Jim Fox marveled at how quickly situations could change. That very morning, he felt pretty miserable when he woke up. He had suffered through a troubled sleep the previous evening as he considered the best way to tell his daughter, Emily, that he had seen her boyfriend with one of her so-called girlfriends at the mall the previous afternoon. That alone wouldn't have been a problem, but the two had been seriously making out near the entrance of the mall.
Jim was quite sure that he knew his daughter well enough to know that she would be very upset about that information. It had never occurred to Jim to not explain exactly what he had witnessed to Emily. He was simply concerned about how and when to break it to her. Her volleyball team was scheduled to play in a district semifinal match in a few hours and she needed a clear head to play her best. Jim had decided to give her the bad news on the ride home after the match.
Then Jim turned his thoughts to the meeting he had with his boss earlier that afternoon. He had been called into the office and introduced to an older, heavier man named Ralph Jenkins. Having no idea why he was in the boss' office, Jim shook hands and pretty much kept his mouth shut while he waited to find out why he had been called in.
"Jim, we've just completed negotiations to purchase Precision Buffers in Daytona Beach," announced his superior. "You've just met, Ralph, the previous owner. We're taking over on the first of the year and I want you to head up our maintenance staff down there. I know you've been unhappy about your chance to advance here, but you've just been promoted!
"You'll be working with Ralph between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. He'll introduce you around and bring you up to speed on their equipment. We plan to eventually replace most of it with machinery similar to what we have here, but that'll be over a period of months so we don't disrupt production too badly. You know our equipment like the back of your hand, so it'll be a walk in the park for you.
"The only question I have is this. Are you willing to relocate to Daytona Beach? Included in the sale of the plant was a two bedroom condo that Ralph's company owns. You'll be able to move your family in immediately and live there for all of next year, rent free. By then you should know if it's for you and if you want to buy a place of your own in Daytona. Before you make up your mind, I should tell you that this position will include a twenty five percent increase in your salary. How long will you need to think it over?"
"I accept!" was Jim's immediate reply. "My wife has been complaining about the winters here in Pennsylvania. Her biggest fear was that I'd be transferred to the plant in Michigan. When I mention the pay raise and Daytona Beach, she'll be ecstatic. She can transfer her job to the nearest Home Depot down there with no trouble. I'll gladly take that job!"
"Then it's settled. Why don't you take my company car and give Ben a ride back to the airport and then take the rest of the day off," suggested Jim's boss.
Jim was grinning to himself as he headed away from the airport terminal after dropping Ralph off. All of a sudden, things were looking good. Emily could move to Daytona for her last semester of high school and forget about her loser boyfriend! Everything was finally going his way; and then it wasn't.
Jim's wife, Helen, drove a red Camry, much like ten million others, except a kid with a driver's license for a week had backed into the front of her car while it was parked at her work. He bent the front grill area pretty badly. Most of the plastic simply fell off, but there was some bent metal left. The radiator was now prominently displayed. As he drove past, Jim noticed a red Camry with the radiator showing sitting in front of a Best Western motel a couple blocks from the airport!
With his heart in his throat, Jim swung into the far end of the parking lot. There was an empty space next to the Camry, so he parked in it. He considered the situation. He wasn't a violent man, but if Helen didn't have a pretty good explanation for parking her car at a motel, there was going to be some serious trouble!
As he gradually calmed down, it occurred to Jim that he was driving the company car, which his wife had never seen. The windows were darkly tinted, perhaps a bit more than was actually legal in the state. He decided to simply wait for Helen to come out to her car and see who was with her, if anyone.
After waiting a couple of minutes, he realized that just sitting around wasn't enough, so he hatched a simple plan. Helen's spare tire was still sitting in the garage where he had left it after having it repaired a few days earlier. He knew that Helen would call him to bring the spare if she had a flat tire.
Looking furtively around, Jim slid out of the car with his jackknife open and sliced the valve stem on the tire mounted on the left rear of Helen's car. The tire was flat by the time he climbed back into the rear seat of the company car. Then he slouched down in the seat and waited less than patiently.
