With the dishes once again cleaned and shelved, Mona stood in the doorway between the kitchen and the small living room, mentally reviewing her to-do list. She wiped her wet hands on a small red-checked dishtowel while the men in her life sat on the couch watching television.
“Blue Stew,” her husband of nearly two decades, roused himself from an after-dinner nap to watch TV with their teen-aged son, Mulch. He reached instinctively for the remote control missing from the arm of the couch. Mona retrieved it from the floor and tucked it in his hand, kissing him gently on the top of his head. She knew she should wait for the next ad, but she had an agenda to keep.
“Blue Stew,” she said, “honey, I want a divorce.”
Stew, who had noticed a glimmer of restlessness at supper, fired back. “And I want a glow-in-the-dark Lamborghini that runs on lawn clippings, with a beer-scented air freshener.”
“You don’t have to move out,” said Mona. “And we can still fool around – when I’m drunk. I just want my name back.”
Stew turned to her. “You still have your name. Never lost it. Desdemona, since the day you were born. Your mom came from a different class of people.”
Mulch stirred. “Desdemona? Is that your birth name? Sounds like an angel.”
“Don’t encourage her,” said Stew.
“Except everyone in your father’s family calls me Mona. With his last name tacked on, Mona Everhardt sounds like a porno queen. I want a pretty name. I want the name I was born with.”
“That name don’t exist anymore,” said Stew. “It’s been taken out of circulation, retired like Wayne Gretzky’s number 99. There’s no going back. Besides, names ain’t nothing. They’re just a way to get the right person’s attention when you’re in a crowded place, when it’s just confusing to yell, ‘Hey, you!’”
“That’s a lie,” said Mona.
Mulch was interested. “Hey, Dad, can I have a divorce, too?”
“What do you want a divorce for?” asked Stew.
“I’ve seen it on TV,” said Mulch. “Sometimes you get money, like when the judge finds in your favor.”
Stew swatted Mulch on the shoulder with the magazine from his lap. “You want money out of me? You should pay me for the roof over your head.”
“You mean the roof you inherited from Grandma?”
“Does anybody else in this house want a divorce?” asked Blue Stew. “Somebody find the dog. Ask that old hound dog if he wants a divorce. Maybe we can get a group rate. You got to pay lawyers, to file the paperwork, to put it all down in legalese.”
“What about the lawyer that married you?” asked Mulch. “Is he still around?”
“What lawyer?” snapped Stew. “To get married, you just need a motivating incident, like a father-in-law with a shotgun, or one in the oven, and God’s everlasting blessing. It’s like wrinkles and gray hair; it just sort of happens. What on earth makes you want a divorce now, after all these years?”
“Cause we’re approaching our 20th anniversary,” said Mona. “And I don’t want to. That sounds like you can’t get out of it, when you get to twenty.”
“And nineteen was different?” Stew demanded.
“There’s just something about twenty,” Mona said. “Maybe because I was twenty when I married you. Maybe because Lizzie just turned twenty.”
“If we get divorced,” Stew began, “who’s going to mother our children?”
“I can still mother them without being married to you,” said Mona quietly.
“Mulch, what do you think about your mom moving out?” asked Stew.
“No more making my bed. No more curfew. Sounds like heaven,” said Mulch. “No offense.”
“Where you going to live, the Howard Johnsons?” Stew asked.
“There’s a halfway house in town, for unwed mothers,” Mona answered.
“But you are wed,” said Stew.
“I’ll be unwed when we’re divorced,” said Mona.
“They mean mothers who never had a husband,” said Stew. “You’ve had a husband.”
“At least you’re seeing it my way,” said Mona.
“How’s that?” Stew asked.
“Had: past tense,” said Mona. “It’s over.”
“This isn’t because Wiley Hitchens is finally between wives, is it?” asked Stew.
“What Wiley Hitchens does in the bedroom is his business. This isn’t about him. This is about opportunities. I want a life with less housecleaning and more dancing. Seeing as you haven’t danced since our wedding, I don’t expect you to understand.”
“You want me to end up like those hoarders on TV, with clutter piling up everywhere?”
“It’s your choice,” replied Mona.
“You’d never be a hoarder, not you, collecting everything and not letting go.”
“My father didn’t raise no packrat,” Mona declared.
“Even though you already collected a life,” countered Stew, “a family and a husband.”
“In your case, one is too many,” said Mona.
“Can we talk about this at bedtime? ‘All roads lead to bed,’ the man said. We’re still going to the same place, ain’t we?”
“I was thinking that we wouldn’t be going to the same place,” Mona explained.
“Well, where you going to sleep? We only got two bedrooms in the house. And I am not sleeping on the couch.”
“You were sleeping on it fifteen minutes ago, watching the news. Seemed pretty comfortable then.”
“You know I’m a sensitive guy,” Stew offered. “Sometimes news can be overwhelming. I can hear it, but I can’t see it. I can do one or the other. If I hear it and I see it, then I have nightmares. So, if I just hear it, then I stay current, but I can still sleep at night.”
“Hey, Mom, I’ll divorce you,” said Mulch.
“You have to be married to me first, Mulch,” Mona explained.
“So, I’ll marry you, then divorce you,” Mulch offered.
“I’m going to bed,” said Mona, spinning on her heels. “Don’t wake me.”
“Happy anniversary,” Stew called out.
Charlie C Cole lives with his family in Maine on land once owned by his great-great grandfather. He has been previously published in alongstoryshort, Blackpetals, The Blue Crow, The Sandy River Review, The Café Review.