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The Bet




Jack Swenson



They had a jumpers' pool at a bar I used to frequent a hundred years ago when my first wife and I were still married.  She took the train into San Francisco every day, and I picked her up when she got back from work. The pool worked just like a football pool only there were fewer spaces--one for each day of the month.  What you did was pick the day you guessed a jump would occur, pay a buck, and the bartender would write your name in that space.  If nobody jumped off the bridge that month, the money would carry over to the next month.


By the way, the jumps I'm talking about were almost always fatal.  The bridge was a big bridge.  It was a long drop to the water.


I actually know (knew?) someone who jumped off that bridge, but I didn't have a wager on when she jumped.  By then my wife and I had parted company.


Ah, yes.  Those were the fun days!  Our house was the party capital of the West Bay.  Our teacher friends would come over after school.  Some of them were heavy drinkers; some were not.  My wife didn't drink; I did.  There was some hanky panky, too.  My wife held hands from time to time with a wrestling coach, and I had what might be called a steamy affair with a petite blond school administrator, my wife's best friend.


The woman who killed herself was a doctor's wife.  Both of them attended some of our parties.  Nice people.  The woman was smart but not pretty.  The doctor was a tall, handsome man who seemed straight-laced, but I guess he wasn't, because it was rumored that that was why his wife killed herself: he was going to leave her for another woman.


My marriage did not go well, either.  My wife found out about my dalliance, and we divorced.  My second marriage ended in divorce, as well, and this time the tables were turned: my Mrs. left me for another man.  She got a better offer, I told my friends.


Funny.  Being odd one out doesn't seem tragic until it happens to you.  Maybe I learned something the last time: how it feels to fall.


And fall and fall and fall.



JACK SWENSON shares...

JACK SWENSON, whose work has appeared in The Shine Journal before, is a teacher, student, reader, scribbler, husband, and self described cat  herder. He also teaches a class of wild and crazy kids at a senior center in Fremont, CA. where he lives in serene retirement.




“Thoughts about "the old days" motivated this story as well as a desire to tinker with craft issues, i.e., resolution.”

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