Depositions

by E.G. Silverman Issue: Spring 2015

Frank

 

She was kneeling at the pet store window—a typical teenager, bored and cruising the mall, doing her best to appear disinterested—cute and sad, her face barely visible through all the hair except when she flipped it back, chewing gum and blowing bubbles, wearing a tube top and cutoff jeans, fixated on the puppies in the window.  When I approached the store, she peered tentatively at me, leery of an older man in a business suit.

“Hello there young lady,” I said, offering what I hoped was a reassuring smile.  “Do you like those puppies?” Stupidly, I was unable to think of anything more sensible with which to engage her.

“They’re okay I guess.” With a shrug, she made it clear that she was quite finished with me.

The company was six years old then and we were getting into the business of supplying accessories to pet stores—dog toys, collars, leads, bowls, brushes, that sort of thing—and Mary Preno and I had come that day to “borrow” a couple of puppies for a photo shoot for a new catalogue we were preparing.  As we stepped into the store, I had a better idea.

“That girl in the window,” I said, “why don’t we use her in the shoots?”

Mary, a prematurely gray wisp of a woman, an accountant by trade, was one of the original employees of the company, at that time serving as director of business development, a job that would have best been left to others.  She appeared taken aback by my suggestion. “Instead of the puppies?” she exclaimed.

“No of course not.  With the puppies.”

“What in heavens for?  We’re selling pet supplies, not children.

“Let’s try it,” I urged her.  “See how it turns out.”

Well, how it turned out was that a picture of Michelle cradling one of the puppies magnificently adorned the cover of our first truly professional catalogue, and ever since, as you probably know, our catalogues have featured a girl and a puppy.  We even named our line of products, “Puppy Love.”



Michelle

 

The Sourland Hills Kennel Club sponsored an informal group every Tuesday evening, from six until dark, on the farm of a professional handler who’d set up an outdoor ring in a mowed hayfield.  Anyone could come. You just showed up, put down your seven dollars, and went to the end of the line in the ring.

We’d recently started showing Rory, our English foxhound, and I was still learning basic technique, so I was feeling self-conscious to begin with and then every time I looked up, there he was, this guy with a mastiff, openly gawking at me.

After class, as Frank loaded Rory into the van I told him, “He was here again.”

“Who was here again?” Frank said in that way he has of always interrogating me as if I couldn’t possibly know what I was talking about.

“That guy.  The one who stares at me.”

“What guy who stares at you?”

“The one with the mastiff.”

“I don’t see any mastiffs.”

“He left already.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course, I’m sure.  You know how when you catch someone staring at you, they turn their eyes away, pretending they weren’t looking at you?  Well he didn’t. He kept on staring at me and then he’d smile as if we knew each other or he thought he recognized me from somewhere.  I thought so last week, but now I’m positive. Maybe I should say something to him. I mean, I don’t want to be rude. But I thought about it all week and I’m sure I don’t know him.  And I don’t want to encourage anything.”

I remember Frank looking at me funny then.

“Don’t want to encourage anything?” he repeated as if I’d said something awful.

 

Frank

 

When she went off to Skidmore, we kept in touch by letter and an occasional phone call, and upon her return to New Jersey with a degree in history and a new haircut, I introduced her to one of the principals of a little advertising agency in Hopewell, housed in an old church on Main Street, and they took her on as a traffic assistant.  She advanced quickly, assisted in some small degree, I imagine, by the increasing volume of business between our companies.

Michelle metamorphosed into a fetching woman with clipped sandy hair and a face full of freckles that flowed across her shoulders and dove down her chest, her reticent eyes coupled with an unsettled laugh that hinted at the tumult twisting inside.  It is difficult to put a succinct label on our relationship during these years. We were friends, that was true. I helped her move into her apartment and furnish it. When she needed advice, she turned to me. I was a counselor and a mentor. She confided in me with the details of her life, her frustrations and dreams, her love affairs, her hopes and her heartbreaks.    

