TWIN SIDETRACKS

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Syd and Glenda have been married for thirty years; plenty of time to get side-tracked.

Submitted: August 14, 2016

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Submitted: August 14, 2016

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TWIN SIDETRACKS

A Short Story

Nicholas Cochran

 

“Hey, Chip, how’s it goin’?” Chip was Chip Carrera, former 49er Hall of Fame quarterback. The greeter was Syd ‘The Barber’ Lombardi; Sydney Vincent Lombardi, a great-nephew of the famous one.

“Hey Syd, never better; how’s business,” smiling legend of the gridiron sinking to banality to hail his cheery barber.

“Great Chip, just great; got a new chair goin’—see,” and he nodded to his right as Chip took a seat and lifted his chin to accept the cape and neck cloth, “right there—number five—next to last—Andy. Lives in Modesto and drives in every day,” loosening Chip’s collar and applying the cloth, “good barber.”

“Well that’s great Syd,” settling back against the soft leather chair, “tell me Syd, you ever heard of a coach called Calhoun?”

“Yeah—sure have; coaches at Monte Verde—next town over, in La Hambra—good coach.” Chip listened keenly to Syd—as every customer did whenever sports were the topic; and especially when football was under discussion. Syd was simply a clipping snipping lexicon of things sportif, with a major in gridiron lore.

Customers sat beneath a long mirrored wall facing the barber chairs. Behind those chairs, stretched another long mirrored wall. Nevertheless, there was some wall space, where all imaginable forms of sports memorabilia—as well as collectibles—were attached, stuck, or hung.

Throughout the days of Monday through Saturday, Syd hosted those in need of shearing, shaving, and shampooing. As a result of his shop being ranked number one in the county year after year, the number of his guests was in the hundreds—perhaps around a thousand.

Syd looked forward to every single day in his shop. He loved the camaraderie of the other five barbers, and the chance to see both old and new customers and subtly find out all about not only them but also everyone else they knew in the county.

His customers were his major source of news, gossip, and speculation. Syd could never get used to the speed with which his day was done; gone.

On Sundays and Mondays  he would often fidget and then, when all the sporting events on TV were concluded, he would finally go for a walk with Glenda, or alone, just to keep himself awake and absorbed in daily life, and his two main loves; sports and sports betting.  

Syd, fifty-eight, had most of his dark hair and an occupational kyphosis. For years he had been stooping to cut or clip—and even to hear or speak some gossip.

It was very clear to the other five barbers that something had been bothering Syd over the last few weeks. His reluctance to talk to any of them about whatever was upsetting his otherwise genial nature, sent an obvious and definite signal to them that his preoccupation was either his health or something concerning his family; probably Glenda.

*  *  *

Glenda ­­­­­­coughed into her Kleenex.

Tears pooled in the corners of her eyes and she braced herself to harbor the rush that Vicodin never denied her craving.

The bathroom mirror of the teacher’s common room reflected a fragile face topped by natural golden hair, cut short;; slim eye-brows, a small but full lipped mouth and two dull brown eyes that were now becoming slightly less reddish and less dull as her ‘pick-me-up’ late-afternoon dose wound its way through her body.

She frowned through her gratification, when smacked by the reality that her V supply was now zero.

Damn! now I’ll have to ask Jane again.

Jane was just one of Glenda’s eleven ‘suppliers;’ four women and seven men, who had ‘loaned’ Glenda pills over the past three years.

Four doctors (and four separate drug stores) had been tapped for the maximum prescriptions for any particular month. Glenda decided to bypass the medicos and try ‘borrowing’ until she could line up a reliable supply.

Jane had given her a couple three months ago while Jane was recovering from some oral surgery.

Glenda couldn’t remember if Jane still had her prescription and if she did, whether the druggist would fill it without first calling Jane’s dentist.

Glenda bit her lip and clenched and unclenched her hands while she reviewed all the aspects of approaching Jane, that could go wrong.

Glenda had touched everyone on her list as recently as yesterday and three of the doctors were on vacation and Glendahad sensed that the fourth was becoming suspicious; or at least his manner seemed to convey suspicion.

 

Am I starting to lose it? What if Jane doesn’t have that script any more? What if Doctor Allen’s behavior really is ‘suspicion? Would he turn me in? Will he tell my husband?

Should I tell my husband?

 

She bit very hard on her lower lip as she experienced the hot dread of her husband finding out about her addiction; and especially about all the money she had spent every day for over three years, money that he had handed over to her from his mainly cash business to bank and invest and to pay bills. Money for his retirement. She felt the taste of blood and chalk, as she snatched another Kleenex from her purse and pressed it against the wound. 

Somewhere behind her eyes she felt a push telling her to confess to Syd and start to remove this dreadful curse from their lives. To start that very evening.

Suddenly the fluorescent lights on the ceiling of the restroom and over the mirror flickered and she flinched, before she realized that it was only a momentary flicker and that her heart was alternating between fluttering and pounding.

This was not what usually happened when she took her pills; usually a full measure of contentment floated through all her being, and her heart seemed to slow so strikingly that she was often amazed that it beat again after what seemed to her to be minutes.

