A modest introduction:
There is a level of the old back and forth, mostly between our two main characters Cal and Arlene. Please don’t be too put off.
So here goes...
“Take a Chance!”
“If you change your mind
I’ll be first line
Honey I’m still free
Take a chance on me”
Cal gets to go first:
“I’d like to be able to come right to the point and tell you how this all happened. I’d like to tell you what it all means. Shit I’d like to even exactly know what happened, but even now it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me. Here I was one day thinking I was happily married to the woman I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with, and a few weeks later I’m all alone and totally in the shitter. It’s so fucking complicated, and then again it’s as simple as learning the definition of the word cuckold if that was even what it was. Well let’s try to sort this out. All I can say is you’ll be hearing from me, and from the two women who are also at the center of this confusing mess.
“I guess you could say it all started with the Local Volunteer Fire Company dinner. It was the day of the big ham and oyster supper. It was a big occasion because it was when they got as many people together as possible to eat, buy raffle tickets, play bingo, and just generally contribute as much as they could to the fire company. This year was supposed to be an especially big event because they had their eye on a brand new fire truck they hoped would replace the much older one, a hold-over from the one they’d bought right after the Vietnam War.
One of the central characters, maybe the most central character, in the big oyster-ham get-together was a girl I once knew named Arlene Brown. Now why was this true?”
“OK, back to the story. Arlene was just twenty-three when all this started to blow up in my face; she was an unmarried mom with a totally rambunctious four year old little boy. She was important because all the planning, cooking, and publicity for the dinner had fallen in her lap.
I tell you it’s creepy. After bringing her little dumpling into the world back in May 2003 Arlene had decided to go it alone; well as alone as she could afford. She never told anyone who the father was, and that proved to be a point of some gossip for a little while and a major source of consternation for even longer.”
“I guess I have to back up a little here. Arlene and I and my wife, or former wife Susan I should say all live, or lived, in the same small town just about forty-five miles northwest of Baltimore, the biggest city in Maryland. Back when I was growing up our town only had about seven hundred people so you know what that meant; everybody knew everybody’s business. You just couldn’t get away from it.”
“The high school I attended was small; there were only eighty kids in my graduating class. I graduated in 2002. While I was in school, that was when I met and fell in love with Arlene, or at least I thought I fell in love with her. I guess I must have because I started nagging her for a chance to take her out, and by the spring of out junior year she agreed. Now don’t get this wrong; we were as naïve and innocent as two foals. I tell you nothing happened, or at least nothing happened until we both were eighteen and had graduated.”
“Let me get to that. I mean how we got started, and then suddenly stopped; and all that so-called hot steamy sex that never happened that I know most of you are secretly interested in hearing about.”
“Well I want to remind you again my name is Calvin McCabe, but most people all just call me Cal. I’m the only guy you’ll need to know about in the story other than maybe my older brother Bob and this other guy you’ll probably grow to hate, or at least I hope you’ll grow to hate. His name isn’t important, not right now anyway.
“OK, well I think I actually might have fallen in love with Arlene the first time I ever saw her way back in the fourth grade. I remember seeing her and telling my mom back when I was nine that I thought I’d probably marry her. Mom said I could probably do a lot worse. She said Arlene came from a good family. I recall how she was just so damned cute. Arlene was a spritely little gal.
Even now at twenty-four I think she’s just as cute as the dickens. By the way don’t mess with me on ages and some dates. I’ve been through so much lately sometimes I just get confused, and you know how it is when you start to talk, everything kind of bleeds together.
Arlene, she stands a diminutive five foot four, weight maybe a hundred and ten pounds; she has dark brown hair she always keeps cut short, and she has dark brown eyes. Actually she’s just a mousy little thing, but by now you probably know I like them mousy.”
