Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Wuss And A Moron--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Monday, February 4

     I spent the day with my friend Jason. He and his wife, Rita, are not doing well.
     "Rita is disrespectful," Jason said while we ate breakfast. "She talks to me like I'm a piece of shit. I've been talking to my therapist about it and she recommended either Rita or I move out for a while to figure things out. When I mentioned it to Rita, she threatened suicide and disappeared for two days to freak me out."
     Jason and I drove to the beach. The sand was covered in thick dense slabs of wind-sculpted snow. Broken chunks of ice floated on choppy Lake Michigan. We hiked up the beach. I'd been disrespectful to JB. I treated him like shit. I treated him like a wuss and a moron. I tried not to, but I did. It must have been horrible, painful for JB.
     The bottom had fallen out of our marriage ten years ago and I should have left then. We were standing at the top of the stairs on the second floor of our house and I was screaming at JB to stand up to his caretaker sister and take his critically ill mother, who was on antibiotics for a possible lung infection, to a cancer doctor. JB blurted his mother was dying, he was going to have to live with his siblings, and he wasn’t going against them. I stood frozen. I thought, this is who I’m married to. JB wouldn’t stand up for his mother. He didn’t stand up for himself. And he wouldn’t stand up for me. And I stayed. I stayed for security. I stayed out of fear. I was a wuss and a moron.
     I drove Tom to his guitar lesson in the afternoon and waited for him in the car. I called my old grade school friend, Sharon.
     “How’s life in Arizona?” I asked.
     “I’ve been very worried about you,” Sharon said. “I’ve been thinking that going through this divorce might make you want to drink.”
     “I’m not going to drink over that guy,” I laughed.
     “That’s so good to hear,” she said.
     “What made you divorce Mr. S&M?”
     “I got pregnant right after we got married. Jerry started asking me to do stuff I didn’t want to do, but I felt trapped. It got worse and worse. He was making a lot of money, we lived in a beautiful home, we traveled all over the world, we looked like the perfect couple. But he was never happier than when I locked him in a dog cage and peed on him.
     “When we were in public, Jerry was buttoned down and looked like a stiff. I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted out and he started getting physically abusive. My friend came over one night and when she stood up for me, he pushed her into our kitchen island and bruised her up. I called the cops and got a restraining order.
     “He’s got a girlfriend now. I think he’s starting to show his true colors. They’re on again, off again. We were at the same restaurant and she asked me vague questions about strange behavior while we were both in the bathroom. But they go on these trips. There are things I miss.”
     “You don’t have to pee on him anymore,” I said.
     “No, no I don’t,” Sharon laughed.
     I called my mother. She’d left a voicemail asking me to call her and her voice had sounded strange. When she answered, her voice was low and ominous. I suspected her ninety-year-old friend, Pearl, had died. But my mother made strained small talk.
     “What’s going on?” I finally asked. “It feels like you have something to tell me.”
     “Well,” she said shakily, “it was JB’s birthday yesterday. You know I always call JB on his birthday. So I called him. The Lord impressed me to do it. The first time I called, he didn’t answer. I hung up. I called him back later. I got his voicemail and left him a message telling him that I was calling to wish him a happy birthday even though I was very disappointed in him. I told him I never thought in a million years he would do what he did. I told him he needed to find the Lord, that everyone needs the Lord in their life. I told him that even though I didn’t like what he did I still love him. I wanted him to know I didn’t hate him. A little while later, he called me back. I repeated what I said in the message. When I told him he needed to find the Lord, he said he’d give it some thought.”
     I was speechless.
     “Hello?” my mother asked. “Are you still there?”
     “I’m here.”
     “I felt impressed by the Lord to call him and say what I did. It was the Christian thing to do. I hope you don’t mind. Do you mind?”
     “Do whatever you want. Take him to lunch.”
     “Well, I’m not going to take him to lunch,” she said. “But the Lord impressed me to call him so I did.”
     My mother began nervously making small talk again. I sat there feeling numb. Occasionally my mother would ask if I was still there. I’d say, “Uh-huh.” Finally, I told her I had to go and hung up.
     I checked Tom’s homework. I told him to take a shower. I hugged and kissed him goodnight. I sat on the edge of my bed and started full-fledged sobbing. It was the first time I’d cried like that since I was a little girl, before I vowed never to cry in front of my mother because it seemed she wanted to break me, cure me of being myself, turn me into the perfect Seventh-day Adventist girl. I slid off my bed onto the floor and let myself go. Eventually I got up and texted my mother.