But, to be honest, there was another aspect to our involvement.  From the moment she returned from college, I felt a deep and almost uncontrollable attraction to her.  I often lay awake fretting about how I could broach the subject with her as to whether she could possibly imagine herself with a man twenty years her senior.

It certainly didn’t make matters any simpler that I had two daughters from my first marriage, the older one nearly the same age as Michelle, and that I insisted for the longest time that she not be permitted to meet them, being afraid as I was that seeing my daughter would put the possibility of our being lovers into a context that would be too difficult for her to bear.

I was aware that she rarely went out on dates, seeming to prefer my company, whether it be for concerts or picnics, and from this I gained some confidence.  Then one evening, we were dining at Brothers Moon, a romantic storefront restaurant a block or so from her agency, celebrating her latest promotion, of which I denied any foreknowledge, when suddenly I found myself simply overtaken by my desire for her.

“Is something the matter?” she said, a glass of wine in her hand.  “Why are you looking at me so funny?”

“Nothing.  It’s nothing,” I muttered.

“Oh come on now,” she said with that wondrous giggle of hers, a jiggling titter that was like an angel flipping somersaults, “it must be something.”  Then when I failed to comply, she added with great seriousness, “After all the confidences I’ve shared with you, I will be totally insulted if you don’t come clean right this second.”

So what choice did I have but to out with the truth?  “I love you,” I said.

Her eyes dropped immediately to her plate.

“I know,” she said at last with a sigh.

She set down her fork, gazed at me for a long moment and said, “If I agree to be your lover, can we still be friends?”

Startled, I could only think to reply, “I don’t see why not.”

“Well okay then,” she said, her countenance melding into a resolute smile.  “It will be one more thing for you to teach me.”

 

Michelle

 

Of course, I agreed to go to bed with him.  How could I say no? I was twenty-four. He was forty-six.  I owed him everything—my job, my education, my apartment, even my self-esteem, what little there was of it.  My parents had divorced when I was little and I’d never had a father. My mother wasn’t much of a role model, an alcoholic, finally dying of a hemorrhage shortly after I got back from college.  Frank was always there for me. He was mature, worldly, sophisticated, not at all like the boys my age. I felt safe with him, secure. He was someone I could trust. No one had ever taken care of me until him.  Why would I not want to lie in his arms?

The funny thing was, once we got back to my apartment and it was time to, you know, actually do it, it felt terribly awkward.  I don’t know why. I’d never been the type to be hesitant about that sort of thing. Not that I was a slut or anything. Don’t get me wrong.  It wasn’t like that at all. Let’s just say that before Frank, I’d never found sex particularly intimidating.

But with Frank, I was very uneasy.  Perhaps it was because of the age difference.  I didn’t know what to expect. Was I supposed to behave a certain way?  I’d known him practically since I was a little kid. I’d always looked up to him.  He was the closest thing I’d ever had to a father, so I guess it’s not exactly a shock that going to bed with him made me a little uncomfortable.  

I had to come up with a way to deal with it.  I hate to admit this, but when Frank made love to me, I pretended I was with someone else.  Usually, it was my old boyfriend, Carlos. Carlos was an idiot, but he was good in bed.

Frank kept telling me he loved me, over and over.  After a while I told him I loved him too and he should go to sleep.  Frank had bought me the bed as a gift, saying that a good night's sleep was the key to a good day’s work and if he was going out on a limb to get me a job, then I’d better turn in a good day’s work.

 

Frank

 

With the structure and strength of our years of friendship to fall back on, we moved determinedly through the remaining stages of romance, culminating in a small wedding on Harbour Island in the Bahamas.  Upon our return, we moved into the house she had picked out, an oversized colonial in a development outside Pennington.