“Here we were in high school in our junior year. I was born In February and Arlene in April. We were both seventeen and as raw and as untested as could be. We started dating in May and by June I was so deeply in love I burst out one night and just told her. Well I think she loved me too, but was a little afraid to go as far as I did. She said she triple decker liked me. Now Arlene was as popular as hell; boys followed her around like flies follow a horse on a hot August day. I gave her my high school ring, and that sort of sealed the deal; in my mind we’d get married, settle down, I’d get a job; we’d have seven or eight kids, and live happily ever after. Too bad it never quite happened that way.
That summer my mom and dad took me, my older brother Bob and my older sister Barbara to the beach for a week. It was an important vacation for a lot of reasons, the most important of which I never understood until later was that was the last vacation we’d ever have with our dad; he had a massive heart attack while on the job later that year, and we’d never get a vacation with him again.
Well back to the story. We were gone a week, a whole week, just seven days! When I came back I went straight over to see Arlene. I wanted to show her my great tan, and I wanted to give her the Tee-shirt I’d bought her. I knew something was up as soon as I walked in her parent’s front door. She was wearing my school ring and looking at it. It didn’t take her long to tell me she’d been out on a couple dates while I was away, and she’d decided to break it off with me and start seeing another guy she met named David.”
“I thought, David, who the shit was David? David it turned out was a guy who lived a few miles from us and attended a private Catholic High School in southern Pennsylvania. Didn’t that take the cake; the girl I wanted to spend the rest of my life with had dumped me for someone else because she thought he was cuter, had a better car, and because she just knew I’d probably been sneaking around with other girls while I was at the beach.”
“Damn it, I hadn’t been sneaking around. I had my chances. I’d met a girl from Chesapeake City, but I’d spent half an evening telling her about Arlene and how much I loved her. The Chesapeake City girl got bored and went off with some other boy from Dover, Delaware.”
“What a fool I was. I learned quickly that day, first take advantage of every opportunity when it comes, and second Arlene was about as trustworthy as a cat. I blew out of that house as fast as I could, and I didn’t see or hear from her again until school started.”
“Come to find out when school started back up in September, David, the Parochial School boy, and Arlene never hit it off. Arlene and I got back together. Honestly, I never really trusted Arlene after that summer, and all that fall, winter, and spring of our senior year I didn’t know if she wanted to date me because she loved me or because I had a car. Her breaking up with me sort of gnawed at me all that year. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d always find a way to pick a fight with her just when she seemed the happiest. Like when we went to her grandparents for Christmas and everybody was having such a good time, and I started something that ended up making her cry. I, of course, apologized. Hell I didn’t know why I did it; I was just too young and immature.
High school graduation came, and she and I were still virgins. We kept dating all summer, but we both knew things were going to change soon. She’d signed up to go to some culinary school in Baltimore, and I’d gotten accepted at the big university down at College Park. I wondered if our love, by then I knew she really loved me, would survive the separation. I remembered oh too well our week long separation from the year before.”
I’m Arlene, and now I get to go:
“I really liked Cal when he first asked me out when we were juniors, but I was coming off a pretty bad break up with an older boy, older, he was a senior, and I wasn’t ready for another serious relationship; you know one with kissing and hugging each other every day after school and all day every weekend. Don’t forget, this was small town America, just getting a free feel was enough to brand a girl a harlot.”
Now back to Cal and our junior year. I liked Cal a lot so I agreed to be his girlfriend. He was real nice; he treated me like a lady, but I had to admit it, Cal was kind of boring. All he wanted to do was tell me how much he loved me, how he wanted to marry me some day, how pretty he thought I was, and how we’d buy a house, make a lot of babies, and live happily ever after. Cripes, I was seventeen! I broke up with him.”
We got back together in our senior year though, and by Christmas I realized Cal probably was the one for me. Anyway I fell in love. We went on and finished high school, lived it up all summer after graduation, and then August came.”
I was eighteen and Call was eighteen so we both were old enough, and I thought we knew what we were doing. We’d both be headed off for different places in a few days, and I loved Cal, I mean I really loved the boy. I decided to give him the one thing a girl can only give away once. Yes, I let him get me.”
