Thinking Man’s Action 01bycpete©
Two Part Story. Second part submitted also.
Great Thanks to the always awesome mikothebaby for her editing magic, and patience with grammar, spelling and punctuation. Her valiant attempts to make my stories readable are much appreciated. As Always, any and all errors are mine, and mine alone.
Thinking Man's action
Wife's actions make him think about marriage?
Goddamn banks! Like the housing crisis, financial meltdown, credit crunch and taxpayer bailouts, my marriage problems started with the Damn Bank.
Okay to be totally honest, it was not completely the bank's fault, but it sure as hell started with a phone call from the bank.
"Hello, this is Andrew from your Megabank credit card early fraud warning department. How are you today?"
Andrew from Megabank? It sounded more like Apu from the Simpsons TV show Qwik Mart.
"I am doing well Andrew from Megabank. How are things in New Delhi?" I replied.
In fact, I was not doing well, but standing in my living room with a towel wrapped around my waist and dripping water all over the carpet, having stepped out of the shower.
"Ah very good sir. We have noticed several unusual charges on your credit card. Do you have the card in your possession?"
I wandered into the bedroom and grabbed my wallet off the dresser. "Yes Andrew, the credit card is here."
"Okay sir, can you take a moment to go over some recent transactions with me."
"Yeah, sure Andrew, let's have at them," I said.
After a few minutes to verify it was me, "Andrew" started to rattle off charges.
"Sir, the most recent one is for two tickets to the Yugoslavian Lawn Bowling championship-club seating, after that we have..."
It was obvious my credit card info had been hacked, stolen, whatever, and the thief was having a grand old time with it. After more talking, my current credit card was canceled and Andrew from Megabank promised a new card would be in the mail tomorrow. In the meantime, I needed to review my statement and advise of any charges that were not mine, or my wife.
My wife of seven years, Amy, was working at the bakery, we both did. Yeah, I know all the jokes about how we are rolling in dough, and must take home a lot of bread. Ha ha, we have pretty much heard them all.
I was working the night shift while going to school during the day. Our bakery was a small regional operation, but the owner was old school, and liked to hire within the ranks. Last year, he had called both Amy and I into his office, after I had been turned down again for a management office position.
"Bill, Amy," The owner said after we had sat down. "You are both smart young people, and I want employees like you on my team. Workers who know the business from the floor up, not some damn grad school MBA's who don't know whole wheat from grain, telling me how to run my business."
He came around and sat on the corner of his desk in front of us. "However, everyone knows I had to take money from them damn 'Vulture' capitalists to expand. Them bastards want everyone in the front office to have a degree."
Amy and I both looked at each other. We had graduated high school only. I knew Amy had barely squeaked by. I could have gotten a scholarship, but we were young and in love, and had gotten married 7 years ago, right after graduation.
Amy spoke first. "But we have both been working here since we were sixteen. Shouldn't that count for something?"
The owner just waved his hand. "Damn straight it should! I could push the issue, but I want to groom you two to become decision makers, not just transfer you from the floor to some place in the office, where them damn vultures would never let you move up."
He then walked back around his desk and sat down. "Here is what I propose. I'll transfer you to the overnight shift. Amy, you run the lines, and Bill, you supervise the loading dock. That will allow you to enroll at the University and attend classes during the day. I know it is going to be tough, but you are both young and strong, plus the University has a year round, three year advanced business program."
I cleared my throat before speaking up. "We appreciate you thinking of us, but the funds..."
The owner just waved his hand at me. "As per the new company bylaws, I cannot promise the bakery will pay you back. However let me say that if you keep your noses clean and graduate, you will reap far more than the funds you spent for the degree."
And so we had enrolled. I had no problem, and did well. Amy was miserable, as schoolwork was never her strong suit. After a semester, she dropped out, returning to her former position on the day shift
Thus the reason why today I was sitting in front of the computer at 3:00 in the afternoon going over months of our credit card transactions instead of getting some sleep for my midnight shift.
The combo of classes, bakery and schoolwork pretty well drained all my energy. Amy took up most of the slack, doing the day to day tasks, from bill paying to housework. She really went all out trying to support me in her own way, putting dinner off until I rose for my night shift, and packing my lunches with little love notes inside. I thought we worked well as a team. I prepared breakfast for both of us, as I was just getting home from the midnight shift when Amy was waking up. We often snuck in a quick "love session" before she departed for work and I headed off to class.
