A marriage of inconvenience was, I suppose, what we signed up for. Although, that doesn’t quite tell it true. We thought ourselves defiers of convention, although one could argue with some merit, that we were poseurs in our contrariness. From the beginning, we found each other interesting, intelligent, funny, and more than a little off-center in our enjoyment of the different, the unexpected and often the downright awful. To the outside eye we traded fighting for tenderness, cruelty for kindness. Adultery and other erosions of loyalty were treated with an indifference we did not entirely feel. We acted out conventional indignation in front of our friends with studied disregard for time, place or propriety.

But when the sun went down, we compared notes and giggled about our exploits as part of our night time ritual, like cleaning our teeth. We saw our ability to withstand personal betrayal as a fortifying elixir protecting us against any actuary, however ingenious, placing us on his mortality tables. For Connie and me it was release of steam, theatrical amusement, an assurance that our secret life still bound us together. Genuine hurt, of course, could not easily be separated from the pretense of it, a further enhancement of the piquancy of our play.

I first saw her in Kabibble, my favorite off-key watering hole down town. Her small busty frame caught my eye as soon as I walked in. The after-work crowd hadn’t filtered in yet, the place waiting for the boisterous exchanges of office workers unchained. Randy the big, red-faced Irish barman and chucker-outer rubbed a squeaky dry dish towel over a wet glass.

“Hey Dane,” he called out. Connie glanced up and in a beat cast her eyes back down to the coaster on the scarred wooden bar top. She looked like a person who had been waiting too long for the bus and I imagined her asking herself, what am I doing in this dump? She swished the ice cubes about in her drink then lifted the blue swizzle stick and ran it across her lips, slowly, like a tart trolling for action. She wore her hair bunched together with ribbon at the back of her head, giving her a crazy, undisciplined look. I later discovered her hair matched her personality.

I may not be the big brain in town but knew enough to get over to her, start talking and buy her a refresher. My legs took me to her without much guidance from me. Up close I could see her uneven, slightly bucked teeth, which made her look sexier than the girls whose parents had spent thousands on braces. I opened with a not too inspired “hello” and a witless guess that she did not come from around here. She said nothing at first, but with a brush of her hand and a lopsided twist of her lips, signaled that I ought to get lost. I replied by shifting my stool closer.

“Not very bright are you?” she observed.

“Nah, but I am handsome, persistent,” I paused, “and available.”

“How about conceited, annoying and not too modest?” Her thin smile said, you must also be pretty dumb to think I haven’t heard that line before.

“No point in being modest unless you’ve got plenty to be modest about.” I unfurled a boyish grin. A smile nibbled at the edge of her mouth.

“Well, I guess if you’re not going to stop spoiling my view, you should buy me a drink.” Her empty glass spoke for her and with a wave of the hand, I flagged down Randy the Red and whistled up two martinis straight, one with and one without an olive, just in case.

“Listen Miss Wonderful,” I started, my inclination being to rip the cockiness out of her and to hell with ruining my chances, but a flicker of uncertainty softened that thought.

“I may not be the handsomest guy around here, but you’re the one sitting on her very pretty ass pushing out her chest and getting no traffic.”

The low grumble of noise and chatter, which had risen as the punters drifted in, seemed to drain out of the place. The back of my neck burned as if all eyes were on us. Her response came slowly, long enough for me to think I’d blown it. Then she burst out laughing. In my head, I heard the whole bar cheering. When we stood up to leave several hours later, I saw more clearly a gal who relied on six inch heels to make her way in a taller world.

Connie and I got married in 1983 when we were in our early thirties. Three years my junior, she was the first girlfriend I thought smarter and wiser than me. Her lips puckered in a permanent pout and she carried the body of her eighteen-year-old self well into her forties, a very pretty package. She knew it and so did the guys. She had a big mouth and not just literally, brash doesn’t even come close. Yet that take-it-or-leave-it persona was for public consumption, her way to stand out in a crowd. Underneath she had a sense of the undisclosed about her, a secret part off limits to the rest of us. We were alike in this. But later, much later, the extent of her mastery of the hidden and of her love for me revealed itself in a way I never guessed.

Her sense of humor could burn its way through steel plate, a good match for my own unrelenting sarcasm. She read books with titles like Preservation of Wealth, Risk and Return in the Futures Market or Contrarian Investment Strategies: The Psychology of Stock Market Success. I couldn’t get past page two with any of them. Liking and admiration, often of the worst qualities in each other, pulled us in and kept us together. We married and stayed for twenty five years. No children, no effort one way or the other, just the luck of the draw.