“We did it in the back seat of his older brother’s Camaro. We drove out and parked by a field in the middle of the night, and right then and there, squeezed close together on that back seat I gave him my one and only cherry. Honestly, I hated it. First all it did was hurt. Second, all I thought about was how Mr. Burbidge, the town cop and my father’s closest friend, would drive up, flash his big light on us, and my reputation would be ruined. Worse, neither of us knew to bring any protection. Cal went in without a condom. How was I to know it only took one time? I was just a stupid country girl after all. Oh yeah sure, I was in the F.F.A., that’s Future Farmers of America for the uninitiated, and I’d raised a sheep for 4H, and I’d been watching cows, and horses, and cats, and dogs, and chickens since I could remember, but who knew it worked the same way for humans too?”
Cal went off to college the next day, and I started my long commute back and forth to the city. We didn’t see each other until just before Halloween. The last thing I wanted to do was a repeat of what had happened in August, and I guess Cal didn’t either. He had contracted one of those awful fall viruses, and all he wanted to do was sleep. I mean really just sleep. It led to sort of a fight, and I told Call I was going to see other boys. I didn’t have anybody in mind at the time; I just knew it was something that would probably really make him mad. It did too. He told me if I was going to see other boys, he was going to date other girls too. That Halloween visit ended pretty badly.”
I set out to get even. I met a boy in the city, a kind of nice boy named Gary. I decided to punish Cal so I let Gary get me too. Honestly it hurt just as bad the second time with Gary as it did with Cal. I realized as far as sex was concerned, I just didn’t get it. I mean if all I got was feeling sore and guilty, then it just wasn’t worth it.
“Something else had happened though that I’d never planned. Cal and I had done it back in August. Gary got me in November. Since August I’d missed my periods for September, October, and November. I was knocked up.”
“Cal came home for Thanksgiving, and we met again. I knew I was pregnant, but I was small, and I’d started wearing baggier clothes so nobody could really tell. I think my mom knew. The first thing Cal asked me was if I’d seen any other guys. He already knew I had because I’d told him on the phone. I remember when I ruined everything. We were at the same place where he got me back in August when I told him that Gary had ‘got me’ too. He gave me this funny look, and I knew it was over. To him I’d become damaged goods. There wasn’t anything I could say. I knew I was pregnant, and I knew Cal was the daddy, but somehow it didn’t matter. I’d ruined everything. I never told him. He went back to college, and I continued to commute back and forth to culinary school.
“Arlene let me do her in August just before I went off to college. I thought sex would be some kind of really great thing. I was a virgin, and I knew she was too. It turned out to be just about the worst night of my life. I never felt so guilty. I loved Arlene. I mean I really loved her. I read all the magazines and the stories how a girl’s first time was supposed to be something special, for her it turned out to be everything but.
We got together again for Halloween, but that was a fiasco. I could hardly stay awake, and when she told me she wanted to date other boys well that really pissed me off. I went back to school and started chasing girls with a vengeance. By the time I got back home for Thanksgiving I’d found and scored with one girl, and had another on the line. Honestly, I really liked the sex; it was good, but sex with a girl at college, a girl who’d already been with two or three other boys, wasn’t what I was secretly looking for.
“I went home for Thanksgiving, and that’s when my life was ruined. Arlene told she’d given it up to another boy; some guy named Gary she’d met at her school. My high school sweetheart; the first great love of my life, was no better than the whores running around at College Park. I swore off love, swore off Arlene, and vowed to go back and hit on as many girls as I could find.
I went back home for a day at Christmas, but some buddies and I had decided to try California for the break. So after the compulsory home visit it was off to Los Angeles. Later after semester break we hit New Orleans. I didn’t see Arlene again until Easter.”