However, this . . .

Without warning, the door opened behind her and JoAnne Parsons came in.

“Oh, hi Glenda,” quickly, concerned, “are you all right; you don’t look so great; can I help?”

Glenda forced a false beaming smile.

“Oh no JoAnne, I’m fine; but thanks for asking,” pausing, “you wouldn’t have any Vicodin would you, I actually do have a . . . well, see, I split the stitches on my lip, see” pulling down her lip for JoAnne to examine, “busted it up at the gym; wasn’t looking and walked into a lat machine. Dummy me.”

“Well, you’re in luck, my dear. I have a whole bottle right here. Migraines. Tried everything. Imitrex and Fioicet; all the latest. Zero. Nada.”

She bent over as she opened her purse, allowing her dark brown hair to cascade over her hands as well as her forearms as she inspected the bowels of her huge black leather purse.

“Ah ha! Here we are,” and up rose her shoulders, her head, her hair, and finally her hands. One hand held the purse; the other held a thirty-count bottle of prescribed Vicodin, “here. How many do you need?” She said this with the kindness of a friend and colleague. Her deep-set cloudy blue eyes began to flash and glimmer with the joy of offering and giving, “or, how many do you want?”

Glenda quietly and quickly calculated the ‘safe’ number to ask for and doubled it.

“Well, I can’t get to the doctor . . . or the pharmacy until tomorrow; no, wait . . . damn, I have that parent teacher meeting tomorrow, so, let’s see . . . three days. Wow. Could you spare twelve?” and she attached look Number Four to her face: the look of sincere and righteous concern wrapped round with a slight touch of pleading.

She had used Number Four on almost all her ‘contacts’ at one time or another and it had never failed.

“Twelve? Why of course my dear; sure you won’t need more?” and JoAnne smiled while her eyes enlarged and her broad face creased with lines of altruistic joy, “I’m sure I won’t need more than a dozen . . . at most, for myself.”

“Oh no; no thanks JoAnne. It is really so kind of you,” She meant it. She liked JoAnne. And she also liked the security that comes with declining more, even though, under different circumstances, she would have taken the whole bottle, “twelve will be absolutely perfect. Thanks so much JoAnne. I really do appreciate it.”

Glenda immediately felt better. About everything. In addition, the rush was on. She felt sooooo good. Yes!

“Well, if it’s still a bear later—or tomorrow, I’ll save some for you, dear.” JoAnne called everyone dear.

“Oh that’s just great, JoAnne; and if worst comes to worst, I’ll let you know,” Glenda gave a deep sigh, “thanks again.”

JoAnne was smiling the beatific smile of the saints while Glenda was thinking how she could score another five, six—maybe even ten.

Glenda made a mental note to work on various scenarios for scoring some more the next day.

Both Glenda and JoAnne worked as teachers for both physically and mentally challenged children.

Glenda was completing her twenty-third year and JoAnne, her tenth.

“You betterdear.” JoAnne gruffed with mock gravity, and her weighty admonition was immediately replaced with laughter.

JoAnne was a large woman and this made for a large laugh, so large that it engulfed Glenda and chased out any depressing thoughts from her mind and any ambivalent feelings from her heart.

However, her soul; ah, her soul. Was that where she locked in her determination not to tell her husband about her addiction? Or was there some other part of her being where this reluctance found root and now had grown far out of proportion to the overall hurtless nature of her conduct.

While she drove home, she was suddenly struck by a compulsion to tell Syd about her addiction and her spending their money on her habit.

With increasing intensity, this powerful urge to tell all and to ask to be forgiven swept over her.

By the time she turned off the freeway to pick up her route home, some part of her had completely subdued the addict and was insisting that she confess.

 

 

*  *  * 

Quietly wrapped in a darkening golden haze, the late-summer evening came creeping around the open door as Syd slowly sauntered out to sweep the sidewalk in front of his shop.

Soft night lights from inside gently eased the long warm shadows of passersby across the darkening street. When Syd paused to change hands on his broom, the entire scene composed a painting by Hopper.

As Syd’s broom caught dead leaves, a crackling sound was heard mixed with the soft shuffling of the brushes.

Wafts of honeysuckle and eucalyptus caused him to stop every few moments to relish the aroma therapy that was quickly bringing a smile to his lips.

A surge of profuse bliss filled his essence with a genuine bonhomie; euphoria; a serenity.

From the deepening twilight, the wistful lament of a nightingale remarked upon the declining light of another exhausted day.

Syd cocked his head slightly in an effort to trace the bird’s perch, and after a moment of holding his head in this position, his eyes detected the early stars pressed into the silver and black tapestry spread above him.

*  *  *

Syd was on is way home within minutes of checking off the last item on his close-up list.

Traffic was very light, not unusual for the late summer evening when many were enjoying their last vacation hours relaxing and reviewing the joys that had been theirs for the past three months.

Flames from barbecues, lights strung around the lawns of back yards, some reflections from the lights at the baseball field—all quickened Syd’s pulse.

He determined that he had better talk to Glenda about things tonight. Their children were grown and gone. Their parents were prematurely in their graves. The new neighbors were rowdy and rude.

