The Fine Line

by Kim BOND

Helaine snarled as she tossed her crocheted purse on the marble countertop. Jim silently wondered how he had disappointed her this time. He mentally checked off his usual list: trash had been emptied, litter box was clean, and he had switched the television to her favorite channel.

“Rough day, honey?” Jim cocked his head in her direction and stopped thumbing through the mail.

“It’s the neighbor.” She sighed hoping to evoke her husband’s pity. “I can accept it when the neighbor does not wave to me from across the lawn—that’s fine. But he parked right next to me at the farmer’s market, and you know what he said? Nothing. I find it odd and disturbing.” She looked to Jim as if he held all the answers. To her, it seemed he did. He was twenty years her senior and mingled in intellectual circles. Some even thought him to be a genius.

“Well, did you say something to him?” Jim studied a five-dollar off restaurant coupon.

“No.” She scrunched her face and smoothed back wisps of her wild hair.

Jim analyzed the situation and determined his wife and the neighbor were suppressing sexual tension. If given the opportunity, he predicted Helaine and his neighbor would make out like teens in the backseat of a Dodge Neon. All that stood between them was his presence. He abruptly vowed never to leave her at home alone again.

His mind tossed and turned over the decision. Not only was it unrealistic to always be with her, he valued trust and considered it an integral aspect of love. He decided his situation warranted a trust test.

“I bought a gym membership.” Jim fiddled with a string on his trousers to hide his lying eyes.

“Good for you!” He concluded she was being sincere and had bought into the lie.

“I think I will go right now.” He scooped up his keys and pecked her cheek. He mentally told her this is a test and she should try to pass. He closed the door behind him and drove to a nearby hill, where he parked the Toyota Avalon. He stared out the open window at his and his neighbor’s homes below.

After eight minutes, nothing had happened. She did not leave her house to knock on his door and ask for an egg or other kitchen staple as a ploy to weasel herself inside and make passionate love to him.

After twenty-two minutes, nothing had happened. He did not peep in her window to see her unbutton her polyester dress and slip into her holey Phish nightshirt. He stared directly at the houses, only watching the sky darken out of the corner of his eye. By that time, he had noticed the two televisions flickered simultaneously as if they were synchronized. They were watching the same television show. He raised his eyebrows.

After twenty-three minutes, Jim’s stomach growled. He felt around the floorboard for an old fry. That is when he noticed his loafers. He envisioned his one pair of gym shoes on the floor on his side of the closet. If she decided to poke around in there—which he felt sure she did, she would automatically know he had lied. He planned to instantly forgive her because he does the same thing while she is gone. He reasoned she had probably figured out he had lied and was wondering where he was at that very moment. He deduced this was the reason she did not knock on the neighbor’s door to ask for an egg to seduce him.

Jim concluded he should call it a day and resume the spy session another time. He noted he must bring gym shoes for the next spy session, as well as rice cakes and binoculars.

He put the car in gear and drove the short trip back home. When he walked inside, she barely looked away from the flat screen television hanging on the wall to greet him. Still, he doubted she could focus on the show with all those sexual fantasies about their neighbor playing over and over in her head.

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