Harmless

By: Ernie Lindsey
an unconventional love story




CHAPTER 1

Here’s how it happened, and most of this is true.

That night, a single pop of gunfire next door interrupted a well-earned scotch.

Long day. Feet up. Tie loosened with the Giants down by two runs in the ninth. You know how it goes. You wake up expecting normal things to happen—like a shower without the hot water heater going bust, or fixing your eggs without burning a fat blister, or the judge deciding that you are, indeed, entitled to see your kids every other weekend. One bang of the gavel and you trip backwards down the stairs of Progress, rolling and tumbling until you land on your rear, dazed, alone, and seriously pissed off.

First floor: defeat, desperation, ladies’ lingerie.

It’s amazing how a thin slingshot of material—a mixture of lace and cotton, a thong, or thongs, plural—can ruin ten years of marriage, a career, and the relationship you’re supposed to have with your children.

The fault lies with me. I’ve admitted it. I’ve apologized. I’ve begged.

I am, and remain, an unforgivable wretch.

At least, according to the court system.

And those who are unfamiliar with me.

I jumped to my feet, drenching a pants leg with sloshing scotch and melting ice, and pulled two blinds apart at the window.

The woman next door, the first time I met her, she initially said her name was Jan.

She said Jan, I know she did, but we’ll get to that later. The mistakenly delivered mail from Sterling Savings & Loan referred to her as Kerry Parker—do I really look that sketchy? Sketchy enough for her to lie? Also, I used this joke on her, an old standby: “I think I know you from somewhere…maybe from high school…yeah, didn’t we have Chemistry together? No? Well, we do now.”

Jan, Kerry. Kerry, Jan. I’ll call her Kerry. It’s easier that way.

She moved in six months ago and lived alone in a modest ranch home with dark, red brick and white shutters. Her plants died in the summer heat while her yard stayed over-watered and jungle-like. What kind of person does that? I was positive that an entomologist could find a number of undiscovered species crawling throughout its vines and lush green canopy. I’d offered to mow it for her several times while mowing mine (shirtless, of course—the tan stays even, period), but she always declined, said she could use the help but no thanks, and then would scurry inside like she was trying to get away from me. Cute butt waggling in short shorts, flip-flops slapping against her heels as she climbed the three steps leading up to her porch.

I mention the cute butt because, well, how could you not? I mean, really, it’s like a bubble. The one time I got a better look from my office window, as she sunbathed in her backyard—no top and a pink thong, of all things—that was all it took to confirm that yes, “bubble” was the perfect word. It’s not like I was spying. I just happened to be on the computer upstairs and looked outside. Maybe for a little too long—what’s the harm in that?

The difference between a peeping tom and coincidence is timing—and duration.

She was thirty-two, eleven years younger than me. And I know this because I got a quick look at her driver’s license—Kerry Parker, confirmed—which I found in the front seat of her car. (A storm was coming. Her windows were down. I try to be helpful in such situations. I do. Honest.)

She was separated from her husband, according to the letter from Wellington & Wellington, Attorneys at Law, which, coincidentally, was the same firm handling my case. So it was a complete accident that I opened the envelope. I thought it was mine.

When I gave it to her, I got the feeling that she was slightly unnerved. Explaining what happened eased her apprehension, I’m sure of it, but she still gave me the same kind of look you give a car salesman when you know he’s trying to give you the shaft and guaranteeing that you’ll enjoy it. I should know. I’ve gotten that look several times peddling metal over at Thrifty’s Used Cars.

In such a ragged, succumbing economy, it was the only place I could land a solid forty hours after Donny Row, the treacherous beast, fired me for sleeping with his wife, Johanna. She didn’t have a bubble butt like Kerry. It’s flat and unshapely, like the rest of her. I don’t know what I was thinking.

If, in fact, I was thinking at all. I tend to lose any sense of judgment the moment an attractive woman, even one flatter than a baking sheet, grins at me with a glimmer of libidinous intent. I’ve been known to do that a time or two—or eleven, if we’re splitting hairs—and I’m fairly certain it might’ve led to the destruction of my marriage.

Really, who can be sure these days? I left the toilet seat up a lot, but Shayna was the one that refused to have a joint bank account. There was some mention of me being, um, “frivolous” with our income, but I can’t abide a lack of trust when it comes to money. If Johanna, the traitorous beast, hadn’t left her panties in the backseat (and all indications point to it being on purpose), then I most likely would’ve been on the outs with Shayna at some point anyway. After all, financial disagreements ruin more marriages than infidelity, right?

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