Half an hour later, he heard a curse very close to his car window, which he had lowered half an inch. "Damn it! I have a flat. Now what am I going to do?"
"No problem, Sexy Lady. After a blowjob like the one you just gave me, I'll be happy to change it for you," came a man's response as Jim's world crashed around him. He quietly gagged as his lunch desperately wanted to resurface.
"I don't have a spare! My husband never put it back in the car after getting it fixed. It's home in the garage," complained Helen.
"What a worthless prick," chuckled Helen's lover. "I always make sure my wife's car is in good shape. I don't want her stranded someplace with the kids. Now I wish I had driven myself rather than ride with you. What're we going to do?"
"Let's go back in our room and warm up while I make a call," suggested Helen as the loving couple strolled back to the motel.
Jim waited for his phone to ring. He was thinking how he would question Helen when she called, especially when she asked him to bring the tire to a no-tell hotel out by the airport. The only problem with that plan was that his phone never rang!
Twenty minutes later, a familiar Honda Civic pulled into the lot and parked on the other side of him. Jim had been thinking that he could never feel any worse, but he was wrong. His daughter, Emily, was delivering the tire to her cheating mother!
Emily knocked on the motel door and waited a full minute before the door opened. Jim couldn't tell what Emily said, but she turned around and marched back to her car and opened the trunk. She lifted the tire out and placed it on the pavement as Helen and her boyfriend walked up.
"Frank, get that for Emily! She has to play tonight and can't be injured or tired before the match even starts," worried Helen.
"Thanks for the concern, Mom. You could've been dressed when I got here if you were thinking about me. I have to hurry to school and get ready for the match. Can you take it from here?" asked an obviously irked Emily.
"No problem, Em," replied the guy Jim now knew to be Frank. "As soon as I get it on the car, your mother will drop me off at Home Depot where my car is parked. I'll have time to watch you play tonight. I'll be cheering for you."
"Thanks, Frank. Just don't sit too close to Mom. Dad's going to be there and I don't want any drama while I'm playing."
"Don't worry. I won't hurt your dad, if I can help it," laughed Frank. "I doubt he'd ever guess what's going on and even if he did, he'd never try me. He knows it wouldn't go well for him."
"Frank, I've asked you to not talk about Jim that way. He's my husband and Emily's father. He's a good man and deserves some respect," replied Jim's loving spouse.
Emily simply stared at her mother. "Respect? In what world would your actions be considered showing him respect? I just want to graduate before the divorce."
"I've told you that I love your father and there won't be divorce! We'll die in each other's arms," insisted Helen.
"You're a bit delusional, I'm afraid. Dad won't stand for you having boyfriends and sooner or later, he'll catch you with one."
"There's only been one, and Frank's not a boyfriend. We're just friends with benefits," replied Helen. "We probably won't keep this up for very long so we're going to enjoy it while we can. I deserve a little fun after all of the time and effort I put into our marriage."
"Dad's put the same amount of time in and probably more effort," pointed out Emily. "Does he have a girlfriend?"
"Your father? Hardly," laughed Helen. "He's not the type. You know how shy he is around women. It took him weeks to get up the nerve to ask me out. You're dad is a good husband and father".
"Unlike the guy over there?" motioned Emily toward Frank, as he worked to jack up Helen's car.
"Frank's a good guy. He's funny, considerate, a good father, and a very good provider."
"He cheats on his wife! You just said that Dad's a good husband because he's faithful, which Frank certainly isn't. If he was thinking about his wife and kids, would he be banging a married woman in a sleazy motel?" demanded Emily.
"That was cruel and uncalled for!" shot back Helen. "I'm not in the mood to argue with you about this. You need to get to the school and get ready. Frank and I'll be along shortly. We'll be rooting for you!"
"For some reason, that doesn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy," retorted Emily. "Keep him away from Dad. Frank doesn't believe it, but Dad can kick his ass."
Emily climbed into her Honda and drove away, leaving Helen and Frank alone as he tightened the lug nuts on the wheel. "She's not too happy about us, is she? I guess my daughter would feel the same way if she knew. That's why I don't do anything to tip her or my wife off."