“I went home for a few days at Easter. I’d planned on hitting the beach at Daytona, but had run out of money so I figured I’d hang around at home for a few days instead. I got a wild hair up my ass, and decided to drive over and see how Arlene was doing. I’d thought about her a lot. Honestly I missed her. I even thought about forgiving her for doing it with that guy Gary. Was I surprised! She was as big as house! I didn’t stay long. I could tell she was really glad to see me, and I knew she was hoping I’d stay a while and talk, but one look at that belly told it all. The girl I knew was dead. Arlene had become a pig. I stayed and chatted a few minutes, but found an excuse to leave and got the hell out of Dodge as fast as I could.”
Back to Arlene:
“Cal came back a couple times during our first year at school. I was pregnant so going back and forth to school was getting harder almost by the day. Cal stopped over my parent’s the day before Easter, and saw how it was with me. I was so glad to see him. By then I knew he was the single greatest love of my life, but it took just one look at his face and I knew he was dead to me. He saw me and saw my belly and as far as he was concerned I was just another whore. It would have been funny it wasn’t so tragic. I’d had sex two times, hated both, got pregnant on the first try by the one I really loved, and had a second try just to get even with the first and that was worse than the first. Honestly, I swore off sex. I said to myself if I never did it again that would be OK for me.”
The baby came right on time; precisely nine months after Cal got me. He was a beautiful little boy, “Of course I named him after his father. When people asked me if the name had anything to do with Cal McCabe I lied, I just told them I liked the name. I think most everybody sort of believed me, but I think my mom and dad knew the truth.”
Time marches on:
Strapped with a baby I decided to stay at home with mom and dad. Where else could I go? They were good to me; they were just about the only people in town who were. With mom and dad’s help I worked my way through culinary school, and this occasion, the big oyster-ham do, was to be my first big break. I’d been out of school for nearly a year. I’d worked at one of the diners in town for a while flipping burgers and breaking too many eggs. You’d be surprised how peculiar people are about their fried eggs; some like them snotty, some like them with a hard white and soft yolk, and some just like everything hard. By the time I got the eggs right it seemed most people in town had started to accept the fact I wasn’t married, had a baby, and wasn’t planning on ever getting married.
Tonight was my night. If I made good here, tonight, I was pretty confident people would put their trust in me when I opened my own little breakfast diner. I planned to do in just a few weeks.
I looked out on the tables, the seating arrangements, the dessert trays, the prize tables, the raffle sites, and coffee and iced tea stations, the food preparation bins; the trash cans, everything was in place and going like gang busters. People from all over were converging for their big dinner.
Now people in small towns like mine are for the most part a pretty honest bunch. You got to eat all you wanted; you just couldn’t take anything out with you. With the ham, the parsley potatoes, and the string beans that was never a problem. It was always the oysters that kept people on their guard. I’d seen some dinners where grand-moms had dumped whole platefuls of oysters in their pocketbooks so they could sneak them out and eat them in the days to come.
One of the older ladies who was working the dinner for free came up to me, “You got it pretty good girl. What the way you’ve got the men scooping out the oysters nobody’s going to walk away with more than they can carry in their stomachs.”
I grinned, “Yes I think I fixed the oyster problem. Each patron gets their own paper bowl, and our servers walk around and dole out three or four oyster at a time.”
The old lady chuckled, “I like it that you got the guys to refuse to serve the moochers more unless they ate what they tried to filch first.”
Yes, I thought to myself, it was working pretty well; only one or two old biddies had tried to snitch oysters unfairly. I liked this little preventive action. People liked honesty, and they especially liked it when sometimes it was encouraged with a little shame, and shame had been something I’d grown accustomed to over the past few years.
So here I was supervising my first big supper and guess who walked in for dinner, Cal McCabe and his pretty new bride Susan. Well he came in with this gorgeous, and I mean gorgeous little blond; they slipped their coats over their arms, came striding right up to my work station, grabbed some paper plates, some condiments, and then they started for one of the tables where some of the farmers’ wives had just cleaned off some seats.
Damn I thought; didn’t they see the waiting area? Didn’t they see there were dozens of people waiting to be seated? Hadn’t they gotten a numbered ticket like everyone else? Who did they think they were?
