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Because fiction authors just do it better!     

©2121 Lake Street

by author E. Motketsan

(Contains some adult language)

Paul was standing in the bedroom, dressed in his navy blue, pinstriped suit, taking one last look around the house they had made a home for the last twenty-five years. His daughter had married two years ago and moved to Dallas with her new husband. His son was in his last year of college at USC. For the last few years it had been him and Linda, just as they started. But it was different now. Life had worn down the dreams they once had when they were younger. The steady flow of arguments over money, kids, in-laws, chores, careers, and domestic duties had seemed to wipe away the romance they once had. He looked in the mirror and saw the reflection, not of the young dreamer he used to be, but that of an older, beaten down man. He straightened his tie and picked up his car keys from the dresser as he walked out of the bedroom.

In the kitchen, he poured a cup of coffee and carried it over to the table where he sat down and spooned in sugar and poured in a little crŤme. He looked across at the empty seats and thought about how many dinners they had sitting here at this table, telling stories of the day, arguing over who spent the most money that month, or laughing at the things they used to do when they were younger. After he finished his coffee and put the empty cup into the sink, he went out to his car and started toward the inevitable. He never thought it would come to this. He thought they were different, that they would be the ones to make it. They had always been strong and made it through the hard times but now, that things were getting easier Ė somehow, they let it slip away. Was that the reason why they had made it before? Because they were too busy fighting life they didnít have time to worry about anything else?

Paul pulled into the office building parking lot and parked his car. He sat there for a moment not wanting to get out. Trying to prolong the last day of what had been his whole life. Everything was falling down around him and this would be the final act of his lifeís play. I will not let her bait me into our typical arguments, he thought. Iím going out in style and I will maintain my composure and dignity. Iím not going out screaming and bickering. He straightened his tie again using the rearview mirror and opened the car door. Walking toward the building, he read the firmís name on the glass doors, "Law Offices of Parker, Steinman, and Drake." He pulled open the door and stepped inside. Slowly ascending the two flights of stairs, he entered the second floor where he moved to the receptionistís desk.

"Iím Paul Johnston."

"Yes, follow me please," the receptionist said and lead him to the conference room where she pulled the door open for him.

"Thank you," he said and went into the room.

Linda and her lawyer were sitting at the conference room table and as Paul entered, he stood up.

"Mr. Johnston, Iím Mark Steinman."

"Hello." Paul looked at Linda and nodded. "Hi, Linda."

"Hello, Paul," she replied looking at him resentfully. Her voice quivered a bit from anger and sorrow.

Mark sat down next to Linda, and across from them Paul took his seat. He looked at her as she stared out the window wearing her yellow sundress with the green pokadots. She still looked beautiful to him Ė she always managed to bring out the best in him, and the worst. At times, it was all he could do to not reach out and strangle her. She knew all the right buttons to push and could slice out chunks of his soul whenever she wanted. She was the only person who could make him that angry. Normally, he was a very calm individual who could stand his ground and intelligently argue his position. But with Linda, when they got into an argument, intelligence was never entered into the equation. It was whoever could scream the loudest, hurt their opponent the worst, and leave the match with the least amount of injury.

"Is your attorney running late?" Mark asked looking at his watch.

"I didnít want an attorney Ė I believe I can handle this myself," he said.

Markís face lit up and he smacked his lips as if he could taste blood in the water. The glow of confidence and self assurance came over him as if some crystal ball had just showed him the outcome of the game before it even had started.

"Fine, letís get started then," he said and opened the folder that lay on the table before him. "Weíll start with monetary assets that you currently hold. First, there are the two savings accounts in both your names: one at the State Savings Bank with $7,250.34 and the second at Prospect Bank with $3,450.68. You have $88,000 in your 401K plan, and about $12,000 in various stock portfolios. Thatís $110,701.02 in cash assets."

"The 401K is not liquid. If you pull the money out before retirement age, there is a withdrawal penalty and you have to pay taxes as unearned income," Paul said.

"Yes Ė well, you have the choice of liquidating it now and splitting the remainder after penalties and taxes or you may keep the cash in the plan and pay out half of what itís worth to Linda now," Mark said looking up from the documents.

"I donít have $44,000 sitting around somewhere in a sock drawer. And after today, everything will be split up."

"Then you will just have to cash out, take the penalties and taxes out of the earnings, and split what is left," Mark said without emotion.

There goes his retirement money, Paul thought. Everything they worked for over the years being divided up like some garage sale of their lives. What a waste. How could she just throw everything away and not even care? He wondered.

