Strange how some things work out. In Kennebunkport, Maine, eating a roast beef and Swiss sandwich, drinking a Heineken and hand feeding my dog Henry pieces of meat and cheese, I was on the phone with my ex-wife Debby in San Antonio, Texas. Listening mainly, I kept telling her, when the opportunity presented itself, how sorry I was.
She said, “Thank you, Baby.” She sniffled. “God you’re sweet and wonderful.”
Going into the tragic details of the death of her favorite horse, I could see her face and remember how she’d light up when Pancho in the pasture would see her and immediately trot over to the fence. I liked that horse especially well. He and Henry got along like brothers. As I looked at Henry and thought of him dying, I began to register and feel the impact of her sad and sudden loneliness.
“Tommy, I wish you were here.”
I said, “Me too, kiddo,” and meant it. Inconsolable, she started crying again.
Just then, a current girlfriend Esther Avalon, back from the beauty salon, stormed through my front door. Standing in the hallway she stomped her foot. Fists clenched, body shaking, she demanded, “Look at me. Look! I wanted to try something new but look what he did to me.”
From where I sat, it looked like she’d pitched off a ladder with two cans of paint.
Hands on hips she said, “Are you going to get off the phone?”
Wanting to laugh, I nodded. What usually passed for a cute little blond hairdo had somehow turned into what resembled a run over raccoon which had taken its last refuge on her head. Chopped and wet, with twisty streaks of orange and grey, she might have had the whole thing done by Ray Charles finishing his second fifth of Wild Turkey. I smiled.
Throwing her car keys, she missed my head by inches. Marching across the living room she confronted me. With a vicious case of the hiccups, murder in her eyes and a boat load of white wine on her breath she screamed, “Do you see this?” Holding my hand over the phone I nodded.
On the verge of passing out or killing someone, she said “And HE won’t be able to fix it until tomorrow because his fucking boyfriend’s SISTER’S getting married this afternoon.” She stopped, shook her head, got a wicked gleam in her eye and said softly, “And he has to do the bride and all the bridesmaids. Now what do you think about that?”
What could I say?
She tried swallowing. Breathing hard she said, “I’m so– I’m so Goddamned mad I could spit. Who are you talking to?”
Into the phone I said, “Can I call you back, there seems to have been an accident.”
Debby on the other end quit weeping long enough to say, “What accident? What’s going on?”
I asked her to hold on a second. Covering the phone I said to Esther, “Would you give me a minute here?”
Esther frowned. “Who is it?”
“Debby, she’s having a bad day.”
Esther dropped her clenched fists, looked at the ceiling and walked around in a small circle twice. “Debby?”
Henry didn’t like loud noises and he was scuttling out of the living room when she aimed a dirty look his way. Getting up, I moved into the kitchen. Henry, already there, was hiding under the table.
Esther followed me.
Hands on hips she opened her arms as if addressing a crowd. “Dear, dear, Debby’s having a bad day? Oh my and now what are we going to do?”
“Her horse died.”
“Ha!” Esther turned up the volume. “Debby’s horse?” Slamming the refrigerator with her fist, she tore off a picture under a magnet. It was a photo of Henry and me at the beach. Debby had taken it years ago. Holding it for me to see she ripped it in pieces, threw it all into the air and let them flutter to the floor.
I said, “You didn’t have to do that.”
She screeched, “DEBBY? I don’t believe it; how long have you been on the phone?”
Debby’s faraway voice said, “What is going on?”
I said, “I’m sorry I’m going to have to call you back.”
Before I could hang up, Esther smiled and shouted at the phone, “Why don’t you invite him to Texas for the funeral?”
Holding up my hand and running out of patience I said, “Pancho was a beautiful horse, she had him all his life now shut up and sit down, thirty seconds and I’ll be off.”
“Fuck you, and fuck Debby. YOU can have all the time you want with your shit kicking, cowgirl ex-wife.”
I hung up and bad thoughts started humming through me.
Leaving the kitchen and pacing in the hall, looking for the right words she sputtered, “Selfish, unfeeling, son of a bitch, bastard, we are finished. Do you hear me? Debby? I don’t believe it. We’re done—done–over.”
Esther was right of course. Tearing out of the house, she came back in the kitchen, grabbed the vase of Valentine flowers and threw it against the wall where it exploded.
Drooling, eyes on fire, she retrieved her car keys from the living room and slammed the door behind her. I wasn’t sorry to see her leave.
Unfortunately, two and a half miles later she missed a turn and plowed into an oak tree that never budged. Police guessed she was doing somewhere over a hundred miles an hour.
There was no need for the hairdresser who screwed it up the first time to fix it. After the funeral and well meaning condolences, I ate one canapé and drank half a glass of champagne at the reception at St. Ann’s. I politely declined the invitation for continued drinking and bereavement scheduled to take place immediately afterward at her parent’s fancy house in Kennebunk overlooking the water.
The next day I packed a medium sized suitcase and closed up the house. With Henry and his food, and his food and water dish stashed in the Jeep, I fixed up the passenger seat with blankets and headed for California. I was sorry about what happened to Esther and how it occurred. During the 4600 mile drive to San Francisco, via San Antonio, I figured I’d have plenty of time to think it through.
Henry loves to ride in the passenger seat with his head out the window and when he gets tired of that he sleeps and listens to me sing. My rear bumper sticker reads: Dog is my Co-pilot.
George Eyre Masters spent his early years in Lima, Peru, served with the Marine Corps in Vietnam and later attended Georgetown University. He has recently written the crime novel “Trouble Breathing” and is looking for a publisher. More of his work may be found online and at www.georgeeyremasters.net