Although we had talked in depth about it, I know it was hard on her with the added expense of tuition, but more important to Amy was putting off the family we had planned to start, and the purchase of a house. Again, I thought how lucky I was to have a partner like Amy, who could see a better future for both of us with just a little present day sacrifice.
Turning my mind back to the credit card charges, it was easy to see the pattern of what was ours. The normal gasoline purchases, grocery store bills, hardware and department costs, etc. The only charge I could not recall was a five month old $149 fee from a vendor AMDB.
"Who the heck is AMDB?" I thought.
Then I did what everyone does when they have a question, I did a "Google" search.
I got a laugh when I saw the results. AMDB was a website Ashleymadison.com. The website was for matching married people looking to have an affair. "Life is short. Have an Affair!" was their motto.
"Ha, ha, ha." I chuckled. "Seems like our little credit card hacker was looking for some married nookie."
The website hooking up married people who wanted to cheat had me shaking my head in amazement. Not that a spouse would cheat, but that someone had thought of a way (besides divorce attorneys) to make money off affairs. "My God," I thought. "I guess the old saying there is profit in everything if you look hard enough is true."
That night over dinner I told Amy about the credit card being canceled and new ones to arrive.
"Damn Bill!" Amy exclaimed. "How did this happen? I know we are always careful with our credit card."
I just shrugged. "You can only do so much. Once you give out your card, or card number to any merchant, anyone along the chain can use it. I mean we are not liable for any of the bogus charges, but in the end we all suffer as everyone raises prices to cover the loss."
"Bastards!" Amy spat. "I'll go over our bills to make sure we do not pay for anything not ours."
"Already did," I started to tell Amy about our horny credit card hacker and the AMDB/Cheating web site charge. "Oh I got a good one for you Amy. Let me tell you about this one charge, its AMDB..."
Amy interrupted, waving her napkin at me. "AMDB? Yes Bill, that one is mine, it's a fabric store, for some curtains I bought."
Alarm bells started to ring as I twisted around to survey the curtains behind us. "Amy when did you change the curtains? They look the same to me."
Amy face got flushed as she glanced away. "I changed my mind Bill before I put them up, and brought the curtains back. We were supposed to get a refund. Let me contact AMDB tomorrow."
Dropping my fork on the plate, I felt sick.
"Bill, are you Okay?" Amy asked, now looking at me. "Your face is all white. Maybe you should call in sick tonight? I can stay home tomorrow and take care of you."
I rose from the table, and tried to hide my feelings. "No Amy, you have done enough. I gotta go."
I was useless at work that night. Luckily, my crew knew their job and needed only minimum supervision. Normally this was a good thing and allowed me to get some schoolwork done. Now the extra time just had me dwelling on this information about Amy.
"Damn, was Amy cheating?" I thought. "Who the hell signs up for an affair, like choosing a toaster off Ebay."
I threw away the lunch she had packed me in the trash. Amy's included note "Love you Bill. Can't wait until morning" with its O's and X's had a small hand drawn heart. I used to look forward to these little letters, now the writing just seemed to mock me.
For the first time, I did not go home after work to have breakfast, or a "love session" with Amy. I headed right to the University campus, killing time before my first class.
Amy rang my cellphone a half a dozen times, even sending me few texts asking how I was feeling. I did not return her calls. However I did text back that I was going to the library then shut my phone off.
Students at the University can be divided into three groups. The first is the working students. Some older, like myself going back to school, and other younger people that are attending classes between minimum wage jobs. We were easy to spot by our sleep deprived faces.
Next, was the majority of kids' right out of high school. This group lived in the dorms, pledged sororities and fraternities, got involved in school activities, etc. For a lot of them, this was their first time away from home, and some treated it as an extended vacation paid for by Mommy and Daddy.
Then there were the military vets. They were about the same age as their sorority and frat counterparts, but were light years away in attitude and had a maturity level far beyond their years. The tall pocked marked faced boy who spoke with a southern drawl so slow you thought he was mentally retarded? His speech hid a razor sharp mind that spent two tours disarming/disposing IEDS.
