I came into the bar and when my eyes adjusted to the light I looked toward the table in the back corner and saw what I expected to see. She was there with seven of her co-workers. Not counting her there were three females and four males. She had always maintained that there was no dating going on in the group and that all they were were co-workers stopping for a few drinks after work, but I knew better. I'd seen too many of them leave in pairs for me to believe that story and after seeing it too many times I wasn't ready to believe that she wasn't doing the same thing.
I headed over and took a seat at the bar with my back to the table, but I was able to see them in the mirror behind the bar. Melody came up and set a Pabst Blue Ribbon down in front of me as she said:
"Back to do it again I see."
"I'll never understand why."
"Of course you do. Joe doesn't make me pay for my drinks and doing it keeps me off the streets and out of trouble."
"You probably already noticed that she's here."
"Yep. I saw here back there with her group."
"Why does she keep coming in?"
"Her sister says that she does it so that when I see her I'll be reminded of what I'm missing by not going back home to her. What she apparently doesn't realize is that every time I see her with that group I'm reminded of why I'm no longer with her."
Just then, Joe Lambert, the owner of the Landing Strip Lounge, stepped up on the platform that the bands used on Fridays and Saturdays and spoke into the microphone.
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to open mike night at The Strip. It is good to see such a large turnout for our would be stars so without further ado I'll turn the microphone over to our home grown master of ceremonies Bobby Denton."
I took the stage and Joe handed me the mike. "Good evening and welcome to what I expect to be a good night here at The Strip. We have some pretty good talent here for you tonight and as always anyone who wants to give it a try only needs to walk up and tell me and we will give you your shot.
"For those of you who are new to this the way it works is that Joe picks a topic and our performers take Joe's topic and ad-lib their performances. Tonight's topic is President Obama's health care plan. Our performers are allowed to go off topic, but only if they have a blond joke to tell and tradition has it that I start off the show with a blond joke in honor of my wife who is blond and who detests blond jokes.
"There was this blond who married a Catholic. On their honeymoon the blond bride slipped into a sexy nightie and, with great anticipation, crawled into bed only to find that her new Catholic husband had settled down on the couch. When she asked him why he was apparently not going to make love to her he replied:
"In tears she sobbed. "Well that is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Who did you lend it to and for how long?"
As I finished the joke I looked at the table where Bree was sitting and the look on her face made me smile.
"Having touched on Catholics I'll bring up one Catholic's alternative to Obama's health care plan. A man suffered a serious heart attack while shopping in a store. The store clerks called 911 when they saw him collapse on the floor. The paramedics rushed the man to the nearest hospital where he had emergency open heart bypass surgery.
He awakened from the surgery to find himself in the care of the nuns at the Catholic hospital he had been taken to. A nun was seated at his bedside holding a pen and a clipboard with several forms on it. She asked him how he was going to pay for his treatment.
"Do you have insurance?" she asked.
The man relied in a raspy voice, "Ain't got no health insurance."
The nun asked, "Do you have money in the bank?"
The man replied, "Ain't got no money in the bank."
"Do you have a relative who can help you with the payments?" asked the irritated nun.
The man said, "I only have a spinster sister and she is a nun."
The nun became agitated and loudly announced, "Nuns are not spinsters! Nuns are married to God!"
The man replied, "Perfect. Send the bill to my brother in law."
When the laughter died down I said, "Thank you and now for our first performer of the night. Bud Philbrick is an auto mechanic by day and he spends a lot of his day tuning up cars. Tonight he is going to try to tune you up. Let's give a big welcome to Bud."
I passed the mike to Bud and went back to my seat at the bar. Melody set a fresh PBR in front of me and asked:
"Why do you do that?"
"Do the blond joke thing when you know how she feels about it?"
"Maybe I'm hoping that it will make her get up and leave. Get up and go back to the Top Hat. The only reason that she and her group left there to come here is because I'm here."
"Did you ever stop to think that maybe she is here because she is hoping that you will talk to her and she can talk you into coming home?"
"I'm sure that is one of the reasons she is here, but it isn't going to happen."
"Why not? Haven't you ever stopped to think that maybe you were wrong?"
"Nope. Not even for a second."
