ELEVEN PERCENT - PHIL BELOIN JR.
I was maneuvering towards the bar in my living room, when I ran into Larry, my dipso editor. He told me about a statistic that would be appearing in tomorrow’s newspaper—eleven percent of married people admitted to having an affair.
“How would they know that?” I said.
Larry kicked back some of my free bourbon. “Huh?” he replied. “Oh, pollsters, I guess.”
Yeah, like I’d admit that for a poll.
My eyes wandered the room until they found Beth commingling with her university troupe. My wife looked ravishing in her dandy dress and coiled coif.
“My marriage is falling apart,” I said.
Larry pretended not to hear me over the jazz wafting from the speakers and the partygoer’s jibber jabber. “Great party, Mike.”
We were having the shindig catered. Money had never been a problem for Beth and I; she being a tenured professor of American Lit while I had been a scribe at the local newspaper. Words had been our bond. Beth had never wanted any surnamed piglets—instead we focused on our careers and the accumulation of the trivialities and look at us shine in our Victorian manse filled with Victorian antiquities and guests I couldn’t stand.
They were mostly Beth’s crowd, teachers and teachers’ aids, a few grad students studying to be teachers or teachers’ aids. I had invited a few newspaper colleagues but most—like Larry—were getting sour on Kentucky’s finest.
“I still love her, Larry,” I said.
My editor was giving the watery mix in the bottom of his glass the last full measure of his devotion.
“I’ve had urges,” I said. “Many times.”
Larry’s head snapped up. “Where, Mike?”
Beth stood in the center of her co-workers, her mouth moving, her arms pantomiming. When she laughed, her circle did. Those intellectual types were quite a crowd—I never saw a finer group of suck-ups.
“I think I’m finished with the paper,” I said.
Larry swallowed the rest of his drink. “This is excellent bourbon, Mike,” he said. “Really top shelf stuff.”
Larry had me covering humanity’s dregs—their flawed emotions destroyed countless lives. There was no transcendence in tragedy—just something that would fill three columns—keep it around six hundred words. I ingested a deluge of carnage, and it jaded me. Beth knew so.
Perhaps I should have perused all those great tomes in my honey’s barrister bookcases. Maybe the answers to my bitterness were buried within all those yellowing and moldy pages. But fuck it, right?
I do know this: my first temptation at a renewed spirit was within arm’s reach. She worked as an intern at the paper: a strawberry blonde whose hair was more golden than red. Her eyes sparkled with naivety, and her dopey smile wiped away the filth I wrote about each day.
“I believe the game’s up, Larry,” I said.
“Who’d you pick to win?”
My eyes turned towards Beth and her sycophants again. I don’t think my wife knew about that eleven percent statistic. I don’t think she knew that I had covered an arson fire last week either—she never read my work anymore. The smoke had drifted over a motel where I saw my dazzling spouse and one of her grad students leaving a room together. While I had been tempted, all I ever did was fantasize.
I remained true, Beth.
After the party, when the revelers have reveled away, Beth will want to make love to hide her indiscretion. I will make love for another reason.
I wondered if those pollsters had figured out the percentage of cuckolds who will resort to homicide.
BIO: Check out Phil Beloin’s first novel, The Big Bad, on Amazon. Search through the book. Read a page. Phil recommends page one.