Road of Change

Road of Change: South Carolina to Georgia

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“So if you knew about her three months ago, why didn’t you say something, then.  Why wait until four weeks ago?”  Chris asked me.

“Say what?  Would anything have made a difference?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe.  I don’t know.  It just kind of happened.  At the reception for the Waterman Apartments, she put her hand on my arm.  I noticed she put her hands on me every chance she got.  She smiled at me.  Winked at me.  Paid attention.  You spent the entire reception schmoozing with Waterman and his wife. I could have fallen in a hole and you wouldn’t have known.”

“Chris, the only reason I was schmoozing was because you didn’t.  You had just won a huge contract and it was your job to welcome Mr. Waterman and company, but instead of that, you invariably hid in a corner or behind a bush. Just like always.”

“You know I don’t do well in those situations.  Forced socializing.  I never know what to say.”

“Which is why Ben and I always had to do the schmoozing.  Now, you are saying that’s the reason you and Kathy Skank got together, because I paid attention to your client just like you wanted me to do.”

“You always had something else to do.  You took Lily to dance classes, you worked in your store, you did the shopping, the cooking.  You never paid attention to me.”  Did he really just say that?

I attacked.  “You seemed to think if you brought a paycheck home once a week you did everything necessary to contribute to a happy home.  Things had to get done and waiting for you to do anything is impossible.  If I didn’t ride herd on the lawn service, the grass would be tall enough to hid a car.  If I didn’t cook, you and Lily would starve. You don’t even take out the trash. Your sins of omission are piled as high as the ceiling.  I refuse to take responsibility for your indiscretions.  Kathy in your bed is not my fault.”  Maybe if I said it often enough, I would start to believe it.

“So you’re saying it’s my fault?”

“Of course, it’s your fault.  I am not sleeping with Kathy Skank.”

“Don’t call her that.”

“Kathy Skank.  Kathy Skank.  Kathy Skank.”

“That’s real mature,” he accused.

“I was the mature one for our entire marriage.  You have never taken responsibility for anything that went wrong.  You ran out of gas in your car, a car I never, ever drive and you came home, foaming at the mouth because somehow I didn’t put gas in it.  You remember that?  You left the blueprints for the Benson project on your desk in your office and went off to the meeting without them. You called me an hour later and yelled at me for ten minutes because the blueprints were in your office.  I had nothing to do with that, but you blamed me all the same.”

“Well, you’re no prize to live with.  You’re always too tired for sex.  Most of the time, you go to bed before me and if I try to wake you up, you yell at me.”

“Did it ever occur that I fell asleep so early was because I was doing my job and yours?  Did you ever think that maybe I was really tired?”

“Still, once in a while wouldn’t be too much to ask.”

My fury rose higher and higher.  This conversation wasn’t productive, but maybe we were getting some of the buried stuff out in the open.

“You know what?  You’re absolutely right.  What was I thinking?  Your massive-three-minute-in-the-sex-department effort wouldn’t have been too much to ask.”

“Kathy never complains,”  he said, defensively.

“She wants something from you and you are too stupid to see it.”

“What could she want from me?”

“Let me see.  She is twenty with a receptionist’s job and you have a stable career, a nice car, a nice house, credit cards, a swimming pool, a boat, vacations in the Caribbean.  In one instant she can achieve the American Dream: Cars, cash, credit cards, maybe a condo.”

“She is twenty-three,” he said.

“You are impossible.  Absolutely impossible,”  I said and turned my head to watch the pine trees out of the window at my shoulder.  

During all of our sniping, neither of us realized we missed the real reason we were at odds.  It all had to do with Trip, our son who died two years, previously.  Neither one of us had dealt with that death and suddenly, we had Lillian’s death to deal with, too.

Once again, Chris pulled the Cayenne over and we took the selfie of the Welcome to Georgia sign.  Snow peed on Chris’s foot, which made me giggle.  He looked down at his soggy sneaker and said called Snow a very ugly name.  And he said I am immature.

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My Morning Routine

Most of you don’t know this about me, but my older brother lives with me.  In my house. having effectively taken over the downstairs portion.  It didn’t happen over night, but rather gradually over the past four years since I bought this thing.  He has the downstairs bedroom so he can, in his words, provide security for the property.  Um… okay.  Not much around here to be secure from, but I digress.

Now, I don’t mean to get on a rant here, but really, I don’t understand how the male mind works.  Maybe some of you guys out there can clue me in (without giving away any of the secret guy code stuff, of course.)  What I mean is this;  my morning routine is a simple one.  I get up, make my breakfast and before eating my breakfast, I clean up the kitchen–washing dishes, loading (or unloading and then reloading) the dishwasher, wiping down the counters, sweeping the floor.  Because, honestly, how can one person be far messier than a houseful of toddlers and dogs?  Well, Bro manages.