My mind flashed back to the night two months ago when my six year marriage to Breanna came crashing down. I bowled in a men's house league every Thursday night and Bree used that night to stop for drinks with the people she worked with. I usually had a beer or two with the guys when we finished and then I headed for home usually getting there around eleven-thirty. Bree was normally in bed and already sleeping when I got there. That had been the schedule for the past three years with only short breaks between the fall/winter leagues and the summer leagues.
Two months ago when I showed up at the bowling alley the parking lot was filled with fire trucks and other emergency vehicles. There was a major gas leak in the building and there wasn't going to be any bowling that night. I decided to go over o the Top Hat Lounge which is where Breanna and her group stopped after work. The first thing I saw when I walked into the Hat was Breanna on the dance floor. The guy she was dancing with, Frank Miller, had both of his hands on her ass and she had her arms around his neck and her body pressed tightly into him as they swayed to the music.
I was pissed, but I'm the kind of guy who doesn't lose it when upset and I decided that I needed to see what I could find out. Breanna's back was too me and Frank was looking down into her face. A glance over at the table where her friends were sitting showed that no one was looking my way. I took a quick look around and saw that a corner of the bar was in a dark area so I went over and took a seat at the bar. I ordered a Pabst Blue Ribbon and then sat there and watched.
The number ended and Bree and Frank kissed. Not a quick peck, but a hot kiss on the lips and then they walked back to their table hand in hand. They sat down and Frank put his arm around her and she leaned into him. They talked for a bit with the others at the table, kissed a couple of times and then a fast song played and they got up to dance. They did some 'dirty dancing' and at one point Frank was behind Breanna grinding his body into her and she was laughing and pushing her ass back at him. The tune ended and they went back to the table.
More talk and a couple more kisses and then Marge Holbrook got up to dance with Vern Lacaro. They had been sitting opposite Bree and Frank so when they got up I could see under the table and what I saw was Bree with her legs spread wide and Frank's hand up her skirt. Bree's hand was in Frank's lap and was moving in a manner that suggested she was stroking his cock.
A slow dance started playing and they got up and moved out onto the floor. It was a repeat of what I'd seen when I came in. I took the time to check out the goings on at the table. Marge and Vern were doing the same things that Bree and Frank were doing as were Nancy Neubert and Bill Jason. Sally Meyers might as well have been fucking the guy that she was out on the dance floor with and the thing that got me was that Marge, Nancy and Sally were all married and not to anyone who was there that night.
Around eight I saw Marge and Vern leave hand in hand and ten minutes later Sally and her guy left. If I was right, and I was sure that I was, it was motel or backseat time so they could get it done and still get home to their husbands on time. Next to leave were Nancy and Bill and that told me that Bree and Frank wouldn't be far behind. Bree got up to use the bathroom and Frank was talking to the cocktail waitress so I took the opportunity to get up and leave. I got outside just in time to see Nancy and Bill climb into the back seat of a car.
I got in my car and sat and watched the door. At eight-fifteen Bree and Frank came out, got in a car and drove off the lot. I debated following them, but decided not to. I'd already seen enough. I drove over to the Strip and had a couple of brews while I thought about how I wanted to handle things. After kicking half a dozen ideas around, including a couple that could see me jailed; I decided that the simplest thing to do was to just walk away. To hell with a divorce. I wasn't going to waste good money on a lawyer. If Bree wanted a divorce she could be the one to bring it and pay for it.
I left the strip and drove home and parked at the end of the street and waited. At ten-thirty, two full hours after she had driven away from the Hat with Frank, Bree pulled into the drive and then into the garage. I wasn't a rocket scientist, but I'm pretty sure that I knew what took place during those two hours. I waited until the garage door closed and then I went back to the Strip to kill time until my normal coming home time.
Bree was asleep or pretending to be when I slipped into the bed. Not that it mattered because if she was awake I wouldn't have touched her anyway. Sloppy seconds wasn't one of my things. Even if she had stopped somewhere and cleaned herself it still would have been seconds. Maybe not sloppy, but seconds just the same.
My thoughts were interrupted by applause and I saw that Bud had finished. I got up and went to the stage and got the microphone back.
"Thanks Bud. If these great folks are any judge you have a future as a stand-up comic. And now, direct from daily appearances at the King Soopers on Clairmont we have Eddie Foxton. Put your hands together a give a big Landing Strip welcome to Eddie."
