have any money, your honor," she said. She looked real sad. The judge was talking to her.
"Hmm, no priors, but no money for bail. Well, young lady, I'm torn, I'm going to go light on you, but you best not be found in this room again. Am I understood?" he said.
"Yes, sir," she said.
"Ten days," he said. I leaned over to ask my appointed lawdog a question. He looked at me kinda funny, and shrugged. He was her lawdog too.
"Your honor," he intoned. "Mister Longden will put up the lady's bail," he said. The judge, the prostie, and the clerk all looked over at me as though I were some kind of alien.
"You know this woman, mister Longden?" said the judge.
"Barely, just met her here; well, at the police station last night," I said. "I got the money; I'll pay it."
"Okay, so ordered," he said. And the gavel sounded. The lady mouthed me a thank you as they led me out.
They let me out Monday morning. They told me about my car and where to bail it out; five hundred was the tariff. Talk about overkill, but I was in no position to whine about it, and, I had been driving drunk.
I left by what I supposed was the back door. She was there, my wife, talk about humiliating. There she stood: tall, tawny-haired, dazzling figure, and dressed to kill; I wondered who it was for.
"Mikey," she said. "What have you done?" were the first words out of her mouth.
"What do you care? You dumped me," I said. I took out my cell; I had to get me a cab; she watched me with interest; I suppose it was interest.
"What are you doing?" she said. I gave her my get out of my face look, and she just sighed.
"I'm getting me a cab to go get my car if it's any of your business," I said. "And, who the hell told you I was here?"
"Save your money. I'll drive you over," she said. "And, to answer your question, a friend of Mark's told him, and Mark told me; the friend is the desk sergeant." she nodded toward the building behind me.
"Fucking wonderful. And no, I do not want you to give me a ride. Got it!" I said. "I don't want the only one I ever loved—you—tantalizing me with her looks, her smell, her voice. No fucking indeed. Just get away from me, Flo. I really don't want to be around you!" I think she was starting to cry, but that may have been more wishful thinking on my part than anything else.
"Oh, Mikey," she said. "Okay, just remember, I'll be around if you need me. Oh, and I moved out of the house these last couple of days. So you can do what you want with it," she said. Now, I started to tear up. Our house had been where all of my—our—now shattered dreams had been formulated. Jesus it was sad. She noticed my tears and started to reach out to me, but pulled her hand back.
"I'll be selling it. You'll get your half when I get it done," I said. "Now please leave me alone. Go back to your rich lover! Go fuck him. Just leave me the fuck alone. Okay!" I said. She turned and left. I knew for a fact she was tearing up now. Well, hell, maybe she felt a little guilt for what she'd done to me. How fucking appropriate.
I'd always been among the first to arrive at work in the morning, but since I'd lost my inspiration that was no longer the case. I mean what was the point. I'd worked my ass off to set us up so we could live well, and now—well—there was no "we" anymore. Jesus that hurt.
"Mike, the boss wants to see yuh," said Amos. Amos Crabtree had been my friend since the eighth grade. And, delivering the message to me, he could not look me in the eye.
"Amos?" But, he was gone. I headed on up to Bill Shuler's office.
He was shuffling papers, and not looking at me. Kathy shooed me as soon as I'd arrived, but once in, there appeared to be considerably less urgency than I had been led to believe was the case.
Throwing the last of his no doubt vitally important papers down in disgust, he looked at me.
"Mikey, Mikey, Mikey what am I going to do with you," said Bill. It was not a question.
"Sir?" I said.
"Mikey, I know you're going through a bitch of a period right now, but Mikey, we still have a factory to run. I need all of you guys to focus. You know we're behind. Mike, we've got to get you to perform up to your usual standards; hell, my job depends on it as much as yours," he said. The message was clear: I'd either shape up or I'd be gone. Fuckin'-A!
What social life I was having pretty much revolved around my usual seat at Sinbad's. Being at best a prime example of mister average, the ladies were not lining up to chat me up. But, the upside to it all was that Jimmy and I were becoming fast friends. I usually got a tad extra in my drinks than the average patron and it was appreciated.
