Short Story Prompt: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver
Maggie and I had been married for three years when the word “divorce” first came up. There we sat on our screened-in back porch, gazing out at the soft summer rain, sipping glasses of iced tea, day dreaming as if we had forever.
Then Maggie turned to me. “Jack and Anise are getting a divorce. Anise says it’s for the kids.”
I looked over at her. “For the kids? Nobody gets a divorce for the kids.”
“That’s what I said. But she insisted.” She went back to studying the lawn. “You think we should plant a rose bush over there.” She pointed to the back corner.
“It’s okay with me. Remember you are the gardener. I have the black thumb.” I gave it some thought. Maybe roses would look good at the edge of the yard. “What kind of roses?”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“I would have liked to be a fly on the wall when they told the kids. ‘We’re getting the divorce because of you kids.’ Bet that was one heck of a conversation.”
Maggie reached over to the pitcher on the table between us and poured herself another glass of iced tea. “She said the kids had pretty much figured it out. They were troopers about the whole thing.”
I swirled the ice in my glass with my finger. The cold felt good. “I thought they were the perfect couple. Who’ll be next? The pastor and his wife?”
“Naw,” she said. “It would mean his job.”
“As if that would be a bad thing. His sermons are so boring that the devil wouldn’t have a hard time recruiting our congregation Sunday mornings. Anything to get out of that sanctuary.”
She giggled, then said, “You’ve got that right. Why do we keep him?”
“Nobody wants to hurt his feelings.”
“If she’d only have an affair. She’s the type you know.”
My interest perked up. “What do you mean? She’s such a tight ass.”
“The ones you least expect, you know.”
“Are you saying?” I couldn’t imagine this. Helen, the preacher’s wife? Who’d have the gall to sleep with her anyway?
“I’m just saying.” She laughed. There were times I wasn’t sure if Maggie was joking or serious. This was one of those times.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I don’t know for sure. I have my suspicious though. Just call it woman’s intuition.” That closed that subject. She brings up woman’s intuition and I knew that was it.
“So when’s the big day?” I asked.
“The big day?”
“When is Jack moving out?”
“As soon as the kids go off to college this fall. He’ll be there when they leave. When they come home, he’ll be gone. He’ll be coming over for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They’ll be one big happy family for the holidays.”
I shook my head. “That sounds nice and cozy. How long they been married? Twenty-three years and now they’re getting a divorce. And for the kids too. Did she say what she meant by that?’
“No,” she said, then leaned over and kissed my lips lightly. She had tears in her eyes.
I offered her my lap, then I held her, trying to fend off the fear I knew she was feeling. She said softly, “It’s Mom and Dad all over again. We kids go off to college and they get their freedom. Only it’s freedom from each other.” There was unforgiveness in her voice.
I didn’t say anything. There was nothing to say. I remembered the arguments between my parents. All the yelling, and they stayed together for us kids. At least, that’s what Mom told me at Dad’s funeral.
Maggie squeezed my arm and drew it closer around her. There we were, Maggie and I, sitting on the back porch of our new house and talking about divorce. Hoping it wouldn’t happen to us.