Married with Children

Daily Prompt: Obvious

twin babies

Albert Demarco, who was the uncle of Deborah’s late husband, had taken to Lizzie and Deborah, and seemed to be around the house a lot, Leep thought.

He and Vince’s Uncle Al still hadn’t had their little chat, or interrogation, about Vincent’s murder, even after a week and a half, because sometimes Leep found he simply wasn’t available when Uncle Al was. But as Leep had become kind of a regular around Deb and Lizzie’s house (“Lizzie” only to Leep, in his mind; her name to everyone was “Beth”), he couldn’t help but notice that Uncle Al was hanging around a fair bit, too.

He knew Uncle Al was married, because he overheard this kitchen conversation:

“Beth, you look the same as you did when I first met you, at Vince and Debbie’s wedding.”

“I seriously think there is something wrong with your eyesight, then, Albert.”

An agreeable, and to Leep’s ears, a patently false chuckle from Uncle Al.

“You are just as beautiful, Beth.”

“How is Tabby, Albert?”

An almost imperceptible pause. “Just fine, Beth, at home with the twins, as always. A very competent homemaker.”

“You should bring her next time.”

“She doesn’t much like to travel. She knows I need to travel a lot, and that I meet lots of people, and she is good with it.”

“Is she really?”

“Some women are happy like that. You aren’t though. You look like you could use a night out, somewhere special, whatever you would like.”

“I could use a night alone, somewhere completely quiet, and sleep until— oh hello Leep! Thanks for bringing in the plates.”

“Thanks very much for dinner, Mrs Hernandez.”

“Please call me Beth.”

Uncle Albert drilled several holes through Leep’s head and into his brain, with the dirty look he got.

But all Leep could think about was this: I can call her Beth.


The Enemy

Prompt: Admire


I had to admire Carl. What he did amounted to adultery– I suppose it was adultery plain and simple– yet he had the courage to leave me and set up a household with Robert. For Robert, it took even more of a leap of faith, since his wife was pregnant at the time of their return from their last tour, so he was leaving an infant daughter. Beth would hardly call his leaving an act of courage– more like cowardly, craven, selfish, and cruel.

It turned out that I was thrilled when Carl decided to leave my house and my bed; like too many abandoned spouses, I was secretly relieved and wondered how Robert would cope with his pickiness, his impossible standards, and his constant demands. Good luck, Robert, I said to myself, smugly. I am not saying I didn’t love Carl when we got wed. I did. But either Carl changed, or I did, or we both did.

Beth never enjoyed Robert’s occasional meanness or his temper, but they shared a dream of home, family, military advancement, travel, success. He promised upside down and sideways to support the new baby, whom they named Deborah, both financially and physically, but Beth felt this commitment was far from solid as his visits dwindled to four times a week to twice a week. “She’s nursing,” Robert said, a valid point. Beth grumbled and fretted, fearing a future as a single mother, which was far from the fantasy she had nursed for twenty-five years.

I completely enjoyed my solitude. I could walk around the house with unwashed hair, leave dishes in the sink, wear a silk blouse with jeans, swear, laugh too loud, stay up late… It was heaven. Of course I missed Carl in some ways, but if I tallied up the pros and cons either way, solitude was a solid winner.

Beth looked weary of life when I visited her and the new baby. Of course it was a lot of work, especially on one’s own, and I tried to help when I could. I manipulated Carl and Robert to babysit late into the night one Saturday while Beth and I tried to enjoy a night out. She felt her status as new mother was stamped on her forehead and that no man would find her attractive. I told her not to worry, let’s just have a few drinks and dances and have fun. She tried and failed. I tried and succeeded. Such was life.

And then she met Roman, a retired Colonel, a widower, financially comfortable, handsome in a James Brolin kind of way, a sucker for a pretty face, and raised to believe that a white knight was the highest and truest manifestation of manhood.

Beth wouldn’t tell me how she really felt about him. But she sparkled in his presence, praised him lavishly for the way he held little Deborah in his arms, and was close to tears at every kindness he showed as if such gestures were previously unknown in her world.

Robert, in the middle of settling down with a new partner, found Roman more than a distraction. His emotions and attentions fluctuated, from catering to Carl and a new relationship,  and criticizing and attempting to undermine Roman. He found there was not enough time for both.

He chose, much to my surprise, to make Roman his enemy.

