The Wheel

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The GPS in Lohan’s car said that the mall was located exactly 2.6 miles from his home. There were three other malls just like it much closer to where he, his wife and their six year-old daughter lived, but Lohan had chosen this mall precisely to minimize the chance of running into his family.

Submitted: September 29, 2010

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Submitted: September 29, 2010

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The GPS in Lohan’s car said that the mall was located exactly 2.6 miles from his home. There were three other malls just like it much closer to where he, his wife and their six year-old daughter lived, but Lohan had chosen this mall precisely to minimize the chance of running into his family.

Lohan was thinking like a man. Deciding a location is a numbers game. If you want to go shopping, you pick the mall that is geographically nearest and has what you desire; price, parking and other things being equal. Going to any other mall – particularly one 2.6 miles away – would be absurd, a conclusion that in itself should have given him pause to reconsider the premises.

But not all men think the same, and Lohan’s mistake was not that he was thinking like a man, but that he was not thinking like the right kind of man. Lohan’s oldest friend, Lake, said that if love is war then affairs are skirmishes, and Lohan, who had never been a soldier but who was having an affair, had failed to properly reconnoitre his target area. Had he done so, scouting out likely attractions for both his wife and his lover, he would have spotted ‘Gracie’s Fields’, a small independent floral arrangers on the second-floor.

He knew ‘Gracie’s Fields’ was a floral arrangers, and not a florists or even a flower shop, because it was run and owned by a neighbour, who took up far too much of his time over dinner one evening soliciting his opinion on effective marketing.

“I think ‘floral arrangers’ sounds more professional, don’t you? Isn’t it what you sales people call a distinct point of interest?”

“A unique selling point,” he replied, though he refrained from telling her that this wasn’t one, and that ‘floral arrangers’ was in any case at best semantically ambiguous and at worst grammatically incorrect. His disinterest caused him to hold his tongue, but also prevented him from bothering to ask which mall her shop was in. Had he remembered the dinner conversation on the day he took his lover shopping, as like as not he would still never have dreamt that the shop was in any mall other than the one closest to her home, assuming that bored housewives who had nothing better to do than run flower shops would do so in malls that were nearest to where they lived, and definitely not in those 2.6 miles away.

This kind of sloppy thinking always has tragi-comic consequences and is supposed to only happen in novels and plays. For Lohan, however, the result was a very real cry of ‘Daddy!’ half way across the mall’s second tier. It was a cry at once full of happiness, surprise and, of course, utter innocence of the devastating effect it would have on all their lives.

His wife, who would be not far behind, would also automatically adorn a happy expression at the unexpected sight of him, but unlike his daughter, her face would quickly turn from surprise to confusion, and then to steely anger tinged with shame.

Yes, she would be shamed at finding her husband with another (and younger!) woman in public; the thought of all those people catching on to their domestic drama, the pitying looks they would throw at her before smirking to themselves and thinking the defensive ‘glad it’s not me’ – yes, all that would be shameful for his wife. And the woman with him, of course, would feel embarrassed and not a little guilty, and he would – well, were it not for one small thing – be simply resigned. He could resign himself to admitting his fault, to dividing the house, and ending his marriage. He could resign himself to all that for his indiscretion, except for the fact of his little daughter.

Only the innocent can make us feel truly guilty. It was his daughter that would suffer the greatest harm for his misdemeanor. And that was all it was, wasn’tit? A married man having an affair is such an ordinary crime. Why must it have such momentous consequences? All their dreams and plans, their hours of talk and their shared hopes of watching their little girl grow up had been made into nothing more than wasted breath by his “scratching an itch”.

That’s what Lake had always called it.

“I don’t know why people get so upset about sex. It’s no big deal. No different from two dogs scratching an itch. Why does it have to be the end of the world?”

Lake was full of these little aphoristic soundbites. Lohan wasn’t sure how much his friend really believed the things he said and how much he said them for effect, but it would be the end of his daughter’s world, of that Lohan had no doubt. The logical consequence of breaking one’s marriage vows is the end of the partnership they were supposed to cement; he knew and accepted that without argument.

Perhaps due to his clouded state of mind, which later could only recall the scene like an artist's impression, devoid of painful details, the situation in the mall seemed to play itself out in a benign and orderly fashion. The woman shuffled away from his side and disappeared as soon as she could; his wife shot several dark questions and profound truths his way, before scooping up their child and stalking out to the car park.

He stood there alone, stripped of a life in less than two minutes. He didn’t know whether to follow his wife home or go back to the office, where he was supposed to be out on a sales call for the rest of the day, or go to her place. None of those options seemed right. Instead, he sat down in a coffee shop, observing all the ordinary and smooth-running lives of the people around him.


© Copyright 2020 dick todd. All rights reserved.

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