Marriage and Politics. By Martin Green.
The people in our suburban development have always been big on get-togethers. This one was a party at the Hendersons, with the usual crowd and the usual buzz of talk, about the sub-prime mortgage mess, about how much value our houses had lost, about how high gas prices could go. Despite all the downbeat chatter, I was feeling pretty good, probably because I'd had a few Manhattans, then I meandered into the kitchen to refresh my drink and saw my wife Kate kissing our recently widowed neighbor, Ted Gilroy. This presented a problem.
I'd just been offered a 'golden handshake' by my financial firm, which was cutting back thanks to the above-mentioned sub-prime mortgage mess. . It wasn't the millions that a CEO who'd just run his corporation into the ground would get, but I figured it was enough, with careful planning, for me to retire on, do some traveling, catch up on my reading and play a little golf. I didn't want to waste time on what might be a messy divorce. Then there were the kids to consider. They were all out of the house, at long last, but a divorce would, if nothing else, complicate their views of what their parents were about.
Kate was what I'd guess you'd call a 'liberal', if you were a die-hard conservative, a 'bleeding-heart liberal.' She was into all the right causes: keeping the earth green, reducing carbon emissions, saving the whales, stopping genocide in Darfur or wherever, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless and all the rest of it. Needless to say, she despised George W. Bush and couldn't wait until he was out of office. I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't her sympathy for such things as abused animals that led to her affair with Ted Gilroy. After Ted's wife died, he'd been something like a lost puppy. I knew that Kate had been going over to Ted's house, bringing the inevitable casseroles and trying to console him. I guess her consoling went as far as it could go.
* * *
The party next weekend was at the Maples. The same crowd was there as had been at the Hendersons the week before. I kept my eye on Kate and Ted Gilroy. They kept a discreet distance from each other, at least while they could be seen, but there was no mistaking the furtive glances between them. When we returned home, I decided it was time to launch my campaign.
It wasn't difficult to bring up the subject of high gas prices -- we'd talked about this at the party again -- and then I remarked, 'I don't know how Ted can afford to keep that big SUV of his filled up.'
'He has an SUV?'
'One of the biggest.'
'I suppose I hadn't noticed.'
'Yes. Well, It's not surprising. He's not exactly into the environment, you know. Before, uh, before he became a widower, he barbecued practically every weekend.'
'Yes. Well, I'm off to bed. Good night.'
'What? Oh... Good night.'
* * *
The next weekend there was no party, but it just happened that I played in a golf foursome with Ted Gilroy. Ted seemed a little surprised to see me at first but recovered nicely, although he was a few strokes off his usual game. After our round, I told him I'd buy him a drink and led him to a table in the clubhouse. I asked him how he was getting along since, well, you know. He said he was doing all right.
'Is Kate still bringing over casseroles?'
'No, not for a while. She was very kind.'
I thought Ted looked a little shame-faced. Well, he should. 'She's a kind person. If I let her, our house would be filled with stray animals. Of course, once she's nursed them back to health, she loses interest in them, takes them to the SPCA.'
'Yes. She's a real do-gooder. Thinks all those illegal aliens should be offered sanctuary. How do you feel about that?'
'Well, maybe some. It's a complicated issue.'
'What do you think about Iraq? Kate goes to a lot of those anti-war rallies. She wants all the troops to be pulled out right away.'
'Well, it hasn't been well-handled. But the surge seems to be working.'
'Really? She's all for Obama because he was always against the war. She thinks Hillary is fudging it.'
'Obama's awfully young. I don't know if he has the experience.'
'Maybe not. Who's Rush Limbaugh like?'
'Yes. As I recall, you listen to him, don't you?'
'Every now and then. I don't think he likes either Clinton or Obama.'
I finished my drink and told him I had to be going.
Back home, I told Kate I'd seen Ted Gilroy that morning. 'Oh, where?'
'We played golf together. He told me he's doing all right.'
'He told me he thinks the surge in Iraq is working.'
'Nope. Did you know he listens to Rush Limbaugh?'
'No, I don't believe it.'
'He told me he does. Well, I better take a shower.'
* * *
The next neighborhood party was, as I was careful to arrange, at our house. I also made sure that Ted Gilroy was invited. The conversation, as was inevitable, came around to all the financial problems the country was having, with food prices now going up as well as gas prices. 'But you don't have anything to worry about, do you, Ted?' I asked, looking directly at him.
'What do you mean?'
'I mean all that stock you have in Exxon and those other big oil companies.' My firm handled Ted's investment account and a little research had uncovered this.
'What, you actually own oil company stock?' said Kate.
'I may have some. I don't know. I probably bought it a long time ago.'
'So you're benefiting from the oil companies' ungodly profits?' .
'It's not my fault,' said Ted. 'Anyway, that's what companies try to do, make a profit. There's nothing wrong with that.'
'That's what Rush Limbaugh says,' I put in.
'And to think '..,' began Kate.
'What?' I asked.
'Nothing,' she said. 'Excuse me.' She left the room and ran up the stairs.
The party ended shortly after that. So, I surmised, did Kate's affair with Ted. At least, Kate no longer had to go out at night to see a friend or attend a meeting of one of her groups. I settled the details of my 'golden handshake' and officially retired. I showed Kate the brochures of the cruises I'd collected. 'What do you say?' I asked her. 'Let's get away for a while and see some other part of the world. We can take that cruise to Alaska before global warming melts all the glaciers.' Kate thought it was a good idea.
* * * *
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