I passed Eddie the mike and went back to my seat at the bar. In the mirror I saw Bree start to stand up, but Sally pulled her back down. I'm not the world's best lip reader, but it looked like Sally said:
"Now isn't the time. Wait until later."
My mind went back to 'the night.' I slipped into bed next to Bree, but made no attempt to snuggle up like I normally did. Surprisingly enough I had no trouble falling asleep.
Bree didn't need to be to work until nine, but I needed to be to work by seven so I was up and gone before Bree woke up. When I got to work I told my boss that I'd caught my wife slipping around on me and that I was going to have to take part of the day off to handle some things. He told me to take as much time as I needed and I left work and headed for home. I stopped at a U-Haul place and rented a trailer and in three hours I had everything that I wanted out of the house. I found a storage unit that was reasonably priced and unloaded the car and trailer into it and then returned the trailer.
I found a motel that was close to work and checked in. I figured I could find an apartment during the week. I hit the bank and took all the money out of savings and half of the money in checking and then, paying the penalty, I cashed in the five certificates of deposit. I took the money and drove over to a bank close to work and opened a new checking account and put all the money in it.
I went home and sitting at the kitchen table I called and cancelled all of our joint credit cards and got the payoff numbers and using the money in my new checking account I paid them all off. I ended up with more – much more – in my new checking account than I left her in our old joint one, but I figured that since she was responsible for my leaving she could help pay for my moving into an apartment. I called the phone and utility companies and had my name removed from the accounts and then I opened a beer and waited for Bree to get home.
While waiting I opened the daily paper and started looking for an apartment. I circled several likely ones and by then Bree was home. She came over to kiss me and I turned my face away from her. She gave me a funny look, but before she could say anything I said:
"I don't need you kissing me with a mouth that has probably just sucked some other guy's dick."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"I received an interesting phone call at work this morning. I was brought up to date on what you and Frank Miller have been doing on your Thursday nights. I didn't like what I heard so I'm out of here. You wanted this house so you can be the one to pay for it. I'm not paying for a divorce so if you want one so you can be with Frank or whomever you can be the one to pay for it. The lights, phone and gas are in your name now so if you want them to stay on you had better make sure that you pay the bills."
I stood up, said, "It's been nice; most of it anyway, but I hope I don't see you around" and as I headed for the door Bree was crying:
"We have to talk Bobby; you can't just walk out."
"Oh yes I can Bree" I said as I closed the front door behind me.
My thoughts were interrupted by a chorus of boos and catcalls and I hurried to the stage and took the microphone as Eddie fled.
"Come on folks; you have more class than that. If you don't care for the performer don't laugh or applaud, but it takes guts to get up here and let it all hang out so let's not be too hard. Got to give them something for effort. To warm you up for our next performer I want to share this with you. It isn't on topic, but I'm the master of ceremonies so I get to have some license. A young engineer was leaving the office at five forty-five when he found the CEO standing in front of the shredder with a piece of paper in his hand.
"Listen" said the CEO, "This is a very sensitive and important document and my secretary isn't here. Can you make this thing work?"
"Certainly" said the young engineer. He turned on the machine, inserted the paper and pushed the start button.
"Excellent, excellent!" said the CEO as the paper disappeared inside the machine. "I just need one copy."
Lesson: Never, never ever assume that your boss knows what he is doing."
I got a big laugh out of that and then said, "The next man to climb into the meat grinder is no man at all. Put your hands together for Joyce Campbell who comes to us after a hard day of chasing four little ones around the house. Take it away Joyce" and I handed her the mike and left the stage.
I saw Bree start to get up and head me off on my way to my seat at the bar, but Marge grabbed her arm and pulled her back into her seat. I wondered why a couple of unfaithful sluts like Marge and Sally were trying to stop Bree from talking to me. Not that I wasn't thankful since I didn't want to talk to Bree anyway.
I remembered the last time we talked. It was just a little over two weeks ago. She had called me a dozen times a day during the first three weeks after I walked out, but I didn't take any of her calls. She decided to try a more direct approach. I got off work one night and found her sitting on the hood of my car. I walked up to her and said:
"What the fuck are you doing here Breanna?"
"We need to talk Bobby. I need to know why you left me."