I hadn't heard word one from Flo since that day behind the lockup. I thought about her hourly; hell, I thought about her virtually every waking minute. Her image was the one thing indelibly imprinted on my conscious mind. I guess this would be a good time to describe us.
Me? I'm maybe five-seven, one sixty, brown hair, brown eyes, and in pretty fair shape; the factory was partly responsible for this last. Flo? She's a shade taller than me at five-eight, one-twenty, light brown hair, Brown eyes, and also in excellent shape. Oh, and her shape was pretty much wonderful. But, now, she was someone else's wonderful. Every time I thought about her I wanted to cry: I needed her. The bad news? She didn't need me. It wasn't supposed to work this way. No damn it!
I was constantly running our last conversations together through my head. She'd told me to go out and find me someone who would make me happy. What she didn't realize, or if so she was trying to minimize it, was that I could never replace her. I'd invested in her too deeply, too completely to cavalierly entertain thoughts of another woman. I needed her and only her.
Still, all of the above being true, I was looking for a little companionship if only to ameliorate the blow my ego had sustained—the ruinous blow to my ego. I decided to do something different. The bar scene wasn't working for me. There were women there on the prowl right enough, but evidently none of them were on the prowl for someone like me.
I hadn't been to church in a long time, but here I was in front of the St. Martin's rectory. I had an appointment with Reverend Kohl in five minutes. I waited in my car: it wouldn't do to seem to eager, I told myself—read I was chicken to go inside because it would mean that I'd have to talk to the man, and as much as I needed to, and I did; I didn't want to. Finally, I headed up the steps. The door opened before I could knock. An elderly lady, the housekeeper I guessed, smiled benignly at me. "Right this way mister Longden," she said. "Pastor Kohl is expecting you." I nodded and followed her down a corridor and into a well-appointed office. "The pastor will be with you in a moment, sir. Please have a seat." I did.
I leaned pack in the padded chair and closed my eyes. Why was I here. I hadn't been a regular in church since high school. Christmas, Easter, a few other times each year with Flo, and that was about it. Yet, I felt that I knew Pastor Kohl well. The door swung open and the big silver headed man strode in—strode in.
He almost fell into the swivel chair behind the too large desk and eye'd me. "I'd ask you how you're doin' Mike, but I'm afraid I can guess," he said.
"She's told you?" I said. While it is true that I was a sometime churchgoer, my wife was more a true believer, went to church every Sunday and often to church do's during the week. It was no surprise that she might have said something to Reverend Kohl.
"Yes, 'fraid so. More, it was in various church activities that she actually got to know the other guy on a personal level. They work at the same place, I know, but evidently he hadn't made a move on her until they became part of the activities here. Let me hasten to say that I knew nothing of the romantic side of things until a couple of days ago. It was the same day you made your appointment to see me," he said. I realized I was shaking my head.
"Figures," I said.
"When you called you mentioned that you'd wanted to talk to me about some personal problems. That still the case?" he said.
"I don't know reverend. Yes, I guess so. I'm sick at heart and lost. She actually told me to go out and find myself another woman, like she'd found herself another man," I said.
"And have you?" he said.
"Not really. I spend some time at Sinbad's looking for someone to talk to, but no luck and really no interest on either my part or that of the women there, if it comes to that," I said. He nodded.
"A bar is not necessarily the worst place in the world to find companionship, Mike, but probably not the best place overall either. And, wherever you might look it really doesn't matter a whit if you really aren't into it. Women can sense that a man is needy and really carrying around a lot of baggage. Most of them, the ones looking, have the same kind of baggage," he said.
"I don't know reverend; I really only want her back. It's been real hard not having her around. I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown if the truth be known. I need her real bad. But, she ain't around, and I'm just kinda floundering. It's affecting my work to the point where I might lose my job if I can't find a way to get by it: I mean being dumped," I said. He nodded.
