Friday, August 10, 2018
Finding Out About Fester
Cherry knew Fester was having an affair. All the signs were there: late nights at the warehouse, his secretive phone calls at odd hours of the night, and—worst of all—how his feelings towards her had blackened. For days she had denied all the evidence, but today she discovered a new wrinkle, one that defied rationalization: it turns out that Fester had quit his job two weeks ago. Where was he going at nights then? She needed to know, so at dusk she followed him, found his hideout, a warehouse in the river district where he used to work, and crept up beneath a window that radiated the telltale glow of his television.
“3rd and 11 for the Browns, Manziel from the slot… He drops back…”
Cherry tuned out the rest, as she always did. There was no doubt Fester was inside. No one else watches old Browns games. At home, Fester would view the same one multiple times while pounding back Pabsts, one after another. Unlike Papa, though, Fester never got stupid drunk. Also, he had never physically hurt her, though his tongue bit, especially when she interrupted his games, but that was just his way. “Stop complaining and let me listen to my game,” he would say. She had forgiven him, knowing it must be for him being only a crew chief, while she was a registered nurse making twice his salary.
From the woods along the river came an incessant choir of cicadas. The steady stream of vehicles across the interstate’s bridge was louder, especially when those 20-wheelers roared past. An approaching train added a mournful whistle, but Nature trumped it with a deafening peal of thunder. A whiff of ozone on a sudden cool breeze told her rain was coming soon.
“Tonight,” Fester said above the television’s babble, “I am going to enjoy opening you up.”
So, he did have someone. That home-wrecker must have been waiting. Cherry edged even closer, right beneath the mud-splattered window, determined to miss nothing, though realizing it was masochistic. Knowing more meant a sharper cut across her self-esteem. She imagined the woman within, probably some sexy, stupid young thing.
“I needed a woman who moves,” Fester would say. “Someone young and lively, Cherry. Someone I can feel.”
Though they had no children, leaving would be hard. Cherry enjoyed their comfortable home with its deep pool and expansive backyard. Fester fired the gardener a couple weeks ago, so it was overgrown, but that only made the meadow’s wildflowers more enchanting. She had lain there today surrounded by their fragrance, weighing the emptiness of their marriage. The thunderheads had still been on the horizon then, but heavy with portent.
“Touchdown, Packers!” said a sports announcer who might even be dead, and a fat drop fell upon Cherry’s forehead.
She knew something about broken marriages. Mama had left Papa after catching them together in the barn.
“We aren’t doing anything wrong,” Cherry had said. “I just wanted Papa to feel.”
Papa had smiled and burped. Mama was furious but said nothing. She returned that night with the state troopers that took him away. He was dead in a month.
Cherry peeked through the window, discerning a wide room through the splotchy glass. Inside, she recognized her husband, a masked man in pajamas drinking a Forty through a straw. They faced each other with the television, where he was entirely focused, between them. Cherry knew she should withdraw, but she was captivated, for behind Fester, a fettered naked young woman hung suspended by her arms from the ceiling. She wore a studded harness and a ball gag. Worst of all, though, were her eyes, wide orbs of bloodshot insanity.
A blinding shard of lightning divided the sky, followed by another peal of thunder, and the rain began in earnest. For a moment, the mercury-vapor streetlights flickered, and Cherry was alone in the dark with her terror, but then the backup generators kicked in, and mankind’s tumult returned to flood her consciousness.
In that brief instant before the announcers returned with their play-by-play, Cherry heard the woman sob.
“I don’t even know who you are,” she said.
“I’m a man you fucked with one too many times,” Fester said, his focus unwavering, but what horrified Cherry most was his implacable tone, one she recognized even before he added, “Now stop complaining and let me listen to my game.”
That’s what broke Cherry’s bondage. That’s when she fled.