Contemporary Fiction


By Debra Birdwell Winkler

The divorce was finalized a year ago on April Fool’s Day. Homer Hornsby wasn’t happy about the results. If only it had been a prank, but it wasn’t. She got everything. Well, maybe not everything, but an awful lot. 

She had to move out of his house – his 200-year-old family home which she invaded when he married her. That was good. She got the two kids – he didn’t want them anyway because he never liked kids. So, that was good, also. But she could move away to the other side of the country – eight states away, making it difficult for him to harass her. He told the court that he couldn’t see his kids as often if she moved far away, but the judge didn’t see it that way. Her family was there, so the judge allowed her to move.

In the settlement he was to pay monthly support of $1,700 per child. Then, he was responsible for paying tuition for his children to attend private school wherever they lived until each finished high school. He was also liable for paying each child’s four years of college at a state university. That annoyed him to no end.

But what irked him the most was that she received half of his last year’s earnings – which he didn’t think was at all fair. So, what if he had told her that she didn’t need to work. She could work now. Thank goodness he had a great accountant who knew how to hide money. One-third of his real income was stashed away in an overseas account, hidden away for only him and his accountant to find.

He smiled to himself. Ha! She only got $150,000 instead of so much more. But he also had to give her another $100,000 for her to be able to put a down payment on the purchase of a nice home for his kids. His attorney objected to the amount, saying it was too much and that he couldn’t afford to do that. The judge told him to sell one of his properties which he ended up having to do. He was out a lot of money, but he got rid of her. 

Well, he was going to do everything in his power to turn the tables on her. He was going to prank her so that she would have nothing when April 1st came around again. To that end, since the divorce, he had harassed her six times with lawsuits and complaints. He had forced her to pay money to defend herself. He had forced her to fight him on her dime.

He laughed this time. Out loud. He loved harassing people with the law. What’s the point of being a lawyer if he couldn’t harass people? But, his ex-wife, he really enjoyed harassing that bitch. So now, he would make sure that his pranks would tear down her defenses and would damage her self-esteem.

The first thing he did was file an injunction a few days after the divorce was final while she was packing up to leave. He said it was necessary for her to stay in town until the kids got out of school for the summer, claiming that he didn’t want their education to be disrupted. There was an emergency court hearing and the judge agreed with Homer that she had to stay for the benefit of the children’s education. But the judge forced him to pay for her apartment near the kids’ private school – the most expensive private school in the area. Homer had claimed that he wanted the best education for his children. The judge bought that, so his ex-wife and his kids stayed. Really, he just wanted to show his friends and family how devoted he was to his children. He could have cared less where his kids attended school, but he wanted to look good in public.

That lawsuit actually backfired on him, but he would never admit that in public. He smiled in court at that decision and told the judge it was satisfactory to pay an additional $3,500 for that apartment plus utilities for the months of April, May, and June. His children’s education was so very much important, he let the judge know. But, when he returned home, he screamed to the top of his lungs and destroyed his mother’s antique Ming vase in his rage.

Two months later, as she was settling into her new place and the kids were getting ready for their new school, he had flown in for a weekend visitation and, low and behold, as he entered the apartment, a rat ran across his feet as he closed the door. She screamed. His children screamed. And, he reported her to the public authorities that night, filing his prepared lawsuit the very next day on behalf of his children for an unfit living environment.

That one was dismissed because the judge said it was a single incident and that no one else in the apartment complex had complained. The management of the complex was deemed responsible for fumigation of apartments and it was decided it would take about a week for the inspection and decontamination of the apartment. So, the three of them moved out for a week and into a local hotel (which of course he had to pay for because the judge said that she didn’t have a job and couldn’t afford it herself).

He was happy about her moving out of the luxury apartment for a week until he found out that he had to pay for her and his kids to move into the Hilton nearby. The Hilton! She could have stayed in the Motel 6 as far as he was concerned. He did offer for his children to fly home with him, but the judge said his children had the right to continue to have a living style for which they were accustomed. 