     “I can’t stop crying. I don’t want any explanations or excuses. Nothing you say will make this better so please don’t try to talk to me about this. You just need to know that what you did hurts bad.”

     I went to bed and cried some more. My text alert went off. I picked up my phone, turned off the sound, and tossed it on the floor.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Sum Of Our Decisions--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Sunday, February 3

     I decided to help JB have a lousy fiftieth birthday today.

     “You're 50,” I emailed. “Who we are is the sum of all decisions we've made thus far. I'm grateful I have a clearer picture of you.
     “Please let me know what homework Tom has done. Please don't use your fire hazard space heater in Tom's room. Please take your initialed doormat off the front porch when you bring Tom home.
     “Happy birthday.”

     I pressed send. I started worrying JB might kill himself.

     “Good morning Brenda,” JB replied, not sounding like he wanted to kill himself.
     “You are right. We are the sum of our decisions and I have made a string of incredibly bad ones. Many unforgivable. And we are all paying for them. I know you think I'm remorseless, but that reality eats at me every single day. 
     “I am so sorry to have disappointed so many people, you first and foremost, but also your mother, the kids, our late parents who thankfully aren't here to see this mess, and many others. It's all hitting me pretty hard today, which should have been a celebration of my life so far, and it feels more like a wake. 
     “Still, I'm grateful that you wished me a happy birthday and thank you for taking Tom shopping for my gift. It looks like a book I will enjoy. 
     “Regarding Tom's homework, he did his math homework. We also spent about an hour on science yesterday. I quizzed him on the worksheets and had him draw the rock cycle and do a chart comparing the types of rocks. I will spend a little more time going through the study guide with him this morning. He seems to know the material, but not cold, so he needs to study it more.
     “I will drop him off at 1.”

     The doorbell rang at one. I greeted Tom. JB hunched over and picked up his doormat. He straightened and looked at me hopefully.
     “Happy birthday,” I shot over my shoulder and shut the door.
      Tom and I left for Snowbirds. I called Jane, my cousin in Iowa, as we drove to Wisconsin. Her twenty-three-year-old daughter, Shawn, just had a baby boy. Jane was a grandma.
     “Did I tell you Shawn was diagnosed with hypercortisolism?” Jane asked.
     “No. Last time we talked you said Shawn ditched law school, was off the rails, and you thought she was bi-polar.”
     “Turned out to be hypercortisolism. She gained a lot of weight, bruised easily, was tired all the time. I couldn’t access her medical records or talk to her doctors because she was over eighteen. She got physical and said the most awful things. She grabbed me by the neck and hair. She hit my husband. Charles wouldn’t hit her back, so she kept trying to goad him into doing it. We had to kick her out of the house. She got pregnant and had a miscarriage at seven months. The doctors ran tests on the baby and said it was loaded with cortisol. That’s how Shawn was finally diagnosed. Women with hypercortisolism can’t carry a baby to term because their bodies are loaded with cortisol. My poor baby was in fight or flight mode for years. She felt awful, crazy. There was an area on Shawn’s brain where a pituitary growth had formed. The doctors think that when Shawn got pregnant, the baby started drawing nutrients and cortisol and starved the tumor. Shawn’s in remission now.
     “Brenda, that little baby saved my baby. I know my daughter. I know she got pregnant with my grandson because it was now or never. She’s back in school and getting A’s, but she’s exhausted.”
     “Oh Jane, how are you?”
     “Well, a couple of months ago I was in the hospital and could have died.”
     I started laughing. “I’m really sorry. It’s just, how much more can you take?”
     “I know,” Jane laughed. “I was bitten by a Brown Recluse Spider. I had a lot of pain. Brenda, I got necrosis. My flesh was dying. They had to cut it out. I’m okay, but we’ve had our share.”
     “Jane, I believe you’ve had it worse than me.”
     “Want to sing Janis Joplin like the old days? ‘Down On Me?’”
     We started laughing hard.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Basket--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Saturday, February 2

