Deal by Doug Hawley

When Duke's wife leaves him for a younger model, he tries to get back into the dating game; by Doug Hawley.

On Duke's birthday, Sally bought him cooking lessons. Duke had no interest in cooking, but thought he would go along with it, because they might need some changes. They had been married a long time and had fallen into a routine. So Duke dutifully went to the classes. He learned his way around eggs, and a lot of Thai, Mexican and Italian dishes. He was greatly surprised to learn that he enjoyed cooking and started to prepare half of their meals.

After a month or so of this, he woke up one morning and Sally was gone. She left him a note:

you probably think that the cooking lessons were to just relieve me of some of the work and maybe give you a new hobby. That wasn't it. You probably feel this too, I don't think that we had been really connecting for some time. I had no interest in straying, but I found someone exciting in my yoga class. As you know, I would have lunch afterwards with a couple of friends. You did not know that one of the two friends is a guy named Fred, and the other woman dropped out of our lunches after her schedule changed. Fred didn't exactly hit on me, but he seemed naturally charming. He is something of a Renaissance man - he does Iron Man Triathalons, he paints and has a high placed job with Zig, the advertising agency. He knows the best restaurants and hotels all around the world. Well, it just happened, I can't explain it. We started skipping lunch and getting nooners instead at a room he rents downtown; he says he uses it when he doesn't want to go home at night. I had no idea how much I missed the passion until I found it again. Certainly you and I had gone lukewarm if not ice cold.
I know that you used to be able to take care of yourself when you were a bachelor, but I worried about how you would get along after I left, so I signed you up for the cooking lessons. I also left instructions for all of the things I usually did for you. You always handled finances, so that shouldn't be a problem. I still love you, but I could not see the next twenty years go by and wonder what I was missing. The first thing Fred and I are doing is using up his vacation and take a trip around the world where he will show me all the best places.
This must come as a shock, but I think that after you get over the anger and the pain, you will see that what we had was just OK, and I think that you too will end up in a better situation in which you won't just be satisfied, you will be genuinely happy.
All The Best, 

Duke was shocked and angry, but after a few drinks he began to believe he should have seen this coming. He had read that people having an affair may be particularly nice to those who were being cheated on, perhaps out of guilt. He thought back on all the little treats and gifts Sally had given him in the last few months and how she was more likely to kiss him. Upon reflection, he saw how they had drifted from romance to friends that lived in the same house. Rather than look his best for her, he had gained weight and didn't shave or shower as often as he should have, whereas Sally always looked her best.

Strangely, he feared most how he would explain her defection. What would it do to his reputation? He needed to come up with a strategy. She's finding herself? She took a long vacation by herself? The truth? He decided to go with the truth.

At work, or whenever he was contacted by friends, family or even strangers, he would lead with, "My wife just left me. She found someone more exciting."

Duke was ill equipped with social skills, but he noticed that Maureen, a co-worker, was hovering over him more than usual after his announcement. He had been in the habit of having lunch with her a couple of days a week, during which time she would tell him about her luck on dates. He recalled now, that she would look at him closely as she told him about the disasters as well as when she "got lucky", apparently judging his reaction. Except for the prurience value, he rarely reacted to her descriptions. Now she was regularly plying him with coffee and conversation, and asking how he was doing post-breakup.

Time to get back on the horse. In this case the horse was well dressed, wore a fair amount of makeup, was fashionably slim and ten years younger than Duke. In Duke's mind, if Sally could cut a better deal, maybe he could also. Because it had been so many years since he had dated, he offered the old standby, dinner and a movie.

After overpriced sandwiches and a movie with no car crashes in which no one got naked, they had drinks at his place. Making out led to more fun. At this point, Duke found out Maureen was not just thin, she was downright skinny. Looking back, he remembered that she had barely picked at dinner. Further it seemed that she tolerated the physical, using it as a means to an end, rather than something to enjoy. He started to think about his early life with Sally when they were young and in love.

What a predicament. The sex, although frequent, was unsatisfying because Duke felt he was the only one present and accounted for. Maureen seemed completely satisfied with the arrangement, and quit going out with anyone else. She started hinting at a more permanent arrangement, whereas Duke had one foot out the door. He was fortunate that his mediocre rise to mediocre middle management had left him with some imagination. His younger, more successful brother was just out of a relationship and was known to be catnip to women. He arranged to have a dinner with the three of them. Brother Willy was completely charming and Duke was a little crude that evening. Later that week personnel warned all employees about office romances. Someone had apparently warned management about hanky-panky afoot.

