(Ed. note: Loosely based on a true story.)
Mrs. Cobb stood in the classroom doorway during recess watching her flock. Two of her colleagues stood by an adjacent classroom talking, their voices deliberately hushed. Mrs. Cobb paid no attention to them, nor did she take their two-way chatter as a slight. She focused her attention on little Gary, playing with some of the girls again in the sandbox. The other boys rode around on the metal tricycles with the red-painted frames and black rubber tires on silver rims. They also played with red rubber balls. Gary rarely played with them. He usually sat alone or with some of the girls in the sandbox. Mrs. Cobb was very concerned about his behavior. She walked to her colleagues. Their eyes averted hers and their voices continued speaking only for each other. Eventually, though, as Mrs. Cobb lingered close to them with a ‘ahem’ smile embedded on her face, they had no choice but to acknowledge her. Mrs. Bierson spoke first.
“How are you today, Mrs. Cobb?”
“I’m doing fine, praise the Lord.”
The first L-bomb fell quickly and stifled the natural flow of chatter between Mrs. Bierson and Mrs. Songs. Both engaged defenses that raised walls between the three women. It wasn’t that they were not religious. But as with nearly all of Mrs. Cobb’s colleagues and friends outside of church, they found the frequent invocations of the Lord Jesus or God during casual conversations very tedious. They believed, as did most of Mrs. Cobb’s friends and acquaintances, that a once a week visit to their religious leader sufficed and anything more than that amounted to overkill. They knew that the Lord watched over them 24/7 and did not desire constant reminders of that fact.
“I’m just watching over our charges,” Mrs. Cobb said. “They seem to be having a good time.”
“Yes, they are,” Mrs. Songs said. “It’s certainly a nice day to be outside. Not as warm as it has been these past few days.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Bierson agreed.
“It has cooled off some, praise Jesus.”
“Well, you know,” Mrs. Cobb started, “I’m just watching little Gary over there.”
“Which one is Gary?” Mrs. Bierson asked.
“The little boy playing in the sandbox, with the girls.”
“Oh yes, Mrs. Richards’ little boy. He’s always so sweet.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Songs agreed. “He’s a very polite little man. Not like some of the other boys we have here.”
“That’s what concerns me,” Mrs. Cobb said.
The two other teachers looked at her. “What do you mean, Mrs. Cobb?” Mrs. Songs said. “Does he act out in class?”
“Oh dear me, no. No, he behaves well in class and out. But he doesn’t associate much with the boys. He’s usually with the girls, or by himself.”
“Well, maybe he’s a little lady’s man already.” She giggled. “They seem to start younger and younger these days.”
“Praise Jesus, I hope that’s all it is.”
Mrs. Bierson couldn’t take it anymore and openly rolled her eyes. Mrs. Songs maintained composure. “Mrs. Cobb, he’s just a boy, a young boy,” she said.
“Temptation knows no age limit,” she said. She walked back to her classroom and went inside.
“That woman needs therapy!” Mrs. Bierson said.
“She’s still suffering,” Mrs. Songs said.
“It’s been over a year. You think she’d get over it, and not involve everyone in the damn universe.” Mrs. Bierson walked into her classroom. Mrs. Songs stood for a moment longer and looked at the kids in the sandbox, before turning and walking into her classroom. The bell would sound soon to end recess.
Lorraine Cobb walked into the bedroom and caught Frank Cobb in the act, on his knees about to give service to the man standing in front of him naked from the waist down. The couple locked eyes while the half-naked man’s eyes darted from one uncomfortable corner to another.
Somehow Frank didn’t hear the front door. Nor did he hear the smack of items set down on the kitchen counter. Nor did he hear the rattling of keys hung on their hook. He missed all of the sounds he counted on to provide an early warning system. Though one could argue that such inattentiveness meant that he actually wanted to be caught, he blamed his lapse on complacency. It was the middle of the day and he thought several hours yet separated him from Lorraine. This thought overwhelmed all others and informed his first words to her, ill chosen though they may have been.
“You’re home early,” he said, still on his knees, the man’s crotch nearly touching the back of his head.
“What the hell is this?” she shouted. “What this hell is this, Frank? Well? What is this? What the hell is this! What the hell is this, Frank! What the hell is this! Frank! Frank! What the hell is this!”
The man struggled to pull up his drawers and pants. He wished he hadn’t worn 501s.
“What the hell is this!” she screamed at the top of her voice repeatedly.
Frank stood up.
“Now, baby, please. . .”
“No, Frank! No! NO! NO!”
“I better go,” the man said, trying to squeeze past Mrs. Cobb.
“Get out of here! Get out! Get out!”
She began throwing things at him, whatever came quickest to hand. Shoes. Framed pictures from the wall. A container of Vaseline on the dresser. She followed him as she threw the items, screaming in a shrill voice. “Get out! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!” The man flew out the front door as a vase hurdled towards him, smashing against the doorframe.
“Lorraine, let me explain, alright?” Frank started.
“No, Frank, no! You get out, too. Just get out! GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE!”
Frank wasted no time is slipping on shoes and following his paramour out of the house.
Lorraine collapsed on the floor and sobbed loudly. She had spent their whole marriage constructing walls of denial. Only in sleep did truth win out. Dreams drilled fissures in her denial, revealing hard-bodied shadows capturing her husband’s attention, while she remained invisible to him. She screamed and shouted at him, but found she had no voice. Often she awoke gasping for air. These visions always appeared opaque – it was almost like looking at the world through a fish-eyed lens. However, the location for these rendezvous seemed to be some dark, seedy, musty hole-in-the-wall, a place which seemed better suited to rats than humans. They certainly never looked like her bright, airy bedroom, where the vision finally materialized in vivid colors and sharp focus. That made it all the worse. In their bedroom, it had to happen in their bedroom. Now that space had been permanently defied. It was more than she could bear.
She rushed back into the room and started packing things. She balled up clothes into wadded piles and stuffed them into a suitcase, until it was loaded. Then she went through the closet for another suitcase and started the process anew. She wanted nothing more to do with that house. She hauled her suitcases to the car and threw them in the truck. Then she fumbled with the keys as she tried to get inside.
“What are you all staring at?” she shouted at her neighbors. The first shouts had brought them outside. Then the two men running out brought them closer to her door. She eventually found the right key and got into her car. She fired the engine and roared in reverse out of the driveway. Neighbors had to dodge to miss her. She put it in drive and floored it. She turned right, ignoring the stop sign completely, and she was gone. Her neighbors stood around giving each other looks and picking up the pieces.
The children filed back into the classroom. Mrs. Cobb stood at the door. She stared at Gary as he entered. He flashed a smile on his little face. They always smile like that, she thought. Steps needed to be taken, to ensure the child’s salvation, so that he, too, would not grow up to break some girl’s heart one day as he experimented with sin. She resolved right then and there to talk to Gary’s mother about it.
To be continued. . .
© 2012, gar. All rights reserved.