     Sonia came over, I brewed a pot of tea, and we sipped it in my living room by the fireplace.
     "It's all about control, all about control,” Sonia said, shaking her head. “I can do this, so I’m going to. I can get away with that, so I will.”
     “JB didn’t want to lift a finger around here. He earned a paycheck, but everything else was on me. I worried I was castrating him by being too capable. I didn’t lean on him. I didn’t ask for advice. I didn’t make him feel like a big strong man.”
     “JB’s childhood is responsible for who he is,” Sonia said. “Years of therapy can only unravel that—and only if he wants to work at it. That passive aggressive thing. . .” Sonia scowled. “Passive aggressive people live in their heads, spin stories, create their own delusional world, plan how to get even."
     I shuddered. “How’s your brother?”
     “Ugh,” she said. “We thought he was going to die. He was down to one hundred and five pounds and the doctor told him his liver was shutting down. He stopped drinking for a while and got better. Now he’s drinking again and making my parents’ lives hell. My father is ninety and my mother is not well. She has heart trouble and takes water pills. If she doesn’t drink enough water she gets dehydrated. That’s why she was in the hospital. But as horrible and verbally abusive as my brother is to them, I think taking care of him is what’s keeping them going. They’d never kick him out of the house.”
     “How’s your husband?”
     “He’s okay,” Sonia said. “Henry’s been really sad since his best friend died. His friend, Sam, was smart, brilliant, fun. He died of a heroin overdose after his daughter died the same way. He’d been clean for years then his wife left him. I think she was fooling around. He went downhill after that. When their daughter died, Sam’s ex blamed him. It was all so sad. Henry hadn’t hungout with Sam near the end. He didn’t like Sam’s druggie friends. He was afraid of getting busted for just being with them. But he and Sam grew up together. He loved him like a brother. It’s been hard.”
     “How are you?”
     “I’m on hormone replacement therapy. It got bad. Really bad. So I went on them. Turning fifty was fine but once I hit fifty-five everything went downhill.”
     “Jesus,” I said.
     Sonia grimaced and nodded her head.
     “My friend Lila says (I mimicked her drawl), ‘Everyone’s walking around with a basket of shit.’”
     Sonia laughed. “That’s good.”

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Let's Go On More Dates--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Friday, February 1

     Tom and I loaded a space heater, one that looks like an old fashioned radiator, into my Tahoe. We added a wicker couch and two grocery bags full of JB’s stuff and drove to his house.
     “We just passed Dad’s road,” Tom said. 
     I stopped and backed up.
     “There, turn down there,” Tom said.
     “That little gravel road?”
     I pulled onto the road. Tom hadn't exaggerated about the dilapidated garage. JB appeared on his doorstep, waved, and walked over. JB and I pulled the couch out and set it on his front porch. He began babbling small talk. I turned back to the Tahoe and grabbed the heater.
     “Oh, I’ll take that,” JB said.
     I pushed past him and walked into his house.
     “Where’s your room?” I asked Tom.
     “It’s this one,” Tom said leading the way.
     I set the heater down. “That’s what you’ve been using?” I pointing to a cylinder  heater wedged between two pieces of furniture on the floor.
     “Yeah,” Tom said and winced.
     “Get it out of here. Make sure it’s not in use when you’re here.”
     JB lurked behind us.
     “Well, thanks for bringing Tom and this stuff over,” JB said cheerily.
     I stared at him. One of the bags of stuff I brought contained a birthday card from JB's mother telling him how proud she was of the man he’d become. She said Blake and Tom were sure to grow up to be just like him. There was a card from me saying, “Let’s go on more dates.” He’d been on Ashley Madison when I gave him that. And there was some X-rated junk mail that promised to enlarge his penis.
     “Tom has a lot of homework this weekend,” I said. “Let me know what he does.”
     “Oh, yeah, sure,” JB said.
     I looked at JB a moment longer. I studied him for signs I should have seen. I saw nothing but a gut and jowly cheeks. I hugged Tom, kissed him good-bye, and told him to have a great weekend.
     “Bye, thanks again,” JB called after me.
     I drove to Whole Foods and bought myself portobello mushrooms stuffed with crab, spinach, and artichoke for dinner. As I ate, Blake sent me a text saying JB bought himself an iPad for his birthday.

     “He couldn’t buy a safe space heater for Tom, but he could buy himself an iPad,” I replied.

     “My thoughts exactly,” Blake responded.

