HAPPILY THE LOCAL POLICE did not consider me a flight risk and so I was allowed to roam the hospital corridors freely. A late-night interrogation by Chief Zane had accomplished almost nothing except to strengthen my story—which I believed wholeheartedly–that I had acted erratically because I was somewhat drunk and, well, unbelievably hurt at what had unfolded just moments before Benjy came sprinting through the woods behind our house. Anyway, since I am the mayor’s wife and since I do have a certain following in the town—for example, Marty Zane was basically addicted to my brisket and potato pie, which his wife ordered at least once a month–it would be up to Benjy to press charges or not.
Ultimately I sought solace in the empty hospital chapel and took the opportunity, under the watchful eye of a huge marble Jesus on the cross, to check my cell phone, which I had stuffed in my apron pocket just before climbing into the ambulance. I learned, to no surprise, that I was right about Belle Grossman. Almost every message started with the words, “Belle called me,” so now half the town–the Jewish half–knew the ugly truth.
Sitting in the chapel, wondering if my son would ever forgive me, my phone rang. It was Carl, hiding at home from the few reporters lurking on our front lawn. His voice was muffled, as if he were speaking through a sock.
“What? Carl, is that you?”
“I am the shell of the man that was once Carl. Nice work, Marlene. Really, how could you?”
“How could I what? Shoot him?”
“Post that photo on the Internet!”
“You idiot, you think I did that? Benjy did it. I guess we should be happy that’s all he did, considering he knows everything about you and Pizza Boy.”
“Why on earth would he do such a thing?”
“Well, just off the top of my head I’d guess it was to prevent any shred of happiness we might ever have, to ruin my business and your political career, and to make us the laughingstock of Cove Harbor. What’s your take on it?” With that I burst into tears, adding, “And now, I’ve killed him! I’ll rot in hell forever, and why shouldn’t I?”
“Marlene, quit being so dramatic. He’s okay. I just called the hospital and they said that right after you left his room he woke up, drank half a Coke and then fell back to sleep. They say he will be fine, except he may limp. For a while.”
“A Coke? He never drinks Coke, that’s why at the age of eighteen he still does not have one cavity, thanks to me!”
“Marlene, he’s alive, who gives a shit if he has a Coke?
“You’re right, I guess one won’t hurt him.”
“No, I guess it won’t, not as much as getting shot by his own mother! Christ, Marlene, what were you doing? Are you totally out of your mind?”
“I guess I flipped out. Excuse me, but I had just seen that photo, and I went wild. I went over the edge.”
“How did you come to see the photo when you were busy making dinner for all of us?” I could hear him shredding bits of the newspaper, something he did when he was stressed out. He sounded crazed. I explained how during dinner, Ricardo, my catering sous-chef, had called and began sputtering wildly—his English isn’t great on a good day–about the Internet and pornography and the like, and told me to go look at a certain video on YouTube, and so I did, and it had been put there by Benjy, who also, in his video, besides displaying my photo, outed his father!
“He what? What do you mean, outed?”
“Well Carl, let’s just say that today many people, or as you call, them voters, now know you are not a heterosexual in the strictest sense of the word.”
“Oh great, things are just dandy all around, aren’t they? Do you remember that picture?”
“Oh, so what? So people see my breasts, big deal. Like every woman doesn’t have two of them, except those poor women with cancer, you know, mastectomies, of course. At least I’m not flat-chested, which would be a hell of a lot worse.”
“Well, that’s certainly true, you were definitely not flat-chested in that photo! I can’t believe you were careless enough to leave it lying around,” Carl said, trying to regain his composure.
“I was not careless, in fact I have no idea how he got it, although I must say I did lose track of it recently. Anyway, you took the damn picture, remember?”
“Of course I remember. I thought it was a private moment.”
“Well, I guess you like showing them off. You must have shown them to Coach Jenkins, and God knows who else, isn’t that so?”
“So you did have an affair! How could you?”
“ I guess I wanted to see what it was like to have a man ravage my body once before I die, a desire you can probably relate to. And what about you? Having sex with a child! Of your own gender!”
“So you’re saying you only slept with him once?”
“Can we not talk about this now, while our son is at death’s door?”
“Marlene, he just drank a Coke!”
“What about you and Pizza Face?”
“He is not a pizza face, and he is not a child, he is a second-year law student, very smart, he has a brilliant career ahead of him, he’s just working at the Bella Vista on the side to make money. Do you think I would have sex with a common delivery boy?”
“Danny from the Bella Vista? That’s Pizza Face? I cannot believe you have been fucking Danny, that kid who changed my tire one day when I had a flat outside your office. Lucky for me he was right there. By the way, did you know that he is the uncle of one of Benjy’s friends?”
“Jasmine, yes I know, actually she has been a bit of a problem for us.”
Carl’s words hung in the air. We were done. We couldn’t yell anymore, and we both realized the situation was so far out of control, it would take years of intensive therapy to repair the damage that had been done to so many people. “I need a shower,” I said, and abruptly hung up.
And so as I sat in the hospital chapel thinking my life on this earth was in ruins, to be followed by Eternity in Hell, Carl called again.
“Marlene, are you ready for this? I just checked our home phone, the machine was lit up like a Christmas tree, and you’re famous! Actually, me too! All the morning TV shows want us both, to talk about teens and drugs, and the Food Network called to offer you your own cooking show, they say you’re the next Martha Stewart! And the Harbor Herald wants to set up an interview and a photo shoot for their Style section. And get this: I am being profiled as one of the country’s top gay politicians for an upcoming issue of TIME magazine! Marlene, except for shooting Benjy, this is turning out to be a really great thing you have done.”
“Is that all? No other calls?”
“Are you joking? Isn’t that enough?”
“Nothing from Playboy?”
Andrea Rouda blogs at The Daily Droid.