Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Must Be Hell--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Friday, April 5

     I had a golf lesson with Don, a pro at the golf store where Blake works as Blake has been after me to take a lesson with him. I walked toward the golf simulators and looked for an athletic-looking guy. A short man, early sixties, wearing a black angora V-neck sweater, a heavy gold chain, and an obvious toupe, was standing in a cloud of cologne texting.
     “I have a lesson with Don,” I said.
     “That’s me.”
     I hit some balls and Don shot video. He compared my swing with the swings of professional women golfers. He told me I needed to stand more upright and brought my arms and club straight down under me. I started hitting better. Don’s friend, Vinnie, watched from a director’s chair.
     “You should do this squatting exercise,” Vinnie said getting up, holding his arms straight overhead, and doing a few squats.
     I did a few, guessing he just wanted to see me do them. I didn’t care. Humoring men tended to work in my favor.
     I thanked them and looked at Don. “Do I pay you?”
     Don’s eyes darted around the store. He jerked his head toward the front door a couple of times and said, “Follow me.” I followed him out of the store.
     “I’m not going to charge you,” he said.
     “Really? You sure?”
     “Yeah. You know Vinnie in there? Guy’s crazy. Don’t know what he was trying to show you with those exercises, but we had fun watching you do them. He knows golf, though. Used to be a great player. Back in the day he was a hustler. Made big big money. He and I go way back. He went his way, I went mine. I used to work for the ATF. Now I do this. And I’m a sports agent. Hockey mostly. I work for the Wolves. Want to go to a Wolves game?”
     “Uh, sure.”
     “I’ll get you tickets. Give me your email address so I can send you your golf video.”
     “You sure I can’t pay you?”
     “I’m sure.”
     “Well, thanks. I’m going to the driving range to practice what you showed me.”
     “Let me know how that goes,” Don said, handing me his card and hugging me. His musky cologne clung to my clothes and I breathed it in as I drove to the range and hit a bucket of balls. I hit pretty well, for me. I thought about calling Don to thank him, but decided not to.
     Tom came home from school and I got him ready for JB, who showed up at the door looking sad and saggy. They left and I met Pia and Jody at a new restaurant in town. It was First Friday when all the shops were open late plying visitors with appetizers and wine.
     “You mind if we hit the hair salon?” I asked my friends. “I need to make an appointment.”
We walked over and my friends drank wine and ate cheese while I talked to the receptionist.
     “I can get you in next Wednesday,” Randi said.
     “Okay, put me down.”
     “Alright, that’s the tenth.”
     “Uh, aren’t you going to be busy the tenth?” Jody asked.
     “Yes!” I said. “I’m getting divorced! We have to pick another day.”
     “Congratulations!” Randi said.
     “I’ve been getting divorced for two years and we’re not even close. We’ve run out of money for the lawyers. I don’t care. I have five kids. As long as the checks keep coming and the kids and I stay in the house, I’m fine. Why are you getting divorced?”
     “He was cheating.”
     “Mine, too. Look at you. You’re beautiful.”
     “Look at you. Beautiful.”
     “How are your kids doing?”
     “My oldest isn’t talking to him right now.”
     “Two of my daughters aren’t talking to my husband either.”
     We looked at each other sadly.
     “There are always three sides to a story, his side, her side, and the truth,” Jody said when we sat at a bar a couple doors down. “I know her husband. I don’t think he cheated. He left because he couldn’t take living with her anymore. She didn’t trust him. She was always accusing him of looking at other women and wanting other women. They’d go to parties and she’d have a fit every time.”
     “Must have been a reason for her behavior.”
     “I think he cheated a long time ago.”
     “That would do it. Staying with someone you know cheats must be hell.”
     Jody slowly nodded. A small woman with a brown bob and glasses wedged herself between my stool and Jody’s. She leaned her back against the bar and stared into my eyes. “Hi Brenda!” she shouted.
     “Ann,” I said, recognizing she was Blake’s and Tom’s beloved old Sunday school teacher, one of the most upbeat friendly people I’d ever met. “How are you?”
     Ann half closed her eyes. Her lips, in a wide Cheshire Cat grin, moved silently before she shouted, “Divorced!” Vinegary white wine sloshed out of her plastic cup as she lifted it toward me. “I got this at Serendipity. That’s the place to go for wine. They don’t know I brought this in.” She looked over her shoulder at the bartender and put a finger to her lips. “Shh.”
     “I’m getting divorced, too,” I said.
     “I got divorced in November!” Ann shouted. She narrowed her eyes and screwed her mouth over to one side. “Divorced after 30 years of marriage. My husband had three affairs. I finally left after the third one. The first affair happened right after my son was killed in a motorcycle accident. My husband bought him that motorcycle even though I was against it. When I asked him why he had the affair he told me our marriage was stale. Shame on him. Shame on me for staying.”
     “I’ve been having homicidal thoughts about JB. You have them?”
     “Oh, I’ve had them. And suicidal ones. Mainly suicide.”
     “Don’t go there,” I said. “Don’t take your life over that bastard.” 

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