I Should Have Ordered a Pitcher

Prompt: Summer

paris postcard

Dear Envy,

Hey! Just thought I’d shoot off a e-mail. Virg is so busy with her photo-shoots and so on that I’m a bit bored, oh well. Bored in London, Paris and so on (I forget our next stop)? Yes, well, you can only eat strange food so often. Museums were never my thing, really, and I like art but those places are so huge, you never really know where to begin. Remember the summer we spent in Paris and Rome with mom and dad? I remember bugger all about it except that place we went swimming, and they found a body in the water. Fun times. Anyway,  it did nothing but rain in London.

So we are in Paris now. She is doing a magazine shoot in “couture” clothes. Get this: they have to be sewn onto her. They are sequinned and embroidered and god knows what else, thousands of dollars, and they can’t put a zipper in? Then they have to “unsew” her, and when I offered to do it for them in under a second, they stared at me like I just farted. Virginia was peeved, but I say, what’s wrong with still finding your wife sexy?

Virginia wouldn’t let me pretend to be her manager at those shoots, I don’t know, because the agency was already there or something. I feel like a hanger-on, just lounging about drinking wine, eating pastries from the buffet, and drooling over my wife. You know, she is sometimes completely naked, in front of a bunch of people, during these shoots. So, I’m there.

Right now I’m at one of those sidewalk cafes with my laptop. Lots of folks with laptops. These are like upscale Starbucks, and all over Paris. Presumably they are good people-watching places, while you nurse a $15 coffee that is too strong. I ordered a beer about half an hour ago— still waiting.

Virg says you are getting back with Marcus again. He’s a good guy. But I can see where there might be problems. You should really talk to your little brother more about this shit, Envy. I know guys, and I know Marcus.

He is taking courses so he can come into a job at a higher level, you told Virg. What job? Does  he actually have a job lined up? When mom and pop were trying to instil values into us— remember that?— they had us out looking for jobs. Any job would do, the more menial the better. I lasted at Subway all of two days. How long did you last? Not that I wasn’t good at plopping sandwiches together— I’m pretty sure I was management material. But no, I wasn’t cut out for it. I’m still not. Anyway they didn’t find out I’d quit until a month and a half later. How do you know Marcus is really taking classes and will really get a job?

He wants to take more of an interest in finances, be more responsible etc. Really? Marcus? He is smart, don’t get me wrong, but his main attachment to money is spending it (in case you haven’t noticed). The more he knows about your finances, the better to manipulate you. Going to see you lawyers about wills and inheritance? Wow, I’m glad you trust Marcus this much. Maybe he has changed.

And well, Virg told me he has been straying. As one who likes women too, I can say it took me at least a year before I, um, lapsed with Virginia, because I’m crazy about her. Even now, I am not looking twice at the girl with the very straight blonde hair at the next table, who is smoking an American cigarette and blowing the smoke towards me, her mouth all pouty,  a come-on if I ever saw one. Anyway so Marcus has promised to be good. My advice sis? Don’t believe him— and don’t worry about it. He always comes back, right?

In other words, don’t believe a word he says. Sounds strange, coming from Marcus V.2 (me) but if anyone should know what he is up to, I should. So don’t believe him, but don’t hold it against him either. I don’t lie to Virginia, hardly ever, that’s where Marcus and I split ways. But if you love him and he makes you happy, what difference does it make?

Waiter, surly bastard, just put the beer down. It’s a small glass, Jesus. I should have ordered a pitcher. Virg will be here in a few minutes, that ought to wipe the sneer of the waiter’s face. She has that effect.

Cash xx

Hi Cash,

Thanks for the brotherly advice. You were the last person I would have asked, to be blunt, but I appreciate an “insider’s” viewpoint.

I don’t know why I don’t just boot Marcus out for good. I just like him, love him, or whatever, even when he’s a bit mean. My therapist (and yours— she asked where you’ve been) says I need to work on independence and self-esteem. No kidding.

While in Paris, get a personal tour of the Louvre. You avoid the lineups that way, and you can tell the guide exactly what you want to see (e.g. The Mona Lisa and so on). Did you pack the camera I gave you for Christmas? Take some shots. Don’t use your shitty cell phone camera. You once took a good pic, Cash, remember? The talent may be there.

