He walked in the door with the cardboard box of office supplies that she knew had been moldering in the trunk of his Chevy for the last month.
The potted plant was dead.
“Alice, I’m leaving you,” said Bill.
Thank you, Lord, for dimwitted husbands and answered prayers.
While it wasn’t the answer she had prayed for, she wouldn’t have to deal with funeral expenses now. It would have to be enough.
She had grownup Catholic and even though she no longer called the Church her home, the notion of divorce as a grievous sin had been layered on her since childhood. It would have taken years for her to gather the wherewithal to ask for it on her own. Her husband had taken the task from her hands, and she was grateful. Still, appearances must be kept up.
“Bill! First of all, my name is not Alice. Second…why?”
Bill shrugged and opened the freezer, stuck his head inside. He said, “I got a job at a radio station in Sluggard, South Dakota. It’s a good gig. Morning host and program director. Betty, I have to take it.”
“That’s not my name either,” she said. “But what about your show here?”
He pulled his head out of the freezer. In his hand he held a fresh half gallon of butter pecan ice cream.
He said “I was, I mean, I, uh, resigned this morning, effective immediately.”
Obviously he didn’t know that she listened to his show and knew he had been fired weeks ago. She had never brought it up because frankly, she didn’t care. Fifteen minutes of unhinged political ranting didn’t really play well in rural radio markets, no matter which side of the spectrum you fell on. Bill hadn’t even been allowed to finish his shift. She guessed he had been warned prior to the axe falling on him.
Bill had pulled large serving spoon from the silver drawer and was digging into the ice cream with gusto.
“Okay,” she said. “Why don’t you want me to come with you?”
He paused, the spoon halfway to his mouth. The scoop of ice cream was the size of a baby’s head, but that didn’t appear to faze Bill in the slightest.
“Because you’d hate it. The people there are so stupid, I’ll be the smartest person in town –“
She coughed, loudly.
“What? Are you making fun of me, Carol?”
Her eyes watered. “Me? Never. And my name isn’t Carol.”
Bill said “Whatever. You’d be second smartest, except maybe for the guy who hired me. I mean, he’s an idiot compared to me, but he knows talent when he sees it. He loved my scouting skit.”
He licked melting ice cream from the bottom of the spoon, then wedged it between his lips. She watched, transfixed, as nearly a pint of frozen dairy disappeared into his piehole.
He tried to continue, but couldn’t form words around the frozen dairy now clogging his gullet. Then, the brain freeze hit.
Ah, Jesus God!!
Bill tried to put the ice cream carton on the table, but missed. It tipped onto the floor, spilling the sticky slop across the linoleum. She watched him hold up the spoon like a crossing guard with a stop sign. Beads of sweat formed on his upper lip. He worked his jaw like a boa constrictor eating a pig, forcing the lump of cold dairy past his tonsils. She wanted to vomit.
He continued speaking as if nothing had happened. “My point is, Dawn, you’d be bored to tears there. It’s a really small town, everyone there is a dimwit. It’s just like the town I grew up in before my father uprooted us for no reason whatsoever,” Bill said.
She said “My name isn’t Dawn. What about the kids? Don’t you think they need a father?”
“What kids? Erin, are you sure you’re feeling all right? I don’t have any kids.”
Technically, he’s not wrong, she thought.
“You don’t even remember my name, do you?” she said.
“Of course I remember your name, Freida.”
She wanted to punch him in the face.
“So you’re leaving me with the kids?” she said.
Bill said, “They’re your kids. Do you really want them growing up to be like me?”
It was an excellent point. “Well, if they ever needed a BAD example, I can’t think of a better choice.”
“That may be the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.” he said.
“I don’t doubt it,” she said. “You’ve met another woman, haven’t you?”
Bill said, “Not yet, I mean NO!”
“So when are you leaving?”
“As soon as I’m packed. I’m taking the car.”
She didn’t care. For obvious reasons it needed new shocks and struts, plus an alignment. Every time she drove it after him, it pulled even more to the left. Both driver’s side tires were bald as well. He’d be lucky to get out of California without blowing them both rubbing a curb. He really was a horrible driver.
He could have the thing. It wouldn’t be a problem. One of the several men the soon-to-be-smartest-man-in-Sluggard-South-Dakota knew nothing about was a car salesman named Glenn. In two weeks, she would be tooling around town in a new Buick convertible, or Glenn’s three year old daughter would get to meet her new mommy.
“Just the laptop,” he said.
“Laptop? What’s a laptop?” she said.
“Jesus, Gail! You’re such a retard. The computer!”
“My name…is not…GAIL! The computer is as big as the desk. This is 1979, you imbecile! Maybe someday it will fit on your lap, if you keep eating like you do. And maybe someday they’ll make a computer that will fit in the palm of your hand, too! Take the freaking computer! All you ever do is write fake newspaper articles on it anyway.”
Bill shouted, “Hey! I’ll have you know the Petaluma Tribune published three of my letters to the editor last year!”
“I remember! You celebrated once with a cheap bottle of Early Times and wound up dropping one of the children on his head.”
“Now Harriet, that was an accident, you know that!”
“Oh, just shut the fuck up and get out, you drunken reprobate! And just for the record – my name in MARILYNN! The same as your mother! Three years we’ve been married and you never remembered that! You must be demented, which is saying something for a 25 year old scobblelotcher like you! Get out, I said!”
“Ingrid, What’s a scobblelotcher?”
“Go pack your shit! If you’re not in the driveway in ten minutes, I’m going to start tossing clothes out the door.”
Needless to say, Bill vanished from Marilynn’s life, found his next wife in his brother’s bed and stole her away.
No divorce was ever filed, and if this story was not entirely a work of fiction, Bill would be a divorced, widowed bigamist living in a hotel with a balloon.
Thank God it’s not even close to being true.
Just hysterically funny.