Thanks to the Hip and Knee doctor for editing assistance.
It was lunchtime on Friday at the Peanut Bar. The Idiots Club meets here, once a week to share our miseries. The membership is not very impressive, just four middle age guys with one thing in common: our wives are each cheating on us.
Bradley Cook, Ray Timmons, Karl Marshall, and myself, John Terrell, all went to high school together. We all married our high school sweethearts, and we all remained friends these past twenty years. Between the four of us, there are six children, two of them, mine. They are all either in high school or college.
The four us had no trouble keeping busy, because we had mouths to feed and bills to pay. The wives, however, were in a different situation. As the children grew into their teens, the women found themselves with a lot of free time. They spent it together shopping and going on different daytime outings. For the guys, we were pretty much limited to lunch on Fridays, and an occasional weekend Bar-B-Q or party at one of the houses.
Karl was the first to notice something was funny. At first, he figured it was just his wife, Betsy. He brought it up in conversation one day, and that opened the floodgates. None of us had anything definite that indicated that our wives were being unfaithful, but we all saw little things that indicated that something was going on. Bradley printed out a list of things that husbands should look for if they suspected their spouses were cheating. After going over the lists, each of us became paranoid. The weekly luncheon conversations turned into recaps of our wives activities over the past week. Soon, we felt that we were manufacturing things, just to fulfill some disastrous prophecy, which we were projecting upon ourselves. None of us had the guts to confront our spouses. We were married too long to risk alienating them if we were wrong. We were also afraid of the effect a wrongful accusation might have on the children. The biggest fear was that the suspicions might be true.
Ray had a friend, who had a friend, who worked at a private detective agency. We paid four thousand dollars up-front, for one week of coverage. We all anted up our share and gave the guy pictures, phone numbers, license plate numbers, and type of cars. He was going to start the next Monday and give us a report at our next Friday meeting. It was going to be a long week.
The girls were all pushing forty, but not there yet. They all looked good for their age. Karl's wife, Betsy, was tall and wore her hair straight down to her shoulders. There was no curl in her auburn hair at all. She had full bangs that came down to her eyebrows and made her eyes look deep and mysterious. That made up for her lack of body shape. She had small boobs and no hips to speak of, even after having two girls.
Ray and his wife, Jenny, had one son, who was away at college. He was an accident, while they were still in high school. Jenny was the short one of the bunch, just over five feet. She was also a little hippy, but dressed well, to conceal it. She dyed her hair blonde and wore it up, to make herself look taller. It didn't work. Jenny had the best personality of the bunch. She could always make you laugh.
Bradley ended up married to a feisty Italian girl named Carla. Carla had a body any man would die for. Her hair was dark, almost black, but not quite. It went well with her olive complexion. She never stopped talking. They had a daughter that looked just like her mother.
My wife, Marcie, seemed to be the leader of the pack. Marcie was not as tall as Betsy, but close. She had naturally blonde hair and wore it off her shoulders. I always thought she was pretty, but she had some acne scars from her teen years, that she had to cover up with makeup. She was self conscious about them, and I was careful never to mention it. I wasn't the most handsome guy in the world, but felt lucky just being with her.
By Thursday night, I was a wreck. Marcie was in good spirits and we had a great supper that night. My sons, Josh and Jordan, were out of the house by six o'clock, to places unknown. Their grades were good and they were never in trouble, so I didn't want to know what they were up to. Marcie and I spent the evening, alone in front of the television. That was our usual pastime. I was beginning to think that was probably where the problem was. I wasn't providing enough entertainment or excitement in her life. Of course, at this point I had no idea I really had a problem. Tomorrow, I would get the news, good or bad. I wanted to talk about it with her, but had no idea how to open the conversation. I sat there, deep in thought, most of the evening.
Shortly after Marcie went to bed, the boys came home. We chatted about nothing in particular for a few minutes, and then they went to bed also. I got a beer and stayed up, watching some really old situation comedy shows, until I fell asleep on the couch. The TV was still on when I woke up in the morning. The boys were just leaving for school.
