Home > Tempting Fools(2)

Tempting Fools(2)
Author: Darien Cox

I rolled my eyes, and gave the clown a wave. “I’m good, thanks.”

“Baby man!” the clown shouted. “Everyone look at the scared sissy baby man who won’t even try. Has to let the little girl do it for him.”

Bonnie pulled her wavy black hair into a ponytail and readied another ball, her pretty face pinched in concentration. “Screw you, clown,” she shouted, throwing the ball harder this time. “Oh, damn it!”

I laughed as the ball missed its target and the clown began another tirade of insults, a few light ones for Bonnie, but most of his ire still directed at me. I had to hand it to these clown-dunking rackets. They’d found a surefire formula: Get some guy riled up by targeting his ego in front of his girl, and next thing you knew he’d be shelling out all his cash to defend himself. It was genius in its simplicity.

“Come on little girly, the target’s over here! Are you blind?”

“You’re going down, clown!” Bonnie handed another five-dollar bill to the carnie, who set up another basket of balls for her.

“Oh great,” the clown whined. “We’re gonna be here all night!”

“Destroy him, Bonnie!” I encouraged. I was gonna have to buy that girl a nice bottle of wine when we went to dinner tonight. She was a trooper, and I was laughing for the first time in forever.

“What’s the matter tough guy, you let your woman fight your battles for you?”

“Sure do!” I called back. “She’s a lot tougher than I am.”

The clown went silent and stared hard at me. He leaned forward, and his big, painted eyes narrowed. I figured he was wondering who was this odd specimen of man who could not be provoked. Or maybe he was trying to figure out if he knew me. This park was a staple in town that drew both locals and tourists alike, even in the winter when they traded out the rollercoasters and water flumes for indoor surfing attractions and ice skating. But it was unlikely the guy knew me. He was clearly several years younger, plus, I never came to this part of town much anymore. Which made me realize, not for the first time recently, what a bore I was. Because I lived in what outsiders like Bonnie referred to as a ‘fun’ town, I but rarely took advantage of any of it. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d even been to the beach I drove past every day.

But since getting Violet pregnant in high school, having the twins, and getting married a year later, I’d been a goddamn busy guy the past eighteen years. Working, building a business, raising a family. We’d gone on vacations now and then, but my day-to-day life had consisted of little more than work and the occasional barbeque or dinner at the homes of couple-friends for most of the years since.

Not that there was anything wrong with that. I did what I had to do, I was responsible and productive, and the years had flown by. My ex-wife Violet used to suggest going out a lot, to art galleries or live music or romantic dinner at one of the seaside restaurants. I acquiesced far less as the years passed and my business grew, and would grumble that I was tired a lot. It wasn’t making excuses; I’d co-owned a construction and building company, and I was tired a lot. But I’d also been negligent, barely registering Violet’s increasing protests, her pleading that we needed to do more as a couple. That negligence ultimately came back to bite me in the ass. I’d listened to her, but I’d never fully heard her.

Was this self-awareness? Maybe this dating thing was working out for me after all, if not by finding a love connection, at least by rattling something loose in my brain, helping me finally acknowledge my flaws. Too little too late. Because when Violet told me why she was considering divorce, my response had been a lot of shouting and denials. I’d worked my ass off for years to help make a good life for us, what the hell else did she want from me? A lot, apparently. Having more fun, primarily, and spending more time together, just the two of us. Oh yeah…and more sex.

I almost wished she could see me right now. Look Vi, here I am at the fun park, having FUN! And if the looks Bonnie was giving me were any indication, likely about to have some sex tonight. I could almost hear Violet’s response in my mind. “Why couldn’t you have done all those things before, when it counted? Why couldn’t you have done those things for ME?”

I guess I thought I was getting around to it. Our kids were nearing college age, we could finally take a breath soon. Having worked as an emergency room nurse for years, Violet was as stressed and tired as I was. I wasn’t shocked when she brought up the lack of fun in her ‘This isn’t working anymore’ diatribe, but I thought she’d have a bit more patience with me regarding that. But when she added that she found our romantic life lacking, I was shocked. And she in turn, was shocked that I was shocked.

She said I should have known. But I didn’t know, because I’d been content with what we had. I thought we were both happy. So what if we weren’t so hot between the sheets anymore? We’d been married for years. That sort of thing didn’t matter in the larger scope of things. Except apparently, it did matter, to her. Mattered enough for her to bring it up in the first ten minutes of our discussion about separating. My rationalization that we’d been married a long time didn’t fly so well, when she pointed out that we were only in our thirties, since we’d married so young. And that she was still a young woman, with needs and desires.

I told Violet she was being unreasonable, and she countered that it was perfectly reasonable for a wife to want to fuck her husband. She then rattled off a frighteningly detailed list of times she’d wanted to have sex when I’d declined, citing circumstances, locations, and my alleged excuses. Feeling cornered and angry, I’d offered to fuck her right there on the kitchen table if it would make her stop yelling and pointing her finger in my face. That suggestion went over as well as you’d expect, and I’d spent the night in a hotel.

Bonnie’s joyful laugh as she continued to throw balls at the dunk-clown brought me out of my self-pitying. I smiled as I watched her play. I needed to be focused on this woman tonight, my date. Whether this went anywhere or not, I aimed to prove tonight that I could give someone my full, focused attention, and show her a good time. I could be fun, damn it.

The clown was back to taunting Bonnie as she tried in vain to dunk him. His striking, painted eyes periodically flicked over to me, that same odd expression as before, like he found something about me troubling. It gave me a funny feeling whenever he looked my way, some instinct warning me to turn from his gaze, that there was hostility in it. But that was ridiculous. The dunk tank was just a game, as was his heckling. Whatever I saw in his eyes was likely either my imagination, or an illusion created by the heavy makeup he wore.

Even so, I held his stare each time our eyes caught, as though accepting a challenge. If there was any real animosity there, he was probably just annoyed I wasn’t falling for his racket. I felt bad for the dunk-clown in a way. He was just trying to do his job, and his consistent taunts of ‘tough guy’ meant he’d probably had me pegged as an aging, competitive frat boy type with insecurity bubbles just ripe for the popping. His gaze was not for me. It was for my wallet.

I’d dressed casual today, because I knew the park would be hot and dusty, and I was right—I could already taste the grit, and had seen that my dirty blond hair was literally dirty when we visited the funhouse mirrors earlier, mine and Bonnie’s locks both sporting a thin layer of dust. I was not, however, an aging frat boy, despite wearing a Trinity College tee shirt my older sister Gwen gave me for Christmas. I’d never gone to college myself, and though I’d worn my nicest dark jeans in a quest to look at least halfway decent when we went to dinner later, I was normally a work boots and baggy jeans guy—and not just because I’d put on a few pounds lately.

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