"I told you that I didn't realize she was there the day I brought you home. She was supposed to be in school. She understands how it is. She won't tell. It would break up our marriage and she doesn't want that," assured Helen.
Jim sat in a stupor in back of the company car long after Helen drove away. If finding out that Helen was cheating on him hurt a lot, learning that his daughter knew about it and accepted it totally crushed him. When he finally came out of his daze, Jim realized that it was time for his daughter's volleyball match to start. He had never missed one in her entire high school career. That was about to change.
Jim drove back to the parking lot at work, picked up his own truck, and drove home. He had no appetite, and even less desire to see his wife and daughter. Sitting at the kitchen table, he drank a few beers and tried to plan some sort of future for himself.
He had to appreciate the irony of feeling like he was on top of the world one minute only to have everything turn to shit the next. He considered the possibility that Helen might not even want to go to Daytona now that she had a lover.
The more he thought about it, the more the entire situation hurt. He'd always been faithful and worked hard to provide for his family. He didn't deserve what Helen had done to him. He always thought that she enjoyed their love making. Then he considered how Helen had actually been unusually amorous since Labor Day. It was obvious that she had been fucking him more so he wouldn't get suspicious! She knew that if she kept him well laid, he'd be happier than a pig in shit and never suspect a thing. Sadly, it had worked perfectly!
Jim thought about the fact that Helen didn't know his company was buying a plant in Florida. If he told her that he was being transferred by the company, she'd assume it was to Michigan. She'd never consider moving there, especially at Thanksgiving time. He could move into the condo in Florida and have time to work his way through his marriage problems without Helen harping on him. She could get laid every day by Frank! She and Emily would continue to live in Pennsylvania while he enjoyed the sun and surf of Florida! The more he thought about it, the more he liked it. It wasn't much revenge, but it was a start. He had the weekend and the upcoming week to prepare for the move. He would head out for Daytona right after Thanksgiving. His loving wife and daughter would think he was driving to Michigan, so they wouldn't even suggest that they go with him. Jim felt a little better once he had a course of action plotted out.
To avoid Helen and Emily in the short term, he grabbed four Dramamine and washed them down with another beer. He knew from experience that it would require a bomb to wake him up before the sun came up. He went to the master bedroom and gathered the clothes he would need the next morning. He carried them into the spare bedroom. He brought his toiletries and razor into the second bathroom. Then he closed the door to the guest room and crawled into bed. He fretted for about ten minutes before sleep claimed him.
"He's home," observed Emily as she saw her father's pickup parked in its spot in the garage. "I wonder why he didn't come to school to cheer for me. I hope he isn't sick."
"It looks like he drank most of a six pack," pointed out Helen as she preceded Emily into the kitchen and saw the empty beer cans on the table. "That's not like Jim. I hope he's okay. I'll go check on him."
Helen was surprised when she didn't find Jim in bed. She walked back into the kitchen to speak with Emily. "He's not in bed. He wasn't in the garage and he's not watching TV. Where do you think he is?"
"There are only a few possibilities," replied Emily. "We can look in the basement and the laundry room, although I don't think Dad even knows where that is. Then there's my room and the spare bedroom."
The two women finally discovered Jim sleeping in the guest room. Their attempts at waking him proved unsuccessful as he continued to breathe deeply while clutching his pillow.
"I think he may be drunk," suggested Emily. "I've never seen him drink too much before, but he sure acts like he did. I wonder why he missed my match and why he's been drinking."
"Let's ask him in the morning," responded Helen as she closed the bedroom door. "He may be feeling ill. Sometimes he sleeps in here so he won't give me whatever bug he has. He'll definitely feel like shit in the morning, so don't make him feel any worse about not showing up tonight.
"Frank thought you played real well," added Helen. "He thinks you may get a scholarship offer."
"Why is it so hard for you to understand that I don't give a shit what Frank thinks?" asked Emily petulantly. "As far as I'm concerned he's a cheating asshole and if I never see him again, it'll be too soon."
