of Fools: The Miller's Tale Retold
lot of things can kill you. Unfortunately, humiliation isnt
one of them. Three years ago, good-lookin Sam Allison walked
through the doors of my public relations firm to pitch an idea
for one of his clients. Right off, I pegged him as a card-carrying
member of that hard-to-resist breed: a smart Southern charmer.
Theyre a dime a dozen in Atlanta, so Im usually impervious
to smart-ass-white-boys, but something struck me about Sam. The
fact that he was twenty years my junior did nothing to stop my
swan dive into love-oblivion.
Yes, I know. Its a story as old as dirt older woman/man
falls for younger man/woman and begins a life of public degradation.
But when youre in the middle of it, its as if you
have a cosmic sack over your head. The big picture doesnt
exist, only a tiny myopic one. I shouldve known better
and did but it just didnt matter.
Within six months of meeting, Sam had asked me to marry him. I
couldnt find a reason to say no. I was crazy about the guy,
and he seemed to feel the same about me, so we tied the knot in
a small, tasteful ceremony. The transition from single to married
life appeared to go smoothly for both of us. He moved into my
house, and we settled into a regular routine.
For me, life couldnt have been better. Bonnie Miller PR
& Media was inundated with work, and Atlanta Magazine named
us one of the citys top twenty small businesses. It didnt
take long for Sam to become an integral part of a firm that thrives
on his kind of intelligence, instinct, and charm. A perfect fit,
everyone said. But dont think I didnt notice the sly
smirks around the office and the club. Well show em,
I said to myself. Life was good.
In hindsight, I see that the first link in the chain of disaster
was forged last spring when I got a call from a professor friend
of mine from the University of Georgia. She had a smart, personable
student anxious to get real-world experience before graduation.
Was I willing to provide a little mentoring?
You bet! I jumped at the chance for a summer intern with a solid
recommendation from someone I trusted. Even with Sam on-board,
the firm had more work than it could handle.
It turned out that Jennifer Nichols was everything promised
savvy, talented, quick on the up-take and I did what I
could to expedite her move to Atlanta so that she could start
as soon as shed finished her exams. I even solved her apartment
crisis by offering to let her stay in our basement suite. It was
only for three months, and we had plenty of room. Yes, I know
what was I thinking, putting a pretty 21-year-old college
student in Sams line of sight day in, day out? Chink!
Chink! Start adding to the disaster-chain.
Jennifer moved in Memorial Day weekend. It didnt take long
for her to hook up with Abby Carter, another young woman in our
office, and for Abby to start coming around the house. Theyd
hang out in our back garden after work, enjoying a beer and conversation.
Though work and social obligations kept me from joining them most
evenings, I do remember Sam spending a lot of time back-gardening.
Now that I think about it, he seemed to come up with an awful
lot of excuses for weaseling out of our social commitments at
the time. Oh, miserable chink!
June and July were hectic months. Jennifer seemed especially well-suited
to the stressful pace of a thriving PR firm. Everyones noses
were to the grindstone, not just mine. Or maybe mine was more
so, and I didnt think to look up to see where the other
noses were. Anyway, since I was spending time hand-holding a new
bank client, I figured my husband and young employees were taking
up the slack in the office. I had no idea they were taking up
the slack at home, as well. Chink-a-chink-chink.
The first inkling I had that any sort of monkey business was going
on came in late July. Bonnie, you look like you could use
a drink, Jimbo Harris called to me from his patio as I schlepped
from my car after a particularly grueling work day. Gin
Make it a double! I ordered, falling onto a cushioned
We settled in with our drinks, catching up on neighborhood news.
A retired circuit court judge, Jimbo prides himself as being a
one-man neighborhood watch watching, primarily, the goings-on
around my place. Hes an old friend and I know he cares about
me, so Ive never minded his nosiness. But the story he relayed
as we sipped our cocktails rattled me.
Bonnie, I saw the strangest thing the other evening in your
back garden, he started. Im not one to pry
OK, I am but some phenomena just need explaining, so maybe
you can shed some light on it. He cleared his throat, then
continued. How can I put this? I saw what appeared to be
naked rump protruding from one of your pool-house windows and
that girl from your office kissing the afore-mentioned rump. Dont
know who the ass belonged to the girl seemed shocked and
embarrassed, like shed been expecting to kiss something
else. She left in a hurry. Never saw who came out of the pool-house,
though. Damn phone rang, so I missed that part of the show.
From his look and tone, I could tell Jimbo thought the ass-in-question
belonged to my Sam, but I couldnt believe that. Still, whose
could it have been? Ill say one thing for old Jim, hes
not one to hallucinate he saw what he saw. Was there a
logical explanation? I promised myself to start paying a little
more attention to what was happening at home.
Unfortunately, that attention wavered under a mountain of work,
causing the chain of disaster to reach its tension limit one night
toward the end of August. Bone-tired from two days in Birmingham
with the bank client, I slipped through the back door as quietly
as I could to avoid whoever might be in the house. I just wanted
to slide into a hot bath and inhale lavender-scented bubbles for
an hour. I tiptoed up to the bedroom, dumped my bag next to the
bed, and was on my way to start the bath when I heard a commotion
coming from the garden.