The reason I have to clean up the kitchen is because Bro does not.  He has 2 or 4 midnight snacks and leaves the dishes everywhere.  Okay, if I’m honest, they are mostly near the kitchen sink.  I find table knives smeared with peanut butter, bowls where he ate leftovers for dinner at 11:00 pm–long after I hit the hay–and bread bags without the twisty tie still on it and empty bowls with the remainders of soup or spaghetti.

Getting back to the morning routine, I get up, clean up the kitchen and then eat my breakfast.  Pretty simple.

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Photo by Catt Liu on Unsplash

Now, the reason for my rant:  Last night for dinner, he made stuffed chicken breast and cauliflower with cheese.  Don’t be horribly impressed because the chicken breast came pre-stuffed from Harris Teeter.  After I ate my dinner. Bro did not eat because he was still deep in the throes of his copious-amounts-of-alcohol weight loss plan (which is not working).  He thinks if he just drinks lots and lots and beer and doesn’t eat any food whatsoever, he will get rid of his beer belly.  Or as I like to phrase it, his heart-attack belly.  Well, somewhere in the wee small hours, he eventually wises up for about thirty seconds and eats a peanut butter sandwich or some leftover chili.  And the beer belly grows another half inch. Not because he ate some food, but because he consumed another case of beer.

Still, with the meager offerings for dinner, the sink was fulled with pots and pans and other debris from the day.  I took one look at it last night and decided that I would wait until the morning to wash everything up because the mess looks less daunting in the morning sun.

So, this morning, I opened my eyes and remembered the mess in the kitchen, rolled over and hit my mental snooze alarm–just another five minutes.  I woke up an hour later and launched myself out of bed.  Actually, the word launch is way too strong for what really happened.  Anyway, I went to the bathroom to do what people do in the mornings and I heard water running.  So, he is up and washing his clothes, I thought.  Yes, he lives with me, but I absolutely draw the line at some things.  I don’t clean his room, I don’t do his laundry, I don’t mow the grass, I don’t take out the trash, and I don’t kill the spiders.  Someone else has to do those things and I elected Bro.

Let’s think about this for a moment.  He is older than me by only three years, but in his mind, that makes him far older, wiser, and totally in charge of my life.  After all, he has years more experience than me plus male genitals.  Why shouldn’t he be in charge?  I don’t agree with that.  Genitals have no bearing, at all, on who should be in charge of anything. Neither does age.  (This attitude could be one reason I am not married and have not been since 1987.)

Anyhow, imagine my surprise when I came downstairs and found the dishes washed.

I think I should interject here, that the dishwasher was full of clean dishes where I filled it to the brim and turned it on the day before and the clean dishes were still inside, but the pots and pans and debris from the midnight snacks were washed and put in the dish drainer to dry.

He sees me enter the kitchen and says, “I washed the dishes.”  I replied, “I see that.”  He said, “I didn’t empty the dishwasher, though.”  “I see that, too,”  I replied.  He counters with, “The sink was full of dishes.”  I said, “I know.”  He gave me that look that puppies get when they are expecting a treat.  So I said, “Thank you for washing the pots, although you never thank me when I wash the pots.  I clean the kitchen every morning and I do not expect effusive praise and thanks.  Plus, I work two jobs and you work no jobs, but rather you screw around on the computer, having no source of discernible income and you expect a thank you because you did me this great big favor of washing a few pots?”

In his own defense he said, “I wash dishes sometimes.”

“Yes you do, but it is about a 100:1 ratio.  You washing dishes the one time and me the 100,”  I responded.

“I turn the dishwasher on sometimes,” he said.

“Oh, that’s right, you did turn it on once.  Thank you.  Thank you so much for turning on the dishwasher one time.  You never thank me for doing the dishes every day.”

“I noticed.”

“La di da!  You still never thanked me for doing the dishes, but you expect me to thank you.  And I did.  I thanked you.  Enormously.”  I said, with an air of finality that ended the discussion.

So, guys of the male persuasion, why do I have to thank him for doing the dishes once when he never thanks me for doing them day after day?  What is it with men?  I never get thanked when I clean up the trash he drags into the house with his boots because he doesn’t know how to wipe his feet.  I never get thanked when I go behind him and clean up all the things he leaves lying about the place because he doesn’t know how to put anything away.

So why, in that single act of washing a pot, does he expect a thank you?

That is probably a question that will forever remain unanswered.

 

 

 

 

Road of Change

Road of Change: North Carolina to South Carolina

 

Driving through North Carolina on Interstate 95 seems to take forever, especially if you are in a car with pouty man who is ticked off because he has to spend the summer driving his wife all over the country instead of lounging in the arms of a blond twenty year old receptionist. Poor, poor baby.  