"You shouldn't feel that way," protested Helen. "Why can't you just be happy for me? I enjoy him. He makes me feel young and desirable."
"I guess it's because I can't stop worrying about Dad. I don't think this will set very well with him when he finds out about Frank. It'll break his heart."
"That's exactly why he can't find out. I give him all the loving he wants, so he's not losing anything. Frank is just getting the extra that your father can't handle."
"Keep telling yourself that, Mom. I really doubt that Dad will think about it that way. And if you keep this up, he will find out, but it won't be from me," stated Emily flatly.
"If you don't tell, he'll never suspect a thing. I know your father. He trusts me completely," responded Helen as Emily just turned and walked to her bedroom.
Jim's eyes opened around five AM and he was wide awake. He quietly dressed and left the house. He had just finished his breakfast at IHOP when his cell rang.
"Jim? Are you okay?" asked Helen in a concerned voice. "You didn't come to Emily's match last night, you slept in the guest room, and you left the house early on a Saturday morning. This isn't like you."
"I realize that. I just thought I'd become more unpredictable and do things on the spur of the moment," answered Jim before he disconnected the call and turned his phone off.
Jim spent the morning in the plant, making sure he had his tools and everything else that belonged to him loaded into his pickup. He was going to need them for his new position. As the day went on, Jim found himself better able to cope with his situation. He realized that he couldn't change the past, but he could do his best to have a decent future. He'd be working in a new place, meeting new people, and enjoying better weather. He was determined to the make the situation work for him.
Jim also realized that he needed to keep his move to Florida a secret for the next few days. Thursday was Thanksgiving. He'd be completely packed by then and ready to leave early the next morning. Helen and Emily would think he was headed for an even colder climate. He was determined not to say anything to make them believe otherwise.
It was late afternoon by the time Jim walked into his house. Helen lit into him as he washed his hands in the bathroom.
"You don't ever hang up on me!" yelled Helen. "You missed Emily's important match, which they won if it matters to you, to get drunk and pass out in the guest room. Then you sneak out early to avoid me and hang up when I call out of concern! I suppose you expect me to make dinner now? You can starve as far as I'm concerned."
Jim would have felt guilty and apologized profusely to Helen two days ago. Now he realized that her anger really didn't matter to him. What the hell did he care if she was happy or not? He simply nodded and walked back out the door. Ten minutes later he was ordering ribs in a local sports bar.
Jim was surprised that he was actually able to enjoy himself. He drank a few beers and talked football with the other patrons. It was almost eleven when he returned home. Helen and Emily were sitting in the living room watching an old movie.
"So you've decided to grace us with your presence?" asked Helen snidely. "Don't expect to sleep in my bed until you apologize to Emily and me for acting like such a jackass."
"Okay," was all Jim said as he passed through the living room and made his way to the master bedroom. He quickly gathered up clothes for the next day and took them to the guest room where he immediately stripped down and climbed into bed.
"He didn't seem very concerned that you were so upset," observed Emily after Jim had disappeared from sight. "He acts like he's fine with sleeping in the guestroom."
"You don't know your father," chuckled Helen. "He won't be able to hold out more than a night or two before he comes crawling back into my bed. He knows when he has it good."
"I guess," replied a dubious Emily. "I just hope he doesn't find out how good Frank has it."
"Please stop mentioning his name," insisted Helen. "I intend to keep that a secret, so I'd appreciate it if you'd stop bringing him up."
"I guess you enjoy being the one to 'bring him up', if he isn't already up for his wife," countered Emily.
Helen stared at her daughter, hoping she'd show some shame for speaking that way to her own mother. When Emily first caught her with Frank, Helen thought it might actually simplify things. It would be one fewer person to lie to, and Emily was much more observant about her mother's activities that Jim ever was. Emily had agreed to keep Frank a secret, mostly because she didn't want her parents to divorce, but she was becoming increasingly disrespectful. Helen was finding it difficult to be both a good mother and a willing mistress when her daughter knew she was playing both roles.
