by

John Burnham

This piece was written in response to our writing group’s assignment to begin with the prompt “It started out like any other day until the postman delivered that letter.”

It starts out like any other day until the postman delivers that letter. My hands begin to shake as I read the top line of the return address: Andrea Foresyth. Andrea is the lady I see on business trips to Memphis. I tear the letter open. It reads: “Dear Asshole, Check into the Regina Sheraton on July 10. Text me with your room number. Candace Smith and I will meet you there at 11:00 on July 11. Be there or the sky will fall.” I begin to sweat. Candice is the lady I see on business trips to Vancouver.

I tear the letter into itsy-bitsy pieces and burn them in the ashtray. Then, I pour myself a stiff rye and settle into my La-Z-Boy.

As the liquor hits bottom, I begin to relax. After a few more minutes, I’m calm and rational. Anticipation begins to grow. It always works this way: I panic slightly at being discovered, but the shock becomes titillation as I plan my escape.

I wonder how Andrea and Candice found out about each other. But that’s no matter. I also wonder if my wife knows. Come to think of it, she’s been a bit cool of late. But that’s no matter either. I’ll stay calm and watch things work out.

***

On the tenth, my wife has my bag packed and sitting by the door when the cab arrives. When I kiss her goodbye, she doesn’t kiss back. Does she close the door with an air of finality? No matter, I’ll buy her a bauble in Regina. That’ll help patch things up when I return.

***

In Regina, I’m puzzled to find that there is only one change of clothes in the bag. I’d said I’d be gone three or four days. I’d at least need a clean shirt for each day. Maybe this her way of saying she’s pissed. No matter. Tomorrow should be enough to pacify Andrea and Candice.

The secret to getting out of trouble with women is to listen. Don’t offer excuses. Just listen closely to what they are saying. Eventually, they will tell you what they want you to say. Then, you say it. I’ve never had to go through this exercise with two women at the same time, but I must confess that I’m excited to hear what I say and then to watch their mad dissipate.

***

On the morning of the eleventh, I’m up early. After a shower, a close shave, a light dash of Bruit, and some gel on the hair, I dress and dash down to the restaurant for coffee and a croissant. The buffet looks good, but I want nothing heavy—I need to stay sharp. In the lobby, I pick up a spray of flowers and a vase.

Back in my room, I put the flowers on display. A girlie touch often defuses feminine anger.

I shine my shoes, comb the hold out of my hair, put on the fresh shirt, and sit down to wait for eleven.

***

At precisely eleven, there is a knock on the door. I open it with a flourish. Andrea and Candice stand there—each looking like a million bucks, tax free.

I usher them in, offer them seats, and ask if they’d like anything to drink.

“No thanks.” answers Candice, “We’ve ordered lunch from room service.”

“But, at this point,” says Andrea, “we have a little surprise for you.”

As if on cue, the door opens and my wife walks in. Well, this is interesting. This is the first time this particular wife has mentioned my philandering. And it is the first time a girlfriend has faced me with it. I have no doubt that I’m equal to the situation, but the performance will be a tour de force. I bring another chair from the adjacent room.

As I’m seating my wife—gallant sort that I am—there is a knock on the door and a voice says “Room service.” I open the door to admit a guy in a chef’s hat and white clothes pushing a large cart. Without a word, he sets up a folding table, spreads gleaming white linen and adorns it with eggs Benedict and a pot of fresh coffee. As I tip him, the necessity grabs me and I excuse myself. I know this urinary urgency thing hits most men my age, but why does it happen every time I see food?

When I return, the girls are chatting amiably. This isn’t a good sign. I’m sure “divide and conquer” applies here. As I sit, all three smile politely at me. I notice somebody has poured my coffee and creamed it. As I take my chair, my wife says. “Don’t say anything. Sit down and enjoy your breakfast.”

This is good. It gives me time to evaluate. A few remarks pass between the girls as we consume delicious eggs Bennie. The coffee is somewhat bitter, but a great blend. And, the cream is real—not some kind of chemical cow. I keep an eye on the girls’ cups and pour a refill as each gets low. As I refill Andrea’s cup, I feel light-headed and spill some coffee on the table. “Sorry,” I exclaim as I set the pot down.

She smiles. “That’s ok. Sit back and relax. We have something to show you.”

Again, as if on cue, all three reach into their purses, take out pieces of paper, and pass them to me. They are airplane tickets. “What—” I begin.

“Read them,” my wife commands.

The top one reads, “Vancouver to Regina for Kathy Sneider.” I don’t know anyone by that name. The next one says, “Memphis to Regina for Grace Edwards.” That name doesn‘t ring a bell, but the point of origin does. The last one clinches it: Edmonton to Regina for Sharon Wilcox. They all bought tickets under assumed names.

I look up. Each woman wears a malevolent grin—such as I’ve never seen. I realize that nobody knows these women are here. My head pounds. The bitter coffee—arsenic? The room swims. The lights go out.

—end—

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