Some years were sublime, some dodgy, most somewhere in between. One or two drew us dangerously close to divorce. But as fast as the crap came around, so followed the dream-like times of sweetness.

The nose-to-nose screaming contest that we placed at the center of our life together was underlain by trust of a different kind. An unwritten memorandum of understanding between the two of us that could be reworked as circumstances or whim suited. Either of us could rework the agreement at any time and the other would have to figure out the change and act accordingly.

For all the threats to quit or bust up, neither of us could summon the energy or the courage or whatever it is that’s needed to make a break. We survived it all and enjoyed much that would have defeated others. Like any pair of jackals, we stood ever ready to pull a bit of fur out of each other. But any outside threat to our tiny pack and we closed ranks.

Connie and I created a perverse world which we embraced eagerly, building on and adding flourishes as we went, our playground an ever shifting mess of infidelity, public embarrassment and acidic remarks custom tailored to our personal vulnerabilities.

If Connie called me a lousy bastard, I’d serve “useless bitch” back to her.

A variation on “Call yourself a man” was a favored opening salvo.

My thumb-in-the-eye response would be a play on, “No darling, that’s your job.”

No structure existed, no steering between painted white lines, no crack of the starting pistol. Play was triggered by the clues that did or did not follow the opening gambit.

If for example she said, “Honey, would you make the tea? I just put the kettle on,” she meant no more than that. No game!

If she came home late in the afternoon smelling sweet, dressed to kill and mentioned casually, “Oh, I met Jim downtown,” I would sniff the pregnant air and prepare to find a trail. The single word “met” could mean so much more. Pay attention! More clues coming. When I detected an inconsistency in her tale, a tone of voice, a mischievous look, game on!

If however, she went on to report, “his son had made the varsity football team” or “his wife had just had a hysterectomy,” I would mark it as “possible re-visit,” and relax for the moment. Game off!

* * *

At the end of last summer Connie started puking in the mornings. It didn’t seem like much at the time, a plausible reason could always be found. She ate too much the night before, the food was too rich, all that smoke and dust in our friends’ homes, not feeling well, aging. We kidded about morning sickness but Connie had just turned fifty-seven which informed against it. Soon she began to find food uninteresting, got skinnier. We jested about trimming down. When our usual mode of ignoring unpleasant situations, or making dark jokes about them, could no longer stand, she went in for tests. She was diagnosed and submitted to treatments both curative and palliative. As the disappearing speck of options vanished, as tears and fears grew, all trips to the hospital ceased. We’d agreed early in our relationship that dying at home counted more than lasting a few months longer. Our long running drama would be closing soon. I severed my current connections without regret, even from the willowy little Louise, who had burrowed into me more than I was willing to admit.

During all this, the medical bills piled up. Connie had always dealt with the family finances and could have bought a dozen mink coats over the years without my knowing. I just forked over my pay check and she doled out my weekly pocket money. I liked her taking over such stuff. “Connie dear,” I told her, “you’re the smart one, besides I can’t be bothered with all that.” But it wasn’t entirely that. She liked doing the accounts and did it well. I didn’t. Over the years, my studied indifference and feigned incompetence gave way to a very real cluelessness. To pay for her treatment, I figured I’d mortgage or sell the house if I had to. I hadn’t written a check in years, but I paid some of the bills, the ones with red letters and threatening language.

As the weeks after her death passed, I began to think I should do something other than cry my way through old photo albums and listen to the well-meant but unhelpful platitudes of our friends — “so sorry,” “a mercy really,” “her suffering is over now,” “anything we can do.” It felt somehow insulting that people of intelligence couldn’t muster an original thought when someone they care for dies.

I started to sort through her things, slowly clearing out her clothes closet and bedroom drawers. I piled dresses, blouses, skirts and business suits of different sizes on the bed. Some of them I’d never seen before, some still had sales tags still on them. I emptied out the drawers — a hodgepodge of panties, hose, socks, costume jewelry, pajamas, sweaters, sweet smelling doodads and the like. A cheap but pretty marcasite brooch or an embroidered hanky, still in its box, drew memories of our early days. I didn’t know what to do with it all. It seemed, I don’t know, too crude to invite her friends to the house to pick through it. Not that it would have been beneath me, but it would not have been what Connie would do. She would have burned it all rather than invite pickers in. The whole mess stayed piled on the bed for a week — I slept on the couch or the floor.