Then there was issue with Jim. What had gotten into him the last couple of days? She couldn't recall any disagreement, or slight. He was just behaving poorly and she wasn't going to tolerate it. He'd come to his senses before long. The sex she shared with him was far too good for him to go without for very long. She was certain of that.
Sunday morning found Jim up early again. He ate breakfast at IHOP again and then went for a long walk in the park. It was a cold, peaceful November morning. He enjoyed the brisk breeze in his face, mostly because he knew he wouldn't have to experience the cold once he moved to Florida.
He returned home shortly before noon with a six pack. He turned on the TV, popped open a beer, and began to watch all of the pregame bullshit while he waited for the Eagles game to be broadcast. Helen made a point of ignoring him for the first hour, but then she stomped into the garage and drove off.
Helen came home at six thirty and the second game ended a little after seven. Noticing there was no sign of dinner; Jim switched the TV off and left the house. Twenty minutes later, he was once again eating ribs and watching the football in the local sports bar. The Eagles had defeated the Giants, so he found himself smiling much of the evening. They were playing the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day and Jim looked forward to watching them annihilate The 'Crygirls'!
"Dad's been acting a little strange lately, wouldn't you say?" questioned Emily as she and her mother sat in the living room. "He usually watches the game on Sunday nights. Did you guys have a fight?"
"We've hardly spoken," replied her mother. "I told him he'd have to apologize for missing your match and drinking too much before he'd be allowed back in my bed. Before that I told him I wouldn't be cooking anything for him until his attitude improved. He'll miss my cooking, as well as my loving, soon enough. He'll apologize before long."
Emily and Helen were watching a movie when Jim came home. The football game had become quite one-sided by halftime, so he left the bar. He walked past his wife and daughter and into the spare bedroom. Closing the door, Jim peeled down to his underwear and slid between the sheets.
The next several days were stressful for Helen. Jim maintained his silence, which drove home the point that he wasn't about to apologize. She had never seen him act so defiantly toward her and it caused her concern. To top it off, she had another flat tire at the motel when she met Frank Tuesday afternoon. She decided that two flat tires were no coincidence and she would never use that motel again. Luckily she had taken the time and effort on Monday to have her spare tire repaired and once again Frank changed it for her.
Jim spent Monday packing the clothes he wanted to take with him. Tuesday morning he gathered all of his personal items and tools and packed them in his truck. He moved his remaining clothes around in the closet so it still looked quite full. He wondered if Helen would notice that he didn't take his cold weather clothes with him.
On both Monday and Tuesday afternoon, Jim drove to the Home Depot and watched for his wife to leave. On Monday, she left at her normal time and drove to the nearby grocery store to shop. He followed her until he was sure that she was going home before he turned his truck into the lot of his now favorite bar for dinner and Monday Night Football.
"Dad's not coming home tonight?" asked Emily as she joined her mother at the dinner table.
"Who knows? He doesn't speak to me and he's still sleeping in the guest room," replied Helen. "I don't know what's gotten into him."
"Is it possible he found out what's gotten into you?" asked Emily. "You told him he couldn't sleep with you, and you wouldn't cook for him, so what reason does he have to come home? Maybe you should just forgive him and cook a nice dinner for him tomorrow night."
"I can't. I'm meeting Frank tomorrow. You'll have to have leftovers. I'll be home a little late."
"So much for only giving Frank what Dad can't handle, huh Mom? You're skipping dinner and treating Dad like shit, but you'll bang Frank's brains out? Somehow it sounds like Frank is getting the better of the deal."
"At least Frank's not being an ass!" insisted Helen. "He treats me with respect and doesn't get drunk or hang up on me."
"Could it be because he's getting into your panties on a regular basis that he's being a nice guy?" asked Emily. "Does he take out the garbage for us, mow the lawn, paint the house, or pay our mortgage?"
"Of course not! What's your point?" demanded Helen.