Let me back this up a little. These oyster dinners were big time. People came from all over so they could engorge themselves on as many oysters as their tummies would allow. The custom had always been, and Cal knew it, to get a number, take a seat in the waiting area, and wait to be called to a table. So what was Cal doing, and who did he think he was that he could break protocol and just jump the line?
I was completely taken aback! Of course I’d recognized him right away. I don’t think he knew me from Adam. The first thing I realized was how good he looked. The years, all four of them, hadn’t hurt him a bit. He looked really healthy and muscular. He still had that trim little waist, but I could see he’d added inches to his shoulders. His hair was a little shorter, and his clothes fit perfectly. He looked terrific! But I knew I couldn’t let him jump the line. I was afraid to go up to him myself so I turned to Mrs. Hawthorne, my second in command, and asked her to stop the intrusive couple, I said, “Mrs. Hawthorne would you please say something to that intrusive couple?”
Mrs. Hawthorne turned and looked at me, “You mean Cal and his wife?”
I played dumb, “Cal?”
She only smiled, “I’ll stop them.”
I watched as Mrs. Hawthorne went over and reminded Cal and his wife they’d broken an important custom. She must have mentioned me because he looked back in my direction. I know he saw me, but I don’t think he recognized me. I blushed anyway. Then he turned, put his arm around his wife’s waist and walked her over to the waiting area.
Back to Cal:
I recognized her as soon as we walked into the hall. Jesus I’d forgotten how beautiful she was. There she stood straightening the paper plates just looking all beautiful and demure. I can’t recall how many times I’d seen her looking exactly like that in my dreams. She was wearing this pretty white blouse with a big black bow at the neck. Her pleated mini-skirt came to just above her knees, and instead of wearing dark nylons she had on dark blue knee high stockings that exactly matched the color of her skirt. She was wearing dark blue leather shoes with like fat two inch high heels. She still kept her hair short. She’d let her bangs grow out since I’d last seen her, and she was combing them over and across her forehead. I saw her little hooped earrings.
She still had that way of pursing her lips like she was looking for something or somebody to kiss. I almost messed my pants right there on the spot. I looked down at my lovely wife. She was looking up at me. I wondered if she knew what I was thinking.
My wife asked, “You know her?”
I tucked her waist in my arm, and after Mrs. Hawthorne reminded me of the waiting area I whispered, “This is a small town. Everybody knows everybody around here.”
My wife pressed it just a little, “You didn’t say; do you know her?”
I replied, “We went to school together. We graduated in the same class.” I think that satisfied my wife. She didn’t ask any more questions.
Susan, Cal’s wife:
“Cal thinks he’s clever. He recognized the little squirrel as soon as we walked in. I wonder sometimes why I bothered to marry him. But I know why. For one he’s easy to boss around. I also know he loves me, but most of all I married him to piss people off. I had a real boyfriend, I mean a real boyfriend in my senior year, a man a girl could look up to, but he said he wasn’t ready for marriage yet. He said he wanted to sow some wild oats first. Damn I’d thought I was his wild oats. His name is Devin, Devin Bradford. Devin’s like me, a real Maryland first family type, and a blueblood. My name is Susan McCabe, my maiden name was Susan Calvert; that’s right Calvert, as in George Calvert, one of the Calvert’s who originally owned and settled Maryland.
The second person I pissed off was my dad. He expected me to marry someone more suitable. Cal’s a nice boy, a little backward, but he’s really not my type. McCabe, come on, Scottish? He’s one of the ones who came to Maryland after the civil war; not that one, the real one; the one in the 1640’s not the 1860’s. Back in the 1640’s, that was when the Puritans took over in England and killed the rightful king, then they’d hired all those Scottish mercenaries to clamor all over the Catholics in Maryland; that’s when Cal’s family showed up.