Although he lost that as well, he felt it was worth it. He would never tell anyone that he was the one who had dropped the rat right into her apartment as he closed the door behind him. The cage he threw into the large blue garbage container on the way into her building. He pretended to be horrified but he wasn’t. Not at all. He felt joy as he remembered her screams as the rat ran through to the kitchen. His kids screamed all the time, so their shrieks didn’t disturb him at all.

She was able to obtain a position as a history professor at the local university in her town, and he tried to prove that she wasn’t qualified for the position because she didn’t hold a Ph.D. But, to his surprise, she had earned her Ph.D. in Middle East History while she was married to him. Horror of horrors! How could she have done that without his knowing. She had hidden from him that she was attending university for the ten years they were married. 

How could she? Obviously, he had not watched her closely enough. 

In October, his investigator in her town found a report that someone with her name had been arrested for drunk driving. Homer looked at the report and knew it wasn’t his ex, but it was enough that he filed a custody lawsuit to return the kids to him based on her inability to handle herself. In the lawsuit he claimed that she had been a ‘lush’ while they were married and that was why he's so sad to see custody of the children to go to her.

The case was dismissed when her attorney proved that the arrest information referred to another person with a similar name as Homer’s ex, but it wasn’t her. He apologized so sincerely in court that he surprised himself.

In November, the local Child Services received a report of child abuse at her address. It was anonymous, of course. She was investigated and she had to hire an attorney to defend herself in front of the County Child Services Board and the local Police Child Abuse Investigation Committee. He was contacted about the incident and, even though he volunteered to rescue his two children from the horrible home of their mother, the case worker said that it would be unnecessary for him to come in. Of course, he did fly in but, by that time, the case worker told him that all charges had been dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Thwarted again. He would never admit that he had hired someone to report the incident. He had forced his ex to defend herself one more time at her own expense. But he was delighted to hear through the grapevine that she almost lost her job over the child abuse allegations until the University’s President found out that it was a hoax.

Homer was beside himself as he spent Thanksgiving alone. Both parents had passed away years before and he had no one. He cursed himself for fighting so much for visitations with his children on 2nd and 4th weekends, Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, Spring Break, and Christmas during even years. He just didn’t want her to be with them during these times. But he had forgotten Thanksgiving. It wasn’t fair that he was all alone on Thanksgiving. And he had four days all alone. He really didn’t want them to be with him, but he didn’t want to be alone. It was his attorney’s fault and the judge’s fault for his being alone on Thanksgiving. It was definitely not his fault. 

He was so stressed out about getting back at her that he had not focused on his office. He had a big trial coming up in December. His client was accused of fraud and he had to pull himself together so that his client didn’t lose his car business. He decided that, hatred of his ex, had to be placed on the back burner until his kids flew in for Christmas on December 24.

So, he concentrated on his client’s case 18 hours a day preparing for the December 18th trial date. Then, the night before, he had a heart attack. It was two in the morning and he was climbing the stairs to his bedroom when it happened. He had never felt so much pain as he grabbed his chest and fell backward down the stairs.

His housekeeper found him unconscious the next morning at the bottom of the stairs. He was rushed to the hospital and he woke up three days later. The doctors had performed an emergency triple bypass surgery and had saved his life. As soon as he could sit up, Homer began berating the medical staff. They should have awakened him so he could have given permission. Did he really need three bypasses? Why wasn’t he informed that his heart was weak? He threatened everybody around him with malpractice lawsuits for his treatment, or the lack thereof.

When the doctors told him that he needed to stay for a week in the hospital in order to give him time to recover before going home, he checked himself out after only five days. He hired a full-time nurse to take care of him and called his ex to make arrangements for his kids to fly in for Christmas. She was wary about the children being with him so close to his heart attack, but he threatened her with another lawsuit. So, she took them to the airport and his accountant picked them up at the local airport, taking them to Homer who was elated that he was able to foil her plans for not allowing him to see his own children.

Because of his health, the children only spent an hour with him each day. They ended up in their old rooms watching television and playing games. His oldest was almost nine and the other one was just 15 months younger. They could pretty much take care of themselves, he felt. Little did he know that the nurse had a twelve-year-old who she brought in to play with them (although she really had her daughter babysit them because she was worried for them).