That was four years ago.  Since then, we’ve occupied ourselves with the routines of married life, although I must admit that Michelle and I have not always been on the best of terms.  Simply put, we began quarrelling. Over what? What do couples always quarrel over? The little things, the mundane, the quotidian—not calling to say one would be late, what household items merited expenditures outside our regular budget, what we were having for dinner, who was taking out the trash, how newspapers came to be left in the living room on the white couch—the sorts of things that with the perspective of time and distance seem so trivial as to not merit notice, but in the moment take on gargantuan proportions, tempers flaring into pitched battles, until we sometimes went for days barely speaking to each other.  In fact, I believe it was this situation that led to our acquiring a dog and then our indoctrination into the world of dog shows. One of Michelle’s friends had recommended to her (her friend apparently having received similar advice from a marriage counselor) that we would benefit from a shared hobby, a vehicle through which we could experience the setting of and then hopefully achieving mutually agreed upon goals, the idea being that once we’d mastered that approach then we’d be able to apply it to the everyday activities of our married existence.

If ever there was ill-conceived advice, that was it, for in this dog show business lay the root of our demise.

 

Michelle

 

We skipped class for a few weeks.  One Tuesday evening it threatened rain.  Another we dined with friends. I had the impression that Frank was making excuses for us to avoid class.

Then finally I insisted that I needed to practice for an upcoming show.  Frank resisted, but when I reminded him that I was the one venturing into the ring while all he did was spectate, he reluctantly agreed.

When we got there, I took up a position behind a Great Dane and a golden retriever puppy.  Frank set up his folding chair to watch.

I did my best to stay focused on Rory, but when I looked up, there he was.  His eyes were fixed on me, as if he’d been waiting for me to notice him. He smiled and nodded.

 

Frank

 

He was easy to pick out all right, this fellow who kept ogling my wife.  His hair was close cropped and he had a neat little mustache. His face was sharp and angular, but on the gaunt side, as if he didn’t see much sunlight.  He was overdressed for the occasion. While everyone else was in T-shirts and jeans or shorts, he was accoutered in well-tailored tan slacks and a long-sleeved shirt with broad yellow and blue stripes.  His posture was erect, shoulders back squarely, and he appeared cool and composed despite the formidable heat and humidity that had everyone else dripping.

At once I saw my wife’s error.  I had insisted that there hadn’t been any mastiffs present at previous classes.  And indeed, the man had a bullmastiff. I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was not the first time Michelle had made this mistake.  She had it stuck in her mind that a bullmastiff was the larger of the two breeds, a reasonable error, I suppose. But really, I’d have thought it was a distinction she’d be able to make by now.

When Michelle glanced up, he smiled at her and she didn’t turn away.  I think she might even have smiled back at him. I had the rather startling impression that I was witnessing them in the sex act.  For a moment it was as though I could see her giving herself to this man.

Then she was making herself busy with Rory, acting as guilty as if she’d been caught at some mischief.

Each time she took Rory around the ring, this man openly watched her.  Each time he performed, she snuck glances out of the corner of her eye.

After class as I put Rory into the van, she said with apparent alarm, “Did you see him?  He was here again, staring at me the whole time.”
“It was a bullmastiff,” I said.  “Not a mastiff.”

“So you did see him then?”

“How could I miss him?”

“Then you think so too—that I’m not imagining it?”

“No, you’re not imagining it.”

“I’m sure he thinks he knows me.  I should say something, set him straight.  I know I’m being rude, but I don’t want to encourage anything.”

She’d said it again.  Those same words. I don’t want to encourage anything.  I couldn’t get those words out of my head.

 

Michelle

 

The next we saw of him was that Saturday at the Newton Kennel Club show in Augusta.  Rory had taken his first best in breed, beating two specials, picking up three championship points, his first major, and we were in a spectacular mood, reveling in our good fortune.  Frank had taken Rory to his crate and I was still under the tent, accepting accolades and enjoying my victory. Then, as I made my way past the other rings, towards the end of the tent, there he was, without his dog, obviously waiting for me.  He smiled at me warmly and offered his congratulations.

“You looked great,” he said.

I had no choice but to acknowledge and thank him.

“Good luck in group,” he said.

 

Frank

 

When she neared me, I busied myself with Rory, feigning not to notice her approach.  Right away, she said to me, “He’s here.”

“Who’s here?” I said.

