Glenn Lewis Gillette
Downstream From Divorce: A Drama in Three Acts
Act II: A single eye stared back at me, its somberness swept by a long-lashed blink. On the top bunk, my step-son lay on his side, head sunk to his nose in a pillow, and watched me get ready to state my position. A comforter snugged up to his smooth jawline and humped over his slender shoulder as it spread over the bed and smoothed away the rest of his body.
Act I: I was jogging under a full moon when he told his mom, my wife, about the offer his dad had made to him, at him, all over him, during the weekend spent at the Other House. I came back, sweaty, aching, to a very quiet house. Her face frozen, her eyes glistening, Laura wasn’t talking. Neither was Josh as he buried himself in Sunday-evening TV. I slipped into my cool-down like a stretcher-bearer tiptoeing through No-Man’s Land.
Act II: “Do you know what a prostitute is?” I asked, straight from the shoulder, man to man.
His headshake was vertical, but I understood. “Someone who sells his body for money. Someone who lets strangers penetrate his very self for money.”
An innocent, fragile cyclops, he stared at me.
Act III: “We assimilated our moral codes,” I told Laura. “Our parents were married. They protected us. They took us to church. We just picked up their moral code like we did language, or which side of the street to drive on, or how to tie a Windsor knot. Well...” Her steel expression deflected my smile. “I learned about Windsor knots.”
I hurried after my point. “Our kids, their parents divorced, see at least two different sets of morals and learn neither one.”
Act II: “A guy sits next to a woman in a bar.” I reached out as if telling a joke to the guys. “He says, ‘Will you have sex with me for a million dollars?’”
These days, twelve-year-olds didn’t need heavy euphemism for some adult concepts.
“She says, ‘Yes.’ The guy says, ‘Will you have sex with me for ten dollars?’”
Act I: I found Laura tucked into a pained silence in the utility room. She peered at me, teeth clenched, lips parted, like she was deciding something.
“He doesn’t want me to tell you,” she blurted. “So you can’t let on that you know.”
“Jack offered Josh an allowance of a hundred dollars a month if he lived with him.” She swallowed a lump. “And they’d redecorate his room. And an 18-speed bike. Josh said he’s been thinking about it.”
I strode across the room. Laura stood woodenly apart from my support, then slumped against me.
She said to my shoulder, “The last time he came — ” A strangled hiccup splintered the sentence. “Two weeks ago, Josh told me how he could never live there. The other kids, his step-mother, the house... he told me I’d never have to worry about him leaving.” She trembled against me with fear, anger — and the pain of losing a child to the worst possible cause, the Other Parent.
Act II: “The woman pulls herself up indignantly and says, ‘What do you think I am?’” I locked my eyes on Josh’s and sent myself down the connection. “‘We’ve already established that,’ the guy says. ‘All we’re doing now is bickering about the price.’
“She had proved herself to be a prostitute, Josh. It didn’t matter how much money was involved, the fact that money made the difference meant that she would sell herself. And selling yourself never makes anything better.”
He spoke then, his mouth unseen, his words monotone. “You don’t know how hard he can be.” His father, he meant.
Act III: “Maybe this is the way our kids have to learn their moral codes,” I said in the dimness of our kitchen, with Josh asleep down the hall, with Laura exhausted and frail beside me at the counter. “One parent strikes out at the other by smashing away at their kid, with no regard for the child as a person, only as a vehicle, as a hostage for the Other Parent’s behavior. Then the parents set up in their positions, assume their poses, and...” I frowned. “The kid chooses. The kid makes a choice, a choice no one that age should ever have to make, and it forms the nucleus for his moral code. And it just builds from there, like a snowball.”
Laura looked at me like I was some alien spouting about ecology to a woman who killed the last elephant to feed her family.
“At least it’s something,” I said to the tiled wall. “Something to be gained out of a rotten situation.”
“What if he picks the wrong side, Ron?” she said, without looking around. She pushed herself upright, and walked into the darkened house like a suicide moving to the sea’s embrace. “What if he leaves me?” drifted back to me as though carried by the sound of the surf.
“He won’t,” I said. “We talked.”
Act II: “I do know him,” I returned quickly, rising to the boy’s words. “Him and lots more like him. It’s hard, Josh, but you’ve got the guts to do it. Just like Indiana Jones climbing out onto the Nazi sub, just like Mighty Max staring back at the monster robot just before he tosses a Twinkie into the thing’s battery pack.
“The thing is, selling yourself is — ”
“Bad.” The muffled word sprang back at me even though the steady eye hadn’t changed.
“Bad.” I blew the word out of my chest with a sigh and took a step toward the bunk bed.
He opened up the comforter with a thin arm that wrapped hard around my neck. His lips were dry on my cheek. I squeezed his shoulders the best I could.
“It’s hard,” I said. “Harder than anything you’ve ever done before. But you can do it.”
He didn’t say anything else as I turned off the light and walked out of his room.
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About the Author
Glenn Lewis Gillette
In the early ’70s, Analog magazine published two of Glenn’s short stories; another appeared in Lone Star Universe, a hardcover anthology; these stories are now available on the on the fictionwise Web site (e.g., here). At that time, choosing family over free-lancing, he turned to technical writing and parlayed that into a successful career in the computer industry.
After 15 years working at Digital Equipment Corporation, he caught a tsunami of downsizing that left him standing on the shore of a new life. With the support and financial wizardry of his wife Jeanne, he tackled fiction again. In fact, together they wrote two mainstream novels (which haven’t sold yet). Now, after several intense years of adapting his writing skills, he is tackling a wider range of genres. The Jewish Spectator published one of his short stories, its first and only (so far) science-fiction story. Speculations, a writers’ magazine focused on the science fiction and fantasy genres, published his article on “Writing Good Computer.”
He also develops business software and consults part-time in Web site design and development thru his Web site warefore.com. He actively markets my short and long fiction on his Web site glgwrites.com, including his business-oriented SF novel Seeds of Disaster.
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Copyright © 2008, Glenn Lewis Gillette. All Rights Reserved.