A few days more, feeling like I weighed a ton, I went into the garage, pulled out a dozen or so garbage bags and swept all the small stuff into them. I lugged the coats, suits and dresses out to the car five or ten at a time, hangers and all, and took them to the Salvation Army. There were four car loads. I guessed that if it had been me who had just been cremated, Connie would have done exactly this, probably sooner rather than later too. No bullshit about my Conn.

A week later I tackled her desk. Before opening it, I stared at this grand antique monstrosity — all curlicues and hand carved pedestals. There were no locks, warnings or signs saying “No Trespassing,” but I felt like I’d crashed through into the Secret Garden, a place I shouldn’t be. If ever either of us were searching for a stamp or a pencil we knew enough not to go through each other’s desks or private storage places. It wasn’t a matter of trust, more the reverse — an unwillingness to find something we’d rather not know about. And so I hesitated, as a swimmer might at the edge of a glacier fed lake.

My eyes were drawn to a small yellow paper, a receipt from the dry cleaners — three blouses, a skirt and a man’s suit. I picked it up, crumpled it to my face and sniffed in a deep breath of it. Could a touch or a thumbprint leave a trace of her scent? For a fading second, I saw her, naked from the waist down, peeling the sleeve of one of those colorful blouses off her arm and growling low,

“Come on, Dane show Connie what you’ve got.” A crack of sadness opened up and I crawled in.

My senses came back to me hours later. In the now darkened room, I felt as if the individual bones of my spine had disconnected. I slid off the red leather desk chair to the floor like a rag doll, curled up half under the desk and got on with the broken sleep of the bereft.

The next morning I felt ready. The tingle of anticipation I thought I’d feel did not come. Instead the fear that I might find something I wished I hadn’t gripped my guts. The still open desk was crammed with paper clips, candy wrappers, small piles of bond and printer paper. I swept away the obvious junk, dumping it into the wicker waste basket — personalized stationery, a box or two of rubber bands twangless from age, chargers from devices long since lost or abandoned. Useful stuff — plain envelopes, scissors and the like, I put in a neatish pile on the green brocade ottoman I’d always hated. As I dug further back into the scraps of yellowed paper, pencil stubs and rock hard erasers, I found a bundle of envelopes tied with cheap string. Love letters of, course.

I read a few, leftovers from our long-running marital shenanigans. Most were from me which, to my surprise, I found uplifting rather like a boy who’d unexpectedly won a school prize. Our early exchanges I remembered as I pulled on the string, were loaded were with sexual reference and graphic description, what I liked, what she loved and what we should do more of. The more recent letters were fewer and filled with apology, regret, rationalizations and promises, but still unexpectedly sweet and loving. The remainder were filled with the gibberish that lovers can’t seem to stop themselves from writing when they are enthralled, but are mostly embarrassed by when romance is buried by the weight of familiarity. The “fuck chat” as Connie called it, went into the fireplace grate for later burning. I saved a couple of the better missives from me and a particularly well-written one from a guy I rather liked, called Tony. We had dined out with him and his wife a few times.

Getting tired of cleaning out and near the point where I thought, if I move one more crappy, mashed up birthday card from years back, I’ll set fire to the whole goddamned desk! I began to suspect that soon I would find a nest of small furry creatures or the skeleton of a rat. I swept away old barrettes, bobby pins, gritty clumps of unknown substance, a long languished snack bar still bright in its red wrapper, a couple of tampons — crunchy dry in their aged cellophane — and not a necessary part of Connie’s life for years. God, Connie you’re a slob.

The desk was near empty now and I reached in to pull out the last of the old newspaper cuttings, the dully aged paper clips and the yellowed receipts. There, tucked behind one of the cubby holes, I found a thirty year term life insurance policy. I didn’t recognize the company name or the logo. The insured was Conn and the beneficiary me. Just another forgotten piece of crap along with all the others, I thought. Some small but essential switch clicked in my head though.

Connie always did odd stuff behind my back. I didn’t care much about her hiding things. Did plenty of it myself. The insurance policy felt like a relic from a long forgotten teasing joke in our cat and mouse life together. Some smart aleck salesman turns up, you go along, you start out paying and, as money needs to get spent elsewhere, you slowly forget. You stop paying the premiums and, after a while, even the pestering reminders stop coming through the mailbox.