"John, what is wrong? You seem out of sorts the past week or so. Is something going on at work?" Marcie seemed to be hovering.
"No, everything at work is fine, dear. I just have a lot of other things on my mind."
"Can I help? Is there anything I can do?"
I slowly got myself off the overstuffed sofa and started up the stairs. "I am afraid it is too late now. What has been done can not be undone." I left her with that deep piece of philosophical dribble, as I went to take my shower.
Thirty minutes later, I was on my way out the door. Marcie had coffee and a light breakfast ready, but I walked past her, without saying a thing. She looked worried and so she should be.
The rest of the morning seemed to drag. I thought lunchtime would never come.
Karl, Bradley, and Ray were already at the table when I arrived. I thought I would be early, but they all beat me there. We decided not to order any food, but all of us had a draft. Frank Perella was the "secret agent" assigned to our case. That was a weak attempt on our part, to attach some frivolity to what would otherwise be a gloomy endeavor.
"Well, gentlemen, I have reports here from four different days and each of them involve a different wife. Does somebody want to go first, or should I do it day-by-day?"
After we all agreed on the day-by-day, Frank started with Monday.
"To start off, each of your wives is seeing somebody. In the first four days, we just gathered information on when and where. We don't have any hardcore photographic or audio proof, because that would cost you a lot more money, and take more time."
He paused a moment, I guess for dramatic effect.
"Interesting enough, only one wife would have an affair on any one day. The other three would be her cover. They all left for the day together and all returned together. If they were shopping, the three, who were not meeting anybody, would buy something for the one who was. I can only assume that if there were a problem of some sort, they would all cover for each other. Any questions so far?"
There were no questions, so he proceeded.
"On Monday, they all left together in Marcie's car. It was the easiest tail of the week. At ten o'clock, they dropped Carla Cook off at 321 David Drive, and then proceeded to the Berkshire Mall. I went back to the house on David Drive and waited to see what transpired. A fellow named Steve Springer rents the house. He works as a body man at Henderson Ford in Terrytown. We discovered later, that there was a cell phone call made to the house, ten minutes before Carla was dropped off. The same cell phone was used in all the other meetings. It is an unregistered phone, but we have the number. We don't know which of the women actually has possession of the phone."
Bradley didn't look too well. He had a temper and seemed to be having a little trouble controlling it right now. Ray said something to him quietly, and he settled down some.
"About three hours later, a call was made from the house phone to the cell phone. Ten minutes after that, Marcie and the girls drove by and picked up Carla. She dropped each of them off at their respective homes. That was it for Monday. Are there any questions?"
Bradley was a bundle of nerves by now. "Can I have a beer?"
We ended up ordering five drafts.
Frank drank half of his beer and then continued. "On Tuesday it was Carla's turn to drive. They all went to Renninger's Antique Market, about ten miles out of town. After parking the car, they stayed together while they entered the market area. It was difficult to follow them in the crowded aisles, but it didn't take long for something to happen. There was a call made from the cell phone about ten minutes before they arrived. It was to the Dorchester Motel, across the highway from the market. Betsy Marshall slipped away from the group and left by the front entrance. I followed her, and watched as she crossed the road and entered room 114, at the Dorchester. Richard Tolliver had reserved the room the previous day. Mrs. Marshall stayed in the room for over two hours and then returned to the Market, where she met the rest of the women at the same spot that she had left them. They departed the market and drove home. Any questions?"
I couldn't help myself. "Karl, who the hell is Richard Tolliver?"
"He is our optometrist. I thought she was getting her eyes checked a lot lately." Karl slumped down in his chair, after finishing his beer. There were no smiling faces around the table. We decided to order another round of beer.
"Betsy got to drive on Wednesday. They went to the Green Dragon Farmers Market. The cell phone call that day, went to another cell phone, but it was traceable. Rather than park as close to the market area as possible, they went to the far back of the parking lot, where the motor homes parked. The four of them walked through the RV parking area, but only three of them actually entered the market. I had to go back and try and find out what happened to Jenny Timmons. She was nowhere to be found. I wrote down the license plate numbers of all the likely vehicles she could have ducked into, twenty-three of them. My people were able to cross check the cell phone number that was called and the license number of the motor homes. Within an hour, I was standing across from a large Winnebago owned by Owen Zimmer. Mister Zimmer owns the Volvo dealership in Lancaster. Shortly after noon, Jenny left the motor home and joined the other ladies for lunch. They were all laughing and joking later, as they walked back to the car for the ride home."