At least Snow is happy about going on the trip.  I wonder if she will feel the same in a few days.  Or weeks.

As for Chris, he hasn’t taken a single minute to think about what the trip has done to me.  I own a small store that sells yarn, crochet and knitting books, and every accessory anyone needs for a knitting or crocheting hobby–from tote bags to carry yarn, to crochet and knitting kits that come complete with yarn, directions and even the appropriately sized hook or needle.

My store has never made a fortune, netting only about $10,000 to $15,000 in profit each year, but it is a neighborhood fixture.  It is a piazza where knitters and crocheters come to socialize, knit and crochet, and drink freshly brewed coffee.  Abigail Grint came to work with me almost three years ago and proved to be a master at teaching needle arts.  She conducts several classes a week, orders supplies and generally keeps things running.  Leaving her for the summer months didn’t seem a hardship as that is a slow time in my business, anyway.  I gave her carte blanche to open and close when she felt like it.  I gave her a raise, a hug and left my store in her care.  I hope it would still be there when I return.  Still I worried about what changes she would wrought in the store that I opened and ran alone for almost ten years before her arrival.  Would she change displays, order coffee from a different vendor, change my inventory of yarn to the more exotic textures and colors?  A small business owner is crazy to just leave their store for several months.  While the cat’s away, and all that.

Chris steered the Cayenne into a convenience store along the interstate.  I went inside the store catering to travelers, by offering several fast food options, souvenirs, clothing and thankfully, a restroom.  I bought a fizzy drink and a burger before returning to the car.  Chris emerged from the store to light up a cigarette.  He stood outside to smoke and did not try to smoke in the car.  If he had done it, he would have to finish this journey on his own.

I put the leash on Snow and took her to a grassy area to pee and then we returned to the car.  I gave her some water and then she settled back onto her bed.

When Chris slid into the driver’s seat, he smelled of smoke.  I opened the window on my side of the car and endured his glare as he pulled out of the parking spot and back into the traffic on the Interstate.

“You going to give me a blast of crap about my smoking?”  he asked me.

“No.  I just opened the window because I do not like the way it smells.  I never have.  I never will.  And you smell like smoke.”

“Love me, love my cigarettes.”

“I don’t love either right now.”

His face fell and his face moved from a surly expression to a child who broke his favorite toy in less than a second.  “You don’t love me?”

“Yes, I love you, but I am so angry with you.”

“That’s why you keep saying things to deliberately hurt my feelings.”

“What did you expect from me?”  I demanded.

“I expected you to be understanding.”

“Are you kidding me?  Understanding?  Just let you go on with your affair without saying anything?  Just let you spend night after night with your girlfriend, who is nearly as young as your daughter?  Just let you spend money taking her to fancy restaurants and buying her a very expensive diamond bracelet?  Is that the understanding you are talking about?”

He took a deep breath and then said,  “I didn’t know you knew about the bracelet.”

“I am the one who pays the bills, genius.  I saw the credit card bill for a bracelet and what a surprise.  You didn’t give it to me or to Lily.  You didn’t even try to cover your tracks.  I paid the credit card bills for the dinners, lunches, hotel rooms.  Everything.  I have a record of your journey into that sordid affair.”

“Is that what first tipped you off?  American Express?”

“American Express just confirmed it.  All those times you told me you were working late.  Imagine my shock when I took a pizza to your office on one of those nights you were working late and the office was closed up, tight as a drum.”

He fell into another sulk breathing sharply in and out.  Fine with me.  I wasn’t in the mood for talking, either.

I actually discovered his affair, accidently.  When I asked him why he wasn’t at the office when I took the pizza there, he told me he and Ben went for a drink after they finished working.  He apologized and I believed him.  

Two days later, I saw Chris and Kathy just as they were leaving a restaurant during the lunch hour.  Again, I didn’t make the connection right away.  I walked towards them to say hello until I saw him take her hand while they walked to his car. He leaned over to kiss her before he pulled out of the parking lot.  I went back to my car and sat in there for several minutes, dumbfounded.  After that incident, I started looking and the clues were everywhere. I found love letters from her and condoms in his briefcase. He put a framed picture of her in his desk drawer in his home office.  He even left a pair of her underwear in the pocket of his suit jacket.  How could I have been so blind to the signs?  

The worst thing that happened when I discovered his girlfriend was the complete loss of trust.  I found myself examining every word, every conversation for lies.  Every memory changed from marital bliss to suspicions.  Suddenly, I trusted nothing he said or did.  He would go into the bathroom at home, and I assumed he texted her while doing his business.  The longer it went on, the more distrustful I became.

