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The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes:

The Hardest Part
Adam Graupe

Joe gazed across the table at his wife Julia who sat in front of a bay window with sunlight beaming in.  He noticed for the first time that she had gray in her hair. 
     “Did you know the Robinsons painted their fence white?”  Julia asked.
     “No.”  Joe said.
     “White is okay, but yellow would have been a better complement to their house.” Julia talked on and Joe’s mind wandered.

Joe once read that a woman spoke on average three times as many words as a man did in the course of a day.  Julia’s talking comforted Joe, but what troubled him was her appearance.  She was 6’2”, thin, and flat.  “Making love to Julia is like making love to an ironing board,” he thought as Julia chattered on about the state of fences in their subdivision. 

Julia stepped away from the table, and the sunlight shined onto Joe’s hands as he looked at his wedding band.  It was once bright gold but now was faded and dull.  “Like my marriage” Joe thought.  Studying the ring made him think of a plan but he needed time alone from her to think it through.  “I am going to have my ring polished today.”  Joe said.
Julia said “Oh!  That’s a great idea!  I had mine polished last week at Herman’s Jewelry.  They do such nice work.”

Joe met Julia when they were freshman in college.  She spotted him on campus and introduced herself.  “Bold,” Joe thought.  Julia confessed later that she could only be attracted to men taller than her, and Joe was the first taller man she dated.  What was so fun and exciting then about being a tall couple standing out wherever they went was now dull and almost irritating.  “We look like a pair of giraffes,” Joe thought at times. 

Julia was the only woman Joe ever slept with and he thought this was wrong.  “It’s unfair to me and her.  I have no experience to share with her.  A man should be experienced and able to compare his wife to other women.  It’s only right.” 

     Joe steered his Ford Tempo onto Zodiac Street and drove toward his job as a security guard at a mall.  Two days ago, he responded to call from the candy shop in the upper level of the mall.  He walked into the store, and a young woman named Amy walked him to where the ceiling was leaking.  As she reached up to point out the spot, one of her bare arms brushed against his hand, and her softness startled him.  While Amy’s arms were smooth and comforting, Julia’s arms were like water pipes.  He gazed at Amy.  She was short, with long curly blonde hair, and 40 pounds overweight.  “Curvy and beautiful” he thought while he brushed his hand against her arm, pretending it was a mistake, as he pointed to the ceiling himself.  Amy blushed when he touched her arm; Julia never blushed.

There were two maintenance workers in the mall for Joe to call.  He dispatched Hank as he was short and robust.  Joe didn’t want the other mechanic, Nick, who looked like George Clooney, to touch Amy’s ceiling. 
Joe parked his car in the parking lot of the mall and sat.  His dead Grandma’s voice, what he thought of as his conscience, spoke in his head.
“What you’re plotting is wrong.”  She said.
“Aw, knock it off, Grandma!”  Joe retorted.
“You can’t cheat on Julia.  She is a good wife.”

Joe’s Grandparents raised him and they died the year after Joe married Julia.  On weekends, usually after downing 12 tall cans of Old Milwaukee, Grandpa said confidentially to Joe as if he were a bar mate, “I wish I had married an Asian.  My wife is so white.  It just gets old, you know?” 
Joe didn’t know then but he knew it now.  God, did he know it now.
In Joe’s head, his Grandma’s voice shrieked “You think you are gonna leave Julia for a fat chick!” 
“Amy isn’t fat!  She’s candy-coated.”  Joe said.  “Besides, I’m not gonna leave Julia.  I’m just gonna have a little fun and Julia will never know.  It’ll save our marriage.  If I don’t get this outta my system ... well... I’m gonna go crazy.”
“What makes you so sure this girl will even take you?”  His Grandma asked.
“Well, look at me!  I’m tall, dark and handsome!  What woman wouldn’t be happy to have me?  Especially a...“ Joe stopped himself.
”Especially a fat chick?  Right, jerk?”
“No! I got nothing against heavy people.  In fact, I think she’s sexy.  I can’t get her outta my mind.”
“You think she will be flattered and easy. You think she will be eager to please you because you think she doesn’t get any attention.  You think like an asshole!”
“I’m not an asshole!”
“You think she’ll go out with you and be easy just the same.  What makes you so sure?”
“Well look at me in these tight pants.  I am good looking.  These pants are so tight you can see my...“
“Young man, don’t say it!”
“Say what? Cock? Cock!”  Shouting this in his mind made his Grandma’s voice run and hide away from him.   Joe strode into the mall, and the bustle of people made him forget about his conscience for a while. 

Joe dropped his wedding band off to have it polished at the jewelry store; without the wedding band, Joe was a free man.  He stepped inside the candy store and saw Amy alone in a sleeveless dress.  He stared at her thick bare arms and wanted to rub them.  
Joe asked “Has your ceiling been giving you any more trouble?
     “It hasn’t leaked since Hank worked on it.”
     Joe said “so what are you doing this Friday night.  I mean do you have a boyfriend or a...“
     Amy exclaimed “I have a date with Hank!  Oh!  I love stocky blue collar guys!”  She put her hands up and made claws as if she were a lion and made a “rarrrh!” sound.  “And I have you to thank, Joe!  I mean I don’t want to get my hopes up but Hank is so cute and ... Oh my gawd!”
Joe smiled, “Well I’m glad to hear this.  You don’t know how glad.”

He walked away waving before Amy was able to gush on about Hank. 
Joe patrolled the mall in a dark mood.  He wandered around the mall and felt his head lighten when he spotted three young candy-coated blondes in a plus-sized clothing store chattering away folding jeans at a table.  How had he never noticed this store before?  Twenty feet behind the blondes, stood a customer removing a skirt from a clothes hanger and placing it into a paper bag.  Joe grinned.  He would apprehend the shoplifter and strike a conversation with the blondes.  One of them was bound to be single or at least willing.
  “They are so different from Julia,” Joe thought, as he followed the shoplifter toward the hall.    
© Adam Graupe September 3rd 2008
totalratbag at

Adam has been published in, Midnighttimes, Pen Pusher Magazine, Scars Publications, Nuvein Online Magazine, Ovi Magazine, Burst , and Slow Trains Literary Journal.   

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