What We Do
Lorene spots the mother-in-law two cars up, her wisp of white hair rising above the Volvo steering wheel like a thick spider web. The Volvo turns right and putters down Leroy Avenue, which is not the way to the town’s art center, where the supposed sculpting class is to take place.
Lorene slows down at the intersection and double parks, not wanting to turn just yet as the mother-in-law has eyes all over her head. She sees everything. Everything.
Once several cars turn onto Leroy, Lorene moves forward, straining to catch a glimpse of the silver station wagon now turning down Wilson Lane, a quiet well manicured street.
Once on Wilson, Lorene slows, then stops when the Volvo turns into a driveway and tucks into the garage. The garage doors slip down like sleepy eyes. The mother-in-law is now in her lover’s home, probably getting out of her car at this very moment, a man—maybe seventy-five and still digesting a blue pill—standing before her. Is the mother-in-law even considering Henry, Lorene’s father-in-law? Or her son, Jim, Lorene’s husband? Or the teenage grandchildren, Lorene’s children? She probably gives no thought to Lorene. Or does she? Does she imagine her daughter-in-law? Does she say touche when she comes?
The house is a perfect square with cedar shingles and a split wood fence surrounding it. Lorene stands on the road by the driveway thinking, now what? The last time she followed the mother-in-law—the supposed YMCA swimming aerobics class—she ended up at a bar on the south-side of town. The mother-in-law wore stiletto boots, loose black pants and a white knit shirt. Just before she entered the bar, she pulled a cigarette from her purse and lit it.
There are woods to the side of the house and a culvert that cuts the property off from the neighbor—a cape with plastic tricycles in the yard. Lorene could duck into the woods and wait it out, or perhaps make it to a window and try to witness it. She doesn’t really want to witness it. She doesn’t know what she wants. Assurance? Leverage? Comfort?
The back door opens and the couple steps out onto the patio. Lorene quickly takes cover behind a large maple at the edge of the property. The balding old man looks like an ex-athlete in his tight sport shirt and heavy jeans. The mother-in-law wears blue dockers and a bright red silk tank shirt, her pale arms thin, yet loose, not toned. She does not do aerobics. She enjoys butter, drinks beer and when no one looks takes a cigarette.
The couple is holding hands and drinking something pink in martini glasses. They both squeeze together in one chaise lounge, the mother-in-law on top, moving her hand up the old man’s thigh. He takes her hand and places it on his groin. They both guffaw.
The last time the in-laws were over for dinner, the mother-in-law mentioned Jim’s reading glasses on the night stand in the guest bedroom. “Does he go there to read at night?” she had said, staring too long at Lorene. “He’s like his father. What can we do?”
Lorene can see the mother-in-law now walking her fingers up the old the man’s chest, neck, then chin. Here, in the back yard, hidden by woods but still in plain view of anyone who wanted to spy, the mother-in-law begins to push her finger into his mouth.
Lorene does not want to see this. But here she is! She closes her eyes and stands straight against the tree, arms by her side, as if playing hide and seek. It will all be over soon, this mother-in-law sex.
The wind picks up, scattering dead leaves by Lorene’s feet and voices over her head. She hears the mother in law say, let’s do something here, now. The old man says, not that, not here. And then, loud, the mother-in-law says, What can we do? What can we do?
What can we do?