The whistle blew signaling the end of the first half. Turning towards the pool in his backyard, Bob watched as the sun was sinking on this November Saturday.
His wife was behind him in the kitchen, seasoning a turkey. “Can you lower the volume please?”
He muted the tv, reached for the empty glass in front of him, and stood. “What’s up? Is that for tonight?”
“I thought since it’s Thanksgiving weekend and we went to the Miller’s on Thursday you’d like a turkey. I need you to take Tommy to Dylan’s house. He’s going there for dinner and probably going to sleepover.”
“We’ll see. I’ll text him later. If he doesn’t answer, I’ll call Jeff and see how things are going. If he’s happy, he’ll stay.”
Tommy, the Leider’s fourteen-year-old son, was reaching for his father’s car keys when he heard a loud knock at the door.
Darlene shut the oven and dropped her turkey baster as the knocks continued.
Keith’s knees shook as he passed his son, turned on the foyer lights and answered the door.
“Keith Leider?”, the heavyset uniformed officer asked.
“Yes,” his voice cracked.
“Please step out of the house.”
Wearing no shoes, a New York Jets tee shirt, and a pair of jean shorts, Dean stepped onto the porch as he shut the door behind him.
Looking up, he saw two other police officers who looked to be the same size as the first.
“Keith Leider, you are under arrest for…”
He did not hear the rest. His mind went blank as he was told to place his hands behind his back.
His wife and two sons opened the door, shaking as they watched their father standing barefoot in handcuffs.
“Ma’am, do you have a pair of shoes for him?”, the officer asked Darlene as he was patting him down. “I suggest you take his wallet. You won't be needing that where you’re going.”
She took the wallet, walked to the garage door, reached for her husband’s flip flops, and walked back to the front porch.
“Listen Ma’am it’s Saturday of a holiday weekend so I suspect by the time he gets processed and placed he won't be seeing a judge until Monday, Tuesday latest.”
Keith stood on the porch. There were no police cars and no neighbors outside. He looked straight ahead as the door shut behind him and the first policeman said, “Yeah, I got this slug. He ain’t going nowhere so you guys can go. Thanks.”
“How’d I get here,” Keith asked himself as the officer guided him gently around the corner to the darkened police car.
“How’s the job going?”, Carol Kushner asked as Keith was pulling onto his driveway.
Opening the side door of her van, she was ushering her two daughters and son into the back. “Okay, everybody into car seats and we’ll stop off at McDonald's on the way home, okay?”
Keith was watching her buckle up all three children as she turned towards him. “Yeah, well, I heard it sucks. In fact, I hear you're making no money. How are you planning on supporting a family? What’s the next move?”
Dean stared blankly at her. He was working long hours for a startup technology company, not paying him a salary but promising him a piece of equity.
She closed the door and walked around him towards the driver's side. “Okay. You have no plan, and your family is ready to scream. Meet me at my house tomorrow at one-thirty.”
He smirked, shook his head and watched her start the engine with the door still open. “Can't. I have work to do.”
“Dude,” she said while pressing the button to lower the window. “You got shit. They are not paying you a dime. Tomorrow at one-thirty and don’t be late. Oh, and not a word to your wife.”
She pulled away as he stood on the driveway. “So, Darlene just whined to her about everything. Damn it. She’s right. I have no plan. It’s either sell this house, get some equity, and start paying bills or jump off a bridge. We are so far behind. An hourly job won't pay near enough to clear the debt. The place keeps missing on funding. Darlene keeps spending like money’s going out of style but justifies it by using coupons. She won’t work. Ignore it? Oh, that’s great. Guess where I’m going tomorrow?”
Keith rang the doorbell.
“Get your ass in here. I don’t need the neighbors seeing you,” Carol said. “I’d offer you something to drink but you are not staying. Here. Take this. Your wife invited us over to your house yesterday and told me what a loser you are. She was in tears. I know. I know. She doesn’t help. I see how she berates you publicly and then blames you when anything goes wrong. She refuses to get a job and wants you to get a night job. Meanwhile, she’s wearing Steve Madden sandals. Take this check and pay me back when you can.”
Handing him a check for a thousand dollars, he thought about what that would do.
“I’m twenty-five hundred overdrawn at the bank and have two months of electric bills and water bills due next week.”
“Well. Take it and goodbye.”