"Frank doesn't have to do anything but show up with a hard on, and if he doesn't have one, you'll probably help remedy that problem," answered Emily. "Dad does all of those things, and a lot more. Frank plays hide the weenie and you think he's a great guy for that. You don't expect him to help around the house in any way. He doesn't have to escort you to your social activities, or sit in the hospital waiting room while you're having you leg set after falling down the stairs. You expect a lot from Dad and withhold what you should be gladly giving him while giving it to Frank, and he's done nothing to earn it besides squeezing your ass and telling you how sexy you look."
"Your attitude is not acceptable!" snapped Helen. "I'm your mother and I expect you to show me some respect."
"And Dad expects you to treat him with respect and be faithful to him, but it sure isn't happening," retorted Emily with heat. "Maybe respect is earned and not demanded."
Emily made a point of stopping her father that evening as he passed through the living room on his way to the stairs. "Our district championship game is tomorrow at the gym at State. We play at four. Think you'll be able to make it?"
"I'll check my schedule and see what I can do," responded Jim noncommittally before he continued up the stairs.
"I think he's upset with me, too," lamented Emily. "I haven't done anything to piss him off, but he sure doesn't seem interested in anything I have to say."
"I'm telling you that he's in a weird mood," soothed Helen. "He's unhappy about something and lacks the communication skills to tell us. He'll be there tomorrow."
"Look, his truck is in the garage," sobbed Emily the next evening. "He could have come to my match. He just didn't feel like it. Why is he angry at me?"
"That's a very reasonable question," agreed Helen sadly as she listened to her daughter cry. "Let's find out what's going on right now."
Once again, they discovered an emptied six pack on the kitchen table with no Jim in sight. "It's only eight o'clock. He can't be in bed already," stated Helen with concern. Once again, they were unable to rouse Jim from a deep sleep in the guest room.
Defeated, the two women returned to the living room. "Tomorrow's Thanksgiving Day. Are you going to let Dad eat with us?"
"Of course. His parents are coming, as are mine. It's his house. I would never try to keep him away. He knows that. I hope he's acting better by then. I invited company to drop in around four."
"Who did you invite, Mom? Please tell me it isn't Frank!"
"Frank and his wife are coming over. I think he and Jim will get along great. They both love football and hunting. They have a lot of things in common," reasoned Helen.
"The problem is that one of the things they have in common is between your legs," pointed out Emily. "Husbands don't normally like sharing that with hunting buddies or fellow football fans. You're showing classic signs of guilt and subconsciously wanting to be caught. This is a really bad idea."
"I just think that they'll get along fine. Jim needs more friends. Frank would be good for him."
"You've really gone off the deep end. There's no world where having those two in the same room could ever be a good thing," insisted Emily.
"We'll see," replied Helen. "I think you're in for a surprise."
Jim rose early Thanksgiving morning. He drove to a small diner that was open until noon and had a quiet breakfast. He walked back into the house at nine AM. His senses were assaulted by the smells of turkey, potatoes, gravy, pie, and numerous other foods being prepared.
"We'll be sitting down at noon," greeted Helen. "Our parents will be here a little before then. Would you like a drink or anything?"
Jim shook his head and moved to the living room where he sat down and turned on the TV. He knew that Helen was trying to offer an olive branch, but he no longer had much interest in anything she had to say. He greeted her parents warmly when they arrived. They were gracious people that had always treated Jim well. His parents pulled in a few minutes later.
"I have an announcement to make," proclaimed Jim as the family passed food around the table. "I'm being transferred to the company's other plant. I'll be driving out tomorrow morning. The assignment will last at least until spring, and maybe longer.
Helen was stunned. Why hadn't he mentioned this sooner? She could never be able to leave that quickly. And if she was, would she be willing to move to Michigan? That was probably why Jim had been acting so strangely the last week. He knew Helen would never agree to moving away from her job to freeze her ass off.
"This is awfully sudden," observed Helen's mother. "Helen never mentioned it. Will she be going with you, or will you wait to see how permanent it is?"
"I'll be going alone," replied Jim. "It wouldn't be fair to ask Emily to switch schools and Helen to give up her job. I'll just have to suffer alone for a few months."