"Mike, I know you. I know you're in love with your wife. All of those years? Your children. The emotional investment in her and in your family. I know it's tough. But, it happens. I know what you're going through. And I know that nothing I can say today is going to still the turmoil in your heart and soul. In time you will be able to deal with it, at least to some degree. But, in the short term, I can say with some certainty that it's going to be bad.
"What I will promise you, is that I will be here if you need an ear, or even a shoulder," he said.
"I thank you for that, reverend. I'm gonna be more of a regular in church from now on," I said.
"Mike, for what it's worth. When Florence came in the other day, she made the point that she still loved you on some level, but that she had fallen head over heels for this other guy. She feels awful for what she's done to you, and by inference to the children. She actually came to me, not to confess her indiscretions. She came to me to see if I could advise her on how to soften the blow that she's laid on you. She's worried about you," he said. I nodded.
"Really?" I said. I was beginning to tear up again. Seemed like I was always doin' that.
"Yes. She's sick about it, Mike, but like you—in a sense—she doesn't know how to handle it," he said. "I've prayed about it Mike. You know, that the Lord would see his way clear to do right by the two of you. And no, I am not condoning what Florence is doing, not at all. But, in my line of work condemning someone for being, well, maybe foolish is the word, isn't in the job description," he said.
We talked for some little time more. In the end, the man advised me to go slow, to talk to the kids, to make no immediate plans, and to try to not be too angry. All easier said than done of course, but I did appreciate his support. And, I did get some ideas from his words, some direction if that was the way to say it. I would go slow and talk to the kids and avoid doing anything stupid. I finally had my thinking cap on, and I was employing it. If I could get my woman back, I would. If not, I was not going to be throwing myself off the balcony. The next step? That was yet to be determined.
"You thinking about him again," he said. I looked over at the tall, dark, and handsome man who had become my lover and my future husband.
"Guilty," I said. "I wonder how he's doing. You know, laying it on him like I did; well, it was quite frankly, cruel."
"Flo, he'll be fine. He's a man: a tough, strong man. He'll be fine. Yes, he's going to miss you. Any man would. But, he'll adjust, get over it, survive. He has to. Flo, it's the way of the world," said Mark Fielding. "When we return, maybe we could up and have a sit-down with him if you think it would be a good idea. You know, make him realize that you still want to have a relationship with him on some level. I mean you do have two children together." She eye'd him.
"I don't know. Maybe we could try. It might be worth a try.
"Jesus, Mark, I just hope he can hook up with another woman. Someone who will treat him right. Better than I have for damn sure," I said.
"I'm sure he'll find someone sooner or later, Flo. But for the next two weeks we're on this cruise. This is our time. Okay? I want you to be happy. And, I'm betting that Mike would want that for you too," he said. I snickered.
"You know, you're right, he would. It's the kind of guy he is," I said.
I loved how he put his big strong arms around me. He did that now, as we gazed out over the blue Pacific. Mazatlan would come into view in the morning. Mark was right. This was our time. Mikey would have his day too, I'd do my best to see to that, somehow, but not for the next thirteen days.
Nell was sitting across from me. "Yes, daddy, mom came up to see us. I guess the day after—well—the day after..." she started. It was all I could do to keep from breaking up in front of my daughter.
"Where's Christina?" I said, breaking in on our, her, train of thought.
"She's coming. Be here in twenty minutes or so," said Nell. I nodded.
I'd called the girls for the inevitable little meeting to hash out the thing that needed hashing out. How we would be seeing each other in the future was my main concern.
I was about to lay it on them, and it didn't look to be something that they were going to take all that well. But, it was a non-negotiable thing as far as I was concerned.
"Hi daddy," said Christina plopping down in the seat next to her sister across from me. She was eighteen minutes early.
"Hello, baby," I said. The next minutes were spent talking about everything but the elephant in the room. But we finally got around to it.
"Daddy, mom is in the wrong in this. But—well—she is our mother," said Nell.
"Yes, daddy. Neither of us like it, but I guess there isn't much we can do about it," said Christina.