I didn’t have to dig deep to discover that the Touchstone Insurance Company did exist. When I called, I expected to be on hold for an hour, but a lively young woman answered immediately and I gave her the essentials. Polite and non-committal at first, she called back the next week to tell me the premiums had been paid up to a very recent date and the details I had given checked out. They already had our current address and once I sent in the death certificate she would establish a legitimate claim for me.

The policy would eventually pay a half million dollars. And so Connie’s last game played out, a twenty-five-year deception of uncharacteristically sweet consequence. How or why she paid the premiums I still do not know. Jesus Christ, Conn, what can you have been thinking?

After the initial flush of feeling wealthy, after settling hospital bills and paying off the over-mortgaged house, the money was all but gone. I think Connie meant me to blow it all on a cushy life, but I paid the bills because I knew that’s what she would have done.

Winter settled in after Connie died and I more or less decomposed with her for a few months. Sloth became my god. I began getting up later and later, frequently staying in bed all day, and often as not, slept fully clothed on the floor. When I ran out of food or smokes and had to leave the house, I’d pull a shirt and a pair of jeans from the increasingly unsavory pile of unwashed clothing heaped on the bedroom floor. Daily showers got to be less of a habit and cleaning and cooking desultory pastimes. I put a razor to my face once in a while, usually after catching a glimpse of my disheveled self in the mirror. Sleep was a fitful, anemic business, broken by bouts of staring at the wall without a thought in my head. Other times my mind raced over the peaks and valleys of our married life, sometimes for days at a stretch. Blissful it wasn’t, though we had our moments.

She once confessed to Louise, “I stay with Dane because he’s the only one who can keep up with me. Some of the time, he’s actually ahead of me.” Louise passed this on to me when we were playing the he-she thing in a cheesy hotel room outside of town. As my head lay on my lover’s shoulder, my chest could not have swelled more had I been told I’d won a Nobel Prize.

Of course, periods of rest — truces if you like — were necessary for Connie and me to carry on the mundane necessities of what many are content to call real life. We both would have had a stroke had we played without pause. In the heady early days we found relief in biking the hills outside of town. And many a Sunday we lay on the living room floor, eating exotic bon-bons from a fancy box, sharing the Times crossword. Or we would sit opposite each other quietly reading our books, looking across the room from time to time, and exchanging wry smiles. Once in a while, the silent suggestion in those smiles led us to the panting excitement of the bedroom. Certainly sex healed the wounds of our private battles but, even if it were not so, tigers could not have had better time of it.

The unassailable bond which kept us together was the unrelenting push to keep our shared life fresh, undefined, uncertain. Life, we thought, should be defiantly messy, constantly in flux and, as the saying goes, full of surprises. “Self-satisfaction verboten” might have been our motto. Never indifferent, we were alive and eager for it all. The roots were strong and deep and yes, great love in all the competitive fierceness. We may have loved one another in an alien way, but when she died, there was no sigh of relief. The gash of grief was real and painful enough.

It was Connie’s commanding voice I heard when I first eased myself out of bed at a decent hour. She decided the day had come for me to forsake this pointlessly self-indulgent wallowing.

Come on Dane you lazy bastard, do something — anything. You can’t loll about like this forever.

She got me to bathe and shave. Honey, pull yourself together, you look like shit!

When I first felt that something inside telling me that a release form had been signed, the barren branches of late March began showing tiny clusters of green. I went out in our yard and sat for whole afternoons, trussed up in my pea coat and her wool leggings I found when clearing the attic. Each day, lolling in the increasing warmth, I watched as the sun unfolded its splendid shadow play on the wooded hills overlooking our town.

Habits and rituals long lost began to revive. In the first weeks leafing through the newspaper, I saw only a scramble of words and grey pictures. Slowly the words came into focus and framed a more coherent world for me. Instead of gnawing on debris from the fridge — bread brittle in its staleness, pieces of cheese which needed the mold cut from them — I began to scramble or fry an egg or two for breakfast. I started to drink coffee again, to buy the best beans and to take interest in the preparation rituals.

I’d always loved coffee, but gave it up in my forties because of the jitters. Then, I drank it by the quart and abused it as a stimulant. Now I drank little, tasted the acrid beauty of it and enjoyed the brew — just a small cup each day, sometimes two.