Innocence lost in that one act of watching him kiss another woman. I changed in that instant from a happy wife to a raging shrew.   

I alternated from anger to depression and back to anger.  Depression because I felt responsible for his wandering eyes.  I watched myself in the mirror, making comparisons between her and me.  Younger than me, she wore a youthful glow.  Her abdomen lay flat as a carpet.  One of those size zero girls.  

I, on the other hand, wore a size sixteen.  Not enormous, rather curvy.  Scrutiny in the bedroom mirror did nothing to assuage my inferior feelings.  Heavy thighs, bulge on my tummy from childbirth, drooping boobs from breastfeeding.  I wore my hair in a casual short cut for comfort and ease of care.  A few gray strands stood in stark contrast to the dark blond waves.  My blue eyes, made bluer with my contacts, seemed to be the only redeeming feature, but even they sported wrinkles in the corners.

In comparing myself to Kathy, I fell short in every aspect.  Fatter, older, grayer, more wrinkled.  What did Chris ever see in me?  Other than pregnancy, I never gained huge amounts of weight.  I weigh now nearly what I did when we married.  Maybe he never really loved me at all.  Maybe he only married so he would have someone to wash his skivvies and make his dinner.  A mother.  Not a wife.

Chris pulled the car onto the shoulder of the road and at the Welcome to South Carolina sign, I took a selfie of the two of us, both of us frowning badly.  Without a word, I walked back to the Cayenne, slammed the door, fastened my seatbelt and emailed the photo to Mr. Cartwright.

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Road of Change

Chapter 3 continued…

We didn’t leave for three days.  Carolyn picked up Lily on Friday afternoon and Chris and I started the journey on Saturday.  The Cayenne’s storage in the back was large enough for the suitcases, food for Snow, water, snacks, and the urn with Lillian’s ashes.  I packed a copy of the will for Matthew, made sure I had medical insurance cards, and about $1000 in cash, just in case we ended up somewhere that didn’t take a credit card. I grabbed my phone charger, my laptop, and my prescription sunglasses.

We drove my car to Lillian’s house, made certain everything was locked and the refrigerator cleared out completely.  I talked to Jeff Richardson, her neighbor, about watering the roses for the summer and keeping the grass cut.  He said he would keep and eye on things plus he would start my car periodically to make sure the battery didn’t die.  I gave him my cell phone number and told him to call me if anything happened.

When we got to Sante Fe, Matt would let us know what of Lillian’s personal items he wanted and I could ship things to him.  Lillian generously provided all of us with gifts of her possessions years before she died, so likely there wasn’t much remaining that he would want.

We transferred our things from my CRV into the back of the Cayenne and Snow hopped into the back seat.  At least one of us was eager to get started. I put her doggy bed on the back seat and she climbed in, walked in circles for a few minutes and finally settled down for the 14,000 mile journey.

The trip started badly.  Chris backed the car into Lillian’s mail box.  He muttered under his breath while he got out to survey the damage. The mailbox lay on its side, half in the road and half on Lillian’s property.  “It’s not really a problem,”  I said.  “Lillian doesn’t need it.”

“Real funny, Anne.”

“She could have had her mail forwarded to Santa Fe. That’s where her ashes will end up”

“Still not funny, Anne.”

“You put a dent in the back of her Cayenne,”  I pointed out.

“We’ll never get this trip started at this rate,”  Chris complained.

Lillian’s neighbor Jeff strolled over to look at the destruction the Cayenne had wrought. “Yep, it looks bad,”  he said.  “You two are eager to get going, so I can fix the mailbox.  Not like she’s going to be needing it.”

Chris shot a look at Jeff and said, “Everyone’s a comedian.”

“Except for you,”  I said and I received his evil eye.

“Get in the car,”  Chris said as he pulled open the driver’s door.

I kissed Jeff’s cheek and said, “Thank you for fixing the mailbox.  I left the key under the mat and you know where the key to the shed is.  Here is the key to the Honda.  Help yourself to anything you like while we are gone.”

“I’ll keep an eye on the place, Anne.  Don’t you worry.”

“See you when we get back.”  I said, and opened the passenger door.

The dark blue Porsche wore the new badge of honor on it’s right rear fender and for twenty miles, Chris complained endlessly.  “This car cost $68,000 brand new.  You would think the engineers could make one without a blind spot.  That could have been a cat or a child and I would never have seen it.  This car is nothing but a piece of crap.  It drives like a tank.”

I grew tired of the tirade, so I said,  “Give it a rest, Chris.  I don’t want to hear you complain for the next 14,000 miles.”

“Do you have any idea how that kind of mileage is going to reduce the value of this car?  It won’t be worth half of that $50,000 by the time we get it to Santa Fe.”

“What are you really pissed off about?”  I asked him in an unkind tone of voice.