"Girls, I don't expect you to cut your mother off. But, I will not be around when she is. I can't be around her boyfriend either—ever! That's ironclad, girls. So, I'll call to set up times when I can see you guys. All I ask is that she not be there when I come by. Is that okay with the both of you?" I said.
"And one more thing, please. I would appreciate it if you would not talk about me to her, nor about her to me. She's decided to cut me off from her; and well, it's been real hard on me. Real hard!" I said.
"Daddy, what about Christmas and the other holidays and graduation and everything. And when Nell and I have babies and all of that; and we will someday," said Christina. "There's just going to be times when you and mom have to be there at the same time." I had a sinking feeling that I couldn't shake.
"Girls, if they are there; I won't be. If I come expecting them to not be there, and they are, I will leave immediately. I cannot be around that woman—my woman—knowing she is cuckolding me with that man. You have no idea how badly that hurts me. If that makes me some kind of back-assed wimp, so be it. Now, am I clear!" I said, a little more forcefully than maybe I needed to.
"The two of them looked at each other then back at me. "Okay, dad, if that's the way it has to be. It's going to be hard for us, but I suppose we understand," said Nell. Christina nodded her reluctant agreement.
"Good," I said.
Sinbad's should have been named Singood's. It sure as heck was good for me. James Pierson was my main man; boy was he ever. Who the hell needed a woman's shoulder to cry on, I had Jimmy. I decided that he was more than enough. But, a horrible thought crossed my mind! What if Sinbad's closed! All I needed was maybe fifty more years of comfort from Jimmy and that fellow from Tennessee, Jack Daniels. It's all I needed, and I was sure I'd be good. I made a mental note that if I continued going to church as I had the three weeks since my meet up with Reverend Kohl and my girls, that I was going to add in a few extra prayers to ensure that Jimmy not die before me. What the heck, the way I figured it, God owed me for letting my heart get trampled underfoot by my wife and her lover. All I was asking for was a little surcease from my mental and emotional agony. Was that too much to pray for? Hell no! I told myself.
The only days I missed being in attendance at Jimmy's were Sundays. The evenings during the week saw me limit myself to a couple of JDs on the rocks. Friday and Saturday nights there was no limit. I was being careful ever since the warning I got from the boss to straighten up and fly right. I did need the job.
Flo had honored her decision to give me the house. And, I had decided to keep it and live there. But, that decision was a mixed thing. The mortgage was large. And, now I had to make the payments with no help from her.
I had been served, at work, and the deal about the house was indeed in the divorce documents—just wanted to make sure I was being clear here.
Sinbad's did have one very bad weakness, however, they allowed damn near anybody to come in. And, they did, come in that is.
I hadn't seen her until it was too late. I was seated in a booth at the side of the place near the front. She slid in beside me, him, across from me. I was literally trapped. And, I was frightened: frightened that I would start bawling again.
"Hi Mikey," she said, brightly. "How are you?" She covered my left hand, my free hand—my other was holding my drink—with hers. For a moment I was speechless.
"How am I? You actually asked me that?" I said. She frowned, but it was an empathetic frown.
"Mikey, you and I, we will always have a relationship. I mean we do have two babies together don't we?" she said.
"To answer your questions in the order asked, Flo: one, I was fine till a moment ago, and two, so what if we did have children together; it didn't help keep us together did it. So if you will kindly get out my way, so I can leave, I would appreciate it," I said.
"Mikey, please, just a moment or two of your time, okay?" she said.
"Not with him here," I said. I don't care if I have to climb over the table to escape; I will if I have to." She frowned and this time there was no empathy, more like frustration. She nodded at her lover. He rose and headed for the bar.
"Okay?" she said. I just nodded without saying anything one way or another.
"Mike, I know you got the divorce papers. I kept my word to you," she said. "I am not out to screw you over, really. I want happiness for you, for the both of us, Mikey, really. I need you to be happy."
