The Last Straw
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Truth"
Originally featured on 01-25-2007
As part of our series "Phases of a Holiday Meal"

 

“Just tell me the truth, Gary.”

Gary was about to turn the page of his magazine but stopped suddenly. He felt the couch cushion sink a little as Julie sat down next to him. He looked at her out of the corner of his eye.

 

 

Davis turned on his barstool to look at Gary. “That’s what she said to you? ‘Tell me the truth’?”

Gary nodded and took a sip of his drink.

“What did you say?” Davis asked.

“I didn’t know what to say; I really had no idea what she was talking about. You know I pride myself on my honesty. I was the kid in school who would tell the teacher that she forgot to assign any homework. Remember what I was voted senior year?”

Davis thought for a second and then smiled. “Oh, yeah — most likely to become a mafia snitch.”

“That’s right. So I didn’t know what she meant.” He took another sip. “Then I thought it was probably the dry cleaning. I forgot to pick it up like she had asked me to.”

“So that was it?” Davis asked.

“No, it turned out the cellophane bag was lying right next to me.”

“What was it then?”

“I thought maybe she was talking about last night’s dinner. I made my famous ‘Salmon a la Gary’ and as I was transferring it from the frying pan onto Julie’s plate, I got distracted and the fillet fell to the kitchen floor.”

“What about the five second rule?” Davis asked.

“Of course I enacted it and quickly scooped it up. The floor was relatively clean anyway; I mean, the cat had coughed up some rather nasty looking hairballs earlier in the day, but I had managed to get most of them. So I wiped off the fish and never told her about it. But about halfway through dinner I noticed her picking off some dirt and lint I must have missed, so maybe it wasn’t really a secret after all.”

“So what was it?”

“I thought she found out about the hole I put in the wall.”

“You put a hole in the wall?”

“Yeah, I mean, it really shouldn’t be that big a surprise; Julie knew I had a temper when she married me. And I just could not believe my beloved Washington Generals lost to those showboating Harlem Globetrotters again. Did you see that game? After that ridiculous ten-point play by the Globetrotters, I punched a sizeable hole in the bedroom wall right near the closet.”

“Yeah, that was a tough game.”

“Yeah, but then I remembered Julie knew about the hole. She even suggested we hang the portrait of Lincoln over it.”

“So what did she want you to come clean about?”

“I thought maybe she found out I got fired again. So I called the boss’ wife a ‘psycho hose beast,’ so what? Everyone knows it’s the truth. Besides, that e-mail wasn’t intended for the whole office to see anyway.”

“That’s rough,” Davis said. “That was a funny e-mail though.” Gary smiled. “So, was that it then?” Gary shook his head.

“I thought so but then I glanced down at the pile of mail on the coffee table and realized she probably knew. The letter from the Employment Department was on top and it was open. And you know Julie always opens all the mail.”

“Because of your deathly fear of paper cuts.”

“Right. So at this point I started getting nervous. I wondered if she had found out about the raccoons.”

“What raccoons?”

“Just as a lark, I had let a family of raccoons live in the attic. I thought it would be fun; besides, I’m pretty sure they didn’t all have rabies.”

“You didn’t tell her?”

“Well, no, but if the book I saw her reading entitled So, You’ve Decided to Raise a Family of Rabid Raccoons, was any indication, then she probably already knows.”

Davis chuckled.

“Then I thought maybe she discovered that on some nights, when I’ve had a few too many Rob Roys, I sometimes don’t make it to the bathroom and end up peeing in the laundry hamper.”

Davis laughed. “The laundry hamper?”

“Yeah, and sometimes I don’t even make it to the hamper and end up using her sewing basket. But since she does all the laundry and all the sewing, she most likely already knows. Plus, when she caught me one night and I pretended to be sleepwalking, I don’t think she really bought it.”

Davis finished the last of his beer and ordered another.

“Then I thought it was the dog,” Gary continued.

“What dog?” Davis asked.

“Last winter when Julie was visiting her aunt in Florida, I gave her dog away. It was either that or buy more dog food and I really didn’t see much of an option.”

Davis nodded.

“I told her he had died suddenly. I didn’t think it was that big a deal; he was kind of an old dog anyway. But she knows about that too.”

“How’d she find out about that?”

“She said she had been walking by the park one day and saw a dog that looked exactly like him.”

“Oh, did the dog recognize her?” Davis asked.

“Yeah, and when he saw her, he barked and wagged his tail. Plus he was wearing a sweater that said ‘Julie’s pooch’ that she had made for him.”

“What about the checks?”

“I thought about that too. So I’ve written dozens of bad checks in her name; she knows I’m good for the money. I only did it to cover my student loan payments. Well, student loans—football bets, really, what’s the difference?”

“That reminds me, you owe my fifty,” Davis said.

“Will you take a check?”

Davis looked at him and they both burst out laughing.

“Then I wondered if she knew it was me who had shaved her head that night a few weeks ago.”

“What?”

“Yeah, after watching a marathon of Kojak episodes late one night, I had the crazy idea to see what Julie looked like bald.”