“Him.  The man.”

“What are you talking about?”

“They guy from handling class.  With the mastiff. He’s here.”

“You mean the bullmastiff?”

“What difference does it make?”

“One should be precise.”

“The point is that he’s here.”

“Well it is a dog show, isn’t it?”

“He was waiting for me.  He’d been watching me. He was blocking the way.  There was no way past him without practically walking right into him.”

“What did he say?”

“Well first he says, you know, hello, that way he has of looking at me as if he knows me.  And then he congratulated me, told me how good I looked in the ring.”

“How good you looked in the ring?”

“He said you.  It could have meant me or Rory.”

Right then I happened to look up and who should be approaching, but the very man we were discussing, trailed by a woman carrying a little girl.  He walked with a determined, even stride, as if he expected obstacles to clear a path for him of their own volition. He acted surprised to see Michelle, smiling casually and saying, “Oh hi there.  Are you showing today?” or something to that effect—I don’t honestly remember his exact words. She nodded slightly and then averted her eyes, turning to busy herself with something.

So who was this charade for, I was left to wonder, for me or for his wife?  Or for both of us?

Once he had moved on, she openly watched his back.

“So apparently he’s married,” I said.

“Why is he doing this?” she said.

 

Michelle

 

As I guess you know, Frank was having problems at work.  At first they didn’t seem that serious, but then he was spending endless hours at the office and never had time for much else.  So one Tuesday evening I decided to go to handling class on my own. I was driving along when suddenly it dawned on me that the man would be there.  What if he thought I’d come without my husband on purpose? What if he thought I was encouraging him?

In a near panic, I pulled into a gas station to turn around.  But then I stopped. Who cared if the idiot thought I was coming on to him?  Let him think it. It wasn’t my problem.

Then as I got closer, I began seeing him in a different light.  After all, what was so bad about having a man pay a little attention to me?  What was so awful about a bit of harmless flirtation?

And then, and I don’t know where this came from, but I found myself fantasizing about what might be.  I wondered what it would be like to let myself go for once. If you believe what you read, everyone has affairs.  Why shouldn’t I at least find out what it feels like? And besides, as distracted with work as Frank was, he probably wouldn’t even notice.

By the time I pulled into the field to park, I was imagining kissing the man who stared at me all the time.  I was imagining him undressing me.

 

Frank

 

It was about this time that the situation at the office began heating up.  It was Mary Preno’s fault. As chief financial officer, Mary was a highly talented, energetic, deeply ambitious woman, who set lofty goals and then vowed to achieve them.  Unfortunately, she always reported that the goals had been met, even on those not altogether infrequent occasions when they in fact had not. As her controller, it fell to me to engineer the little stunts she dreamt up to fulfill her prophecies.  Alas, when they had gotten too out of hand, I had no choice but to blow the whistle on her shenanigans, at which time she was fired and I was promoted, leaving it to me to somehow clean up the mess she had left while at the same time vindicating my own role in the whole affair, a task which, as you might imagine, was time consuming, required a great deal of concentration, and oftentimes left me drained and not in the best of spirits by day’s end.

 

Michelle

 

After class, he followed me to the van and stood there hovering while I put Rory in.

“You left your husband home,” he said.

“I was mad at him.”

“I’m glad.”

“It had nothing to do with you.”

“I’m glad anyway.”

“Well don’t be.”

I slammed the side door shut and walked around to the front of the van.  He trailed after me.

“You have a great way with your dog,” he said.

I opened my door.

“I’ve been watching,” he said.

I spun around and there we were, off away from everyone, just the two of us.

“Don’t you remember me?” he said.

 

Frank

 

Then one Tuesday I came home to an empty house.  No Michelle. No Rory.

“Where have you been?” I demanded when hours later they strolled in the door.

“At practice,” she said coldly, shoving past me into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of wine.

“You could have left a note.”

“You could have called if you were going to be late.”

“I was in the middle of a very important meeting.”

“Well I’m not clairvoyant.”  With that, she stomped off towards the bathroom, leaving me tired, hungry, and furious.