"No chance of that, Flo. To be happy a man has to have his heart and soul in one piece. Mine are broken and trampled in the dirt. So, you lose out on that one. Well, and that seems fair to me. I lose the love of my life, and you lose your hope that I'll ever be happy again. Like I said, seems fair to me," I said.
"Mikey, you have to get over me. I know I hurt you real bad. I—I—didn't know how not to. And oh my God how I wanted not to! Believe that one Mikey. I mean it.
"Mikey, I know you spoke to the girls. They told me. Mikey, please lighten up on your requirement that we never be together with them. Please! That will be so hard. Please. Okay?" she said.
"No. And, I will tell you why, Flo. I dream about you every night. I dream about making love to you almost every hour of every day. I have nightmares of you spreading for him, cuckolding me. Can you even begin to imagine how that makes me feel?
"I come here every night, Flo, to try and make it so I won't hurt so bad. It helps a little. But really? Not all that much. Seeing you, smelling you, talking to you or hearing you talk to others: it would kill me, kill whatever shred of emotional sanity I have left. So no, I will not voluntarily be around you ever again. The memories are hard enough to deal with. Making new ones that include the man who made his cuckold would destroy me. I don't need it," I said. She was actually beginning to cry.
"Jimmy, I had no..." she suddenly stood and almost ran from the table and out of the bar.
"So what did you say to that woman that made her run outta here like that," said the woman who had just taken a seat in my booth across from me, the one most recently occupied by my soon to be ex's boyfriend.
"Mildred? Mildred Lake?" I said.
"The one and only," she said. "Buy a girl a drink?"
"Okay. Sure, I could use the company," I said. "And to answer your question. That was my soon to be ex. She wants to have a relationship with me because of our children. I said no. She thinks I am being unreasonable. Hence, her dramatic leave taking."
"Really, you turned down her peace offering?" said Mildred.
"Yep, really," I said. "So, anyway, Mildred, as one convict to another, how have you been?" She smirked.
"Not too bad. Still poor. Still looking to make a buck. Can't seem to find any work that I'm qualified for; and still again, hope springs eternal. And no, I gave up spreading for strangers," she said, "too risky." I nodded.
The conversation had hit one of those silent times; we had both, apparently, run out of words. She looked at me and smirked.
"Can I buy a vowel?" she said. I laughed.
"No, no," I said. "It's just, well, I barely know you in spite of our exciting time together, a couple of months ago."
"Well, sometimes a stranger, and I'm almost a stranger, is easier to talk to than someone who might be a little too close to things. Know what I mean?" she said.
"Yeah, I guess that's so," I said. "Anyway, it's past the dumping stage now; she's divorced me. Got maybe four or five months to go. I've met with the kids; they know my position on everything. Talked with my minister; he was of some little help; he's a good guy. And I guess you saw the latest episode in living color; I mean her running out of here. Tune in for the next installment of Mikey and Flo—and Flo's cuckolding loverboy."
"Mike? I can call you that, right?" she said.
"Of course," I said.
"Okay. Mike, can I ask you: do you want her back? I mean would you even take her back after what she's done to you?" said Mildred. She'd stopped me with her questions. The way she'd phrased them made me think.
My soon to be ex had crushed my very soul. She'd cheated on me with a miserable excuse of a human being. She'd gone ahead and divorced me and indirectly insulted me in the doing of it—that by telling me I could have the house implying she was going to be getting something far better because her new man could take better care of her than I ever could. And, what really got to me, was her actually expecting me to go along with her soft pedaling, if not wholly accepting, what she'd done to me. So did I really want her back, or just wish I could find a way to overcome the unutterable humiliation she'd laid on me.
"I'm not sure," I said. "I mean since you put it that way."
"You wanna get your self-respect back?" she said. I snorted.
"Like that's going to be happening any time soon," I said. "My humiliation over the way she did me, I mean the in-my-face "deal with it" attitude of the woman. Now that I think about it, maybe not. I do know that I still don't ever want to see her again.
"Oh my, you do have it bad," she said.
"Have what bad?" I said.
"Humiliation-itis," she said. "You need to do something about that."
