Arnold Bookem has a secret from his wife. He's not happy to keep it but keep it he must.
Arnold Bookem stared at the computer screen in front of him and read the words:
Submitted! Thank you for your work. It will be judged according to the contest’s schedule.
He just spent twenty-five dollars of his money submitting his work to be judged. Arnold was a writer, and he liked to submit his work to contests online. But his wife frowned on this activity. So he never told her until she found out from looking at their bank account periodically. And he knew she would be too late in finding out because the account would be populated by other debits and she wouldn’t know what to look for.
The other, too, is that Arnold can’t come out and tell his wife what he did. She didn’t think he was that good a writer. At least he never won a contest so far. But he had books that he had published independently and some people liked them. But he had to stick to his full-time job as an accountant to pay the bills and the rent.
Greta, his wife, entered the room and saw him at the computer. “I need to use the computer, please, Arnold,” she said peremptorily.
“Let me log off for now,” he replied.
He pushed himself off the desk and got up to stand. He watched his wife sit down in front of the computer and decided not to say anything. She could look at “History” to see if he was on anything she deemed suspicious. That was their marriage. Greta would snoop around and that was why he wouldn’t tell her anything that he was doing online.
Later on that day, Arnold was struck a pang of conscience. He knew he had to tell Greta. But something inside roiled and rejected that idea. But he went looking for his wife. She was getting ready to go out. “I’ve got a hair appointment in a half hour,” she told him. “I’ll be back in an hour and half. Did you have something to tell me?”
“It can wait,” Arnold replied, raking his hair with his fingers, feeling despondent. Now that he resolved to tell, she was busy. And it caused him grief.
Greta paused at the door. “We have cash to spend, don’t we?”
“What do you mean?” Her eyes narrowed and she faced him directly.
“I am sure we have enough cash to use for your hair appointment.”
“Ok, good. I haven’t time to look at our iPhone app to check.”
“I’ll check for you.”
He whipped out his cell phone and looked online. His submission cleared, it seemed to him. There was a twenty-five dollar debit on their account. He saw they still had plenty of cash to spend. All their bills had been paid for the month.
“It’s ok. You’re clear,” he said quietly.
“I think you did something today,” his wife said suspiciously. “I’ll find out soon enough.”
With that she left him and he stood helplessly alone.
Arnold went to the living room and took a nap on the couch. But what he did came back to haunt his thoughts. He should have told Greta that he spent money because it was also her money. Now he was on tenterhooks for an hour and a half until Greta came back from her hair appointment.
He tossed and turned. He put a cushion on top his face. He decided to take a nap on his belly. Nothing worked to assuage his anxiety that he had to tell his wife what he did today. A thought told him why did he have to tell her everything? Another thought told him he was a fool. Many thoughts impinged upon his mind, causing turmoil. It was only twenty five dollars, he said to himself in a piteous light.
Then he fell asleep. It was a troubled sleep, with dollar bills floating in a dream before him.
He awoke with a start. He felt as though time had passed outside his consciousness. Arnold got up and decided to make himself a snack. He took some cold cuts from the fridge and a bottle of soda too. He made himself a sandwich, to calm his frail and nervous stomach. He was eating the last of it when his wife came back, looking better than she’d ever been. “I like your new look,” Arnold said with a forced smile.
“Thanks. It cost me a pretty penny,” she patted her hair and checked herself on the hallway mirror. “She’s good.”
She disappeared into their bedroom, saying that she wanted to change her clothes. She yelled from their bedroom, “What are you eating?”
“I made a sandwich,” Arnold replied, trying not to reveal what kind of sandwich it was.
“I’ll have what you’re having, will you make one for me?” She yelled back.
“Ok,” he said in reply.
She appeared in her house clothes and headed for the kitchen where Arnold was sitting. “Oh! You made me a cold cut sandwich,” exclaimed Greta.
“Yes,” Arnold replied. “That’s alright with you, right?”
“Yes, and three slices too!”
“I like to make It a thick sandwich.”
“What else have you been doing today, Arnold?” Greta asked after a while, sitting down and eating her sandwich.
“Oh, this and that.”
“Did you do any writing today?”
“I did. But I didn’t do anything else,” he said evasively. His conscience bothered him. Then he added, “I did something. But I can’t tell you.”
Greta wrinkled her brow. “Why can’t you tell me?”
“I’m trying something – it may not work. That’s why I can’t tell you all that I did today,” Arnold replied, feeling a prickle in his nape. Sweat started to form on his brow.
Greta shrugged. “If it has something to do with your writing, chances are you submitted to some publisher, didn’t you?”
Arnold’s eyes met hers. His eyes looked innocently at her. “I’m surprised. You guessed it.”
“Ah, I know you well enough then.”
“I did something else.”
“I guess you paid them, didn’t you?”
“How did you know?”
“I know you better. Arnold, you hide your financial affairs from me, and I always know it anyway.”
“I’m sorry. I did that. It was not expensive.”
Greta rose from the table. “It adds up, though.” She took her plate to the sink and laid it there. “From now on you have to tell me before you send it in. I won’t say no. But you need to tell me so we know what you did.”
Arnold sighed. “I know, Greta.”
WC 1093 words
Item No. 2260629