Why Not?

Nona opened the mailbox, found it empty except for a letter from DMV addressed to her husband. She certainly wasn’t going to pay the license renewal for Leonard’s truck. If he wanted to drive that beat-up pickup, he’d have to do register it himself. He’d been gone for close to six months, without a letter. No phone calls. Not even a personal message or text. Nothing. Finally out of the scorching August heat, she was tempted to throw the letter in the trashcan on the front porch. She unlocked the door and entered the house, dropped her bag and Leonard’s mail on the table in the foyer, and fell on the sofa to give her tired feet a rest, after eight hours behind the cash register at Walmart.

She heard a sound at the back of the house and, suddenly alert, jumped up, her aching feet forgotten. Slipping into the kitchen, searching the drawers for Leonard’s revolver, finding it under the fancy napkins. Holding it in front of her, she crept into the hall to confront the burglar. Following the sounds of someone scrabbling around in the laundry room, she caught a man with his back towards her.

“Don’t move or I’ll shoot!”

Hands went up and the short, stocky man slowly turned to face her. “Hello Nona. How’ve you been?”

“Look what the cat drug in,” she said, lowering the gun.

Leonard turned back to his task and, starting the machine, took the revolver from Nona’s hand. “You know this isn’t loaded.”

She followed him to the kitchen and sat down at the table. Leonard got a beer from the refrigerator and joined her. She hadn’t bought any beer. Didn’t drink. “What’s going on, Leonard?”

He shrugged. “I’ve got a month until the next job, in Ecuador.”

“Why didn’t you call?”

He shrugged. “You knew where I was. I knew you were okay because of your Facebook posts. What was there to talk about? I kept up with the kids too. They’re fine.”

“You could have died. I wouldn’t have known.”

“Peeshaw.  The company wouldn’t have kept depositing my paychecks in our bank account if I’d died. They’re too greedy. And I think they would have gotten around to sending you a letter. Eventually.”

Nona was fed up with Leonard’s nonchalant attitude about their marriage. He’d been doing this for almost twenty years. Leaving her to raise their two children by herself, showing up between jobs, never on holidays or birthdays. “I can’t live like this anymore. You either stay put or I want a divorce.”

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why can’t you live like this anymore? Our house is paid off and we’ve got close to four-hundred-thousand dollars in our retirement account. I don’t want to live on social security when I retire. If it still exists.”

He didn’t get it. “I have to make it to retirement, Leonard. I lay awake at night, wondering if you’re dead or shacked up with some Mexican girl, with another family, whatever. I don’t want to live like this.”

He shrugged. “Don’t make sense to me, Nona. The hard part’s over, the kids grown up and gone to college. All paid for by my job. No college loans. They’ll have the same clean slate we did when we got married. Why do you want to ruin it all now?”

It drove Nona crazy, Leonard’s indifference to her feelings. He had become an asshole. “You didn’t answer my question?”

“Which one?”

“Have you been shacking up with women? I mean ever.”

“Why would I do that? I’m married in case you didn’t notice. I’ve been working twelve hours a day, seven days a week to make a good life for us, a good retirement. I’m tired after work. Always have been.”

It bothered Nona that mentioning divorce hadn’t gotten a rise from him. Only a question she couldn’t answer. She wanted to hate him for the years left alone with the children, nothing to do, making excuses at church where everybody thought Leonard was a derelict. She looked around the kitchen, feeling at home, having friends and family, a husband, a good life. Why she couldn’t answer any of his stupid questions?

“Are you going to stay home from now on? You can get a local job making almost as much as you do now. It costs a lot to live in a foreign country. I read about it.”

“Peeshaw!” He finished his beer, got another from the refrigerator, sat down, opened it and said, “Ain’t no job pays what I’m making. Not in the U.S. You know full what I spend, Nona. Two-hundred a month in Mexico. That’s what it costs to live in a decent room and eat good meals. Can’t even own a car for that here. Can’t you leave well enough alone?”

She wanted an answer, not a question. “Well?”

“Well what?”

Frustration drove Nona to her feet, made her put her hands on her hips, gave her a sudden headache. “Do you want a divorce, or do you want to move back home?”

“Why not?”

One response to “Why Not?”

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