"I told you why Bree. It was because of you and your lover."
"What the hell are you talking about Bobby? I don't have a lover."
"Lover, fuck buddy, friend with benefits, I don't care what you want to call Frank Miller, but your fucking him is what sent me out the door."
"I am not having sex with Frank. I have never had sex with anyone but you. Where in the hell did you get that idea?"
"Someone I trust with my life gave me a call and filled me in."
I told her everything I'd seen, but attributed it to my anonymous friend. "He didn't follow you when you left in Frank's car, but given what he had just seen there was no doubt that you were going to a motel or to find a more private place to park. I don't even care about where you fucked him. Just what you did with him in the bar was more than enough for me."
"Damn it Bobby; I didn't do any of those things. I can't believe you would take the word of some asshole over mine. I love you Bobby and I have since the day we met. You have to know me better. You have to know that I wouldn't do anything that would cost me you."
"You didn't think that what you were doing would cost you me because you never figured on getting caught. But you did get caught. If my information had come from anyone else I might have taken it with a grain of salt although I probably would have put a private detective on you to check you out. But like I said earlier; I'd trust the person I got the information from with my life. If he tells me something I can take it to the bank.
"He also told me about Marge and Vern. Does Marge's husband know she is fucking Vern? Like do they have one of those open marriages? How about Sally's hubby? Does he know she leaves the bar with guys? Does Nancy's husband know about Bill? My friend saw Nancy and Bill on the back seat of Bill's car. Fine group of people you hang with Bree. My friend was only in the Top Hat one night so he couldn't tell me about other nights. Like maybe Frank was just your guy for that night. Maybe on other nights your guy was Vern or Bill or some random pick up. Doesn't matter Breanna. We are done. Now get off the hood of the car or I'm going to drive off with you as a hood ornament."
I unlocked the car, got in and started it as Breanna cried, "He lied to you Bobby. I don't know who he is but he lied to you. I never did any of those things. I love you Bobby; I swear to God I love you. Come home to me Bobby; please come home to me. I need you Bobby; I need you."
I put the car in gear and started to move and Bree slid off the hood and then stood there crying as I drove away.
Up on the stage Joyce was rocking. She had the audience roaring with laughter and every time she tried to finish they called for more, but I had two more hopefuls to give a shot to. I walked up on the stage and took the mike from Joyce and said:
"I know you want more of the marvelous Joyce, but she has a babysitter who has school tomorrow so she needs to hurry home. If you give her a big enough hand maybe she will come back next week."
That got Joyce a standing ovation and I looked at her and she nodded a yes. "You did it people. She says she will be back next week. While our next performer is getting his thoughts in order I'll share this one with you.
"This blond was cleaning out the trunk of her car preparing for a trip and her new boyfriend was helping her. Inside her trunk he noticed a bag labeled "Emergency Repair Kit" and looking at it closer he noticed that it contained a stick of dynamite. Thinking that was a bit strange he asked her what the dynamite was for. She looked at him like he was crazy and said;
"It is part of my emergency repair kit."
The boyfriend said, "I can see that, but why?"
"In case I have a flat and need to blow up the tire."
I glanced over and saw the look on Bree's face as the laughter rang out. Kind of made the night worthwhile.
"Next up for your entertainment we have Jerry Oskham. Tonight's topic is a fitting one for Jerry as he is a pre-med student at Hoskins. Let's have a big welcome for Jerry."
I handed the mike off to Jerry and walked over and took my seat at the bar. Instead of looking in the mirror I swiveled around on my stool so I could check out the crowd. As I looked out over the patrons Melody came up behind me.
"You know she hasn't taken her eyes off of you since you got here. I think there is something there Bobby. It might be to your benefit to give her a chance. After all, you really don't know for sure that she did anything. Hit her with all of it and see where it goes. You don't have anything to lose."
"After what I saw? I don't think so."
"What you saw could have been no more than drunken flirting that got a little out of hand. Maybe it was the first time. Maybe it had never happened before. Maybe she has a legitimate excuse for what happened after she left the Top Hat. You need to put an end to it Bobby. Get the confrontation out of the way and get it settled one way or the other."
