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The first thing that made him suspicious was the smell. It wasn’t that she suddenly had an other-man smell, like a heavy aftershave or hairy sweat. It was just that she’d always had such a subtle smell, the kind you barely noticed, and suddenly it had become so strong it made his head spin. Besides, she kept disappearing—not for long. Fifteen minutes maybe, or a little longer, and then she’d be back, like nothing had happened. The time it really got to him was when once, right in the middle of the evening news, she asked him if he had change for a hundred. He took out his wallet, slowly, suspiciously, and pulled out two fifties. “Thanks,” she said, and gave him a peck on the cheek. “You’re welcome,” he said, “but, hey, why do you need change all of a sudden, in the middle of the night?” “No reason really,” she smiled. “Just felt like it.” And she disappeared toward the kitchen porch.
It’s not that they had less sex. People say that’s a sure giveaway. And when they did, it was as passionate as ever. She didn’t ask him for more money either, which is another sign that something’s going on. The opposite, in fact: she became more economical. And their talks—well, the truth is they’d never talked much anyway—so there wasn’t anything about that to make him suspicious either. And yet, he could tell there was something going on. A dark secret—so dark that there was black under her fingernails, like in those movies where in the end you discover that your wife is a hooker, or a Mossad agent, or something like that.
He could have followed her, but he preferred to wait and see. Maybe he was afraid of what he’d find out. Until one day, when he came home from work with a migraine in the middle of the day, and parked his car at the entrance to their driveway, a silver Mitsubishi with a big pro-life bumper sticker pulled up and started honking away. “Hey, you!” the Mitsubishi shouted. “Get that car out of there. Can’t you see you’re blocking the way?” The truth was that there wasn’t much to block in the entrance to his own driveway, but without thinking, he moved a little to the side and let the Mitsubishi get by. As he got out of the car he thought that maybe, despite his splitting headache, he ought to try and find out what the pro-lifer was doing in his yard. But before he could get very far, he spotted her, right there in the middle of their neglected backyard, just where he’d once promised her he’d plant a mulberry tree. She was wearing dirty blue overalls, and leaning over the Mitsubishi with a fuel hose in her hand. He looked up and saw that the hose led right into a fuel pump. Next to the fuel pump was an air pump, and between the two was a little booth with a sign in childish lettering that said: “FUEL—CHEAP!” “Fill ’er up! Fill ’er up!” he heard the driver shout. “Fill ’er up till she chokes!” He stared at her for a minute or so. She didn’t see him, because she had her back turned, and when the fuel pump rang because the tank was full, he stiffened, like someone waking up out of a bad dream, got into his car, and drove back to work, as if nothing had happened.