MARY POSTED GEORGE’S bond. Mrs. Worthington had said
he assaulted her. “What a crock of crap,’’ he said to the cops, who said
they had to book him. Mrs. Worthington said he had deliberately
pushed her over the desk. Only Megan saved his bacon by saying
that Mrs. Worthington had tried to take his phone. Still, his mugshot
was taken, he was fingerprinted, underwent a cavity search, and was
then given a nice clean cell. George’s one phone call brought his wife,
who posted the five hundred dollars bond with a court date the next
month and a banishment of five hundred feet from school property.
Mary said nothing to him on the ride home then nothing to him that
evening, but at the kitchen table the silence ended.
“I’m leaving, George, after Christmas and taking Megan with me.”
Just like that. She tossed the grenade into his lap with the pin out
and good luck getting it back in. The grenade of loneliness, unemployment,
and divorce would detonate on December 26th. Until then,
George could juggle the grenade, play with it, do what he wanted,
but the resolution in his wife’s voice let him know there was no way
to get the pin back in.
Mary ticked off his transgressions like a judge.
“You have put us into bankruptcy after losing your job. You have
made Megan a pariah at her school, assaulted her teacher, and you
have destroyed out home.”
George frowned, sitting in his BVDs and T-shirt. A man really
should have pants on when his wife says she is leaving. But he didn’t
want to get up from the table. For one thing, incredibly, he had a
hard-on. For another thing, he felt if he left he would lose all leverage
and Mary would go through with her plan. So he sat with his hands
between his legs, hunched against the setback temperature on the
thermostat of sixty-five. “The house isn’t destroyed,” he said, looking
into the living room covered in dust from the chimney.
Mary stared straight ahead, not really looking at him but through
him. That’s what scared him most. She had already left.
“I asked you to stop this nonsense, but you have persisted. I am
afraid to see what is going to happen tomorrow night. I will ask you
one more time to stop this. Do not continue down this road of ruin.”
Even to George it sounded melodramatic, but Mary did that often.
She spoke in the humorless voice of the prairie schoolmarm—she
had taught first grade for ten years. A bar had to be set for errant
children, and he was now in that category.
“All the work has been done. Tomorrow night will be the easy
part,” he pointed out weakly.
Mary blinked, taking off her glasses like a man drawing a gun.
“Then you will not stop this crazy plan even though it has resulted
in you going to jail and breaking our family financially and
destroying our home.”
“This had nothing to do with what happened with Mrs. Worthington!
That crazy bitch tried to take my phone!”
Mary sniffed, putting her glasses back on.
“I have to believe the stress of everything, George, is the reason
for your assault on Megan’s teacher.”
“I didn’t assault her. She assaulted me!”
But Mary had a point. The barrage of phone calls, the problems,
the money—it had all played a part, and when Mrs. Worthington
demanded he give up his phone, well, he just went off the rails.
“Whatever happened, Megan has been scarred,” Mary continued.
George waved away his wife’s words. “Oh, she’s fine.”
“Then you are going through with your plan?”
George felt his spine stiffen. It was the same with Mrs. Worthington,
his boss, and now his wife. People wanted him to conform
to their way of thinking, to their world.
“Then I will leave with Megan.”
“No you won’t,” George said, standing up in his BVDs. “Megan
stays, but you can feel free to go anytime you want.”
Mary stood up and faced him.
“Don’t friggin’ mess with me, George.”
And that was how they left it.