“I am pissed about this trip, that’s what I am pissed about.  If my mother wasn’t dead, I would kill her.”

“You hear that, Lillian?”  Directed my voice to the back of the car where her urn rested between a case of water and a suitcase.  “He said he wants to kill you.”

“I didn’t say that,”  he said.

“You are lying to your mother?”

“Come on, Anne.  She’s dead.  No one can lie to her, again.”

“You hear that, Lillian?  He says it doesn’t matter if he lies in front of you.”

“I didn’t say that, Mom,”  Chris said, addressing the urn.  “It’s just that Anne make me crazy.  She makes me want to pull my hair out, she is so irritating.”

“Lillian wants to know how I am irritating?”

He glanced at me and then fiercely concentrated on his driving for several miles.  “You never take my side.  You always gang up against me with your mother and with Lily and even with Lillian.”

“Gang up on you?  How?”

“You tell Lillian everything I do that is wrong.  Or what you think is wrong.”

“No, I don’t.  I don’t tell Lillian half of what you do wrong.  And if I ganged up against you with my mother, we would have never gotten married.  She always tells me to leave you.  So far, I’m still here.  As for ganging up on you with Lily, have you noticed that your daughter has a mind of her own and will never gang up with someone she thinks is wrong.  Lily thinks you are very wrong for cheating on me with a skank.”

“She doesn’t understand and neither do you,”  he said and then sulked for several miles.

The sign for North Carolina appeared on the right so he pulled the Cayenne over to the shoulder.  “Let’s get this over with.”  We stepped on the grass in front of the sign and I held the phone up in order to capture his face and mine and the sign that read “Welcome to North Carolina” behind us.  Snow jumped out of the car and peed next to the welcome sign before hopping back into the back seat and onto her dog bed.

Neither of us smiled in the photo and we stood about a foot apart.  The sign ended up between our heads in the photo.  I emailed it to Mr. Cartwright.  

The journey had officially begun.

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Road of Change

Road of Change Chapter 3

Chapter Three

Virginia to North Carolina

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The next morning, I pulled up a map of the United States on my computer and quickly realized deciding a route, myself, would take forever.  I borrowed information from a professor who had done the algorithm for the most optimal way to drive around the United States.  Within minutes, I had the list ready. Subject to change, of course.

Deciding what to take was the next issue. A shopping trip was definitely in order, to buy some roadtrip clothing.  I needed some items that can be stored easily, wrinkle resistant and can be washed out in a hotel bathroom and hung in the shower to dry for the next day.  I went to a local sporting goods store and the saleslady helped me find three pairs of pants, five pull-over shirts, a jacket, and two sweaters, and two dresses for the trip. I owned socks and underthings already, so no issue there.  I just wanted clothing as maintenance free as possible to avoid having top stop at laundry facilities.  Besides, my days of trying to impress Chris with my style of dress were well and truly gone.  I look terrible in skater skirts.

At a department store, I bought travel size toiletries and a tote to fit them in.  I bought a first aid kit, five cases of water, a variety of snacks and food for Snow.  My Honda CRV was pretty well filled by that time.  As for what Chris was going to take with him, that was entirely his decision.  I had no intention of packing a bag for him.  In fact, I may never do anything for him again.  He could drive around the country naked for all I cared.

When I got home, I put all of my new clothes plus two pairs of blue jeans in a suitcas.  I left out a pair of North Face pants and shirt for the day we actually left.  I planned to leave within just three or four days and Chris had just better be ready when I was.

I called Carolyn to ask her if Lily could spend the summer.  When I told her everything that had happened, she was more than agreeable.

She told me,  “Mom called and said she couldn’t take Lily, which was the same thing as saying she didn’t want to be bothered.”

“What a piece of work she is. She didn’t call me to tell me.  I guess I was supposed to figure it out on my own.  So, can Lily stay with you?”  I asked.

“Sure.  I would love to have her.  Maybe those boys will behave a little better if she is around.  She can help me kick butts and take names.  We live outside your school district, but I can drive her until the last day.  And if you’re not back by the time school starts again in September, I will take her school clothes shopping.  It’ll be like having my own daughter.”

“Okay.  I’m not sure when we are leaving.  I am hoping in a couple of days.  The sooner we get started, the sooner we will be done with it and he can get back to the skank.”

“Skank?  Where did you hear that word?”

“That’s what Lily called his girlfriend.”

“She’s right.  Any woman who dates a married man is a skank.  You would think they would know better.”

“I know, right?  I will call you when I know what we’re doing on our end.”

“Ok.  Hugs.”

I disconnected the phone and headed downstairs to think about dinner for Lily and me.  Chris could eat at McDonald’s or make himself a peanut butter sandwich. He lost a lot of rights in my house, in my opinion.