     I called Tracy. She said she sent Scott more money because she was afraid he’d do something horrible and die if she didn’t. Then she told him no more.
     “Now my locks are sticking,” Tracy said. “I called the locksmith and he told me the only time locks stick is if someone’s been tampering with them, trying to pick them. I know it’s Scott. He got angry when I told him I wasn’t sending him more money. I think he’s been pulling money out of his retirement fund for drugs. He was a journeyman electrician for years. Oh my God.”

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Self Alone--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Wednesday, January 30

     Mind over matter was the theme of Kabbalah class this morning and we made lists of what we want to manifest. My list: My books are wildly successful. I’m independently wealthy. I have a charitable organization that lifts women. I feel divine presence and guidance all the time.
     Our teacher, Elisheva, asked us to notice which desires were ego driven and which came from the light (divine source). She told us to tweak our ego-driven desires into ones that serve the greater good.
     “If our desires are polluted with selfishness to receive for the self alone, our results will be limited,” Elisheva said. “If we think big. If we purify our intentions for the greater good. The sky is the limit.”
     I grew up being told I couldn’t be a good mother and work outside my home. I grew up being told wanting lots of money was greedy and bad. Bullshit. I ditch those beliefs. I’m going to earn lots of money. My children and I have vast resources, abundant lives, and are making the world a better place. Money flows in and out of me and I am a divinely-directed money sprinkler.
     I raised my hand. “My desires, even my desire to feel divinely directed, are motivated by wanting to feel good and be better off. Is that alright? Is it selfish? Do I need to uproot my selfishness?”
     “The answer is yes and yes,” Elisheva said. “You need to catch yourself in selfishness and alter your desires into something for the long-term greater good. You need  to make uprooting selfishness a priority, not a side job.”
     Angie and I went to lunch afterward. She had just gotten back from a ten-day Kabbalah trip to spiritual sites in the Ukraine and Poland.
     “So, how was it?” I asked.
     “I knew what to expect,” Angie said flatly. “A lot of riding around on buses from place to place. Kabbalists believe that when a person dies, a lot of their energy stays where they lived and died. We were on five- and six-hour bus rides to homes and cemeteries where great Kabbalists lived and were buried. We didn’t get much sleep. I think the most we got was five or six hours one night.”
     “Did you feel their energy?”
     “No. I don’t feel energy. I’m not one of those people. A lot of people said they did, but feeling it or not feeling it, it doesn’t matter. Everyone still receives the same benefit. I used to think I needed to force myself to try to feel it. It’s like trying to make yourself cry when someone dies because you think you’re supposed to but it’s not genuine.”
     “I’m familiar with that. I’ve suspected people of lying when they claimed to feel energy I wasn’t.”
     “We’re a lot alike,” Angie said, nodding. “That’s why we like each other. How are you doing?”
     “My lawyer is working on a settlement. Hopefully JB will sign it. I see and speak to him as little as possible. I’d love to tell him exactly how I feel but it wouldn’t serve me well.”
     “There’s nothing wrong with being smart and taking care of yourself,” Angie said. “I should have been smarter like that.”
     “Hey, I found out the HPV is gone! I’m clean. I don’t have any STDs. My tests and pap came back negative. I can’t tell you how relieved I am. I’m sleeping again. I don’t feel like I’m about to jump out of my skin anymore.”
     “That’s so great.”
     “I’m still having trouble processing what JB did, though. Sexting while he was with the boys and me. Having unprotected sex then sticking himself in me. I think he took pleasure in getting one over on me. He got off on that.”
     “I read ‘Diary of an Alcoholic Housewife’ while I was on my trip,” Angie said. “I couldn’t put it down. I read three quarters of it on the plane. You know I get motion sickness in the car, especially if I read. Well, I read the rest of your book on the bus and that should tell you how much I enjoyed it. I hate to say I enjoyed it because it was about a very tough time in your life, but I was struck by how unsupportive JB was.”
     “Really? I thought he was supportive. But other people who’ve read my book said the same.”
     “The whole time you were getting sober JB kept drinking. And the two of you kept hanging out with your drinking friends. It’s a miracle you didn’t drink. Knowing how low the odds are for an alcoholic to stop drinking. . . The fact that you didn’t drink while that was going on . . .” Angie shook her head. “Something big is planned for you. You wrote about the two of you going out to dinner before you traveled to Budapest. You told him you were considering drinking on your trip. He said, ‘I’m not going to tell you what to do.’ My mouth dropped open. I remember reading that part on the bus and my jaw dropping. My brain was screaming, ‘Yes, you can tell your wife not to drink!’”
     “When people get sober, their partners often try to get them to drink. I thought JB was supportive because he wasn’t doing that.”
     “He wasn’t supportive. Everything changed when you got sober. No more crazy drunken sex. JB liked having sex with you when he was drunk and you put a stop to that. He liked being able to manipulate you, have you the way he wanted you when you were drinking.”
     “At book signings women would tell me he wasn't supportive. They asked me if that was why I didn’t write about him much. They wanted to know what my marriage was like. Reporters asked the same. I said my marriage was good, that JB was supportive. All the while he was on Ashley Madison.”
     “You were pulling away from JB and he felt it. He didn’t like it. You were doing that for a long time before he cheated. When he started cheating he was selfish, wrapped up in himself, and he was sticking it to you for pulling away from him.”
     “Maybe I didn’t love JB enough. Maybe I pushed him to make the choices he did. But he didn’t have to do that. He could have gone any number of ways. He chose what he chose.”

