Detective Benjamin Crisp was spending his first night alone. The house he shared with his wife of forty years seemed to echo the sounds of another lifetime, one filled with laughter, children, and dogs. The children were grown now. But he couldn’t go into a room without seeing them all.
Nora had left him for a man she met at a book club. Benjamin shook his head at the reflection in the glass cabinet above the counter where he was fixing a sandwich for dinner.
A beer, a sandwich, and Monday Night Football, what could be better. And then he remembered how Nora had always tried to cook something special, he could envision her across the room busily chopping onions, while one of the dogs, probably Dusty, was jumping for a treat.
He put his meal on a tray, grabbed a paper towel and sighed— Nora always used cloth napkins. Upstairs the Raiders would take his mind off the past.
Nora had said she would wait till after his retirement party to leave. She hadn’t wanted him to be embarrassed in front of the people he’d worked with for thirty-five years. She’d showed up in a new dress. She’d been almost giddy. She looked younger. That was Friday night. Nora had spent the weekend packing. “I don’t really want to take much. Just my books, of course.” She’d put a few empty boxes next to the bookcase and started taking what she wanted. “I’m leaving you history, the civil war, and some biography. What about travel?”
“I don’t care.” His anger had left him, too. “The books aren’t important to me,” he’d said watching her till she turned around.
“What,” she’d said.
“How can you be so, so, matter of fact?” he’d asked
He hadn’t seen it coming, the affair. Once he found out about it, he thought it wouldn’t last. He had seen this story play out too many times. The woman would get clingy and the man, always married with a family, would get cold feet. Nora and the book club man weren’t at that stage yet. It would come soon enough, and he could wait. Nora was moving into a small apartment in town in anticipation of the book club man’s arrival.
“About the books?” She’d laughed and ran a dust rag around the edges of a volume.
“I’m trying to be civil, Benny. I don’t want to fight. We’ve got to put on a good face when we call the kids.”
He remembered going into the bathroom, running the water, and crying. He wasn’t going to cry again, not over Nora.
On his second day of retirement, there was nothing to rush for. He stared at the ceiling; it was 5:30 in the morning. You’ve got to have a plan—wake up the first day and have someplace to be, someone who is waiting for you. Decide.
In the living room the wall of bookcases appeared as a toothless hag, large gaps in alternating shelves laughing at him. Benny shuffled into the kitchen to start the coffee. He waited while the machine slowly dripped out the seconds. Nora had left her mugs, the ones with quotes he had failed to see the humor in. He pulled out his favorite chipped one and filled it: black and strong.
I bet book club man has to have two teaspoons of sugar and milk. He went back into the living room to assess the damage on the shelves. He was still a detective, after all, what was left is just as important as what was taken.
Nora had taken the poetry and left the history. She’d taken most of the novels, but left him the McMurtry, T. H. White and his collection of Spillane. He took a sip of coffee and stood back. Travel. He approached the shelf filled with places they had planned to go. He put his mug down, closed his eyes, and ran his index finger across the spines labeled with countries across the globe. Interesting choice, Benny. He took the book on Tahiti into the kitchen and set the table.
He considered his options for breakfast, the usual wouldn’t do. In the freezer, shoving pot pies and packages of peas and corn around, behind the waffles, he found what he was looking for: a frozen piece of wedding cake.
About the author
Bonita LeFlore grew up in New York City. After receiving a BFA from Syracuse University in painting, she began a career in advertising She now lives and works on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Where she often paints with words.
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