Surprisingly, he came home a few minutes later.  He plopped his briefcase on the dining table.  “I am taking the summer off.  I turned my project over to Dan.  Kathy is pissed that I’m leaving for the whole summer.”

“I could care less what Kathy thinks.  She is not part of this equation.”  I told him.

“Don’t be like that,”  Chris said.

“How should I be?  Should I invite her to dinner?  Should we go shopping together?  Am I supposed to give you and her my bed and then sleep in the recliner?  Just what kind of plans do you have for this threesome?”

“I’m just saying you don’t have to act ugly.”

“Yes, I do, Chris.  I am not going to pretend I am happy about this and I am not going to make it easy for you by keeping my mouth shut.  Sleeping with Kathy is wrong, no matter how short her skirts are.  You are still married.  To me.  Yes, Christian, I have every right to be angry.”  Taking a page from my mother’s book, I said the word Christian like it is a swear word.

“Whatever,”  he said.  “What’s for dinner?”

“Whatever you decide to make for yourself,”  I snapped.

“So, it’s going to be like that?”  

“It has been like that since your mother died.  Oh, but you haven’t been home in the evenings, so you didn’t realize I don’t cook for you anymore.”

“I’ve heard enough.  First, I get a bunch of crap from Kathy because I’m going to be gone for awhile and then I get crap from you.”

“I don’t feel sorry for you.  I’m leaving in the morning, so you better be ready to go.  I want to get this over with probably more than you do.”

“I doubt that.”  He stamped out of the kitchen.

Snow chose that moment to trot into the kitchen to beg for a scratch.  Absently, I caressed her ears.  “Well, Snow.  It looks like you can come with Chris and me.  I can’t leave you here and Carolyn owns about four hundred dogs.  Or at least those two she owns seems like four hundred.”  She wagged her floppy tail, furiously.  She traveled very well, so no worries on that account.  “You will probably have to referee the whole way. Just make sure I am the first one you kiss every morning.”  She wagged her tail even more.

Writing

Working from Home

I didn’t post anything yesterday because I just started a new WORK FROM HOME JOB.  Yes, they are real and they are legit.  At this point, I am in training and I am not certain how much of my day will actually be required once I am up to speed.  For now, however, I am plugging along.

My Desk 1

I have worked from home before and I know it takes a lot of discipline to not get distracted by day to day events–hobbies, TV, friends and neighbors.  Before you decide it is a great way to live, you must understand that working from home requires a monumental amount of discipline.  Also, you will probably find that you work more and harder when working from home.  Deadlines are more clearly defined and must be adhered to and tolerance for continually missing deadlines can cost you money and perhaps even your job.

It is very nice to start work when I am ready and not when the boss says I must be there.  It is nice to take a long lunch break, if I want to, or to nap if I want to.  It is nice to walk out of my bedroom and directly into my office to get going.  I save money on gas, wear and tear on my car, work clothes.

This life fits me now.  I don’t have to go out when the weather is bad.  This week has been wonderful because I didn’t have to drive in the snow. I don’t have to deal with angry drivers.  I don’t have worry about dress codes or make-up.  I don’t have to worry about a lot of things people deal with every day in the work force.

There are some downsides, however.  I have already mentioned productivity.  If you want to keep your job, you have to work.  You cannot play video games or solitaire.  While, you don’t have a micromanager, there are people watching what you do.  Sometimes, you will be watched closer because now you are accountable for every moment of your time.  You get daily goals and you can get them done in 4 hours or drag it out for 8 or 10 hours.

But if I want to get to my hobbies, my reading, my writing, I will take the 4 hour a day route and not get distracted by life in my house.

The biggest downside I have found is that Starbucks does not deliver and Uber-eats is expensive.

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Chapter Two conclusion

Later that evening, I called Matt to tell him what transpired with the will.

Matt chuckled when I laid out the terms.  “Well, that sly old fox.  Did she know you and Chris were separating?”

“Yes, I told her a week before she died.”

“You know, I need a Porsche Cayenne like I need a hole in the head.  Barbara and I don’t even need the money.  But, I would love to see you and Chris, so I insist you bring the car to me.”

“You know I love you, Matthew,”  I said.

“Don’t tell Barbara or Chris.  We’ll never be able to get rid of either of them.”

“I didn’t mean that.”

“Just don’t kill Chris on the road trip.  It’s hard as hell to hide a body.  I know.  I’m a Medical Examiner.  Tell that punk to give me a call before you kill him.”

I laughed and disconnected.

My own mother wasn’t as supportive.  I called her after I talked to Matt to tell her what we needed to do.