"Ray, you drive a Volvo don't you?"
"Yeah. We bought it down in Lancaster last year. I wanted to do something nice for Jenny. That's a joke, but none of you better laugh."
I was dreading what was going to come next. I was the only one left. I definitely did not want another beer. "Okay, Frank. I can't stand the suspension. What the hell happened on Thursday?"
"Jenny drove the Volvo Thursday to the King of Prussia Mall. They strolled into the mall being very casual. Marcie made a cell phone call and handed the phone to Jennie. The Executive Suites are attached to the mall at the north end. The group migrated in that direction and then Marcie Terrell slipped away and entered the elevator. All we knew at the time was that she went up to floor five. It took several hours, but my people were able to check the cell phone call against the room registrations. State Assemblyman, Allen Hoffman, had rented room 511 the whole afternoon, for a business conference. At two o'clock, a call was made from that room to our mysterious cell phone. Ten minutes later the ladies were all back together again and leaving for home. That concludes my overview. We will be preparing detailed reports for each of you. If you decide you want more information, we will be more that happy to accommodate you."
All of a sudden I was smiling to myself.
Karl noticed and just had to ask, "What is so funny?"
"Alan Hoffman is a Democrat. Marcie and I are both registered Republicans. I just thought that was funny."
The rest of the guys didn't get the joke.
Frank gathered up all of his papers. He had short, abbreviated reports for each of us. They were almost like a rough draft, but the important stuff was there. We all thanked him as he left. We were now alone in our misery. Nobody wanted another beer. Ray and Karl had already taken the rest of the day off. Bradley and I soon followed suit.
Marcie's car was gone when I got home. Today was her day for grocery shopping. At least she did that alone. The boys were still in school. I took advantage of the empty house, and free time, to move my clothing and personal items into the guest room. I got downstairs just in time to help Marcie unload the groceries from the car. She never asked what I was doing home so early. She still had the look of concern on her face that was there when I left that morning.
I tried to stay out of her way as she busied herself with putting the groceries away. She knew where everything went, but I didn't. In no time, she had supper started. She was a good cook and homemaker.
Just as the boys got home from school, the phone rang. I greeted the boys with the usual banter as Marcie chatted. She put the phone down with a worried look on her face. The boys had gone up to their rooms.
"What the hell did you guys do this afternoon?"
"I am not sure I know what you are talking about."
"That was Jenny on the phone. Bradley came home early from work today and started accusing Carla of cheating on him. It ended up in a fight, and Carla is now in the hospital. The police are talking to Bradley. Jenny called Carla's parents. Jenny said it was all because of some kind of meeting you guys had earlier today. John, what is going on?"
"Why don't you tell me?"
"This is not a time for you to be cute, damn it. I would like an explanation?"
I took my cell phone out of my pocket and hit the new speed dial number that I loaded in earlier. I watched the blood drain from Marcie's face as the pre-paid cell phone, hidden in her purse, started to ring. I wasn't sure that she had the phone, but I took the chance.
"Aren't you going to get that? It might be important."
There was a short pause. "Oh God. You know, don't you?"
"I know everything. We all know everything."
About that time, Josh and Jordan came down the stairs for supper.
"You are not going to say anything in front of the boys are you?"
"I won't, if you will. Tell them everything, and I will keep my mouth shut. If you lie or try and sugar coat it, I will be forced to tell them myself. You won't like that."
We started the meal as usual. I didn't feel it was necessary for Marcie to tell them immediately. It would be nice to finish the meal and then she could do it at a more opportune time. It didn't work out that way. Shortly after we started the meal, Josh opened up.
"Why did you move all your stuff into the guest room, Dad? Is something going on between you two?"