Cal’s family originally settled on the Eastern Shore. His parents came over to the west side of the Bay right after World War Two. My family is known for its tolerance and open mindedness. The McCabe’s, aren’t nearly so open like my people. My family settled in what is today Charles County. Later we moved to the city, Baltimore City, as in Lord Baltimore.
My family has been in all the major wars in our country’s history. I guess Cal’s people have to. The big difference was I guess most of my people fought for the South in the War Between the States, whereas Cal’s people mostly went for the North. He and his people have been on the wrong side of history and society since day one.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a snob. I have friends who aren’t society; why some of my sorority sisters came from the other side of the tracks. We even had some Italians in our sorority; after all they were still Catholic.
I guess I love Cal, sort of. He’s smart at what he does; he’s in things like financial planning and business management. I majored in Art History. Heck, I agreed to move out here to ‘Hickdom’ didn’t I? There was another reason though. My boyfriend, I mean Devin, he got a job in Frederick, and Frederick’s only about an hour from where we are right now. We’ve already talked. He’s bored and lonely. Am I going to cheer Devin up or what?
Yeah, sure, I love Cal, but I’m not having his kids, and I’m not staying out here in ‘Cow Paddy Land’ any longer than I have to. I have to admit Cal’s good with horses. I like horses. I have two; both purebreds. Cal likes to talk about this family out here that have this horse farm loaded with what Cal calls therapy animals. He says these are horses that have been neglected or abused that this family has adopted and cares for. Cal said he used to work there when he was in high school. He said that’s where his brother taught him to ride. He says they use the horses to work with disadvantaged and abused children; that’s the therapy part I suppose. Look, I love horses, all horses, but sometimes you have to draw the line; if they’re too bad off isn’t it more humane to just put them out of their misery and turn them into dog food?
Look, I’ve got my money, but Cal’s still got to get his. I’ll hang around till something, or someone better comes along, then I’ll take my cut of what he makes and move on. Yeah, I love Cal, he’s got prospects.
Back to Arlene:
Mrs. Hawthorne smiled at Arlene, “You used to date the McCabe boy once didn’t you?”
Arlene smiled at no one in particular, “Yes ma’am, back in high school. That was a long time ago.”
Mrs. Hawthorne took her plate of potatoes and started for a fresh table, “Yes, it’s been what, four years?”
Arlene looked up, “Yes, four I think, a long time.”
The rest of the dinner went off without a hitch. Cal and Susan, along with everyone else got their ham and oysters. I kept busy supervising what everybody else was doing. Every now and then I glanced over at Cal’s table. He looked really happy. He had a beautiful wife, he was at the start of a great career, or at least that’s what I’d heard, and he’d bought a house on Quality Hill, or so I heard somebody say. Quality Hill is a stretch of really nice older homes in what everyone agreed was the best part of town. I mean I hadn’t snooped or anything, that’s just what I’d heard.
There are other nice streets in town. There’s Catholic Hill too, but Cal, like me, is a Methodist. I didn’t think he’d ever buy on Catholic Hill.
Arlene goes on; a few weeks later:
I got my breakfast diner up and running. It’s just off Main Street at the north end of town; a great, really convenient, location for men and women on their way to work to stop in, grab a cup of coffee and a bagel, and for the locals to stop in after a morning’s work to order up a heap of eggs.
I get in around 4:00 a.m., and open up at 5:00. My mom takes care of little Cal in the morning. He’s in pre-K, and like his dad, he’s doing pretty good, smart I mean. I stay open till around 1:00 maybe 2:00 in the afternoon, then I clean the place up, and get everything closed in time for when little Cal awakens from his afternoon nap. Then he and I play and stuff till it’s time for both of us to go to bed.
I’m starting to worry about little Cal. He’s a good little boy, and I love him to death, but he needs a man around. Now I have my dad, but he’s getting up there. Little Cal’s going to need a real father figure someday. They’re plenty of eligible guys, and I know I could pick any of them, but I’m looking for the right fit. So far Mr. Right just hasn’t shown up yet. Well, that’s not exactly true.
