Editor’s Note: Tom has been hired by an unknown person to follow Lamar and provide a report of his activity.
Lamar returned to our table with another cup of coffee. He nodded toward the phone in my hand. “Are you reading the report?”
I nodded. “One more time with feeling. Looking for infelicities of style.”
Lamar frowned. “And I can’t read it?”
I shook my head. “So, what’s the deal with you and Juanita?”
“What deal?” Lamar said.
“You’ve been sleeping in your truck for a week.”
“That’s in the report?”
“Hard to ignore,” I said. “Sleeping in your truck, eating at the diner, showering at the gym. Not a pattern denoting domestic bliss.”
Lamar said, “We had a misunderstanding.”
“A misunderstanding? You two? I was under the impression that misunderstandings are your default setting. Some couples play bridge, dote on their dachshunds, cultivate roses. You and Juanita cultivate misunderstandings.”
I smiled. Lamar didn’t. I closed the file and set my phone beside his at the edge of the table. “Any plans for today?”
“Are you kidding me?” Lamar said. “Why are you asking? Give you head start, perhaps? Maybe a shortcut so you can run some errands when you’re supposed to be following me?”
“I was just making conversation,” I said.
Lamar said, “Sorry. I’m feeling touchy. This thing with Juanita has to blow over, right? I mean, if she really knew how miserable I am without her . . .”
What could I say?
“Beats me.” I said.
Juanita and Lamar have been loving and battling for years. It has been both fatiguing and fascinating to watch. “I don’t know what to tell you.”
Lamar shrugged. “I got no plans for today.”
“How about a ballgame? Maybe you could go watch the Panthers play or the Eagles. I love high school ball.”
“I go to a game,” Lamar said. “So, you can follow me there?”
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“Makes the report more engaging,” I said. “There’s only so many ways I can say, ‘After driving around aimlessly all evening, Mr. X parked in the Walmart parking lot and went to sleep in his truck cab.’”
“That’s how I refer to you,” I said. “Feels better than ‘Subject.’”
“Are you ready to send the report?” Lamar said.
I picked up my phone. “I suppose.”
“Send it,” Lamar said.
I sent it.
Lamar’s phone tinkled. He picked it up and stared at the screen.
When his lips stopped moving, I knew he had finished whatever he was reading. “Hum,” he said. He tapped a few keys.
“Who was that?” I asked.
“You,” Lamar said. “Good report. Vigorous and concise. I forwarded it to Juanita. Maybe it’ll help.”
“You hired me to follow you?”
“I needed corroboration,” Lamar said, “of my misery.”
“Corroboration?” I couldn’t believe it. “But the report is from me, your best friend. What difference will it make?”
“It’s like chicken soup,” Lamar said, “Can’t hurt; might help.”
“What about the big fee for my services?” I said.
Lamar said, “Bill me.”
Dear readers: Happy Mother’s Day!