“Don’t do it.  Just tell that cheat and liar to get lost.  Cut your losses.  That road trip will lead to nothing but trouble.  You will regret spending that much time with him.  What has he ever done for you besides sleeping around with everything in the country?”

“Mom, one woman is not sleeping around with everyone in the country,”  I said, sharply.

“I’m not surprised to hear about this.  I have suspected for years that he was cheating on you.  Now that it’s proven, you need to dump him.”  Some stories never change.  “I have told you for years he is a zip, a zero, a nothing.”

“Yes, I know.  You tell me every chance you get.  I didn’t call to get a lecture.  I just wanted to know if Lily can stay with you while we’re gone.”

“Of course, I would love to have my granddaughter for a few days, but you know your father and I are going to the Hamptons for the summer and there is just nothing there for a fifteen year old girl.  Let me talk to your father and maybe we can just stay in New York for the summer, although it is ghastly hot and miserable.  I will make the sacrifice for my granddaughter.”

“Thank you, Mom.  Let me know.”  And I disconnected.  “Don’t change the light bulb because I wasn’t going to read anyway.”  I said aloud.  “You know she won’t help you out, idiot” I admonished myself.  Still, I always hope she will finally act like a person.  

Snow lounged on the bed beside me, so I nuzzled her neck.  She rewarded me with a lick on my cheek.

The little knock on the door alerted me to Lily.  She opened the door and then started with, “Mom, I don’t want to stay with Grandmother Lilith.  She makes me wear ugly dresses and puts my hair up in a 1960’s bouffant.  She gives me lectures about proper ladies needing proper grammar and she says you and Dad have raised a juvenile delinquent.  I would be miserable the whole summer.  Don’t make me go stay with her.  Find someone else to babysit me.  Maybe you could fly Charlotte here to stay with me.”

“These walls must be made of toilet paper.  Also, your cousin is getting ready for her wedding,”  I said.  “She can’t stay here with you.  But, maybe you can stay with Carolyn and Louis.  She can always use help with those three boys.”

“That would be a lot better than staying with Grandmother Lilith.  Aunt Carolyn is fun. And you always talk really loud when you’re talking to Grandmother Lilith, so the walls don’t have to be made of toilet paper.”  Lily looked thoughtful for a moment and then said, “I only have one grandmother left.  Do I still have to call her Grandmother Lilith?”

“Yes, you do.  She insisted.”  Then, in my well known and well rehearsed imitation of my Mom,  “I earned the right to be called Grandmother and I insist upon being distinguished from that other one.  Therefore, the grandchildren will address me as Grandmother Lilith and not one syllable less.”

Lily giggled and then said,  “I think she holds her nose a little bit higher than you did.  Now, are you going to call Aunt Carolyn?”

“I’ll call her tomorrow.  My sister goes to bed pretty early.”

“So, you and Dad are going to do this?”

“I think so.  He is pretty upset right now, but he will go along.  I don’t believe he really wants to separate.  He has had more than one opportunity to leave and he is still here.”

“Good night, Mom.  I love you.”

I smiled at my beautiful girl.  “I love you, too, Lily.”

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Photo by Lachlan Donald on Unsplash

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Chapter Two continued…

“She changed her will just a couple of days before she died,”  Chris said after Mr. Cartwright’s vanished out of our driveway.  “She dreamt this scheme up just a few days ago.  We should be able to break this will.”

I walked into the kitchen and said over my shoulder, “She wasn’t addled or feeble-minded.  She was brilliant right up to her collapse. She may have been ninety-four, but she wasn’t demented.”  I paused for a moment, then turned to face him.  “Does the idea of spending a couple of months in a car with me repulse you completely?”

“No,”  Chris said;  “No, of course not.  I am not repulsed by you.”

“There is simply someone you would rather spend time with.”  He didn’t even bother to deny it. The names I wanted to call him filled my head.  He put a hand on my shoulder and I jerked out of his reach.  “I’m going to bed.  Stay out of my room.”  I said, turning away from him.

“I get the guest room, again?  That bed is hard as a brick.”

“Christian Matthew Archer Junior.  You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t sleep in my bed and hers.  I draw the line,”  I told him.

Lily stood in the doorway of the kitchen.  “You guys are still fighting?”  My daughter looked like her father with dark curly hair and blue eyes. At fifteen, she towered over me by a head.

“We aren’t fighting, dear,”  Chris said to her.

“That’s all you two have done for the past two years, since Trip died.  You have gotten a lot worse lately.”

Chris hung his head and I walked to her to cover her in a hug.  “When did you get so smart?” I asked her.

“Doesn’t take a genius to figure this stuff out.  You know what I think Grandma Lillian is trying to do?  She is trying to get you two together.  Think about it.  By making you go on a trip together, you two have to talk. You have to get along.”

“It’s not that simple,”  Chris said.