One morning I got up earlier than usual, showered and pulled on my pants. Bent over, toweling my hair, I caught a glimpse in the bathroom mirror of my gut hanging over my belt like a fifty pound bag of rice cinched in the middle. At a less than average height, I had started to look like Danny de Vito way too fast. Connie, of course, would have been merciless. Her voice roiled about in my head: oink, oink, oink, you fat slob. Why would any woman want that bouncing on top of her? You could keep the gym in business for a year. God, Dane, why don’t you get down to the zoo and join the other hippos?

I agreed. Not pretty, and wondered how long it had been since I’d done a sit-up. An enthusiastic exerciser most of my life, I had let it go, along with everything else in the months of Connie’s struggle to let go of life. Now I could see and feel the unhappy result of my indifference. I walked a few city blocks at first, stopping frequently, my hands on my knees, huffing and puffing to catch my breath. By slow degrees I opened my stride, widened my circle and lengthened my distance. Within weeks I found I could cover four miles in an hour. The lard started to come off while the yellows and purples of the spring flowers got me smiling. I began to feel my muscles mastering the tasks my mind set them, the inner glow of well-being ran through me, and I became more at ease with the lean, clean-cut guy in the mirror.

My new walking regimen had started me back to health, but I was at heart a cyclist. At my athletic best I would catch sunrise on the road, riding at least twenty miles every day. Should I get on my bike again? I wondered. We’d always had a bike or two in the over-packed warehouse we called a garage. So I poked around in there for twenty minutes, moving aside a box or two with the energy of a man twice my age and found nothing. Quickly dispirited, I gave up the search and went back into the house. I felt like someone had just picked my pocket.

The next day, in the supermarket parking lot stowing groceries in the car, I remembered where I’d put them. Energy surged up inside as oil gushers are said to do. I drove altogether too fast back to the house and dumped paper bags full of cornflakes, coffee, bread, cheese and bologna on the counter, spaghetti strands flew from their box to the kitchen floor and crunched under foot as an unreasoning urgency gripped me.

Running straight to the overgrown bottom of the yard, I began clearing the path to the garden shed. I yanked at the ivy, pulled up the two foot high grass banging the roots on the ground to break free the load of the clinging earth. I tore at the nondescript shrubs like a crazed gorilla. Sweating and panting, I cleared the way to the shed door. The earth smelled sweet as I ripped out the last of the vegetation exposing the rusted metal shaft of a rotted out hoe. I swept it into my hands and shoved its flattened end behind the rusted lock. With one swift motion the shackle flew off the door, screws, hasp, lock and all. Wrenching the sagging door back on its hinges, I heard the old dry planks cracked and split.

Inside, half-hidden in the gloom, were our bikes, leaning on the back wall of the shed, one behind the other, handlebars locked together in a twisted metallic embrace. I’d taken them both to this resting place when Connie got sick — one of those unthinking things you do as a minor diversion when more ominous events take over. Sitting atop red earthenware planting pots, rusty tools and bags of rock-solid lawn care products, the pale blue of Connie’s Schwinn and the chrome yellow of my old Fuji shone dully through the dust and cobwebs.

Gaining rather than losing strength, I tore at the handfuls of junk that stood in the way, slinging bags, boxes and tools aside to get to them. A quick survey showed that Connie’s old Schwinn was rusted beyond recovery. I’ll have to pay the garbage guy a little extra to take it. I picked up her bike with both hands and tossed it out the shed door with a crash. Decayed and desiccated, my own steel-framed Fuji sat forlornly begging to be brought into the light. The chain was held in stiff immobility by rust, the saddle leather hard as stone and corn flake dry. With a feeling approaching tenderness, I lifted the bike gently out of the shed and set it down on its airless, cracked tires. It had been an expensive and well cared for racer in its time. My neglect of this thing I’d once loved made my eyes wrinkle with tears. I felt a farewell had been expressed and indeed months back it had. This was not a farewell, but rather a welcoming, uplifting re-acquaintance.

I carried the bike to the garage, brushed the worst of the crap off it, hosed it down and splashed some oil and grease on the places where it mattered. After a quick series of simple tests it seemed mechanically sound and worth some effort. I felt released from pulling against an unseen leash for way too long. Without changing into my old duds, I dived right in, grabbed my tools and within hours had stripped the bike down to its ball bearings. The tools came to hand as if anticipating my need, long rusted threads gave way with no opposition, as if the bike had been helping, as if it too felt the promise of greater expectations.