Both of our sons were watching our faces, but never missed a stroke with their forks. Marcie had no idea I had moved my things.
"I'll let your mother explain it to you."
Marcie was nervous. For some reason, I didn't think she would be able to do it, and I was right.
"Your father and I decided that it would be a good idea if we spent some time apart. Its just temporary, and it's nothing you boys have to worry about."
I placed my fork down on the plate and looked over at my wife. "I am sorry Marcie, but that is not good enough. Either you tell them the truth or I will."
She was flustered. At this point, she still wasn't sure what I knew, and she definitely didn't want to spill the beans in front of her children.
"I'm sorry, John, but that is the best I can do."
Josh and Jordan had both put their forks down and were looking at us.
The longer I waited, the more irritated I got.
"Yesterday afternoon, your mother spent four hours having unprotected sex with her lover, at the Executive Suite Hotel in King of Prussia."
The table was silent. Marcie was aware that I knew everything. She was looking down at her plate, not wanting to make eye contact with any of us. It didn't appear as if she was breathing. The boys both got up, and walked out the front door together.
"That was cruel, John. You didn't have to do that."
"I gave you a choice and you didn't take it. After what you did to me, that was not cruel. I'll move out of the guest room, as soon as I can find an apartment."
Marcie finally started crying as she ran upstairs. I cleaned up the dinner dishes. Nobody ate anything, so it all went into the trash. I was loading the dishes in the dishwasher, when she came downstairs with a small bag. She paused before she walked through the door. Without turning, she quietly said: " It wasn't unprotected sex. We always used condoms."
That was a guess on my part. At least the accusation successfully forced an admission of guilt out of her.
"Where will you be?"
"I am going to stay with Janice." I watched as she got into her car and drove to her sister's house.
It was after midnight when the boys got home. I was sitting in the living room with my fifth beer. They looked at me and went upstairs, without saying a word.
I was still on the couch the next morning, when I heard the doorbell ringing forever. It was just a short stumble, to discover that Ray and Karl had coffee and Danish.
Karl set the coffee and Danish out on the kitchen table. We sat silent for a few moments and then Karl broke the ice.
"Bradley is still in jail. He is waiting for his parents to bail him out. Carla was released from the hospital and she, and her daughter, moved in with her parents. We don't know if she is going to press charges or not. It's a shame that a grown man has to call his parents for bail money."
"How about you guys? How are things on the home front?"
Karl went first. "There was a message on our answering machine when I got home today. Jenny called and left a message for Betsy, that I knew everything. I checked the house and half of her clothes were gone, along with her personal stuff. I don't know where she is. Thank goodness the girls are away at school. That's all I got."
Ray didn't want to talk at all, but felt obligated. "Jenny left me a note stating that she was going to be visiting her parents in Frackville for the weekend. She said she would call when she got there. There was no call."
"Well, I am in the same boat. Marcie and I had words last night, part of it in front of the boys. Rather that talk it out, she packed a bag and went to her sister's place. I don't know when I will hear from her."
"John, how did they find out that we knew?" Karl was concerned because everything got out of hand.
"I am guessing that Bradley confronted Carla as soon as he got home and she was able to call Jenny, before things got rough. I know that Jenny called Marcie about suppertime. I bet that is when she left the message for Betsy also."
"What about the guys? Does anybody know anything about what is going on with the shit-heads who caused this?" Ray seemed to be getting a little hot about the situation.
We spent the next few hours commiserating about our problems. Josh and Jordan came down for breakfast and listened in on the conversations, but said nothing. I decided not to hide anything from them. After Karl and Ray left, the boys and I had a heart-to-heart talk. They wanted to stay in the house until they finished school. Both of them preferred to spend that time with me, instead of their mother. I did nothing to taint her name or image. I did not try to influence them in any way. It didn't seem to matter.
The boys and I spent Sunday doing yard work. The mowing, edging, and the pruning that seemed to always get put off. We were trying our best to kill time. Nothing was said all day about the family situation. Marcie did not call. Bradley called to let me know he was out on bond. Carla had a restraining order against him.