Johnny America


The Fine Line


Helaine snarled as she tossed her cro­cheted purse on the mar­ble coun­ter­top. Jim silent­ly won­dered how he had dis­ap­point­ed her this time. He men­tal­ly checked off his usu­al list: trash had been emp­tied, lit­ter box was clean, and he had switched the tele­vi­sion to her fa­vorite channel.

“Rough day, hon­ey?” Jim cocked his head in her di­rec­tion and stopped thumb­ing through the mail.

“It’s the neigh­bor.” She sighed hop­ing to evoke her husband’s pity. “I can ac­cept it when the neigh­bor does not wave to me from across the lawn — that’s fine. But he parked right next to me at the farmer’s mar­ket, and you know what he said? Noth­ing. I find it odd and dis­turb­ing.” She looked to Jim as if he held all the an­swers. To her, it seemed he did. He was twen­ty years her se­nior and min­gled in in­tel­lec­tu­al cir­cles. Some even thought him to be a genius.

“Well, did you say some­thing to him?” Jim stud­ied a five-dol­lar off restau­rant coupon.

“No.” She scrunched her face and smoothed back wisps of her wild hair.

Jim an­a­lyzed the sit­u­a­tion and de­ter­mined his wife and the neigh­bor were sup­press­ing sex­u­al ten­sion. If giv­en the op­por­tu­ni­ty, he pre­dict­ed Helaine and his neigh­bor would make out like teens in the back­seat of a Dodge Neon. All that stood be­tween them was his pres­ence. He abrupt­ly vowed nev­er to leave her at home alone again.

His mind tossed and turned over the de­ci­sion. Not on­ly was it un­re­al­is­tic to al­ways be with her, he val­ued trust and con­sid­ered it an in­te­gral as­pect of love. He de­cid­ed his sit­u­a­tion war­rant­ed a trust test.

“I bought a gym mem­ber­ship.” Jim fid­dled with a string on his trousers to hide his ly­ing eyes.

“Good for you!” He con­clud­ed she was be­ing sin­cere and had bought in­to the lie.

“I think I will go right now.” He scooped up his keys and pecked her cheek. He men­tal­ly told her this is a test and she should try to pass. He closed the door be­hind him and drove to a near­by hill, where he parked the Toy­ota Aval­on. He stared out the open win­dow at his and his neighbor’s homes below.

Af­ter eight min­utes, noth­ing had hap­pened. She did not leave her house to knock on his door and ask for an egg or oth­er kitchen sta­ple as a ploy to weasel her­self in­side and make pas­sion­ate love to him.

Af­ter twen­ty-two min­utes, noth­ing had hap­pened. He did not peep in her win­dow to see her un­but­ton her poly­ester dress and slip in­to her ho­ley Phish night­shirt. He stared di­rect­ly at the hous­es, on­ly watch­ing the sky dark­en out of the cor­ner of his eye. By that time, he had no­ticed the two tele­vi­sions flick­ered si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly as if they were syn­chro­nized. They were watch­ing the same tele­vi­sion show. He raised his eyebrows.

Af­ter twen­ty-three min­utes, Jim’s stom­ach growled. He felt around the floor­board for an old fry. That is when he no­ticed his loafers. He en­vi­sioned his one pair of gym shoes on the floor on his side of the clos­et. If she de­cid­ed to poke around in there — which he felt sure she did, she would au­to­mat­i­cal­ly know he had lied. He planned to in­stant­ly for­give her be­cause he does the same thing while she is gone. He rea­soned she had prob­a­bly fig­ured out he had lied and was won­der­ing where he was at that very mo­ment. He de­duced this was the rea­son she did not knock on the neighbor’s door to ask for an egg to se­duce him.

Jim con­clud­ed he should call it a day and re­sume the spy ses­sion an­oth­er time. He not­ed he must bring gym shoes for the next spy ses­sion, as well as rice cakes and binoculars.

He put the car in gear and drove the short trip back home. When he walked in­side, she bare­ly looked away from the flat screen tele­vi­sion hang­ing on the wall to greet him. Still, he doubt­ed she could fo­cus on the show with all those sex­u­al fan­tasies about their neigh­bor play­ing over and over in her head.

Filed under Fiction on August 19th, 2011

Care to Share?

Consider posting a note of comment on this item:


Previous Post


Next Post


Join our Irregular Mailing List

For very occasional ramblings, word about new print ephemera, and of course exciting investment opportunities.