Look the Lie

Look the lie

Every night, I watch Joe when I’m supposed to be doing the crossword. He manages the money. He knows. He checks our bank accounts  and does the math. He knows I’m rarely home during the day, and we both know what it means for our future.

Yesterday, he looked up from the computer and said, “Tell me about him, Christie.”

He wasn’t accusing; he wasn’t demanding.  His voice was tinged with sorrow, as if discussing a death.

“Well, you know. He’s young,” I began. I knew the conversation was coming when I took three hundred dollars out of the ATM machine day before yesterday. I braced myself, rehearsed my lines. But I expected Joe to be furious. I thought I could match him anger for anger and lash back saying see what you’ve driven me to? The sorrow though, dried my voice in my throat.

“Is he good in bed?”

“He’s alright. Not as good as you. Just, you know, different.”

“Different,” Joe said. And I thought he might ask Different how? But he didn’t say anything else, just went back to the computer, back to the accounts. Later, he drew me into his arms and said, “I’m glad he isn’t as good as me,” which made it that much worse.

Of course, there is no other man, and Joe knows that. He knew it last night when he asked, and he knew it when I lied. Maybe he thought he could leave me, as long as there was somebody else. Maybe I thought it, too.

At the tables, they call me Mrs. Stone, scoot in my chair, offer me drinks. At the end of the day, they bring my car from the garage. I tip well. I’m not their highest roller, but when I’m there, it’s like the world narrows down to the money and me, to the slots or the chips on the table. My heart throbs and my breath comes fast and heavy. I can feel my own flesh more closely, pressing down in my seat or stool and at the same time floating away with the numbers. I’ll blow my wad for the pleasure of losing it, then come back and do it again, sometimes the same afternoon. It’s nothing at all like making love, and that much at least is true. It isn’t as good as Joe, just different.

Now, I’m watching him at the computer again, knowing that he is watching me as well. He whistles low; I’ve withdrawn some nine hundred dollars from my savings, and not from ATMs, either. There’s a limit to how much one of those will give me. But if I walk up to the counter with the passbook and my ID, the teller would close out the account if I asked.

I want Joe to confront me; I want it out in the open, not tied up in lies and anticipation. But he doesn’t say anything at all. He just goes on with the computer, and I go on with my crossword, as if the biggest lie of our marriage isn’t sitting beside me in my open purse.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Steffani challenged me with “Write about the biggest lie you’ve ever told. (Can be fiction or non-fiction)” and I challenged Tara Roberts with “You have less than two dollars and no access to more money. Begging is illegal and the police are vigilant. How do you get food?”


30 thoughts on “Look the Lie

  1. awesome

    gritty and real (are you looking over my shoulder at my test paper?)….you know I like this style. She covers one lie with another in hopes of making him the bad guy. That’s how bad relationships work. This is excellent writing.

  2. “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
    I’d say you were closing the gap fast with the gentleman who wrote this short story. All elements in play, very few words. Very nice work!

    • This one is actually longer than the last couple — I’ve NEVER done the short-shorts well until now, even though I took a Flash Fiction course in grad school. I’m really enjoying how this plays out.

    • Thanks Gina! I seem to be writing about a lot of couples in trouble, so I should note somewhere (and here seems as good a place as any) that Scott is my chief supporter and proofreader! I have zero idea how I wound up in this awesome stable relationship when what I really understand is the ones falling apart.

    • I’m glad that worked! I had a hard time crafting it so it was … deliberately confusing rather than completely baffling to the reader. It’s a style I’m trying to experiment with. Thanks for reading and letting me know.

  3. This was a great read. The anticipation of finding out what was going on was nicely drawn out then you laid it all out there. The discomfort and waiting for this whole issue to blow wide open for these two was pretty excruciating! Interesting how accurate this is about couples avoiding the elephant in the room.

    • Thanks Liz! It’s kind of what I said to Gina. I understand relationships in distress so much better than those on solid ground. Which makes it unbelievably weird that, although Scott and I squabble and disagree on stuff, we are a loving couple who may just make it to forever together.

  4. Oh, you’re good! And it you make it seem so easy, like it just trips off your fingers! Hehe. The quiet tension that you build in so few words is exquisite! (I’ll try and make up for my profusion of praise next time with a solid concrit). 😉

    • Thanks Andra,

      I’m really glad you’re enjoying these. Yours is one of the blogs that I follow religiously, and knowing that you put both fiction and nonficiton out there has encouraged me to do the same.

  5. It’s so sad how neither of them will face the truth. I wonder how long such an arrangement can go on until it blows up in both of their faces?

    Very well done

    • It’s amazing how long some people do. I’ve always been a “LOOK, THERE’s AN ELEPHANT IN THE LIVING ROOM PEOPLE, LET’S TAKE ACTION HERE” sort. But I know lots of folks think denial is just a river in Egypt.

    • It’s fascinating how we all live in our own little bubbles of existence. We think we share that space with others, but really, in the end, we’re all that’s in there after all. When a marriage is eroding, I think that’s one of the times that the stark outlines of the bubbles become visible.

For the love of Mike, TALK to me! (Concrit welcome on fiction)

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