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Use Him For Target Practice--"Thank You Ashely Madison" excerpt

Sunday, January 27

     With freezing rain pelting down, Tom and I did not go to Snowbirds. Instead, we took his compound bow to the archery range. I aimed at a foam deer and nailed it.
     “Do you think Dad would run around our yard and let us use him for target practice?” I laughed.
     Tom shot me a stern look and rolled his eyes.
     I mimicked JB’s familiar hand wringing, his foot and shuffling. I darted from side to side miming his also familiar deer-in-the-headlights look. Tom started laughing.
     “Using him as a target would be fun,” I said.
     “You don’t want to kill him, do you?” Tom asked.
     “No, just injure him.” I lifted the bow again and shot the deer in the butt.
     Tom shook his head.
     Inappropriate, yes. I felt a pang of guilt, but it was fairly mild. At least I’m being a real human being, not a phony.
     Later, as Tom was getting ready for bed, he said, “Dad got me a new Wii.”
     “That’s good. You’ll have fun with that at his house.”
     “He has a couple of chairs and a beanbag chair in his living room. And a TV stand. It’s not very comfortable. The bathroom is dirty. There used to be glass doors on the shower but they didn’t shut and one was broken. He took them off and hung a shower curtain. He wanted me to take a shower but I didn’t want to. I need flip flops to go in there.”
     “The shower is that bad?”
     Tom nodded and started laughing. I started laughing. Tom laughed so hard he couldn’t talk for a while. Finally he said, “There was all this black stuff in the tub the first time I saw it but he cleaned most of that out.”
     “There’s still black stuff in there?”
     “Yeah, and rust stains. I think I’ll buy him some of that rust and stain remover on TV. The toilet was all black inside, too, but Dad cleaned that out.”
     “So you can poop and not worry about black water back splash.”
     Tom doubled over with laughter. “It’s cold in his house, too. He has a space heater in my room, but it’s loud.”
     “What kind of space heater?”
     “It’s shaped like a cylinder. It glows red and blows hot air all around.”
     “Are you kidding me? People burn down houses with those. Make sure you don’t have anything near it that can catch fire. Clothes, sheets, blankets, paper, anything.”
     Tom started laughing really hard. When he caught his breath he said, “Dad put it right next to my blowup bed.”
     “What!?” I shouted. “What the hell is wrong with him!?”
     “There’s a cheap piece of wood furniture right next to it, too,” Tom laughed.
     “Oh my God.”
     “At least my window has a nice view. It’s the nicest view in the house. It looks out on a lot of trees. Dad said (Tom changed his voice to sound low and stupid), ‘I think I’m going to buy some curtains for the kitchen window.’ When you look out the kitchen window, you see an ugly garage with rusty doors and the roof’s falling in.”
     “Don’t go near that garage. It could collapse on you.”
     Tom laughed hard.
     “I’m serious,” I said. I started laughing, too. “I’ve got to check out this hellhole.”
     “Maybe we could put one of our radiator space heaters in my room at Dad’s.”
     “Yeah. Next time you go there, we’ll bring one, and I’ll have a look around to make sure you’re safe.”
     I kissed Tom goodnight and got into bed. I imagined JB shivering in his dump. I felt sorry for him. It took me aback.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Bugging You--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Saturday, January 26