"There is also the matter of alimony. Linda has not worked most of the marriage and she has not developed any skills in which she could maintain an income that she is accustomed. We think that twenty-five percent of your salary is a fair amount for alimony," Mark said and looked up at Paul.

"Oh you think twenty-five percent is fair do you?" Paul stood up and went to the window. He could feel his face turning red with anger as he dug his fingers into the palms of his hands. "I think its extortion! How am I suppose to start over, pay off all the debt, give up half of my possessions, and then give up twenty-five percent of my salary? What Ė while she sits on her ass and collects everything as I keep working. I donít think so Ė youíll have to get a job just like everyone else," he said turning from the window and facing Linda.

"You son-of-a-bitch! You know I stayed home taking care of your kids, the house, washing your clothes, making your meals, while you just sat on your ass and did nothing! Now at forty-seven years old you want me to go find a job? Doing what Ė waitress? I donít think so. We agreed that youíd have the career and I would stay home and take care of the house and kids, so now you can just open up you wallet and pay up!" Linda said glaring at him.

"And just how long do you think I should pay this alimony?" he asked.

"Until Linda either remarries or you retire and you are both on Social Security," Mark stated.

"No way Ė the only way I would agree to alimony is for four years. Thatís enough time for Linda to get a degree and start a career of her own. After four years, whether she has obtained a degree or not Ė it stops," Paul said.

"Iím suppose to go to school now? To do what?" Linda bellowed out.

"Thatís the deal, take it or leave it," he said and turned his back to her looking out the window again.

Linda looked at Mark and he shook his head in agreement. "That sounds fair," he said.

"Fine," she said with disapproval.

"There is also the matter of your writing," Mark began.

"My writing? What does that have to do with anything?" he asked.

"Since you wrote the novels during the marriage, if there are any monies to be made from the books, Linda gets half."

"You never supported me with my creative writing and said I was wasting my time. So forget it. If I make anything with my writing itís mine," Paul said. He could just feel the anger burning in his chest and wanted to throw something right out that fucking window. His first thought was Linda and then he decided he would settle on the lawyer.

"When I was slaving away in the house doing your laundry, making your meals, caring for your kids, and cleaning your house, all you did was sit on your lazy, bony ass and write your little fantasies. If you make anything on them itís as much mine as it is yours. I had to give up my dreams and make sacrifices Ė what makes you so special? If I didnít do everything all the time youíd never of had the time to write your little dream works," she said.

"Lazy? Lazy? You pompous Ö you were always worrying about yourself. Whatís for Linda, what else can Linda buy, where can Linda go shopping today, Linda, Linda, Linda! Why donít you wake up and taste the real world? I may write fantasy, but you live it! You never worked or had to struggle in the real world. You were always well protected in your nice little yuppie house, with your yuppie SUV, your yuppie friends, and your yuppie hairdresser. Iím the one who had to get out everyday, year after year and put up with the traffic, the bosses, the politics, and try to support an unappreciative family who only worried about what else they could buy." Paul went back to the table and sat down.

"You miserable bastard! Youíre just like your bitch mother, always blaming everybody else!"

"This isnít accomplishing anything for anyone," Mark said trying to get back to business. "Why donít we just take a moment to settle down."

Linda continued as if she didnít hear a word Mark said.

"And what about me? I always wanted to have my own designer business. I had talent, too. You think I dreamed about being a glorified maid? No! But there was never any time for me to have two seconds to myself to work on my clothes and artwork. I was too busy making sure everyone else was taken care of. I worked nights and weekends so you could finish getting your degree and start your career. But when it came time for me to start my dreams, there was never any help from you. I was the wife, the mother, the short-order cook, the maid, and the homemaker! Well, big whoopy! You never lifted a finger to help me around the house; it was always left to me. You never wanted to do any maintenance on a house. If it werenít for me youíd have lived in a shithole! The house would have caved in around your ears! You have to be the laziest man I know. Other men take care of their homes. They mow the lawn regularly, paint the outside of the house, trim the bushes, and keep up with it so it doesnít look like it was abandoned. But no, not you. You were too busy writing novels or playing the piano or whatever useless hobby you decided to take up. Anything to get out of a little work."

"You are so full of shit! I took care of the house when it needed it. I did the yard work and maintained the place as things broke down. No, I didnít want to spend my entire life working my ass off at work only to come home and work my ass off making sure my yard was as good as the fucking yuppie neighbors. So fucking what! So why donít you stand me up outside and shoot me for not trimming my fucking bushes every week. I think life is more than keeping up with the damn Jones!"

"Oh thatís right Ė Mr. Creative man. The man with all these great ideas." Linda laughed a devious and cynical laugh. "Name one idea you had that amounted to anything. Well, come on, name one."

