Mid-morning on the following day. You’re sitting on a bench inside the small train station. Your leavetaking from the cottage was painful and embarrassing. Everyone, including the children, was aghast at what they clearly regarded as fresh evidence of your insanity. They stood at the foot of the porch steps in a group, as if arrayed for a family picture.

Noel summed up the general feeling. “I must say I’m disappointed. I expected much more of you.” Then he’d stepped back, putting his arm around his wife’s shoulders, a gesture of consolation to Lydia that also managed to seem proprietary.

You’d insisted on walking the mile or so to the train station, and no one seemed eager to argue. That left you to face Petra, her eyes still puffy from weeping.

You looked at her. Finally a shrug was all you could manage.

“I know. You’re sorry.” She sniffed. “But not as sorry as you’re going to be. Your friend Alan Shindel is going to be happy, though.”

You regard her steady gaze. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

She gives another sniff. “You figure it out.”

Now, waiting for the morning train, still numb from trudging to the station, you feel adrift, but adrift in the station is better than whatever’s going on back at the cottage. You may not know exactly what you feel, but sorry isn’t among the options. You take out your phone and stare at the screen. Call Eleanor? You’re on the point of doing so, but instead you say, “Call Dr. Rubino.”

Rubino has no secretary, but as the phone trills you’re fully prepared for your unscheduled call to go to voicemail. Unexpectedly, though, you hear Rubino’s voice speaking your name. He must be surprised, but his professional tone betrays nothing.

“I know I’ve burst into your morning,” you say.

“Don’t worry,” he replies. “I’m between appointments. But I don’t have a great deal of time. I assume your call is urgent.”

“I’ll try to be quick. I’m waiting for a train.” Speaking rapidly, you launch into a description of yesterday’s events and this morning’s aftermath, omitting Petra’s not-so-veiled reference to Alan Shindel as something for a future discussion. Used to listening, Rubino refrains from vocalized reactions. You reach the end of your tale and say, “Now here I am in the train station. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“Well,” he says after a pause, “you’ve finally taken what sounds like decisive action.”

“Maybe,” you say, “I’m just one of those people who can’t sustain a relationship.”

Another pause, then, “You’ve been married for fifteen years. That’s pretty sustained.”

“I guess,” you say. “But last night, this morning. How could I do such a thing?”

Rubino doesn’t hesitate. “I’d say your trip to the cottage was by way of confirming what you already knew.”

You tighten your grip on the phone. “And that doesn’t seem . . . unstable?”

“You know,” he says finally, “you’re not an axe-murderer. You just want a divorce.”



Arnold Johnston

Arnold Johnston's poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and translations have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies. His plays, and others written in collaboration with his wife, Deborah Ann Percy, have won over 300 productions and readings, and they’ve written, co-written, edited, or translated over twenty books. Arnie’s latest projects are The Infernal Now (poetry, Kelsay Books, 2022); Where We’re Going, Where We’ve Been, (poetry, FutureCycle Press, 2020); Swept Away (novel, Atmosphere Press, 2021), and Mr. Robert Monkey Returns to New York (a collaborative children's book with Debby, Brandylane Publishers, 2021). A performer-singer, Arnie has played many solo concerts and over 100 roles on stage, screen, and radio. He was chairman of the English Department (1997-2007) and taught for many years at Western Michigan University.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Wednesday, December 14, 2022 - 21:25