There was just the two of them.

Yeah; tonight. We have to stick together. There’s no one else looking out for us. Whatever has happened will now be history.

He gulped at the thought of facing Glenda. They had been married for thirty years. Their marriage was held to be by all who knew them, as solid; loving; perfect. Their children were emulating them at every opportunity.

As he rounded the corner of his street, Syd was crying.

*  *  *

Glenda had prepared dinner; Syd’ favorite; pasta puttanesca; garlic bread; a selection of olives, an anchovies salad, and tiramisu. The bouquets of her culinary expertise filled every room. Part of her felt ecstatic; part suicidal.

She had decided to tell Syd tonight. She was the first to notice his odd behavior. His fellow barbers had been late seconds.

She was chewing the inside of her mouth; biting her lower lip.

I have to tell him; oh God I’m so scared; so miserable.

She hung her head over the sink and summoned her best effort to stem a flow of tears.

She managed—barely, and then she cringed when she heard Syd’s car glide into the driveway.

Suddenly he was at the front door, not bothering to garage his vehicle.

Glenda was instantly aware of his overpowering essence. She felt faint.

Syd rushed into the kitchen and took Glenda into his arms.

“Oh, darling; I’m so sorry; so sorry,” He was crying and soon his entire body was shaking with sobs of release and fear.

Glenda held him tighter than she could remember, and whispered.

“It’s all right darling. Oh, Syd, how I’ve wanted to tell you; all this time, these years, almost three years. But don’t cry; I’ll be better. We’ll get the money back; I’ll work overtime and skip vacations; please don’t cry.”

Glenda, releasing a torrent of tears herself, suddenly felt Syd’s body stiffen.

Abruptly he stopped crying while he stepped back and held her at arm’s length with creases of confusion and alarm stamping his face. Then he blinked and knit his brows.

Very softly, “I don’t understand Glenda; what are you saying? I haven’t told you anything yet; what’s all this about three years?”

Glenda was frozen from head to toe with a gnawing clutch of dread.

Her entire presentation alarmed Syd.  He pulled her to him once more. “I
don’t understand, Glenda; how did you know; what did I do that told you things weren’t right?”

Glenda’s body very slowly began to relax, while her mind raced in circles;

Something he’s sad about; me? But how did he know. . . or is it something . . .?

“Glenda.” Once more, Syd was holding his wife’s arms. His look of total bafflement remained but his instinct shot out a question.

“How did you know, Glenda?”

With great difficulty, Glenda arrived at the appropriate question?

“When did I know what, Syd?”

A heavy silence dropped between them; only the sputtering of dinner; a neighbor’s cough; the faint undulating sound of a siren feathered this heavy-laden stillness between the frantic pulsing of their brains as they clawed at past memories; confusing signals; unadjusted statements—anything to help them begin to unravel some knot of cross-purposes that was keeping them unaware of the confession of the other.

Syd shook his head slightly, blinked  several times, and pulled out the opening line that he had been rehearsing over the past three years.
“Glenda; I am so sorry. I . . ”

Glenda stepped quickly to her husband and placed the tender touch of her fingers across his lips.

“No, Syd, it’s me that’s really sorry,” almost in tears again, “all that money you gave me to manage and invest,” now crying uncontrollably, “ I’m a drug addict; I’m a Vicodin addict; I’ve spent it all; all of it; every nickel;; every penny.” Her tears were now drowning  her speech as well as her pride, her self-esteem, her optimism—everything; all those reasons why Syd had married her; now were being swept away on the crashing breakers of her infidelity; not to him physically, but to everything she had pretended to be these past three years. She sat down on a kitchen chair, folded her arms on the table and sobbed in wracking waves of despair.

Syd stood bent over with this hands on his knees.

While Glenda had been confessing he had begun to shake his head. He was still doing this for a few minutes after she had finished and was dissolving all her anxiety and fear in her sobs.

With his hands still on his knees, softly, “Glenda; my darling darling wife; my Glenda. It is I who should be—and I am; definitely, the one who should be seeking forgiveness.”

He paused to raise his self-control. Glenda stopped sobbing and raised her head from her arms to look at her husband and to hear.

“I have made—I have kept from you, twice as much as I gave to you,” haltingly, now punctuated with sobs, “and I lost it all . . .I bet on games . . . I thought I was so smart. I began to believe all the things people said about how much I knew about sports; like winning the football pool four years in a row; like that,” stopping for breath,” I was so smart . . . I lost it all; thousands . . . oh, Christ.” He fell to his knees and covered his eyes with his hands while he lowered his head and cried.

Glenda slowly rose and went to her husband, went down on her knees and took him in her arms and began to rock him back and forth with a lover’s tenderness and a woman’s understanding.

Syd and Glenda remained in this position until they had spilled out every detail of their marital malfeasance; their breach of the other’s trust; their promises to reform.

 

Shortly after midnight, Syd garaged the car and Glenda resurrected his favorite dinner.

They knew each other so well and they loved each over so much that their dinner was eventually punctuated with the laughter of joy; laughter at their stupidities; and the eternal laughter of forgiveness.


© Copyright 2017 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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