     Tom and I were supposed to go to a huge indoor trampoline park with Mikey and Ruby but I cancelled. I caught Tom lying to me about his schoolwork, and his grades still suck. I pulled out a board game after dinner, “The Game of Life,” and Tom and I began playing.
     “What do you think of your social worker?” I asked.
     Tom shrugged. “He seems pretty nice.”
     “Do you feel comfortable talking to him?”
     “I guess.”
     “His parents got divorced when he was your age. You know that?”
     “Yeah, he told me.”
     “When I get angry or upset, I talk to my friends, in particular ones who’ve gone through what I have. It helps. Do you talk to your friends, kids whose parents are divorced?”
     “Yeah, but they don’t say much. Their parents got divorced when they were younger. All they say is sorry.”
     “Can you talk to the social worker?”
     “That’s what he’s there for. Tell him stuff that’s bugging you. You can talk to me. But sometimes I’m probably the one bugging you. You could talk to Ryan about me.”
     Tom laughed. “I can always talk to Blake.”
    “Yeah, you can do that, too.”

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Chastity Belt--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Thursday, January 24

     I saw my gynecologist and crossed my fingers that this pap test would come back normal, eliminating my increased risk of cervical cancer.
     “The part of the cervix susceptible to HPV is small and gets tucked up inside as women age so they don’t contract HPV anymore,” Dr. Shall said. “In younger women, it’s spread out and open for attack. If HPV doesn’t go away on its own, which it mostly does, it can turn into cancer.
     “What I’m seeing mostly in divorced women is herpes,” she continued. “A lot of herpes. Sometimes my patients don’t know they have it because there’s no visible sore. It just feels like a paper cut down there.”
     “I’m going to start wearing a chastity belt,” I said.
     “Just be careful. Use condoms. A friend of mine just took her husband back, why, I don’t know. He was cheating on her and gave her an STD—and not HPV. I’m on my second marriage. I’m so much happier.”
     Dr. Shall looked me straight in the eye and said, “Don’t take him back. He’s not going to change. He’s going to keep doing what he’s doing. You’re going to find someone who’s really going to love you and make you happy. You will.”
     Tears filled my eyes. “Thank you,” I whispered.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Struggling With It--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Wednesday, January 23

     Tom and I walked into his school for student-led conferences. JB was hanging out in the hallway. He smiled, waved, and walked towards us. 
     “There you are,” he called out.
     Tom and I strode into the band room where conferences were being held. JB followed. A teacher directed us to a table. Tom sat on one side of the table, JB and I on the other, and Tom began showing us his tests and papers.
     “There’s a lot of homework you did but didn’t hand in,” I said. “Some you didn’t do at all. It’s killing your grades. How can you turn this around? There’s no reason you should be getting a C in math. You know this stuff. It’s easy for you.”
     “Are you doing poorly because it’s new material and you’re struggling?” JB pandered.
     Tom nodded animatedly. “Yes.”
     I waved over Tom’s math teacher. “Hi Mrs. Chapman. Could you explain why Tom is getting a C?”
     “As you can see, he does great on his tests and quizzes. It’s his daily work. He doesn’t do it or hand it in.”
     “We’re learning new stuff and I’m struggling with it,” Tom said.
     “No you’re not,” Mrs. Chapman said. She pulled out Tom’s most recent worksheet. “You have a great math mind. Who in class took the shortest time to figure this out?”
     “Me,” Tom said.
     “Tom and I were cleaning his room and we found old math papers behind his dresser,” I said. “Some were done, some weren’t.” I looked at Tom. “How are you going to turn this around?”
     “Start doing my homework everyday and putting it in my backpack,” he said.
     “I can make sure it’s in your backpack, but it’s up to you to remember to turn it in,” I said.
     We got up and began walking out. One of my yoga clients and her daughter approached us.
     “Check out those boots!” I said pointing to the girl’s sequined Uggs. “I want a pair!”
     “Yeah, those are really nice,” JB muttered.
     I chatted with my client for a while and Tom and I turned to leave. JB was still hanging around.
     “Well, see you later,” JB called out cheerily.
     I couldn’t look at JB. If I looked at him, I would have punched him. I was shaking inside.