“Yeah, Dad, it is that simple,”  Lily countered.  “If you and mom can survive together on a road trip, then maybe you will stay together.  Everyone gets divorced, today.  I was really proud of the fact that my parents are still together.  I am the only one of my friends who lives with both parents.  That is pretty cool.  Don’t screw it up, Dad. Work it out with Mom and tell that skank you’re screwing to get lost.”

She spun on her heel and stomped up the stairs.

“What’s a skank?”  Chris asked me.

“From her tone of voice, I don’t think you really want to know,”  I replied.

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Photo by Rene Böhmer on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

500 Words, Road of Change

Road of Change, Chapter Two

Chapter Two

Hampton VA

“We don’t normally have a formal reading of the will, you know with everyone sitting around a table and the lawyer making shocking announcements to the family,”  Lillian’s stodgy lawyer told me. “You only see that on TV.  I think Perry Mason had something to do with that idea.”  Mr. Cartwright sat at my dining table on my left and Chris sat on the right.  “Because you two are the only relatives in the area and much of what is in here concerns you, I can give you each a copy to read for yourselves.  There’s a lot of legal jargon, so I can interpret it you need it.”

He opened a folder and removed two copies of Lillian’s will.  

“Mr. Cartwright, is this correct?  She signed this version only two days before she died?”  Chris asked.

“Yes.  She called me to her house, said the revision was urgent and asked me to come right over.  She looked healthy enough, so I don’t know if she had some kind of premonition, or not.  She was 94, afterall.  Maybe she was just making sure of her wishes considering she could go at any time.”

I nodded and read through a lot of party-of-the-first-parts and other legal wording until the section that concerned me the most flashed on the page.  Chris and I were to inherit her house, a stately Victorian on the James River.

“Am I reading this right?”  Chris asked.  “We get the house, but only after we deliver her car and her ashes to Matt in Sante Fe.  And we have to drive there through each of the forty-eight contiguous states. That could not be a less direct route.”

“Yes, Mr.  Archer.  Those are her instructions.  If you do not comply, then I am authorized to sell the house and donate 100% of the profits to the American Cancer Society.”

“And the rules state Anne and I have to go together for the road trip through all forty-eight states.  And we have to take a time stamped selfie of the two of us together in front of every state’s welcome sign.”

“Yes.  She has also provided you with this.”  This was a GPS tracker that could record the entire road trip. “It will record the journey and I will have to check it before I can turn the deed to the house over to you.  You must cross into every one of the lower forty-eight states. Together.  And the selfie at the welcome signs must be of the two of you together.”

“She was serious about this?” Chris demanded.  “A trip like that would take months.  We would both have to quit our jobs.”

“Lillian said these were her terms if you want her house.  You can, of course, refuse and in which case I will arrange for the sale of her house as soon as possible.”

Chris looked over his shoulder toward the living room where Lily played a video game while wearing a headset.  He lowered his voice,  “You realize Anne and I are planning to separate after we get all this stuff with Mom straightened out.”

“And you still can, Mr. Archer.  After you have complied with Lillian’s wishes, you can sell her house and split the money, you can rent it out, you can move in.  It will be yours, and all the contents, less the few things that are supposed to go to Matthew and his three children.”

“We get the house, and Matt gets the car and the money?”

“Yes, that is the will in a nutshell.  You were not slighted in anyway, Mr. Archer.  The house and the property it rests on is worth over 3 million dollars and there is only a little over a million in her liquid assets, after all her debts are taken care of.  Her Cayenne is worth about $50,000.”

“I wasn’t worried about that.  That house is a drafty old barn.  We would have to sell this house to be able to afford the upgrades on that one before we can sell it.”

“Chris, do we really want to sell it?”  I asked.  “Also, I can let Abigail run the store while I am away.  You can talk to your partner and I am sure he will let take some time off for this.  You own the firm and architecture is not brain surgery.  You won’t be missed by your partner if you go on the road for a few weeks.”

“I don’t know, Anne.  I just don’t know what I want.  I know I don’t want to spend six months in a car with you.”

“In reality, Mr. Archer, if you plan your trip correctly, you would make the journey in just a couple of months.  If you average 500 miles a day, you could do in a month,”  Mr. Cartwright said.  “Lillian has left a prepaid credit card to cover the expenses on the trip.  Hotels, food and the like.  I will leave you now and give you a few days to think about it.”

“Wait,”  I said.  “Do we have to drive the entire way in the Cayenne?”

“According to the rules, you just have to make the road trip in one shot.  Beginning to end. Sante Fe would be your final stop.  You can buy another car for the trip home, or perhaps fly back.  There is enough money on the card to do either.”  Mr. Cartwright said and he vanished out of the front door.

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Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash