An idiot in marriage, p.1

An Idiot in Marriage, page 1

 

An Idiot in Marriage
 

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An Idiot in Marriage


  Also by David Jester

  An Idiot in Love

  This is How You Die

  Copyright © 2017 by David Jester

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles. All inquiries should be addressed to Skyhorse Publishing, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously.

  Skyhorse Publishing books may be purchased in bulk at special discounts for sales promotion, corporate gifts, fund-raising, or educational purposes. Special editions can also be created to specifications. For details, contact the Special Sales Department, Skyhorse Publishing, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018 or [email protected]

  Skyhorse® and Skyhorse Publishing® are registered trademarks of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.®, a Delaware corporation.

  Visit our website at www.skyhorsepublishing.com.

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  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Jester, David, author.

  Title: An idiot in marriage : a novel / David Jester.

  Description: New York : Skyhorse Publishing, 2017.

  Identifiers: LCCN 2016052465 (print) | LCCN 2016056197 (ebook) | ISBN 9781510704343 (softcover ; acid-free paper) | ISBN 9781510704411

  Subjects: LCSH: Husbands--Fiction. | Parenthood--Fiction. | Marriage--Fiction. | Domestic fiction. | BISAC: FICTION / Family Life. | FICTION / Humorous. | GSAFD: Humorous fiction.

  Classification: LCC PR6110.E79 I35 2017 (print) | LCC PR6110.E79 (ebook) | DDC 823/.92--dc23

  LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016052465

  Cover design by Lilith_C (lilithcgraphics)

  Printed in the United States of America

  To Yiota—For providing encouragement, love, and support. And for putting up with my shit for eleven years.

  You’re a saint.

  Contents

  Prologue

  1. Prenatal Hogwash

  2. The Baby Tour

  3. Desperate Measures

  4. The Blind Leading the Blind

  5. Mickey the Duck

  6. Teaching the Unteachable

  7. Matthew, Ben, and the Night to Forget

  8. The Feline, the Fuckwit, and the Full-Blown War: Part One

  9. The Feline, the Fuckwit, and the Full-Blown War: Part Two

  10. Cockawhat?

  11. The Stoning: Part One

  12. The Stoning: Part Two

  13. The Last Supper

  14. The Fallout

  Acknowledgments

  Prologue

  I was pouting, a glum expression I had been wearing all morning. My arms were folded over my stomach and I was slumped in my chair, looking like a petulant teenager as I waited to be called to the principal’s office.

  Ahead of me was a small child, no more than ten or eleven, fidgeting like his pockets were full of firecrackers. His mother sat next to him, looking worse for wear and watching all of his movements out of the corner of her eye as she read an upside-down copy of a Wonder Woman comic. The kid was well dressed, his clothes neatly ironed, his collar turned down, but she appeared to have dressed herself in bed. Her clothes were tattered, ripped, and so stained it looked like she’d been caught in the middle of a food fight, while her hair resembled a neglected Chia Pet.

  She stared at her child, a look of contempt, misery, and murderous intent in her eyes. It was the look of a woman who regretted not raising her child the right way. The look of a woman who wanted to spend some quality time with that child, just her and him, but couldn’t think of any activity besides a murder-suicide. The kid was moving so fast he was almost vibrating. She looked like she was ready to pass out from the stress of everything. Although she might have been suffering from motion sickness.

  “Kieran, straighten up. Look smart!” a voice beside me ordered, swatting at me as if I were a fly.

  I turned to face my mother, twisting my petulance into a look of disdain. She had clearly been studying the partially comatose mother and her entirely irritating child. I knew how her mind worked, and I knew she had spent the last few minutes comparing herself to that mother and comparing me to that child. The obvious age gap wouldn’t have concerned her.

  She had always insisted she didn’t care what people said or thought, but she would go out of her way to give people reason to say and think good things. It didn’t matter who they were or whether they were paying attention. She wouldn’t answer the door in her robe, and while she wasn’t quite snobbish enough to refuse to eat at McDonald’s, she did insist on getting dressed up for the occasion.

  She also refused to fart, burp, or admit to any other bodily emissions in public. That’s not to say that she didn’t do those things, because she most certainly did; she just didn’t take responsibility for them. My father had become so accustomed to taking the blame for public flatulence he had admitted to everything from dog farts and squeaky chairs to a bad smell wafting from a nearby Turkish restaurant. Whenever he heard it, whenever he smelled it, he gave my mother one cursory glance, assumed she was guilty—she has one of those faces—and then held up his hand to claim ownship.

  My mother wasn’t a bad person, nor was she vain or self-centered in any way. She just had a habit of comparing herself and her family to everything she saw on TV and in film, focusing on the impossibly kind, loving things that she saw in dramas, action, and romance flicks, and conveniently ignoring the trashy behavior shown on reality TV, talk shows, and other trash television—also known as real life.

  That was the reason my father tried to avoid watching soppy films with her, because whenever she saw a man do something romantic for a woman, she became angry that he had never done anything like that for her. At the end of Titanic, following a lengthy argument, and as several dozen moviegoers looked on, he had to promise her that if their cruise ship ever capsized and the ice-cold waters didn’t kill them immediately, then he would do as the protagonist had done and sacrifice his life for her. Although, by that point he was annoyed, embarrassed, and ready to go home, so what he actually said was, “Yes I’ll let your fat ass have all the life raft to yourself, even if there is enough room for the both of us.”

  “Straighter,” she instructed as I tried and failed to match her standards of sitting.

  I corrected my posture and straightened up. My mother then turned briefly to the woman opposite, smiling a content half-smile before turning back to me and nodding proudly. We showed her, that look said.

  I rolled my eyes. Life had taken a strange turn for many of us over the last few years. My dad had retired and turned his life into an endless cycle of playing golf and complaining about the home owner’s association. My friends had become involved with married life, having children, and trying to get as much free time as they could—which they used to get as far away from their marriage and their children as possible. And my mother had turned into Mrs. Grundy.

  “Why am I here?” I asked her.

  “You know why,” she said cryptically.

  “If I knew, why would I ask?”

  “Because you like to ask questions and be annoying.” She paused to scan an assortment of outdated magazines on an adjacent coffee table. “You always have,” she added before casually picking up a tattered magazine on interior decorating.

  I’d always been told that an inquisitive child was an intelligent child. But it was my father who told me that, and he usually followed it up with, “But you ask a lot of questions, and look how you turned out.”
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  I grumbled a note of discontent and then turned to face the front again, just as a handsome young woman walked out of a nearby room and strode toward me. She was wearing a formal suit with a skirt and black tights. Her legs seemed to stop at her neck, which was hidden by a tall, open collar. He hair was pinned into a ponytail and although she was smiling, she didn’t look very friendly. She wouldn’t have looked out of place in a fetish catalogue, posing in a leather costume as she gripped a man’s testicles and waved a terrifying contraption at him.

  “Mr. McCall?”

  I nearly jumped out of my seat when she said my name. I had hoped she would walk straight past me, that she was part of my imagination and my guilt, or that she had stumbled into the wrong building on her way to an orgy. The expectant look on her face told me otherwise.

  With my hands unconsciously safeguarding my crotch, I stood and greeted her with a meek smile. She gave me a sharp nod and then turned around without uttering a word. I looked at my mother expectantly, as though waiting for her permission, but she shrugged in reply. I looked at the door, seeing the bright morning light streaming through the glass-paneled entrance. It beckoned me into the parking lot, into the open air, into freedom, but just as my excitement increased, the image of freedom was replaced by my mother’s face, popping into view.

  “Don’t you dare,” she warned, her eyebrows raising so high I thought they would disappear into her hairline. She then whispered, “You’re embarrassing me,” while glancing at the stressed mother opposite. The poor woman had paid no attention to anything this prudish woman said. She hadn’t heard a single word and probably didn’t care either. She clearly had other things on her mind and was probably contemplating suicide that very moment, even as she stared at a poster that advised against it.

  I sighed, lowered my head, and then followed the psychologist into her office. This wasn’t the first time I had seen a psychologist. I had even spent time in a psychiatric hospital, an episode that led me to my beloved wife, Lizzie, but things had changed a lot since then. After marriage, and after spending time doing all of the things that married couples do—arguing, shouting, bickering, making up, arguing—things had taken an ugly turn. That was why I was now staring at the straightlaced features of an expectant psychologist, preparing to tell all about the breakup and the happy times that had preceded it.

  I was in my mid-twenties, and although life had been a roller coaster ride in my early years, the last few had been plain sailing. I had no career to speak of and moved from odd job to odd job. I always ended up with positions I didn’t want, bosses I hated and, as a result, contracts that barely lasted to the first paycheck. Aside from that, and from a few minor blips elsewhere, life had been kind. Great, even. But then, just a few weeks ago, the nightmare that was my adolescence had returned.

  “From what your mother has told me,” the psychologist began, “you have quite the story to tell.” She spoke with a smile curling the corners of her lips. She found it amusing and that annoyed me, but in truth I couldn’t blame her. Many people had found my version of events amusing, but my wife, her family, and I didn’t find it very funny at all.

  “You could say that,” I said meekly, before settling back and preparing to tell her a story that I dreaded reciting.

  1

  Prenatal Hogwash

  “Having a baby is a big deal in anybody’s life. It’s a time of great change, of great reward, and of great healing.”

  She had an infectious smile. She probably thought it made her look saintly, but it actually made her look simple. That’s the problem with nirvana, with a state of ultimate divinity and wisdom—it’s always a few wrinkles away from the smile of a stoner who just found a melted Kit-Kat in his pocket. The only reason it’s so infectious is because it’s hard not to smile at someone when they look at you like that, even if you’re secretly wondering whether their happiness comes from a life of bliss or from a bottle of blue tablets the doctor said would keep the voices at bay.

  “It is a time when many people become one, when many bodies combine and many hearts merge, creating two big and lovely balls of fun.”

  I smirked and looked around to see if anyone else had heard that, but they were either asleep or pretending to be. I turned back to the front, letting out a gentle sigh. Beside me I could hear Lizzie’s soft breathing. She hadn’t spoken a word for nearly twenty minutes. She hadn’t cried, hadn’t screamed, and hadn’t threatened to leave me because I cheated on her in her dreams. That’s the thing with pregnancy; yes, a baby can be a great thing—or so I’ve heard—and yes, it can make a family complete, but the process of acquiring one makes me doubt that it’s worth it.

  I adore watching the World Cup, I adore bacon cheeseburgers, cold beers, and lazy sunny afternoons, but if someone told me they could give me all of those things if I just tortured myself for nine months and made everyone around me miserable, I’d tell them to get lost. It got so bad that I’d spent the last few weeks waking up at 6:00 a.m., quietly sneaking out of the house and spending the day at Starbucks. When Lizzie thought I was at work, I was drinking an unhealthy amount of caffeine and harassing hipsters. I told myself that I did it because I was ashamed to let her know I’d lost my job. Again. She still thought I worked at the local newsstand, which had fired me for what they described as “gross incompetence.” I had lost a lot of jobs in the last few years. Even in the last few months. I had been perpetually late. I had fallen asleep on the job. I had insulted customers (albeit accidentally; I wasn’t to know she wasn’t pregnant). This time, I thought I was actually doing the right thing. I hadn’t been paying attention when he was showing me how to work the till, so I took the initiative, worked everything out in my head, and kept the money under the counter. In the end, we narrowly avoided being robbed, only to discover I was terrible at math and that we’d been robbing ourselves all morning.

  The bank of Mom and Dad kept me going from failed job to failed job. They kept Lizzie out of my hair and ensured we would still have enough to look after our baby when it finally arrived. But life had been a struggle and, as much as I liked to believe otherwise, it wasn’t going to get any easier.

  I didn’t want to put too much pressure on my son-to-be, but he had a lot to live up to.

  “It is also a time—”

  I grumbled under my breath, an instinctive sound borne of frustration. Everyone was too high on their own spirituality to notice me. Even the teacher at the head of the class didn’t look up. I lowered my head until my chin touched my chest and prayed this nightmare would be over soon.

  Her name was Mrs. Divine, or so she said. Before the class began, I had asked her what her first name was, and the vacant expression she gave me suggested that she had either forgotten it or she was trying to make one up on the spot. Her entire lesson seemed to have been made up on the spot, loosely based around “helping” a few expectant parents cope with their imminent bundles of snot, puke, and curiosity, but more focused on separating them from their hard-earned money.

  A sickly sweet incense burned nearby, prickling the back of my throat and making every swallow taste like Christmas. Smoke hung in the air and I got the impression that every fetid breath of burned wood had already passed through the lungs of everyone else in the room. The curtains were shut, the lights off, but what seemed like a million candles burned away, adding to the toxicity of the air and throwing odd and ineffective lights around the room. It seemed like a waste. Candles don’t come cheap, and beeswax candles are even more expensive. For a woman who prided herself on being in touch with nature, she was doing a very good job of burning half of it. And she could have gotten the same effect by turning on a light and plugging in an air freshener.

  The candles had bugged me since we arrived. They were the main reason I hadn’t been able to absorb myself in the class like the others had. One of my many, many previous careers involved selling handmade candles out of a pop-up store. I hated myself for it. The store popped-up, stunk up the mall, and the
n disappeared, leaving one guilty employee, dozens of broke customers, and a smell that lingered for years.

  The candles weren’t the only reason I couldn’t absorb myself in the class. It didn’t help that the teacher had the demeanor of someone who couldn’t make it through a sentence without having a stroke.

  “But it is also a time for personal reflection, for looking within yourself and for finding your beating soul, and your pulsing whole.”

  I rolled my eyes and checked my watch.

  The lesson was supposed to last an hour, and in that time you were supposed to “take a step toward enlightenment.” But it was nearly halfway through and I was still none the wiser. It was supposed to be a class to help first-time parents embrace their children and their rapidly changing lives, or at least that was the spiel written on the leaflet. So far we’d just sat on our asses, listening to a hippie who made as much sense as a Glaswegian astrologer. I hadn’t sat with my legs crossed since elementary school, when they inexplicably made us sit on a hard and dusty floor while some extraordinarily boring teacher read announcements that had no bearing on any of the three hundred children and their rapidly developing hemorrhoids.

  My ass had been killing me for weeks, around the same time I realized the only peace I got was when I was on the toilet. I’d let Lizzie believe I was constipated just so I could spend a good hour sitting on the toilet reading comic books, but then karma decided to fuck with me by giving me hemorrhoids and guiding me toward the only hippie in the world who didn’t own a fucking beanbag. I spent my days on a hardwood chair in a coffeehouse and my nights trying to sneak into the toilet to feign constipation.

  They would have been fine in most situations, but stuck on a solid floor for an hour was not one of those situations, and I knew that if the lesson dragged on any longer, I could be joining Lizzie in the hospital—as they removed a bundle of joy from her, they’d be trying to force a bundle of much less joy back into me.

 
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