The next week, more or less the same sequence transpired, it having been simply impossible for me to get up and leave in the middle of a teleconference with our lawyers, the subject of which was of great import to me, concerning not only my livelihood, but potentially my freedom as well.  Then she arrived home in a foul mood, complaining of a vicious sinus headache, brought on she claimed by spending the evening trotting around a hayfield surrounded by goldenrod in full bloom, and made her way directly to the bath. While she soaked, I gave myself a good talking-to, chastising myself for my occasional outbursts and imperfectly controlled temper, admonishing myself that this constant escalation of our battles served no salutary purpose whatsoever.  When later that night, I offered her a massage, she grudgingly assented, but when I tried to advance my affections, she pushed me away. I finally posed the question that had been on my mind all night.

“Was he there?” I said.

“Was who where?”

“The man who stares at you.  The man with the bullmastiff.”

“Henry?  Of course he was there.  He’s always there.”

“Did he talk to you?  What did he say?”

“Oh please.  Go to sleep. God, this headache is killing me.”

So now she knew his name.  Obviously, in my absence, matters had progressed.

 

Michelle

 

Once he told me, I felt like such an idiot, although he did have such long hair back then.  We’d been on the yearbook staff together, and spent hours choosing pictures, making up cutlines, doing layouts, mostly goofing off and gossiping.  Like so many high school friends, I hadn’t seen him since graduation, hadn’t given him a second thought.

He was in advertising now too, an art director at a highly respected agency in Lambertville that specialized in healthcare.  I shouldn’t have been surprised. He was always drawing something. The cover of the yearbook was one of his woodcuts. Probably ninety percent of the layouts we chose were his.

We exchanged phone numbers and arranged to have lunch.  Then we hugged. It felt good to be held.

 

Frank

 

About a month later, Rory won the breed again.  Not being a special, he had no chance in the group ring and didn’t make the cut.  After he was eliminated, Michelle said she wanted to stick around and see who won, which seemed natural enough.  It was a surprisingly hot day in early September, so I offered to take Rory back to the van and put on the air conditioner.  She said she wouldn’t be long.

After waiting a half hour, I could see that they’d not only finished with the hound group, but the sporting dogs as well.  I put Rory on his lead and went hunting for her.

There she was, at ringside, watching the judge going over a bearded collie.  To her one side, closer to me, was Michael, one of the handling instructors from class.  And on her other side was this Henry fellow.

I’d like to say I was shocked, but in truth, it was precisely my worst suspicions confirmed.  They were like a pair of lovers enjoying the show. They might as well have been holding hands.

He spoke to her, leaning in so their shoulders brushed, gesturing towards the judge.  She nodded, her eyes on the ring, speaking conspiratorially to him in return. There was something undeniably intimate about their posture, something familiar, confidential, practically carnal, as if through this mutual spectatorship, they were consummating a relationship.

It would have been difficult to make my way through the crowd with Rory, and the poor dog was already on edge from all the whooping and yelling and whistling, so I remained on the periphery.  I don’t know what made her glance my way, but just then she did. She gave me a quizzical look. She appeared to be teetering on the brink of breaking away. But instead, she gave us a little wave and then turned back to the proceedings in the ring.

Later, as we walked back to the van, I said, “Did you have a good time watching with your friend?  With Henry?”

That stopped her in her tracks all right.  Her face tightened like when she has cramps.

“Was I supposed to be rude?” she said.  “Because you’re rude doesn’t mean everyone has to be.  That’s the whole problem, isn’t it, that you want everyone to be like you.”

I hate it when she does that, when she completely changes the subject in the middle of an important discussion.  What in the world does my being or not being rude have to do with whether she was carrying on with another man? But regretfully, her little gambit had done its job.  The moment was passed. There was nothing left but to ride home in oppressive silence.

 

Michelle

 

By this time Rory had eight of the fifteen points he needed to become a champion, although he still needed his second major.  Frank was working incessantly. I hardly ever saw him. I decided to devote myself to getting Rory finished. The Tuesday night handling classes ended with daylight savings time, so I signed up for an indoor class Wednesday night.