Day in and day out at the Breakfast Diner:
It’s kind of interesting seeing how you get your regulars, your short timers, and your checker outers. Every morning like clockwork the really early birds start to show up. I had a friend of mine; a guy I really like, a guy I think would like to take our friendship to another level, cut out a drive through. Now I can get more people through. I had to hire on a young housewife to help me. Her dad owns a dairy farm and her husband helps with the morning milking so she’s up early anyway. She gets in around 5:30 and works till about 9:00. This gives me time to work the counter, the tables, and the booths. I have a twelve stool counter, four small tables, and six booths; it’s not a mountain of work, but it keeps me on my toes.
Like I said I have my regulars. Cal started showing up about the fifth week I was open. He first started to get in around 5:30, but since my helper, Mary, that’s my housewife helper, started, Cal began showing up a little later. He sits at the counter; he buys a cup of coffee and usually a bagel, sometimes he’ll order eggs.
Stupid me, I was worried he’d start using the drive through window, but he said he likes the taste of fresh brewed coffee when it comes in a ceramic cup. If he keeps coming I’m thinking about buying him his own personalized cup. I could do that for all my regulars; it would be a nice way of showing them my appreciation for their patronage. I could set up a shelf out in the restaurant where they could get their own cups.
He always looks so good in the morning. He always wears a nice suit. Since the weather’s gotten warmer he’s been taking his sport jacket off. He looks really sharp in those crisp, freshly starched, white shirts and his dark suspenders. There’s something about suspenders on a young man. Cal’s got this tiny waist and these broad shoulders. When he takes his coat off I swear I almost swoon.
Big Cal so handsome; he doesn’t know the secret I have. He’s a daddy, and every night I put his little boy to bed. Each evening, after I read to my baby his bed time story I tuck him. I can see more and more of his dad in him all the time. I thought if I could have more like him, I’d make the sacrifice and have the sex. That’ll never happen though; there’s no way I’ll ever see his daddy in my life ever again, not like that. My Cal has those same big brown eyes, and that same sweet smile. I know my boy is going to grow up and be just like his dad.
Big Cal comes in every morning and we talk. He likes to talk about his wife and all the things they plan to do together. It looks like Big Cal’s going to have that big family he wants. I just know he’s going to be a great dad. I like listening to all his plans. It makes me glad that he’s so happy.
I got a text message the other day from a sorority sister. We’ll translate it from text speak for the uninformed, “Hey Sue, Devin’s in Frederick, he’s a lawyer, and he’s making big money. He’s not married, and he was asking about you. I told him you were just a few miles away. Don’t be surprised, and don’t be a stranger.”
I texted back, “Keep me up to speed. If you get a chance let our boy know what my phone number is.”
A week later I got my first text from Devin, “Susan, I’ve missed you. Heard you married Cal. Good choice. Maybe we could get together, you know talk.”
I texted back, “I don’t work; nothing to do around here except teach school, and that’s a definite zero. Hey let’s meet up.”
A day later from Devin, “My schedule’s loose. How’s your?”
I sent right back, “I’m good. You want to meet?”
Devin hit back, “Any time.”
I responded, “There’s a little eatery in the town where I live, a dive really, run by some homeless chick or something, a breakfast place. I’ve been there a few times; the place is dead after 1:00 till it closes at 2:00 or so. Want to try it?”
The next afternoon Devin and I were in a booth at Arlene’s breakfast diner. Devin started first, “Gee, Susan I’ve missed you.”
I replied, “I’ve missed you too Devin. Betty Lou says you’re doing well in Frederick.”
“Yeah, the city’s growing fast, lots of new business. It’s in a good location, not far from D.C. and the night life down there.”
I sighed, “I miss going out at night. There’s nothing to do around here; the place is absolutely dead.”
Devin was sympathetic, “That’s too bad Susan. I know you married a boy from around here. He’s a nice guy; a little backward though.”
I answered, “Yeah Cal, the honor student, got a job near here working for a banking conglomerate or something. All he does is work. He never wants to go anywhere or take me anyplace.”
