about the author

Jason Peck’s fiction has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Bartleby Snopes, Jersey Devil Press, Cheat River Review, and 100 Word Story. He also serves on the editorial board for After Happy Hour Review.

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How It Will Go Down 

Jason Peck

You will likely catch them in the guest bedroom, find their bodies molded around the other on the only mattress that you and her would never share, because she needs some separation in this affair—no matter how absent you are, what an asshole you’ve been, no matter how nice the bed in the master bedroom, it’s still weird for her too, and although she’s stepping out of the marriage, she can’t share the same spaces with him that she shares with you. Even so, the scene in that guest bedroom will look remarkably familiar: the way she leaves the TV on because she needs noise and static for sleeping, the whop-whop of rackets from the tennis game she’s barely watching, the neighbor’s Chiweenie dog yipping since six that morning every morning, her thirty minutes of phone time in bed for news and tweets and emails while the man next to her—again, not you—sleeps for that half-hour.

Hints will trickle in beforehand. You’ll already have pieced everything from the innuendo of neighbors, the absences poorly explained and then not at all, the phone calls and texts from friends she doesn’t have. You’ll have had the time for processing, for confrontations and denials since you first knew for sure, but those will have happened over and over again and something close to acceptance will settle in until you come home unannounced and find her close to the act itself.

Upon seeing you, she will cover herself, which will only seem funny in retrospect, this unthinking modesty toward her husband—you—who has already seen more of her than any other man, with the possible exception of this guy in bed with her, who’s lying there too shocked to even cover his flaccid penis, having never known real nakedness until that moment where you catch him.

The look in his eyes will tell you something, that maybe he isn’t there for the quick fuck, the mindless in and out, the scratch for her itch. There could be something else, for those moments of affection you no longer satisfy, like when she needs a comforting shape, a form, a presence that stops her from crying to sleep. It won’t be all sex then—started that way no doubt—and as a result he will know more of her than you will, because before something deeper emerged he began as her temporary person, much as you did.

Except for the times when they do, in fact, use each other for sex, and feelings are something for stifling, but nothing really makes sense because no one has it figured out—you included. Nothing will make sense except for the fact that manhood or honor or duty or whatever will obligate you to beat the shit out of this kid, even though he’ll actually be about your age and no “kid,” even though you haven’t quite fought since middle school—this sight will create a hole that a righteous anger ought to fill because you are this woman’s devoted husband.

Except that you aren’t, because you yourself will begin straying before all of this happens, checking yourself in the mirror, wondering how much longer your hair will remain committed, how many bicep curls you can still manage, how many wrinkles or laugh lines you can count, how much you can offer to a woman other than her and how long the offer can stand and who’s willing to accept offers you’re about to make and how soon you can get them in the guest bedroom until you find she’s had the same feelings herself and she’s beaten you too it.

And you will be as that guy in bed with your wife, and you will be as your wife also, and both of them will be you; all three in a position where someone should have a right to outrage, but no one quite does because everyone will be sure of nothing.

All this will go through your mind in the moment before anyone speaks, before the shock can register, before anyone can initiate the actions they feel compelled to make. But on that day you’ll have her with her modesty and him with his limp dick, with the little dog barking and the tennis from the TV and the sounds of the neighborhood children innocent and hopelessly inappropriate for the happenings in your home, and you laughing out loud because one of you must say something first and buddy—it sure as hell won’t be you.

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