Henry’s bullmastiff bitch, Eleanor, was already finished.  In fact, she was in the top ten in breed points. But we decided it would be fun to do the class together, so he signed up too.

 

Frank

 

Well, as you know only too well, over the next few weeks, the situation at the office deteriorated considerably.  My role in the various irregularities promulgated by my former boss got blown all out of proportion with the ridiculous allegations that I was anything more than an Indian following the orders of my chief.  Then came this supposedly big deal revelation of the partnerships and bonuses and our oversights in neglecting to report them either on the company books or our personal tax returns, which as I have tried to explain a thousand times wasn’t an oversight at all.  It was a very well thought out, tightly constructed, entirely legal, albeit moderately aggressive, vehicle by which the ownership of the funds had not technically changed hands, and therefore, as we had on good authority from a variety of legal opinions, was not required to be reported either by the firm or by us personally.  Basically, it was a loan. One that would be paid back with a future bonus once certain objectives were met. Until then, while it was true that I did have use of the funds, they were not mine, ownership had not been transferred, and there was no reason to report them.

At any rate, with all that going on, you’d have thought Michelle could have been a little bit supportive.  A little caring. Understanding. Sympathetic.

But all her attention was focused on the damned dog shows.  Michelle decided she was on a crusade to finish Rory’s championship before year-end.  She signed up for a Wednesday night indoor handling class. Then the next thing I hear, she wants to do agility with him too and signs him up for a Thursday night class for that.

“Agility with a foxhound?” I asked her.  “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“Why not?” she said.  “And anyway it will help him in the conformation ring.  Make him more well rounded.”

So what could I do but throw up my arms and let her do as she wanted, knowing that whenever I did get home on a Wednesday or Thursday, it would be to an empty house and if I was lucky, a frozen dinner for me to throw in the microwave?

Would I be telling the truth if I asserted that with all the troubles weighing on my mind, Michelle’s affair with this Henry character, which in retrospect was progressing essentially under my nose, had been swept into a dark corner of my consciousness, one where unless some overt action on her part served to shine a bright light upon it, her reckless infidelities were virtually blocked from my everyday view by the legions of more pressing worries that seemed to be constantly pushing to the forefront, each one stumbling and shoving its way forward, screaming inside my head hysterically that it and it alone was now of such overwhelming seriousness that I must immediately devote all my energies and attention to solving this latest riddle in the apparently endless legal gauntlet into which I had stumbled?

Naturally, I noticed that every time she arrived home from a class or a show (of late, I often no longer accompanied her to the shows either, the demands of the office having become so insurmountable), she’d barely pause to acknowledge my presence before rushing off to lock herself in the bathroom.  She’d soak in the tub with the radio on so I couldn’t hear her talking on her cell phone. Any sexual advances from me were quickly repelled. Yes, with the fullness of time, it all seems only too obvious now. Surely I should have been more vigilant, more insistent, more demanding in my inquiries, more diligent in my observations, more aggressive in my sleuthing.

But remember, if you will, what all I was going through, the weight of the pressures from all sides closing down on me.  And perhaps, no matter how painful it is to say, no matter how foolish I will appear, how pitiful it must make me seem, I think I must have at some level not wanted to see what she was up to, what depths our former love had decayed to, what low vile remnants of a marriage we had been reduced to, because as I can only ask you to consider in spite of what has since transpired, I did still love her.  And what’s more, I needed her. Yes, I do believe that the root of my pattern of self-deception must have lain in my need, stemming from my predicament, for understanding, for sympathy, for warm and caring companionship, and as I said, for love. That must be it. I was willing to close my eyes to all of her treachery in the misdirected, pathetic hope that at the end of these hideous days, I might once again be sheltered in the protection of her love.

It made her betrayal all the more reprehensible, all the more hurtful.

