Cereal Serial #5

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June 7, 2012 by jamesessj

Betty awoke with a hangover.  Not from alcohol, but from the evening before — an evening spent in the company of Robert Nealon, her latest love interest.  He was older than her — her age being, as she put it, “the wrong side of forty but the right side of fifty” — by at least a decade, but that was the way it went, in the later-life dating game.  The men were always looking for women younger than themselves.  She wouldn’t have shown up on the radar of a man her own age if she’d been a 747…but that was all right, she’d long since reconciled herself to the realities of life as a woman on the wrong side of forty, but the right side of fifty.

She had done a lot to keep herself up, in the looks department — nothing so radical as surgery, but she did exercise four times a week and did her best to eat healthily and she didn’t smoke or drink or stay out late.  Robert had wanted her to, last night — he’d suggested they go dancing at an all-night club — but Betty understood this proposition for what it was, that being, a proposition.  He’d have had one drink too many, and then he’d have insisted on driving her home, and then he’d have put on a show of being tipsy, and then she would have been expected to invite him to spend the night rather than risk driving home in his condition…sleeping on the couch, of course, but Betty knew where it all would lead, and while she wasn’t necessarily against where it all would lead, she wasn’t sure was entirely for it, either.  Robert was a nice guy, a good prospect, but she wanted to get to know him better before…that.  Last night had been their fourth date.  She knew that, before too long, he’d become impatient, and it wasn’t as if he couldn’t find another, more amenable, gal without having to try too hard (he’d kept up his looks, too), but she also valued herself highly enough not to just give herself away.  Sixth date, she told herself.  If all goes well.  Then she reconsidered.  Fifth date, maybe.

She swung her legs out of bed and stood up, yawning and stretching.  She wore a smile, as she couldn’t help but do whenever she thought of Roger — no, Robert!  Roger was…last month?  The month before?  She couldn’t remember.  They all ran together, after a while.  Roger was the one who’d turned out to have a wife, right?  Or was he the one with two wives?  No, that was Herb.  Herb the polygamist.  One wife in Santa Fe, one in Indianapolis.  Betty could have been #3, if she hadn’t caught him in the bathroom late one night on the phone with Wife #2.  After that he’d spilled the whole story while blubbering like an infant, as if to gain her sympathy.  She’d almost called the police on him.

Men.  They were impossible.  So certain they’d get away with it.  Yet they never did.  But did they learn?  Not a chance.

Betty put on her housecoat and shuffled into the kitchen, where she poured some beans into the coffeemaker and switched it on.  She allowed herself two cups of coffee a day, one of them in the morning, the other whenever she felt like, but no more than two total.  Same with sweets — one sugary treat per day, whether it was a piece of cake or a bowl of ice cream.  Nothing more!

She heard the sound of a vehicle outside and looked out her kitchen window.  There was Kwasi Justice, in his mail truck, driving up to the Fosters’.  Her heart skipped a short beat, for today was the day of the sweepstakes, wasn’t it?  The announcement should be coming!  She’d forgotten all about it, in the excitement of last night, and her hung-over morning…Betty loved sweepstakes, she entered every one she could.  Something about the possibility of a well-dressed celebrity with a camera crew showing up at her doorstep with a huge — literally and numerically — check in his hands made her almost unbearably giddy.  She imagined it all the time, what she’d say, what she’d do with the money, what charities she’d help, what shoes she’d buy, where she’d travel, the men she’d meet along the way.  Ever since she was younger and had seen the commercials on TV with Ed McMahon, she’d had this dream:  Sweepstakes Winner Betty Bianco!

She kicked her feet into her slippers and hurried for the front door, to meet Kwasi Justice before he could even reach the mailbox.  She’d know just from the look on his face whether anything had come from the publishing company — he knew about her dream, too.  She’d told him about it often enough.  He’d joked that she’d have to share a bit of her winnings with him, since he’d gone to the trouble of delivering the notification and all.  Sure! she’d said, and meant it.  If she had millions she’d be happy to share.  With Kwasi Justice, with the Fosters, with Robert, with everyone…her wallet, like her heart, would be wide open.

Robert! she thought, reminding her of last night, and she was so happy she felt like singing.  He’d told her she was the prettiest girl he’d ever seen, and he’d assured her there were no other women in his life.  Nor would there be, so long as he had her.  Betty put her hand around the handle of her front door and made ready to face the world with the kind of confidence and certainty most of us can only dream of, because for Betty, the promises of men were just like those sweepstakes announcements — she fell for them, every time.

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the author, if he lives that long

Willkommen, bienvenue…

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