The little pixie sized, ponytailed blond girl, that looked like she belonged on the cheerleading squad? You never would have guessed she had a dozen confirmed kills. Nicknamed "Dead Eye Jane", she had lost an eye during a convoy ambush, but still manned the twin 50 cals. "Jane" used "Ma Duce" to put the ambushers' "Dicks" in the dirt
These veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan had earned their various GI and other government aid with sweat and blood. They did not tolerate either students or teachers wasting their time. Disciplined, they stuck together, and they were an outspoken bunch, as I found out my first year when I met my partner for my organic chemistry class.
Ileana was tall, almost six foot, skinny as a rail, with flaming red hair.
I was sitting at my assigned lab station when she came up. Dressed in a tee shirt with an Air force logo, she stuck out her hand. "Hi, I'm Rose your lab partner. Everyone calls me Ileana, and I'm gay."
"Um Hi Rose. . . I mean Ileana," I said, shaking her hand. "My name is Bill, and um... I'm catholic, does that count, or get me extra points?"
Ileana just grinned. "Pleased to meet you Bill, I just wanted to make sure we won't have any problems. If so we can get reassigned right now."
"No problem on my end. Ah... why do they call you Ileana?" I asked
Ileana took a seat on the stool, and organized her books at our station. She than took her fist and pounded on her left thigh. It made an odd clunk sound.
"Got a fake leg." Ileana said matter of factly. "So 'I lean a' to the left. Get it?"
I was so shocked I didn't know what to say. Fortunately, Ileana saved me.
"Don't worry Bill I hate that 'politically correct' bullshit. Besides, it's not like I was some hero. Fucking motor round hit the mess hall. Took my leg and messed up a perfectly good sub sandwich."
Again, I was saved as the Instructor came in and we spent the rest of the class going over rules of the lab, tests, what to expect, and safety. As always, there were a few jackasses in the class. This time it was some overgrown bozo with a couple of his buddies. The idiot still was wearing his high school letter jacket, as if anyone cared anymore. He and his buddies kept making fart noises, generally disrupting the class. This earned them laser like stares from some of the "vets". Letterboy and his pals just thought they were too funny.
As Ileana and I were walking out of lab, she had her head down and bumped into "Letterboy" out in the hall.
Letterboy spun around. "Watch where you are going bitch!" he spat at Ileana.
Ileana just looked coolly at him. "Sorry, it was an accident Tinkerbelle, no need to get your panties in a wad."
Letterboy's face got red for a moment. Turning to his buddies he said. "This bitch ain't got no tits. Bet she is a dyke." Letterboy then faced Ileana again. "What about it carpet muncher? Ever been mistaken for a man?"
Letterboy's cronies hooted in laughter. Ileana tilted her head before replying. "Nope, I've never been mistaken for a man. How about you? Anyone ever mistake you for a man?"
Letterboy's face got real red this time as he took a step toward Ileana. "Think you're tough bitch? I'm gonna kick your lesbo ass"
My heart was really pounding. I wanted to step in, or back Ileana up, but the last fight I had been in was with my brother when we were six years old fighting over the last slice of pizza. I saw some movement behind Letterboy's friends, so I took a breath, stepping in between Letterboy and Ileana.
Addressing Letterboy, I said, "There are four of you and two of us. It's not a fair match." Pausing for effect I continued. "You need to go get more guys."
Letterboy turned even darker red as he gestured behind him without turning around. "What Gal Pal? You think you can take on all four of us?"
I shrugged before answering. "We'll never know, because three of you left."
Letterboy spun around to see his three friends had vanished. However, facing him were over a half dozen of the "vets". Standing shoulder to shoulder, every hand seemed to be holding a sharp or blunt instrument.
A short, broad shouldered guy with a muscular build and USMC tee shirt was in the center of the group. One side of his face was a mass of molten scars that ran into his crew cut hair.
In a voice that that came right off the parade ground, I heard him bark, "FORMER AIRMAN ILEANA. DO YOU NEED ASSISTANCE?" I saw him raise his arm that had a metal attachment in place of the hand. He pointed the metal appendage at Letterboy. "IS THIS ...CIVILIAN CAUSING YOU ISSUES?"
