I begin writing this from my house. It is Friday and it’s my lunch hour. I’ve come home unexpectedly. It’s just like that day, but a different time of year. Today’s excuse was putting some laundry in the dryer. That, and a memory. The memory of Carol telling me on a Thursday that she’d likely be coming home early on Friday.
Why did she say that? So I could swing by the house to surprise her and catch her? That’s kind of a stretch. Most likely she said that because she didn’t know she would be cheating the next day. Another question to ask.
I’m now back at work, trying to finish my day.
She told me she would be home early today since the babysitter is off and she’ll have to be home for the kids after school. That was enough for me to need to take a quick visit home during work.
The urge to get home quickly really peaked as I turned the last corner before my house. I became calm again until I went in the house. Then I stood silently at the doorway, listening for the sounds.
I entered too loudly. They know I’m here, I thought.
I muttered as casually as possible, “Gotta go change that laundry and get my ass back to work…”
I walked towards the stairs to the basement, then quietly made my way to the bedroom. I reached the doorway and quickly stepped in. I looked at the blankets, considering checking them for a hiding person. Don’t be stupid, I thought to myself.
“One of these days, Rick,” I said aloud, “and you’re gonna see what happens to a nice guy when he’s pushed over the edge.”
What’s going to happen when a nice guy gets pushed too far? He becomes Joe.
Joe wouldn’t be obsessively coming home, like he’s hoping for another chance to react. Joe would’ve made the message clear the first time. But he wasn’t there. It was just angry Jack, the guy who does the right thing while wishing he could do the wrong thing.
I set the dryer for extra long, thinking about Carol coming home and hearing the dryer running at an odd time. Would she ask if I’ve been home? Would she notice at all?
I didn’t have to think about the sounds and sights of that day because they flashed in my head as clear as a recording last night. I came home from volleyball and resisted the urge to say, “I’m home, you bitch.”
I imagined Carol taking it as a joke at first, “Who are you calling a bitch?”
“You, you dumb hooker. Get the fuck out of my house.”
Instead I came to bed and she asked, “Did you win?”
“Won some, lost some.”
“Then get out.”
A joke started by me many years ago. If you don’t win at your recreational sport, you can’t come home. I didn’t find it funny. I bit my tongue.
Carol reached out to me and put her hand on me. Before long, I shuffled closer and she put her hand under my shirt and rubbed my belly.
“You know I love when you do that,” I said. And with that, I was no longer an angry man, just a husband becoming pleasantly stoned by the loving, gentle touch of his woman. I returned the favour by rubbing her back and before long, her hand stopped moving on me. She was fast asleep.
If I tell her that I keep coming home during the day, what’s going to happen? If she decides to be a cheater again, I can’t imagine her ever bringing it home again either way. What am I doing? Am I really looking for a do over? Was my reaction not enough? I kept myself out of jail, isn’t that enough?
Joe pulls over on the street, across from Rick’s house.
“C’mon man, don’t do this,” Jack pleads.
Joe turns to Jack, eyes narrowed. His stare seems to pierce Jack’s soul.
“Just what on Earth do you think I’m here to do, boy?”
“K-kill him?” Jack manages to ask.
“I’m doing what you should’ve done months ago.”
Joe opens the driver’s side door and begins to step out. “As you can see, all I got are my mouth, fists, and feet.”
Jack watches as Joe strides determinedly toward Rick’s house. He pauses at the front door, steps back, then thrusts his foot forward, breaking the door in. The obstacle now out of his way, Joe continues forward.
Jack hears a shriek.
“Now don’t you worry yourself there, ma’am, I just have an urgent matter to attend to with your husband. Oh, Ricky-boy! Where are you?”
Jack hears some shouts, silence, then Joe’s voice. He’s pretty sure he hears the words, “Just get out,” coming from Jennifer. He can’t hear well enough from outside.
Finally, Joe emerges and calls back toward the house, “Make sure you put some ice on that real quick and remember what I told you, Ricky-boy.”
Joe returns to the driver’s seat, let’s out a sigh, and grins, so pleased with himself as usual.
Before Jack can ask, Joe answers. “We came to an agreement, that’s all.”
“An ‘agreement’. Rick’s fucking crazy, he’s not going to keep any sort of agreement,” Jack says, frustrated.
Joe turns to Jack, still grinning, “He breaks the agreement, I break him.”
Joe looks ahead then puts the car in drive with a bloodied hand.