"Yeah, well, if you've got the cure please feel free to let me in on it. I'm dyin' here," I said.
"Why did she dump you?" she said. "Do you know? Really?"
"His money. He's handsome enough too, I suppose. He's taller than she is; I'm not. I'm just a poor old electrician doing the hand-to-mouth daily bread thing," I said.
She smiled. "Okay then, I do have the cure. Get the money. Prove his height advantage is really a drawback. And, handsome-yourself-up," she said.
"Right, and just how would you suggest I go about achieving those three little miracles?" I said. She only smiled.
"You in this for as long as it takes, or do you just want to whine and cry for the next several years," she said. I gave her a look that pretty much answered her question.
"Well, then good," she said. "This is what we're going to do."
"We? We're gonna do," I said
"Yes, you need a manager," she said. Again my look did my talking for me.
"Look, Mike, I wasn't always a failed prostitute. I've been to college. Didn't graduate, but I did three years at FSU.
"Really," I said.
"Yes. I was an assistant to Dr. Philbert Weintraub. He was a tenured guy in the Psyche dept. I learned a lot there, helped him with his research, I did," she said.
"Research? What research?" I said.
"He wanted to know what it took to become a virtuoso in any discipline, in anything—an expert if you will. He found out, and I know what he found out: and, as a consequence, how to help you with your little problem," she said.
"Oh really?" I said.
"Yes, and you don't wanna know, not yet; it would only intimidate you. But we're gonna put his findings into action. I will tell you that you are looking at two to three years in terms of how we're going to go about this; I mean how we are going to adapt his findings to our needs; how we are going to completely alter the thinking and perspectives of your soon to be ex-wife. That's why I asked if you were in for the long haul or if you just want to be like every other dumped on loser," she said. I was snorting again. She was really beginning to piss me off.
"Three years! I'll be forty-six!" I said.
"You'll be forty-six anyway. You can either prepare yourself for the coming battle or you can prepare yourself to remain what you are," she said.
"And that would be?" I said.
"A loser in the making," she said. "So, are you in or out?" I leaned back in my seat. I wasn't sure of this woman, but she spoke with such authority that I was inclined to have confidence in her. Three years? I guess if I took her up on her offer to be—what—my manager, I would know soon enough if she was full of it, or, unlikely as it seemed at the moment, somehow in the know. In the know about things that I had no ken of.
"In," I said. "But, at some point I would like to know why you didn't finish college: why you are out here on the opposite coast trying to be, and failing to be, a woman of the evening."
"I'll tell you now. The usual, dumped on by my fiancée. Pride in the toilet. A need to get away from all of the well-meaning, but hopelessly inadequate, cadre of friends and family. The lady of the evening thing, well, that was a matter of chance and, I'll admit it, desperation and self-pity," she said.
One thing that did result from my conversation with Mildred Lake was that she moved in with me. She claimed that she had to, "to keep me on the stick and moving forward," was the way she put it.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Looked like she was just out to use me. But, the truth was that I was using her. Even if whatever she was about was bogus, I was pretty sure that I would be getting more than she was out of the deal regardless. The fallacy of my latter conclusion would soon be brought home to me. That, just as the former—her skills at rebuilding the current me—would prove to be more than true, and that much to my overwhelming wonderment.
I caught her going thru my closet. There was a lot of room in their now, now that Flo was gone. For me just another melancholy reminder of my—our—former lives together, mine and Flo's. I did notice that Millie'd hung her things—few as they were—in there, but they nowhere came near equaling the tonnage of my wife's wardrobe.
"Something I can help you with?" I said. She never even turned around to acknowledge my interrupting her.
"No, no. I got it okay," she said. "If you want to be useful go get me some large garbage bags, okay?" she said. It was then that I noticed the pile of my clothes off to the side. She was stripping the closet of my clothes and dumping them on the floor.
"What in samhill are you doing," I said.
"Getting rid of about ninety percent of your wardrobe," she said.
"What the fuck?" I said. She turned, finally, and tendered me an exasperated expression.