Both sets of grandparents began discussing the weather in Michigan and how cold it would be, while Helen and Emily shared a glance. Both were thinking the same thing. Jim was upset about leaving his family and heading for a frozen wasteland. No wonder he had been out of sorts!
After dinner, Jim, his father, and Helen's father settled in front of the TV to watch the second half of the Eagle game. The Cowboys had a 17-0 lead at half and it only got worse from there. All three were disgusted with the lack of effort from their favorite team.
They were watching the pregame show for the second football game when the doorbell rang. Jim wasn't paying much attention until Helen cleared her throat from the foyer.
"Hey, everyone! I want you meet a couple of friends. This is Nancy and her husband Frank. She then proceeded to name each person in the room. Jim was the last one to be introduced.
Jim was on his feet by the time Frank reached him. Frank was grinning like a Cheshire cat. He wore a Dallas Cowboy jersey with 'Romo' in big letters across the back.
His grin increased as he stepped up to Jim and stuck his hand out. "Hello, Jimmy. I've heard a lot about you."
Jim had done a masterful job of keeping things bottled up, but this was simply too much. Frank was showing as much disrespect as he possibly could, especially since he was in Jim's home. He was laughing at Jim, laughing at his favorite football team, but mostly at his inability to keep his wife. Jim suddenly reached his limit!
With no warning, Jim kicked Frank between the legs hard enough to lift the man off his feet. When he bent over to clutch his throbbing groin, Jim's knee met Frank's face with a sickening sound. Frank dropped to the floor in the classic fetal position as blood spurted from his smashed nose.
No one else moved for several seconds. Then Nancy screamed and dropped down next to her husband. Helen raced to the bathroom and vomited in the toilet while Emily collected some ice in a cloth. She handed it to Nancy who gently applied it to Frank's face.
Jim was as stunned as everyone else by his actions. Not knowing what else to do, and feeling the disapproval from the others, he grabbed his coat and walked out the door.
Jim didn't stop for the night until he left Route 81 and had traveled for a while on Route 77 in Virginia. He rented a room in Hillsville and fell asleep within minutes. When he woke in the morning, he turned his phone back on. His mailbox was full which did not surprise him. He listened to a few messages before he decided to delete all of them. His mother, Helen, and Emily had all called, demanding to know where he was and what he thought he was doing.
Jim decided to maintain his schedule and pointed his car southward on Route 77. As he drove, he kept replaying his actions of the previous day. That prick Frank had it coming, but what would the ramifications be? Would he be pulled over by the highway patrol and arrested? Would he lose his job before he even reached Daytona? Would Helen divorce him now?
He realized that he should have listened to his messages to get a feel for the situation. He decided to leave his phone turned on, but not answer any calls. He would check the messages after the caller gave up. He hadn't been on the road for half an hour when his cell rang. He checked the ID and saw that it was Helen. He waited a couple of minutes and then checked his messages.
"Jim, please call me. I know the transfer upset you a great deal, but you've got to get control. Frank is going to be okay, but he needs surgery on his nose. He won't press charges. Please call me."
Jim drove through the morning and into the afternoon. He arrived at the condo at five PM. As promised there was a lockbox attached to an outdoor water faucet. He had been given the combination via email a few days prior. He was able to open the box, remove the key to the front door and move in.
It was well after seven by the time he had his clothes unpacked and his personal belongings unloaded. He parked his truck in the garage, made the bed up and went to sleep. Since it was Friday evening, he'd have two days off before reporting for work. While moving in, he had noticed several minor issues with the condo, so he decided that Saturday would be a good time to get the condo into better repair.
Jim began to worry about Helen calling his work and finding out about the Daytona plant and then deciding that she should join him. That was the last thing he wanted, so he made plans to call her Saturday morning.
"Hello, Helen? This is Jim, I..."
"Where the hell are you? We've been calling you all night. Your phone was turned off. What is wrong with you? Frank has a broken nose and a slight concussion, all because he cheers for a different football team! Have you lost your mind? When will..."