 

Michelle

 

The final blowup came one Wednesday night when I got home from handling class.  As usual he was in his study, working. We were in one of our warring periods, basically not talking to each other—at this point, I don’t even remember what about, it happened so frequently.  I poured myself a glass of wine, ran a bath, and settled in with a stack of catalogues—the mailbox had been deluged with the current crop of Christmas offerings.

I checked the voicemail on my cell phone.  I had a message from Henry. He said it was something important and I should call him immediately.  I tried him, but got his voicemail.

I put my feet up and closed my eyes.  Rory had misbehaved in class that evening, and I was exhausted.  I soaked and sipped my wine and let the stress of the day seep into the warm water.

The cell phone rang.  It was Henry.

“It’s Eleanor,” he said.  “I found a lump on her back.”

 

Frank

 

I was in my study at the rear of the house, reviewing the latest round of court papers when I heard her.  After a spell, Rory bounded in, insisting on making a complete nuisance of himself. It occurred to me that as distracted as Michelle had become, it was not impossible that she had neglected to feed him his supper.  I put down the indictment, and with Rory in tow, trooped down the hall to the bathroom to ask her. Without thinking, I turned the knob, the door being, to my surprise, unlocked.

Michelle was in the tub, one foot up on the ledge.  A stack of magazines was on the floor. Her left hand was between her legs.  In her right hand was a cell phone.

Obviously startled, she swung her foot back into the water with a splash, flipping the phone shut and glaring at me in her outrage.  Rory had barged in then too, his head over the tub, sniffing at her face, trying to give her kisses.

In the confusion, I snatched the phone from her hand.  She was up then in a fury, dripping wet and shedding bath bubbles, coming at me, fighting for her phone, soaking me in the process.

As she flailed at me, I opened the phone and checked her recent calls.  She snatched a towel to cover herself.

 

Michelle

 

I should have told him the truth.  Henry was gay.

His partner was a famous breeder of standard poodles.  Eleanor was a constant source of friction between them, the partner horrified that Henry would fall for a breed as slobbery and unrefined as bullmastiffs.  As a result, they were going through some tough times. Henry needed a friend as badly as I did.

Why didn’t I tell Frank?  Perhaps because it was none of his business.  Because if he didn’t trust me that was his own fault.  Because for as long as I could remember, he’d known everything about every aspect of my life and it was time I had something for myself, something just for me.  Because I was so angry with him for the way he was treating me, the way he controlled everything, the way he took me for granted, the way he had manipulated me since I was too young to know any better, the way my whole life had been twisted into something I had never intended.

 

Frank

 

All of which brings us, distastefully, to the matter at hand.  You see, concerning this deal that you suggest, this proposal that I plead guilty to tax evasion in return for the other charges being dropped, I feel that it is my duty to remind you that as a married couple, we filed joint returns, and thus, any charges in that arena against me must also be filed against her.  She is as guilty as I. And yes, before you ask, I must make clear that she was no naive bystander. She knew perfectly well what was transpiring. I explained to her in great detail exactly what we were doing. I told her I was sure it was legal, but I also told her there was some potential risk involved. She signed the tax returns, the same as I did.  She took the money. She spent it.

The truth is, if it weren’t for her, I would never have done it.  Why would I? What was I going to do with the money? What do I want with expensive furniture and rugs and antiques and all the other junk that clutters up the house?  I’m not the one who wears her clothes. I’m not the one with the jewelry and the Jaguar.

So, really, that must be part of the deal.  If I go to jail, she does too.

 

Michelle

 

He said what?

I don’t believe you.  I don’t believe you.

 

Frank

 

Though, if we both go to jail, there will be no one to take care of Rory.  He will have to be put down. It would break my heart, but after all, look at all the trouble he’s caused.



E.G. Silverman’s fiction has appeared in South Dakota Review, Harpur Palate, Beloit Fiction Journal, Fugue, Berkeley Fiction Review, 2 Bridges Review, and many other literary journals. A complete list is at EGSilverman.com. He was a finalist for the 2012 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction for his short story collection Hardly Any Mess At All. He has also written four novels.