Ileana pushed past me, stepping face to face with Letterboy, who was spinning his head from the "vets" to Ileana, to the hallway.
Staring straight into Letterboy's eyes Ileana said in a low voice to him. "You wanna scamper off and join your girlfriends, or do we have an issue?"
Letterboy tried to speak but no words came out of his mouth. He just shook his head.
Ileana took a step back and addressed the "vets". "Thank you for your offer, but no assistance is needed. This ...gentleman was just .....leaving."
Letterboy saw his opening and bolted from the building.
That incident was over a year ago. Ileana and I become friends and study partners having most of the same classes. My wife, Amy, did not like Ileana, I do not know if Amy was threatened by Ileana sexual orientation or the fact she felt Ileana's gayness was just an act. Amy believed gay women just needed the right man to set them "straight".
One time, I told Ileana about my wife Amy's theory about a right man making a gay woman straight, Ileana just laughed.
"Bill, no man ever caused a gay lady to become straight. But many a man has caused a straight lady to become gay."
That was back in better times. Now today, I was sitting in the classroom when Ileana plopped down in the seat beside me. This was a required class to satisfy our humanities requirement titled "Psychology 103 Interpersonal Relationships". Better known to most students as "Nuts and Sluts".
Ileana looked closely at me. "You look like hell boyfriend. Someone shoot your dog? Screw your wife? Screw your wife's dog?"
I jumped at her statement, and Ileana's eyes opened wide. "Bill, I know you don't own a dog, you ..."
Ileana was interrupted by the entrance of our professor. He clapped his hands to get everyone's attention, than started writing on the board.
"Today my young charges, we are going to discuss Chapter 8. "Interpersonal relationships in the traditional marriage." Some say the traditional marriage is dead or at least doomed. Mainly due to shifting economic conditions and opportunities for men and women. You ladies today now have a chance to be as equal as men. But is that a good thing? Will the "hook-up" culture end fidelity or need for marriage? Many social scientists think so."
He turned back to the board to write some names.
"These social scientists are not alone in their thinking. In 1992, author Dalma Heyek filled The Erotic Silence of the American Wife with what at the time, seemed like heresies: stories of women whose lives were not ruined by having affairs. She chronicled women who were not sorry, who were not punished for having sex out of wedlock. Two years later, In Tempted Women: The Passions, Perils and Agonies of Female Infidelity, Carol Botwin called adultery the "fastest growing women's sport" and attributed its increasing popularity, in part, to women having their own jobs, money, power. She called these women "The Groundbreakers."
I could not take it anymore. Grabbing up my books I fled the classroom.
Ileana caught up after class with me sitting on a bench outside the student union.
Dropping her stack of book next to me, Ileana sat down. "OK Bill, spill it. What's the sitrep?"
While listening to my tale, Ileana opened up her laptop, and was typing away furiously.
After I finished, Ileana held up her hand to prevent me from speaking. After a few minutes, she spun her laptop around to face me. She was logged onto that cheating website.
"Bill, we need to get more intel on the situation. It says here you can sign up for everything from cybersex, to chats, to full out anonymous sex. So we are not sure if your wife has done anything."
"Great Ileana," I said dejectedly "My wife may only be having sex on line. What a comfort. Don't change your major to marriage adviser."
"Jesus Christ, Bill," Ileana snapped at me. "If your balls and brains shrink any more, you'll be a member of Congress. Now listen up, you need to get her website user name and password. Odds are it is on her smart phone. Do you know Amy's smart phone password?"
"Amy's smart phone password is 1 2 3 4, same as the day she got the phone."
"Perfect Bill. Grab her phone tomorrow and put a piece of tape on the battery. She will think the battery needs recharging. Grab the SIM card and bring it to me."
"What then?" I asked
"We will make a plan when we find out more." Ileana closed her laptop. "God I hate fucking cheaters." She muttered. "I saw so many people over in the sandbox that got screwed over. Goddamn Dear John letters and emails were as common as mail call. Relationships from a year to decades got fucked over. So many guys got blindsided. I do not know who were worse, the bitches who abandoned their guys from ½ a world away, or the cunts that cleaned them out when they got off the homeward plane."
Ileana got up, pulling me to my feet. "Now buck up, I'll give you my Psych notes. Come on we got three more classes today."