“Thanks. But no thanks. I appreciate it but for what it’s worth this doesn’t begin to cover it so if there is nothing else, I’ll figure this out.”
“Do not be cavalier with me. I can’t live knowing they will throw your kids out of that house any minute, so take it. I handle the finances and as the wife of a cardiologist, we have some disposable income, ya know?”
“Listen, I appreciate it, but if I sell the house, rent for a while, get away from the startup world, I’ll be fine.”
“No, you won't. Your wife hates you. She hates her life but won't leave. Trust me. How much do you need?”
“Carol, I need about four to five grand to survive. Per Month! So, thanks but no thanks.”
“Fine. That’s fine. I’ll get you out of your mess if you promise to get a new job. Set up all your bills electronically and use the account on my check. Is that fair?”
“What’s the catch? I can't pay you back so fast. And the way she spends. She hates me? She said that?”
“Your life sucks. Just take care of everything and call me in a few days.”
Keith did as he was told. He set up all his outstanding bills electronically with her bank account information and upon catching up, called Carol to tell her.
“Great. Now go make some money so you can pay me back. And remember she is to know nothing but one day I may want a favor.”
“I’ll let you know when the time is right.”
Too busy and too grateful to wonder about her cryptic message, he exhaled for the first time in months. His bills were paid. He looked for a new job, but it looked like the fruits of his labor would pay off at the startup. His prospects were interested, and the investors wanted second and third meetings.
The next month arrived, and the company was still in the same place. They had many financial meetings, but nobody had handed them a check.
“I need to pay these bills. Okay, here’s the plan,” he thought. “One more month with Carol and I’ll be fine. She won't care. And if she does, I’ll just tell her that the money’s coming.”
Two months turned into four which turned into twelve which turned into fifteen.
“Look,” Keith explained to his cousin. “She knows what’s going on and she seems to be fine with it, ya know? I mean, I’m still me. Ya know? A good guy. Coach of his son’s basketball team. Besides, a company finally offered me a job and I can now pay her back.”
“What kind of money are you talking? How much did you take?”
“I don’t know. Maybe six, eighty, ninety. It’s a little complicated.”
“How can you sleep at night?”
“Easy. I go to bed and then get woken up at three o’clock by a lunatic telling me she can't sleep and maybe she’ll go to the mall tomorrow. She has coupons for Macy’s and Coach. It’s non-stop with her. Even with the new job, I have no idea how I’m supposed to pay Carol back. If Darlene keeps spending, I’m dead. You think I’m scum, right?”
“Does she know what you’ve been doing?”
“Paying my bills? Staying afloat? Keeping one step ahead of foreclosure?”
“You justified what you're doing. In other words, you’re a good guy and do nothing wrong, I mean except for stealing her money to pay your bills, so why should she get mad?
“I mean when you put it like that…”
“How else can you put it? You had the answer. You needed to sell the house.”
“Darlene would’ve gone ballistic. No way.”
“So, because you were afraid of your wife, you’re taking somebody else’s money to pay your bills and what’s worse, you’re not even telling her.”
“Ya know, come to think of it, she’s stopped talking to me.”
“Keith, you are off the rails. You must stop this.”
“You did it again. You did it again didn’t you?”
“I don’t get paid for two weeks. This was the last time. I swear.”
“Listen to me, it’s the holidays. Thanksgiving is coming and then Christmas. You gotta tell her and give her a legitimate payback schedule.”
“And Darlene isn’t asking how you're doing this? How the bills are being paid? And she hates you?”
“Hates me. Carol was right. She just keeps spending and yelling at me.”
“Well, you’re living on borrowed time, so you had better get this thing done shortly.”
Two weeks passed, and Dean received his first paycheck. He paid his bills, looked at the remainder, and put together a schedule to pay back Carol.
“I know exactly what you have taken. I called your wife two weeks ago. I will get even.” Slam.
Keith sat by his phone in the office after she slammed down her receiver. “Great, she didn’t want to hear my plan. Oh no. She told Darlene. Holy Smokes.”
Keith made bail the next day. After many meetings with his attorney and the judge, they sentenced him to fifteen months.
Upon his release, he met with an old friend asking how things went.
“Say what you want Dude, but when you deal with these morally grey matters, there is no way you walk out a winner.”
Keith stared at his friend.
“Two days after they sentenced you, I saw your wife and Carol having lunch sharing a bottle of Champaign. Still surprised she wants a divorce?”