"At least I tried to make life a little better by trying to be innovative," he replied.

"Innovative, you hear that, Mark? Innovative. His idea of innovation is figuring out ways to get out of work. Yeah, that takes a lot of talent. You should get a patent for that."

Paul was about to spew out a rebuttal, but then stopped. I said I wasnít going to let her get to me this time, he thought. And here we are right back where we always ended up. He reached into his pocket and took out a pack of cigarettes. He looked over at Mark. "Do you mind?"

"No, can you just open the window?" he said.

"When did you start smoking again?" Linda asked.

"Since I married you," he replied and walked to the window and lit a cigarette.

The room was quiet for a moment. Paul looked out the window and stared at the line of black clouds that was moving in. The sky was turning dark and he could see lightening striking across it off in the distance. Linda poured herself a glass of water and took a sip.

"Why donít we move on to the two vehicles," Mark said looking through his folder.

"What about them? She can keep hers and Iíll keep mine. She has the newer one, so Iím sure that wonít be a problem," he smirked.

"Fine with me," she said.

"Okay, moving right along then," Mark lifted up another sheet of paper. "The contents of the house Ė itís estimated to be somewhere around $65,000 with the bulk of it being the $10,000 piano."

"I want the piano and my computer system. I donít give a shit about anything else," Paul said.

"Big surprise there Ė you never gave a shit about anything else," she said.

"Okay, that just leaves the house," Mark said and looked up at Paul.

Paul finished his cigarette and tossed the butt out the window, then sat back down at the table. "Weíll have to sell it, pay off the mortgage, and split whatís left," he said looking at Linda.

"Just like that. Sell it off Ė like it was last yearís trash," she said. "After all the struggling, all the blood, sweat, and tears that I put into it and all you can say is to sell it off."

"We canít keep it. We barely made it living there together, how do you propose to keep it if we split up?"

"You never liked it anyway. You never could stand living in a nice neighborhood where people cared about how they lived."

"Yeah, right, a bunch of anal retentive assholes whose only concern in the world was how green their grass was and how shiny their SUVs were. Totally genuine people," he said as he rolled his eyes.

"Well, it was better than living where you wanted to live. Do you know what he wanted to do, Mark?"

"I really donít think thatís Ö" Mark began.

Linda lifted up her hand and directed it at Paul as she ran over Mark's words before he could finish. "He wanted to move me into an old dilapidated farmhouse with ten acres of weeds surrounding it. Can you imagine? He couldnít take care of a little two-lot yard, how do you think he would have taken care of fifteen acres, not to mention a thousand year-old farmhouse," she said staring at him.

Rain began to sound against the large windows and Paul got up and stood by them. He looked out at the rain hitting the streets, making small puddles.

"Actually, my favorite place was 2121 Lake Street," he said.

Linda's expression changed and the anger that had been in her eyes softened to a look of genuine surprise. "You still remember the address?"

Paul turned to face her; his mouth turned a slight grin. "I loved that little apartment. I made our furniture out of some cheap wood I got from the lumberyard. You designed and made curtains out of those old drapes we got from your mother. The place cleaned up real nice."

"I didnít think you even remembered, it was such a long time ago."

"We were poor, we were young Ė we had the whole world ahead of us. And here we are now, with the whole world behind us."

Paul stared blindly at the table and remembered back to when they first met. They had both been at a party thrown by friends of Lindaís. He had gone there with one of his friends from college. When he saw her, he couldnít keep his eyes off her. She was beautiful, smart, outgoing, and seemed to be the essence of what life was supposed to be. After a couple of hours of listening to the conversation of some soon-to-be PhDís, he walked up to her and asked her if she wanted to go out and listen to the rain. He had never met anyone who had such compassion and exuberance for life. She could capture the attention of a crowd with her passion and keep them longing for more with her intellect.

"I believe it would be best to sell the house and after the mortgage is settled at the closing, split the profit," Mark said, wanting to get back to the business at hand.

Paul looked at Linda and saw her eyes had tears in them, but still were so beautiful. How did it come to this? Why did it have to come this? He thought.

"Would you like to go listen to the rain?" he asked.

Linda looked at him with a surprised look, then smiled, and began to stand. Paul pulled out her chair and they stared at each other for a moment, then started toward the door. He opened it for her and followed her out, closing the door behind them. Mark, still sitting at the table, put the papers into the folder and closed it. He stood up, and carrying the folder under his arm, walked to the window to gaze out. Below in the street, he saw the two of them standing in the rain, locked in each otherís arms. He smiled slightly and then moved toward the door. After opening it, he turned out the light and as he walked through the doorway, tossed the folder into the trashcan.

 


 

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