In which George makes his exit, vainly salvaging the remnants of his ego.






George hung up the phone feeling less than his usual inflated self. He briefly considered the advisability of ignoring the ultimatum. Life could go on just as it had before, there would be children screaming and tearing around the house in the evening and a warm body in the bed every night. And what would it be like if he left? No Bennie. No Bruce. No Mercy.

He went to the stereo and got out one of his older, most treasured records, a constant companion in times of adversity throughout his younger years. He flipped it to the second side and carefully maneuvered the needle to the first song. There was a major haze on his own skyline at the moment, but he didn't want to know what Mercy would wish him on his way.

He adjusted the volume until the acoustic guitar and Ian Anderson's voice sans flute filled the room. He wandered aimlessly around the living room wondering what he could or should take with him. Well, his collection of Jethro Tull albums would go where he went, and the stereo along with them.

... nothing at all.

For a fraction of a second, George felt something resembling remorse. As he wrestled with himself, he came close to understanding what he'd done and what he'd lost, but soon the forces of mediocrity and self-deception won. Given his emotional temperament, the outcome was probably inevitable; he was too full of himself and it. Mercy had made impossible demands upon him, withdrawing her sexual favors and squandering them elsewhere, and then when he had tried to enforce his rights, she manipulated him into a corner to squeeze him dry. He was the hapless victim, losing his house and his wife and his kids, having them torn away from him, one day a loud laughing home, the next day nothing.

Love's four-letter-word certainly was no compensation whatsoever.