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FICTION — The Conroys of Monroe

Image – Michael Anthony
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Alex and Marion Conroy of Monroe are virtually indistinguishable from their suburban neighbors on Oak Lane except for two related characteristics: their sexual role-playing and their names. To the bewilderment of telemarketers, Alexandra is the matriarch of the family. Her husband, Marion, was cursed with the troublesome appellation through an odd chain of events at his birth. Despite decades of questions, it remains a mystery whether it was his mother or father who directed the nurse to list the baby’s name as Marion Templeton Conroy.

He endured a hellacious time in elementary school, exceeded only by the cruelty of adolescents taunting him not only about his name, but his masculinity and his enjoyment of reading. The torment culminated during Marion’s sophomore year at Washington High School.

An oversized varsity lineman, named Jake Parnell, blocked Marion’s path across the cafeteria. Then, for the benefit of all present, Jake loudly asked Marion where his tutu was before threatening to de-pants him for the amusement of the student body.

Attempting to evade the larger student, Marion tilted his tray, sending macaroni and cheese, chocolate milk and lime gelatin down the front of the footballer.

The stunned aggressor looked down to see his clothes now a wet rainbow of food. The moment he did, Marion brought the edge of the tray up hard and fast, catching his tormentor’s chin. The force of the upward motion snapped Jake’s head back, leaving a deep gash along his jawline that spurted blood like a burst hose.

With the athlete reeling from the unexpected hit, Marion coiled his arms and speared the corner of the tray into Jake’s unprotected diaphragm. The air rushed from his classmate’s lungs in a single sudden gust. He doubled over trying to speak, but with no air to vibrate his vocal cords Jake was incapable of forming even the faintest whisper.

Gasping and clutching his chest in agony, he fell to his knees, then hit the floor with a loud ‘thunk.’ Silent and disbelieving, the entire population of the early lunch period froze. It was David and Goliath re-enacted right before their very eyes.

The teacher on monitor duty stood Marion against the wall. Then, she knelt over the crumpled football player, resting her hand on his motionless back.

“Breathe,” she repeated, “breathe.”

With his strength sapped, Jake remained on all fours, trying to restart the rhythm of breathing. Finally, he managed to slow his gasping and focused on the sharp pain radiating from just below his sternum.

The triumph earned Marion a three-day home suspension and another two in the principal’s outer office. Had this occurred twenty years later, he might have been charged with assault. But, back then, it was viewed more as a rite of passage than an attack.

Though the school principal secretly cheered Marion’s act of courage, regulations dictated his course of action. So, he imposed the discipline reluctantly.

Jake and Marion never reconciled and for the balance of their time at Washington avoided each other. But, in addition to the suspensions, Marion won respect from his classmates; admiration from other honors students; and of course, dreamy gazes from a number of girls. That admiration didn’t end with the students because on the final day of his in-school suspension the school nurse sidled up next to him.

“Where did you learn those moves?”

“Cowboy movie,” Marion smiled.

“You know,” the nurse said, “John Wayne’s real name was…”

“Yeah, Marion,” the newly crowned hero grimaced. He had heard it so often that he could anticipate the comment milliseconds before the other person articulated it.

“Well, I think you did him proud. About time somebody put those jocks in their place.” Then, she bent close, “We never had this conversation. Right?”

“Right,” he agreed.

Despite his modest height and sinewy frame, Marion developed an exceptional skill for ice hockey. So much so, that he landed a full ride to a college outside of Buffalo, where in a senior year championship game, an opponent’s savage body check, left him on the ice with a broken collarbone and separated shoulder. Though he wasn’t destined for an NHL career, the injuries ended even the remote possibility.

*

This particular day, Marion is reading brochures from a half-dozen different colleges that are interested in his daughter, Emily, for her hockey skills. He worries, as many fathers would, about how she will handle the pressures of school, dating, competitive sports, and being several hundred miles from home. Emily has an offer from a university in Alberta that he hopes she will not pursue.

Seeking her counsel, Marion asks Alex, “What do you think about the offer from Canada?”

“Wouldn’t be my choice, but luckily it isn’t,” Alex replies without looking up from her book.

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

“No,” Alex says. “You asked me a question and I answered. If you want me to soothe your worries, just say so.”

Marion loves Alex’s directness, which others often see as icy disdain. Luckily, for Marion, Alex has a reliable semaphore by which he can gauge her mood. During the workday, her long blonde hair is up and wound tightly in a French twist. Whenever it is, she is all business and straight to the point.

But when loosed and cascading over her freckled shoulders, Alex is relaxed; welcoming of Marion’s intimate advances; and answers his kinky lust with her own uninhibited passion. That isn’t to say they don’t have sex when her hair is up, but when they do, Alex is the Dom and Marion the Sub.

Apparently, this works for the Conroys because they have been married some twenty-six years and neither has strayed, except for that dangerous flirtation the summer before last when Alex worked in the law office of an attractive local attorney.

Like so many such liaisons, it started innocently with a few long lunches; dinner with the lawyer and a client at a hotel across town; and, late evenings finishing up contracts. More than once, Alex experienced stirrings that previously only Marion had sparked in her.

One late August day, Alex was sorting the detritus strewn across her desk. As she finished making four separate piles, she turned to find herself face to face with her boss. No more than six inches separated them. Each saw something desired but unspoken in the eyes of the other.

Alex’s skin warmed. Her throat flushed. Her palms dampened. It was the first time in her married life that she had the urge to kiss someone other than Marion. She wanted to pull the attorney hard against her body and surrender her own for the taking. Only the unexpected arrival of the cleaning woman interrupted what otherwise could have been a torrid affair commencing and possibly even consummating right there on the desk.

Despite being told by a neighbor that he had seen Alex and the lawyer leaving the Heritage Inn, Marion didn’t suspect a thing. Had the attorney been named Steven Bischoff and not Sarah he might have.

Unsure of her ability to resist temptation, Alex resigned the following month. Though torn by her decision, she loved Marion too much to destroy their marriage, even if it meant foregoing her secret most desire.

But, living in the four square miles of Monroe makes it nearly impossible to avoid running into acquaintances several times a month. And so it is with Alex and Sarah, who often find themselves standing side by side at The Beanery Cafe or behind one another at the town’s lone supermarket. Alex can still see the hunger in Sarah’s eyes and wonders if hers convey the same.

Though now the women are able to converse as casually as they had before that sultry August evening, whenever they part, a flame burns white hot in Alex and she knows there is only one thing that will satisfy the craving.

“Marion,” she will breathe heavily into her mobile phone, “I need to have a leather session tonight.”

“Wonderful,” he will reply and then ask, “Will your hair be up or down?”

*

Michael Anthony is a writer and artist living in New Jersey. He has published fiction, poetry and illustrations in multiple literary journals and commercial magazines. Most recently these include The Opiate, The Birch Gang Review, Jonah Magazine, the Indiana Voice Journal and The Copperfield Review. The American Labor Museum exhibited Michael’s photojournalism essay on the waning of the textile industry.

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