On New Year’s Day, the children flew back home to their mother and Homer was livid that they had decided to leave him. Well, he was going to change that.

As soon as he was able, he prepared papers to file against his ex for change of custody. The lawsuit was filed on January 30th. It alleged that she was a nude model, portraying herself in a nude magazine as Pepper Sunshine. Another part of the complaint stated she was a jihadist. As such, she was incapable of taking care of his children due to her twisted thinking.

The trial was on March 1st. By then, he was able to fly. He made his way to the courthouse in his best suit, and he was smiling ear to ear because he was confident that he would win this time. He had everything prepared, all the papers he would need to destroy her for good. The judge decided that the case would be heard in chambers, even though Homer and his attorney demanded that they were fine arguing the case in open court. 

In the judge’s office, Homer’s attorney laid the groundwork for the case. The picture of the nude woman was presented but his ex-wife denied it was she. Her attorney asked for the contract showing that Pepper Sunshine had given permission to the magazine to use her picture and Pepper’s real name. Homer’s attorney explained that the magazine would not release that information and he called Homer as his expert witness. But her attorney was able to prove she wasn’t Pepper because there was no contract with her name.

Homer’s attorney pressed on by showing another picture of a similar woman in a guerilla outfit in the Afghan mountains. He claimed that the woman was a jihad fighter against American troops and was Homer’s ex-wife. Her attorney wanted copies of any and all airline tickets showing that his client had made trips to the Middle East in order to back up the allegations. Homer’s attorney explained that secret jihad fighters never flew under their real names and that with her Ph.D. in Middle East studies it was obvious who the woman in the picture really was.

Homer just smiled. He had done his homework while he was laid up in December and January. He had found out that his ex-wife had taken off a week for a Paris education conference and that she had taken his kids and her mother with her. His attorney did present a copy of the plane tickets confirming her trip to Paris and alleged that she had her children and mother in Paris while she left to fight in Afghanistan. 

Well, her attorney countered that because on one of the days Homer alleged that his ex-wife was AWOL, she had made a presentation to the conference and he presented to the judge a video of her presentation which was date stamped. There were also affidavits from six of the leaders of the conference and several members of the Board who confirmed that she was there. 

The judge examined all the evidence before him, flipping papers back and forth. Then, dismissed the case with prejudice and asked all parties to leave. He would draft the order and send it out to both attorneys. 

Homer was livid. He could hardly believe that she had gotten off again. All his plans over the last year to destroy her by April 1st this year had gone awry. Then, he decided that he had one more chance to continue with his plans to annihilate her. A prank? This prank would be real, and she would have no defense against it.

By March 31st, he was ready. He had prepared another lawsuit against her. It was sitting in the printer downstairs. He had notified the serving agency to pick up the papers at 9:00 the morning of April 1st. They would file the paperwork at the courthouse and then fly out to serve her directly that afternoon on the other side of the country.

Then, he had prepared an email to send to his ex, letting her know that he was giving up. She had won and he was defeated. He apologized in that email and she would never know that it was a prank when she received it at 9:00 a.m. her time. 

Yes, sir. This would finish her off and he had everything planned down to the last minute. And, she was going to be surprised, very surprised. He will have won and there would be nothing she could do about it. She would be ruined for life.

It was midnight as he climbed his stairs. He was excited that he was finally going to get his day in court and that he would win. He laughed out loud as he danced up the stairs making his way up to the second floor. On the top step he suddenly felt a deep sharp pain in his chest. The sharpest pain he had ever felt, even more than in December. He clutched his chest and leaned back, falling down the stairs all the way to the bottom.

When the housekeeper arrived at 10:00 the next morning, she found him dead at the bottom of the stairs. There had been no one to answer the door when the serving agent knocked. There was no paperwork in the printer because it was out of ink. 

His ex-wife received the apology email the next morning as Homer planned. She read it and thought it was a prank. Really? Homer apologized when he never apologizes to anyone? Then she got the call that he had died.

So, who pranked whom? 

April 03, 2021 03:01

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