I began greasing and tuning as I rebuilt it piece by piece. I bought new tires, brakes, a chain, a saddle, trued the wheels, re-taped the handlebar grips and installed and re-fitted more in new parts than the old bike was worth.

It took three long days working straight through to restore the Fuji. Meticulous without being slow, I worked steadily cheered on by each tick of the clock. I ate sparingly, exhausted at the end of the day and slept like bear in hibernation. On the fourth day, I rose at dawn and finished the re-assembly by noon. I fussed about, eager and energized, for a half hour more, polishing the chrome and paintwork, checking the tire pressure for the umpteenth time. The gleaming re-constructed Fuji was ready to go. I could not have felt more pleased with myself had I single-handedly revived a city devastated by an earthquake. I took in a deep calming breath, threw my leg over the saddle, adjusted its height and stood astride the cross bar for a second or two. Testing the newly lubricated brakes a couple of times, I pushed off out across town.

It was one of those cool, sweet, sunny days that the melded edges of spring and summer bring us. I warmed up as my legs found their rhythm and, on the edge of beginning to fly, I passed through our old development on the outer rim of the city. A thousand points of color amid the iridescent green were busting out on the shimmering hills. In front of her house, a pretty woman knelt in the grass pulling a too-tight cotton glove off her hand. A trowel stuck in the earth and a low box with plants in it lay beside her. She looked up and I recognized her as I raced onward at a clip. It was Louise.

I hadn’t seen her in a long while, but our affair had been the talk of the neighborhood a while back.

“Hey Dane,” she hailed me as the distance between us closed, “still knocking off the lard, I see.” I could not think how she knew about my weight.

I waved and, as I roared past her, shouted back, “Yup.” I wanted to stop and talk or at least to explain that when you hit your stride, you can’t break, you must ride on ’til you’re done. But I remembered the creamy white skin under that tatty gardening frock she wore and the small scar under her left breast. When I get back, I thought. I stood on the pedals and started up the first low incline to the clean cool air of the hills outside town.

#b#About the writer:#/b#

Robert Hebditch grew up in London, England, and earned an MA in anthropology from NYU. Married with two sons, he is a retired staff member of Princeton University. His short stories have been published in the U.S. 1 Summer Fiction issue and the Kelsey Review.

#b#The writer’s statement:#/b#

One way or another I have always written, from my first gold star in junior school for my ham-fisted re-telling of the adventures of Batman through my non-fiction days as a college student and a very minor academic until today.

It was travel, though, that set me on the path of the writer. In the iconic year 1968, I left my home in London intending to circumnavigate the globe in five years. Ultimately, it took seven years, five continents, and more than 40 countries to complete. I was looking for adventure, for new experience rather than inspiration for writing. After the heady early years of living and working in foreign lands, I began writing down my experiences and then to weave stories around them.

I settled in New York and used my notebooks as source for a collection of short stories. I still have a hand-typed copy and am surprised at how good and how bad my writing was. From time to time, friends encouraged me to write about my life abroad. But the reality of a more settled life meant writing became a time-to-time activity.

It took retirement to begin to write more frequently and with more purpose. I joined some of the excellent writing groups in and around Princeton. I first read my work to encouraging audiences, at the memoir group at Lawrenceville Library, but more importantly listened and learned from other writers. Through them I saw that I needed to know more about the craft of fiction writing. I learned much at Princeton Arts Council classes and from Lauren B. Davis’s Sharpening the Quill and grew closer to many other local writers. These friends continue, through their example and helpful criticism, to inspire and inform my writing.

How a writer writes is as important as what he or she writes and there is no one right way. Many successful writers plan out every detail. But the masterful short story writer Flannery O’Connor informs my process. She wrote 60 years ago,

“The only way, I think, to learn to write short stories is to write them, and then to try to discover what you have ­done.”

I often start with an idea, an ending, a scene or a blurry idea of a plot. Only occasionally do I have much idea where I might be going. This can seem a wasteful way to write and indeed 10,000 words might be written before a 1,500-word story emerges. Much effort comes to nothing and is abandoned on one’s hard drive, perhaps to be re-visited in a year or two, perhaps not.

An Unassailable Bond began as a cluster of scenes about the adulterous behavior of two seemingly hateful characters. After many re-writes and much helpful criticism, it grew into an independent short story. These characters were interesting enough for me to warrant two more stories about them. Each of those was revised several times. For this edition I melded two of these stories together requiring further edits.

I expect to write more about these two characters, perhaps even enough to create a novel.

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