I turned and looked at Melody. Breanna and Melody had gone to school together, but even though they hadn't run with the same crowd they still talked from time to time. Melody knew my story. After I walked out on Bree I spent a lot of my evenings at the Strip and one night after a few too many beers Melody had asked me why I was so down and I was just wasted enough to tell her the whole story.
"She got to you?"
"She has talked to me a time or two. Enough to convince me that she does love you. I haven't told her what you told me, but I think it would do the both of you a world of good to sit down and have it out."
I shrugged and turned back to survey the crowd. It was Breanna who was responsible for my being at the bar doing what I was doing. I'd known Joe for over twenty years and one day I was sitting at the bar trying to bury my sorrows with alcohol Joe sat down next to me. He had already heard my sad story so he occasionally sat down with me and tried to pull me out of my funk by getting me to talk about other subjects. After some general talk about my parents who had introduced me to Joe he started talking about finding ways to build up business during the week.
"I do great on Friday and Saturday when the band is here, but things are slower than I like during the week."
The previous weekend I had gone to the Comedy Works to see one of my favorite comics perform and I'd had a good time so I said:
"Why not have an open mike night during the week. Say maybe midweek on a Wednesday. A local talent show. Any one who wants to give it a try can get up and do it. It won't cost you anything since they will be doing it for free. Plus they will tell all their friends and relatives they are going to do it and some of those friends and relatives will come to see and they will buy drinks while they are here. If the idea catches on the word will go out and other drinkers will come in to get the free entertainment with their booze."
And so open mike night at the Landing Strip was born. Joe asked me to run it and I told him that I would, but that my price was going to be high. He asked what it was and I said:
"I drink for free from now on."
He smiled, said "Done!" We shook hands on it and there I was.
Joyce had wound the crowd up and it carried over to Jerry. He didn't have that edge that Joyce had, but he was pretty good. He reached the end of his monolog, thanked the crowd and handed me the mike when I got up on the stage.
"Thanks Jerry. I'm sure that when you complete your education and start taking care of patients that you will keep them in stitches."
I got a loud groan from the crowd at the pun. Last on the schedule is Gene Ellsworth. Gene is a landscaper by day and he hopes to be able to dig up a few laughs here tonight."
That got me another bad pun groan from the crowd and I said, "Cut me a break people. I'm up here doing this for free."
"And we are getting our money's worth" a voice cried out from the back and he got a laugh from the crowd.
"Okay, okay. You get the mike after Gene" and that got me a laugh as I handed off the microphone.
I saw Breanna watch me walk all the way back to my barstool and I gave some thought to what Melody had said. We did need to put an end to it. Maybe if we talked Bree would finally understand that it was over between us. That would put a stop to the "I love you" notes under my windshield wipers every morning and the mushy "I love you" cards that were in my mail box when I got home every night. Maybe I could even start getting a decent nights sleep. I was still deep in thought when melody nudged me and I saw that Gene was done.
I took the stage, thanked Gene for his efforts and then said, "Okay people. Now is the time. Anyone want to step up here and give it a shot?"
No one took me up on the offer so I said, "Next weeks topic is the possible government shut down because of the budget crisis. Good or bad? For my part the good would be if they shut down. The bad would be if they started back up." That got me a good laugh and I said, "And while on the subject of the economy I want to tell you about my twelve year old niece's solution. She has written a letter to the president that she is going to send him sometime this week. It says:
"Dear Mr. President,
Please find below my suggestion for fixing America's economy. Instead of giving billions of dollars to big companies that will squander the money on lavish parties and unearned bonuses, use the following plan. You can call it the Patriotic Retirement Plan.
There are about 40 million people over fifty in the work force. Pay them one million apiece severance if they will retire with the following stipulations:
1. They must retire. Forty million job openings – Unemployment fixed.
2. They must buy a new American made car. Forty million cars ordered – Auto industry fixed.
3. They must either buy a house or pay off their mortgage – Housing crisis fixed.
It can't get any easier than that. Forty million – not billion – and things are fixed.
P.S. If more money is needed have all members of congress pay their taxes. While you are at it make Congress retire on Social Security and Medicare and see how fast those programs get fixed.
"Now I ask you. If a twelve year old can come up with an idea to fix things in Washington, why can't a bunch of adults do it?"
Someone started chanting, "A twelve year old for president" and the crowd took it up and after a minute I waved them silent.