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Once Removed

Zero tolerance, Lana told herself, watching her husband Alex work the room. Yesterday she had considered leaving him if he made a fool of her again.

x’s in her date book mark those occasions when she’d caught him doing something so blatant she felt humiliated by his failure to care enough to create a cover that might fool, at least, others if not her. Watching him like this, Lana thought, showed how far she’d allowed herself to be pulled down.

Vince placed his hand on the small of her back, and she felt herself flush. Unless she was mistaken, Vince was less interested in her than he was in using her to stick it to Alex, who had included Vince’s wife in his gaggle of women. That he’d slept with Regina was bad enough, but that he’d slept with her, then almost immediately taken others, was an insult Lana knew Vince had not forgiven.

Regina had forgiven him, however, or perhaps she’d never cared about sharing Alex; after all, she was sharing him with Lana. Questions about what Regina or the others cared about never bothered Lana. Perhaps they should have, she thought, if only to understand what lured Alex.

Open marriages had been fashionable when he had his first affair, and he’d tried to coax Lana into going along with it; she might have agreed had he not got a head start and been caught. Not that she had any desire to sleep with other men; Alex was enough man for her. Maybe his straying had taught him flexibility or sensitivity or just new moves that kept Lana from knowing what he’d do next in bed.

Lana amused herself by thinking she knew about what went on in the bedrooms of most of the guests at the party, thanks to Alex’s bringing back to her what he’d got from his affairs, like a fond cat bringing its mistress a wounded mouse.

Kitchen capers, that’s what he called it the first time he was caught.

Judy stared adoringly at Alex, brayed laughter at one of his witty comments and then looked over at Lana who caught her eye and raised her glass in an ironic toast.

“I don’t know what they see in him,” Vince said, back at Lana’s side and sounding like a petulant child, which gave Lana a glimpse of why Regina had been so easily distracted.

“He knows how to listen,” Lana said, “or at least how to look as though he thinks you’re the most charming person in the world—which makes him charming, of course.”

“Good God, women still fall for that?”

“Fall they do, on their backs like Mistress Roundheels—or knees, whichever.”

“Even after...everything, you make jokes?”

“Do you know why the chicken crossed the road?”


“Because Alex told her to.”

Alex, she thought, was charming, really, could make her smile, would laugh at her jokes as though he thought they were funny even when he’d heard them before and she’d muffed the punchline, would never intentionally rub her nose in the mess he’d made, and then, too, she could smile because perhaps tonight she’d fuck Judy’s husband, by proxy, and, of course, once removed.

(c) 2006 Miriam N. Kotzin. "Once Removed" was published in The Green Muse," May/June, 2006.