Tom laughed indulgently when his friend Frank apologized for having only a quick pint. “Bette and I are going dancing tonight. You and Myrna should join us.”
“No way,” Tom said. “It’s been so long since I went dancing with Myrna that she doesn’t even bother to ask any more. If I weakened now, we’d be back at square one.”
“We used to have fun, the four of us.”
True, in times gone by Tom had waltzed his wife around the floor but only with a view to whirling her into his arms permanently. Since the wedding march ten years earlier, there was no dancing for him. Now he only marched.
Fact was he was more a military man than a dancing man. Not military in the sense that he had been in the army, although, as a high school cadet, he had paraded around a muddy field one summer. He was a military man in the sense that he liked order, insisted Myrna iron his drip-dry shirts, and keep everything ship-shape. Imagination was, to him, a potion best left in the bottle. He had no patience for anything with the least whiff of fantasy or fancy. Second fact was he only did things that served a purpose and now that he and Myrna were hooked, dancing served no purpose.
“If you want to stay home stuck in front of the TV, send Myna on her own. There’s lots of singles.”
“Maybe she’s already found a new guy.”
“Old Myrna? No chance.”
“Last week at the supermarket, she had a flushed, in-love look.”
“Well, it’s not with me.”
“I’m sure it isn’t,” his friend said, which ruffled Tom’s feathers.
A few days earlier, their neighbor with the barking Collie had called over the fence to Myrna, “What are you up to? You look great.” In reply, his wife giggled in a way Tom hadn’t heard in ten years.
What was going on? Recently, everyone who saw Myrna commented how good she was looking—their son said it, her best friend noted it, and now even Frank who hardly noticed any woman over 30—which Myrna was far past—was joining the chorus.
When Tom decided to look for himself, he noticed his wife hadn’t gained the pounds he had since they walked down the aisle. Her face had sort of a pink blush (probably some new makeup) and her energy level was high (those vitamins). But the small puffs under her eyes gave her away.
Of course, the idea of her having a suitor was crazy. Myrna and he worked in the same cramped office and she wasn’t out of his sight for more than 30 minutes during the day.
And her age was showing… He confronted her about sneaking a nap before supper; he couldn’t understand how she needed more sleep. Regular as clockwork, they both bunked down at ten. Tom had a solid routine that involved a facemask, earplugs, a sleeping pill and loose flannel pajamas. Myrna refused to follow his routine. “I sleep fine and I like the feel of my silk night dress.”
“Looks more like a day dress to me,” he grumbled. “And what’s happening with these slippers?”
“What do you mean, what’s happening?”
“I knew they’d be impractical when you suggested them for your Christmas gift. It’s only March and they’re worn out.”
“I wear them; that’s why.”
“For an hour a day in the house, hardly enough to wear them down like that. I should write the company. Where is the bill anyhow?”
Tom had grumbled to Frank about the slippers, they weren’t cheap—bought at that new boutique on 5th Street and three months later they were in tatters.
“Maybe she dances at night.” Frank said.
“Sure- to the bathroom.”
“It’s like the dancing princesses.”
“You know that fairy tale where the princesses sneak out and dance all night?”
“I don’t read fairy tales.”
“But to the kids, when Becky was little, didn’t you read to her?”
“Myrna did the reading. Anyhow what would be open after 10 at night?”
“Get serious, half the town is open after ten: Becker’s Ballroom, The Commodore, the Chunky Chilly.”
Although he scoffed at the idea, that night Tom studied Myrna carefully. He observed her as she chewed her chicken, scrutinized her as she brushed her teeth and hung around the door when she answered a phone call (“just a salesman,” she said, but obviously a chatty one).
Finally, Myra turned on him. “What?” she said, popping her eyes. “What? Is my face dirty?”
“Can’t a guy look at his wife,” Tom said, trying for one of his charming smiles, now somewhat rusty.
“It sounds crazy,” he said to Frank. “But could she be sneaking out at night?”
“The way you sleep, she could be driving a tank through your bedroom. When we were in Vegas, we played poker at the end of your bed and you never noticed.”
That did it. Action was required. Friday night Tom planned his first reconnaissance to survey the field. Once Myrna dozed off, Tom moved a chair from the corner to the hallway and hunkered down. It was hard to keep awake. When he thought dawn had finally arrived, he checked his watch to find it was only 11:49. The next time he woke, it was morning and his neck was so stiff he looked lopsided. Myrna was still sleeping but he noticed her slippers had moved to the end of the bed.
The next day, Frank told him about their friend Manny whose wife was divorcing him. “Said he was pulling her down, she wanted to spend the money they got from the house on a long holiday.”
Tom scoffed. “He was sleeping at the wheel.”
“Guess so. By the time he noticed something was up, she already had Mark Becker for a lawyer.”
“Mark Becker?” cried Tom. Even he knew that Mark was the best divorce lawyer in town. If Becker got his hands on you, he would clean you out. Time for serious action. “The best defense is an offense,” he called to Frank as he headed out of the pub.
That night Tom sailed in the door with a pot of mums, purchased at the corner store and still with considerable blooms. “Let’s go out dancing,” he said to his wife, sweeping her, broom and all, around the hall.
“You hate dancing,” she said sweetly, “You don’t have to take me dancing.”
“I don’t like dancing generally,” he agreed. “But dancing with you is something special.” He got that line from a men’s magazine at the dentist. You could use it for anything.
“Well,” said Myrna, “…if you insist. But I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to.”
The specter of Mark Becker hung in the door as Tom remembered that Frank Weatherbea had had to sell his vintage motorcycle.
“I want to. I want to,” Tom sang out. “And let’s do it regular like Frank and Bette.”
He pulled out his wallet—he was on a roll—and shoved a wad of money intended for lottery tickets, into Myrna’s hand. “You’ll need new slippers,” he crowed, “Yours are worn out.” Who could leave a hubby who was so generous?
Myrna hurried into the bedroom and returned with a Christmas-wrapped box. “Those worn-down slippers are old ones I got from my sister,” she said happily. “I saved the ones you gave me in case you changed your mind about dancing,” she continued with a wink. “And you did.”
~ Melodie Corrigall
First published at: http://www.thewriteplaceatthewritetime.org/fiction.html