Mom and dad would appreciate a postcard. Dad would like a European soccer-themed stamp.


P.S. Marcus and I are going on an Alaska cruise to try and mend things.

Happy Hour All Day

Prompt: Purpose

Happy hour

She was very, very easy to follow in the rain, because she kept her head down and her collar up, against the wind. Her loose raincoat, grey, mid-calf, whipped around her legs as she walked. She wore black pumps with a low heel, and not boots, so her feet got wet. It must have been uncomfortable. I personally hate that damp, cold feeling.

The rain stopped suddenly and the sun appeared from behind a bleak, grey cloud. I dropped back, just as a precaution.

She was a beautiful woman, by any man’s judgement. Long legs, delicate curves, a flawless, symmetrical face. The kind of woman it was easy to want, easy to fall in love with, easy to fantasize about. I personally couldn’t help it, though I was not the type of man she would ordinarily give a second thought to. She was, as they say, out of my league.

This was my second full day following her. I had already noticed that she tended to take circuitous routes when going from A to B. Parking far from her destination. Taking a bus, then a cab. Walking in a zig zag pattern instead of taking the shortest route. Perhaps she suspected someone was following her. Perhaps she had already spotted me. I didn’t think so, though. But something was up.

When she turned off the sidewalk and into the department store, I changed my jacket, just in case she had somehow noticed me, and I put on a baseball cap. Simple things like that kept me anonymous a lot longer, and I wanted to be anonymous, for now.

She walked in a seemingly aimless path through the main level of the store, pausing in the lingerie section– a clever move, for a man like me would surely stand out. I hovered near the men’s colognes.

Then she made for the doors leading into the mall. I almost lost her.

In the mall she walked to the jewellers at the far end, then backtracked and entered a grill restaurant. I stood by a lottery booth until I got an idea of where she was heading.

Donny’s Grill. Happy Hour All Day. I took off my baseball cap and put it in my case. It took a minute to get used to the dim lighting inside, but I saw that she was nowhere to be seen.

Damn. Was there another exit? I checked, and no, there was not. I located the restrooms and waited.

When she emerged she had freshly brushed hair, fresh make-up, and she carried her raincoat over her arm, revealing a flattering blue dress with a slightly scooped neckline. I caught my breath. Really, I couldn’t help it.

She wore a shiny gold chain with a pair-of-hearts pendant. It was almost as if she was loyal to someone. But before my very eyes, she was demonstrating that she was not. They never were.

She sat in a booth in the darkest corner of the restaurant, and I took a seat at the bar. It took a moment to see there was a man there, in the booth, with his back to me.

I went to the toilet, and on my way back out took a series of pictures of the man in the booth with my iPhone, which I held in the palm of my right hand with the lens exposed between two fingers. I walked past the booth next to their’s, and then back again and slid into the bench seat. I signalled to the bartender to bring my beer, and he set a cold bottle of Miller Lite on the table.

The pictures were not perfect by any means, but I could lighten them later to get clearer, more detailed images of the man. Her left hand was in the pictures, too, her very distinctive wedding band prominent. It was diamonds and sapphires. She held her hand out to him, but he was not just moving to take her hand. There was an envelope.

I had the photos of their clandestine meeting. Her husband would pay me. I could pack up and leave the place now, and be home for four o’clock, when Kitty would be home from school and dance lessons.

But what was that envelope? I put my ear buds in and set the receiver, which looked like an iPod, on the table beside the beer coaster.

They were talking in low tones. But I heard her say, “It’s not enough, you promised more.” He mumbled something which seemed to annoy her, and she spoke in slightly louder tone: “I took a huge risk. He doesn’t know I copied them. It is worth more than ten.”

Ten? Ten thousand?

“It’s no use to us without the codex,” I heard the man say. Surprise, surprise: he had an accent; I had no idea what. It was not an area of expertise. “You will receive an additional ten thousand when you produce the codex.”

Her husband had told me he was a civil servant. A boring government job, he said. He was desperately in love with his beautiful wife, but was sure she was seeing another man. He wanted proof.

Did he want this proof? This man? This betrayal?

I stopped the recording and put the iPhone, iPod, and ear buds into my case and stood up. My equipment wasn’t sophisticated; I was just a rather dull private detective who followed errant spouses, then went home and watched TV with my 10-year old daughter.

This woman, as I had guessed, was out of my league.