“Did you have a few Rob Roys?” Davis asked.

“Yeah,” Gary replied sheepishly. “And again, I didn’t make it to the bathroom; both the laundry hamper and sewing basket were utilized that night. But again, she knows. The hair-clogged electric razor left next to my Kojak DVD’s was probably a dead give away. But I think the wig she got looks really good.”

“That’s a wig she’s been wearing? That does look good.”

“Then I thought she must be talking about the work I was involved in several years ago. I guess I should’ve known she would’ve found out about it sooner or later. Granted, I’m not really ashamed of it; people have done a lot worse for a lot less. I should have told her though, just came right out with it and said, ‘Julie, for three years in the late 90’s I made adult films under the name of Beef Barley.’ I mean, how badly could she take it? Some of those movies were actually pretty good.”

“So that was it?”

“Nope. I quickly realized I was wrong again, she already knew about all that. We had been perusing the shelves at our local video store one evening a few years ago when we wondered into the adult section. Past the S&M and barnyard animal videos (stuff I never did, by the way), there I was on the cover of Hairy Squatter and the Sorcerer’s Bone, part 12. Julie pretended not to see it, but I know she did. Plus, I often still receive letters from PAGA (Porn Actors Guild of America) that she inevitably opened.”

“Hey, I never saw part 12,” Davis said. “I did see 13 but was completely lost.” He grinned. Gary glared at him.

“What about when you pushed her mother in front of that bus?”

“C’mon man, that was just an accident.”

“How did that happen again?”

“We were waiting to cross the street and I looked down and saw a gold deblume. An actual gold coin just lying on the sidewalk! So when I leaned down to get it, I accidentally bumped her into the street just as a bus was driving by. I mean, she survived, shouldn’t that be the important thing? So, she was in the hospital for five months, so what? Everyone loves hospitals. And if that gold coin had turned out to be real and not just a lid from a cup of yogurt, then we’d all be rich right now.”

“So did Julie know it was you?”

“Yeah, apparently there had been several witnesses. That police sketch looked nothing like me, however.”

“What about that time you convinced her you needed a kidney and then sold her kidney to buy a water bed?” Davis asked.

“She knows.”

“Does she know about the time you brandished a butcher knife and threatening to kill the paperboy if he was late again?”

“She found out about that when Billy’s mother called. And the time I let a couple homeless guys borrow her lingerie for some kind of pageant they were having; she knows about that too.”

“How about the time you tried to kill her?”

“I did not try to kill her! I only threw that hair dryer into the bathtub because I had just watched a show on TV about the dangers of water and electricity and wanted to see if it was on the level, that’s all. And I guess it was; I had never seen Julie move that fast before.”

“So you really had no idea what she was talking about?”

“I was just about to ask her, when it finally hit me: the affair. She must have found out about the affair. It only happened for about six months a couple years ago. I thought I had been so careful; there were never any hotel matchbooks or lipstick-stained collars. So it was with her sister, so what? Julie couldn’t be that upset.”

“Yeah, you did keep it the family,” Davis said.

“That’s right!” Gary said. “But then I realized that couldn’t be it, she had told me a while ago that she knew all about it; apparently she had seen the pictures.”

“Where’d she see the pictures,” Davis asked. In your dresser or something?”

Gary sighed. “No, on the Internet.”

“Oh, yeah — Gary’sIllicitAffair.com.”

“Yeah. I don’t know why I started that site. So, she says it again: ‘Come on, Gary, tell me the truth.’ And I just started stammering. Then she held up a small yellow box and said ‘“Did you eat the last Mallomar?’”

Davis’ smiled suddenly disappeared. “Not the Mallomar!”

Gary nodded.

“What’d you say?”

“What could I say? I told her I didn’t eat it. That’s when she went crazy.”

 

 

“You lying son of a bitch!” She threw the box at him and quickly stood up. “You knew I was saving that and you go ahead and eat it?! That’s it, I’m leaving! I can’t stand to be with someone who is just so dishonest!” He watched her storm into the bedroom.

What was she talking about? Gary thought. Me, dishonest? I was voted most likely to become a mafia snitch! I always told the teacher when she forgot to assign any-.

“I’ll be at my mother’s house,” Julie said, entering the living room again. She was holding a small suitcase. Gary wondered how she had packed so quickly. “Don’t call me.” She adjusted her wig and quickly walked to the front door. A moment later he heard the door slam shut.

 

 

“So what’d you do?” Davis asked.

“I picked up the cookie box lying next to me and looked at it. Then I realized I had eaten the last one and I felt bad; maybe I should have told her. After a minute I got up and went out the backdoor. As I started walking here, I heard her trying to start her car, and wondered if I also should have told her I never bought gas like she had asked. Or that I had sold the spark plugs. And the transmission. After all, it really wasn’t like me to be less than truthful about anything.

“I know, you do pride yourself on your honesty,” Davis said.

“I do,” Gary said. “I really do.” He signaled to the bartender. “Can I get another Rob Roy?”

Read More By Tim Josephs

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Portland Fiction Project

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