Jim pushed the 'end call' button, turned the phone off, and began making a list of things he would need from the local Home Depot. An hour later he was back at the condo with washers for the kitchen faucet, a lockset for the front door, a filter for the A/C unit, various cleaning supplies, and a thirty pack of beer.
At noon, he called Emily's cell. "Hey, Dad! I'm glad you called. All hell broke loose around here after you decked Frank. The ambulance came and dragged his sorry ass to the hospital. Both sets of grandparents worried that you'd lost your mind. Mom was afraid we'd be sued. I had to clean up the blood on the floor while Mom took Nancy to the hospital. I think she apologized to her a hundred times."
"Other than that, anything interesting happen?" asked Jim.
"No, it's been pretty quiet. Oh, there's one other thing," added Emily. "Mom is livid that you hung up on her again. She was just getting warmed up when you disconnected.
"Yeah, I could tell," replied Frank. "That's why I called you this time. I've settled in at my new digs and I'll be reporting for work Monday morning, just in case anyone wonders where I am, like the police."
"Don't worry about that," chuckled Emily. "Frank isn't pressing charges, although I think his wife wanted to. The cops won't be looking for you. So why the secrecy about your transfer? Is that why you've been acting different the past week or so?"
"The day I was told about the transfer was very revealing for me. I started thinking about where I was in my life and where I needed to be. One conclusion I came to was not to take any more shit from people, including family. No one's going to respect me if I don't respect myself," answered Jim thoughtfully. "I kind of lost my way over the years, but I getting back on track."
"Hanging up on Mom and laying Frank out are two examples of not taking any shit?" asked Emily. "They're pretty radical departures from your normal behavior."
"I guess so, but I feel a lot better than I have in some time, so I guess it's working."
"Are you okay, Dad? Is your health okay? Are you having any problems we should know about?" asked Emily with concern.
"Not really. You and your mother know my problems. I'm sure of that," responded Jim dejectedly. "Just tell your mother I've settled in and to not worry about me, if that was even a possibility."
"Okay, Dad. I'm going to call you now and then. Will you accept my calls," questioned Emily.
Jim found it extremely hard to maintain his anger at his daughter. He loved her without reservation, but her lack of respect for him was difficult to accept. He knew he didn't want to cut her out of his life entirely. He had already mellowed some compared to his original anger the day he learned his wife and daughter had teamed up to deceive him in the worst possible manner.
"As long as you don't call while I'm working, I'll answer your calls," replied Jim after a little thought.
"What about Mom? Can she call you?" pushed Emily. "Will you answer her calls now?"
"If she wants to call to tell me what an asshole I am, she can save herself the trouble," retorted Jim immediately. "If there's an issue with the house or the family that I need to know about, she should call. Is that fair enough?"
"It'll have to be, won't it? I'll let her know. Good luck in your new job and stay warm. Is it really cold there now?"
"Actually, it's better than I had dared hope," replied Jim. "I'll do fine here, so don't worry about the weather. Goodbye, Em."
Once Emily placed her phone in her lap, Helen began asking questions. "What did he say? Did he apologize? Is he afraid to come home? What did he say about me?"
"He doesn't seem to be afraid of anything. He said he's decided that he's not going to take any more shit from anyone. That's why he laid out Frank and why he keeps hanging up on you. If you ever want to have a conversation with him, it looks like you'll have to be more respectful and considerate," summed up Emily.
"Respectful? He's the one that beat up a guest in our home just because he wore the wrong football team jersey! He's the one that keeps hanging up on me! I'll give him a piece of my mind the next time I talk to him," promised Helen.
"That's exactly what he was talking about. You won't give him a piece of your mind, because he won't listen. He'll just hang up on you. Frank's the only one that'll be getting a piece of anything from you, unless you get another boyfriend or two."
"Why do you persist in making such crude, demeaning comments?" demanded Helen.
"Mostly because your behavior is crude, demeaning, and extremely disrespectful," retorted Emily. "Frank was grinning at Dad like crazy. I know it was more than about the Cowboys beating the Eagles. He was laughing at Dad because he's tapping Dad's woman. That's enough to make any normal man go ballistic."