You bitches! I heard Sam yell. So this is whats
been going on behind my back!
I threw open the French doors and stepped out onto the bedroom
balcony overlooking the garden. Jennifer, dressed only in a tee-shirt
and thong, and Abby (fully-clothed, thankfully!) were standing
with their arms around each other in a more-than-best-girlfriend
embrace. Sam, wearing only a towel to cover his man-parts, was
in an angry, hysterical state. Whatever was happening, I didnt
want anyone to know I was there at least not yet
so I moved behind a planter that covered me from view. Ah, the
perfect vantage point for watching three people put my heart through
a grinder. Add a few more chinks and an ow!
Sam Allison, you are Grade-A pond-scum, growled Jennifer.
Stringing both of us along since June little secret
meetings behind the others back, making us both look like
fools! But it backfired, Big Guy, didnt it?
In that moment it became clear to me that Sam had been doing God-knows-what
with not only Jennifer, but with Abby as well. Chiiiiiiink!
You know how they say your life flashes before your eyes when
youre dying? Well, every conversation, meeting, and excuse
over the past three months blew through my head, and reality popped
into focus. Heat rose from the pit of my stomach to the ends of
my LOreal-colored auburn hair as I realized the biggest
fool in the world was sitting on my balcony.
But I had some competition for the title. Recognizing that he,
too, had just won an Olympic gold in stupidity, Sam was terror-alert-red
And how long has this been going on, girls? When did you
decide that it wasnt me you were interested in, but each
other? Huh? Does Bonnie know youre a couple of lesbians?
Jennifer came right back at him. Oh, like Bonnie would care
about the lesbian thing! Shed probably relish the coolness
of it all! True, I thought. Jennifer continued, Heres
a better question. Does Bonnie know youre Sleep-Around Sam?
No, Bonnie does not know hes Sleep-Around Sam,
I wanted to yell, but since my heart was trying to punch its way
out of my chest, I decided to keep quiet.
In the middle of everything, I became aware that my neighbors
Jimbo on one side and Walter and Louise Crawford on the
other were witnessing this fiasco from their upstairs windows.
Not only did they have ringside seats for the love-triangle freak-fest
in the garden, they had full view of the silly woman hiding behind
the planter on my balcony. Beam me up, oh Great Goddess! I was
a jellied mass of mortification.
Remember a couple of weeks ago when you pulled the butt-kissin
stunt? asked Jennifer. Abby and I decided that we
enjoyed each others rears more than anything wed had
with you! I've packed my stuff and I'm moving in with Abby until
I go back to school. Sure, Ill get a lousy review over this,
but youll lose a whole lot more. Enjoy being left out in
the cold with your little towel!
The two girls headed for their cars, leaving Sam a-steam in the
evening breeze. It was time for me to stand up and accept the
consequences of my naiveté and his unforgivable behavior.
Let the neighbors watch. I had no pride left.
Sam, I called hoarsely from the balcony. I think
you need to find another place to stay tonight. That was
all I could manage.
Sams red rage drained to jaundiced shock . Bonnie.
How long have you been there?
Lets see starting around the You bitches!
part. Ill give you ten minutes to dress and get out. Well
work out a time for you to get the rest of your things later.
Just go. I mustered as much dignity as I could and marched
to the bathroom for my hot bath. By the time I was thoroughly
steamed in every sense of the word Sam Allison was
gone, the disaster-chain broken for good.
I havent heard from him in almost six months. Hes
probably charming more birds out of trees. Abby, smart girl, decided
shed be more comfortable working for another PR firm, and
Jennifers finishing up her last semester at the university.
Shell be a treasure to someone with the time to keep an
eye on her. As far as I know, she and Abby are still together.
And me? Well, I lived through everything thanks to a few
close friends, a good divorce lawyer, and a patient therapist.
I never found out what actually happened the night of the ass-kissing
incident. Itll just have to be fodder for old-age speculation,
though I suspect Jimbo knows more than hes telling. Jimbo,
by the way, has come a-courtin over the last couple of months.
He saw me at my lowest point, so I figure the only way to go is
The chain-forging experience did teach me this: that the earth
will not open up and swallow you whole in the middle of your mortification.
You have to slog through it using whatever slippery lifelines
are available outrageous rationalizations, bald-faced lies,
or when all else fails, a week in bed with a bottle of gin and
sixteen pints of Chocolate Therapy ice cream. I suggest stocking
up on Bombay and Ben & Jerrys, because you never know.
Brennan was born and raised in Chattanooga, lives in Atlanta,
and writes wherever she damn well pleases. A former producer/writer
for Turner Broadcasting, she now works in marketing for the architecture
firm Perkins+Will. She is currently working on a novel based on
the life of a remarkable Englishman she met in the 1970s.