Duke told Maureen that they had better cool it for awhile. Shortly thereafter, Willy called Maureen and commiserated with her about her situation with Duke and felt it necessary to tell her a few faults that Duke had. He told her that they could talk better after work. Subsequently, Maureen had very little time for Duke.

So, office romance bad idea. How about dating services? He never heard back from professional woman, attractive, 5'4", university educated. Not once. Nada. Unless you count those who were catfishing with fake profiles. He found out when he connected with Jasmine, who used a picture which was fifty pounds and five years out of date, after he had made reservations at an expensive restaurant where he could not cancel.

Scary, scary, scary. The women who wanted to bring their boyfriends or husbands along. Those that asked for credit card information and social security numbers in order to "confirm his identity."

He found out that his negotiating position got him the obese, the addicted and the diseased. At this point neither Sally nor Maureen looked bad at all.

He wasn't much of a housekeeper, so he decided to get a live in housekeeper. He wouldn't force anything, but maybe she would warm up to him. After a lot of research, he landed Jenny, who had good references and was a stone fox. In the interview, she wasn't overt, but made it clear that she found him quite attractive. This worked very well until the day that he came home and found all of his art, major appliances and Jenny were gone.

At this low point, Duke started to think about celibacy or purchasing sex. Both had advantages and disadvantages. After all of the disappointments post-Sally, he did not rush into a decision.

While still sitting on the metaphorical fence, he got a letter from Sally:

Dear Duke,
First of all, I knew that Fred was a gamble, but I thought I had to make a change. Turns out, it wasn't a winner. I feel like Kim Novak at the end of 'Vertigo' and Fred is Jimmy Stewart. I knew that he was more sophisticated than me, but I had no idea that he would take over / make over my life. Hair redone, clothes that I mostly hate. "Education" for my verbal miscues. I may not have been completely satisfied with the way we ate, but dealing with seven courses of exotica is not my cup of tea. When I want to take my shoes off and watch some mind dead TV, it is off to some avant-garde production that lasts five hours.
The sex isn't just one on one anymore. I can't say all of it is bad, but is getting very freaky not knowing what "friends" he will invite over.
Ok, I know it was my decision to leave, but now I want to come home. If you have found something better, I will understand and I can't promise I won't take off again, but if you want me back I'm ready to come and try it again.

Duke wrote:

"Sally -
Come home. Maybe we've both learned a lot from the separation. Let's hope for better days.


  1. A straight and honest story - the grass always appears greener? The tom tom beat of the craziness of relationships beats through this piece: fingers crossed that they will get back together - or at least remain friends? Thank you,

  2. Another pub passed and disagreed with Duke taking Sally back. No way I would change the ending. He still loved her and had no other options.

  3. Hi Doug,
    I absolutlely agree with you, the 'fingers crossed' bit in my review was what the reader is left with at the close of the story, and it is that lingering 'I wonder if' is so compelling - after all Duke and Sally's intentions are clear but their fate still remians to be decided? Can they make it work? Thank you again for a good piece,
    Best wishes,

  4. Highly entertaining, very realistic - and at the end, a salutory lesson. We're all inclined to think that life has more to offer than we've got, until something happens to make us take a second look and realise that what we have is pretty good. I enjoyed your story hugely. Your writing has a natural rhythm too. Well done.
    All the best,

  5. Hi Doug, I enjoyed the moral, an old one, of the story. I couldn't help but think that Sally missed the warning 'Fred had a room he rent when he didn't want to go home' - hey surely this should have raised alarm bells.
    If duke had found someone else -would the ending be different?


  6. Thanks for the comments. My wife asked me to do more cooking and I asked if it was because she was leaving me. Thus began a story idea. I can make peanut butter sandwiches, a constant in my life for 60 some years, and that is about it.

  7. That was an enjoyable snacking of words.

    Could I take Sally back if we were married? I dunno, maybe.

    A shame about Maureen but that's a nice solid that he did for his brother.

    Does Jenny have to get away with it?

    Any chance of Jenny getting her comeuppance?

    And I didn't see Sally coming back so that was a nice surprise for me.

    Good job.

  8. Hi Doug. I agreed with everyone’s comments but the first one. I thought the story was thoughtful and poignant and reflective of the time in which we live. What more could one want?