“Oh yeah, Cal McCabe, country boy, likes sheep and cows and such. I still sometimes wonder how you ever ended up with him.”
I smiled, “He made the best offer.”
Devin grinned, “Too bad; you should have held out. I hear there was another suspicious character hanging around your place.”
I winked, “Is he still available?”
Devin winked back, “Could be, depends on how bored you are.”
For next twenty minutes Susan and Devin rehashed old times at college. They talked about the parties, the tricks they played on classmates and friends. They talked about all the fun they’d had each year on Spring Break, those special intimate times they shared just before and right after graduation.
Susan silently reflected on the last time they’d been together. It had been just a week before she’d married Cal. That last weekend with Devin was perhaps the happiest she’d ever been. Too bad Devin never popped the question. She’d have gone to him in a minute. Well she considered, that was a long time ago, nearly a year.
Finally Devin announced, “Look I’ve got to cut out. I have an appointment in Washington.” The last thing he did was leave me his home and office phone numbers, “Call me if you get bored.”
I took the numbers and quietly coded them into my cell phone. I used phony names-just in case.
Arlene spent most of that afternoon cleaning the grill and the oven. She noticed Susan; she remembered who she was. She wondered who the man she was with was. It never occurred to her anything might be wrong. Oh she knew about marital hanky-panky, but she’d never lived in that kind of world; and besides different married couples came in and met with each all the time. She figured the guy was probably someone doing something to the new house Cal had bought. She finished her work, and went home.
The Clock Keeps Ticking:
Cal was a hard worker; his clients and his bosses soon took note of the uncanny ability he had in anticipating the ebbs and flows of the markets. The harder he worked, the more successful he became, the more success he had, the more they piled on him. He found himself going in early every morning, but staying later and later each night. Sometimes he didn’t get home till eight or nine o’clock. Dead dog tired he barely had time to get a shower, wolf down a little food, and slump off to bed. The only free time he found he had was the few moments each morning he spent at the breakfast nook. Cal noticed an unpleasant dichotomy had begun to emerge.
The evenings had their predictable litany. It sounded somewhat like this.
I’d walk in the front door and Susan would be waiting, “Cal I want to go out tonight.”
I’d respond, “Not tonight honey; how about Friday?”
“Oh come on Cal, I’m home alone all day long. There’s nothing to do around this one horse town.”
I’d respond, “You could help out with the Womens’ Auxiliary. Maybe you could bring your horses up. I have friends at several farms. They’d be delighted to stable your horses. You could find some friends and go horseback riding. I know a bunch of women who ride regularly, every morning in fact.”
Susan would react, “Cal I want to go dancing.”
I’d reply to that one, “I could do that. Have you ever taken up clogging?”
“Clogging? Clogging! Come on Cal, I mean real dancing, you know something at a nightclub, a dance club!”
“Gee Susan I don’t know. Is there a place around here like that?”
No she’d reply, “We’d have to go in to Washington.”
I knew Susan was unhappy, but I worked so hard, I had so little time. I always replied, “We’ll try, how about the weekend?”
She’d always reply, “Oh never mind.”
On the other hand there were the mornings at the breakfast nook.
Arlene would greet me with a fresh bagel or mix up a batch of scrambled eggs, sometimes just a scrambled egg sandwich, or on special occasions she’d fix up a stack of pancakes and fried eggs. I liked breakfast food, and Arlene was great at fixing it.
It was like Arlene was so concerned. She’d see me in the morning and say, “Gosh you’ve got a new shirt or a new tie on.” Then sometime she’d look all sad and say something like, “Cal gee are you getting enough sleep. You look really tired. If you don’t slow down you’re going to get sick.”
I knew what it was. Arlene paid attention to things; not just with him, but with everybody, but I thought especially toward me. She seemed to know my moods, when I was tired, when I was irritable about something, or when something had really gone my way at work. I started to look forward to the few minutes I had with her each morning.