This one's long and definitely R-rated, by the way. How do they put it? "Sexually suggestive".
Deanna cursed silently and held the power button down on her Dell Inspiron. It was the third time she was turning her computer off and on and she held on to a last shred of hope that this time it would work.
Fucking Sears salesman, she told herself, convincing me to buy this overpriced heap of junk. She didn't know much about computers and the rapid patter of the young man had intimidated her. He had a cute smile, besides, and a trim build, but Deanna was halfway to the parking lot before realizing that she'd forgotten to memorize his name. Another opportunity lost.
She knew little about computers although she was a little better off than Mike, whose knowledge extended as far as knowing where the power button was on his Mac Mini. He had Weed over whenever had trouble, which was often. Some months ago she'd run into Anthony at the grocery store and, desperate for any kind of small talk with the schmuck, she'd mentioned her need for a personal computer of her own. Francie was with him and offered to help her "build a system" but Deanna thought it sounded too complicated and declined the offer.
The machine had finally turned itself off and, sighing, Deanna hit the button again. It beeped and flashed stuff on the screen and did all the stuff it normally did but then the error came up again: "Operating System Not Found". "Fuck!" she shouted, then bowed her head. Maybe she should call Weed. Wouldn't that be a twist, she thought.
There was always Mike's laptop. Before she got her own computer she'd occasionally used it. Weed had set it up so she could log in under her own name without disturbing any of Mike's stuff. But Mike still hovered around her while she was on, fussing and fretting, and finally he boycotted her altogether.
Deanna cautiously glanced into the neighboring rooms in the house. Mike was not to be seen. Then she went into his bedroom—our bedroom, it used to be—sat at his desk and turned the Mac Mini on, looking over his desk while the thing whirred and did its thing. This is where he lives, she thought. She still spent some time here, mostly in the after-dinner hours before Merrie and Robin were put to bed, not wanting entirely to rob her children of the illusion that she and Mike were as close as they ever were. But the endless tick-tap-tick of Mike's typing drove her mad, so she was spending more of her evenings in the kitchen, baking pies and coffee-cakes and dozens of cookies. Mike preferred it, anyway. From covert glances over his shoulder she knew that he was spending less of his time in Microsoft Office and more time in some program called Adium, typing short messages that she couldn't make out. One evening Deanna had made the mistake of going back to the bedroom for a cookbook she'd left there without first knocking the door, and she stumbled upon Mike, furiously typing into a little Adium window while unzipping his fly. She was more careful after that.
The desk was almost empty except for the monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Aren't writers supposed to have, I dunno, dictionaries or notebooks or something else with them? When Mike was actually writing she never saw him do anything but stare at the screen and type, type, type. He never even read any other books in his spare time. Years ago, when he was first starting out, Deanna had bought her husband a birthday gift of a Merriam-Webster's dictionary, figuring that it something a writer would love to have, but after a few days he shelved it and, so far as Deanna knew, never touched it again.
The Macintosh finally got through starting up. She half expected her account to be gone but to her surprise, it was still there for her to log into. The dope probably doesn't know how to get rid of it. She hunted for Firefox, but something distracted her: a small pile of shiny CD-ROM discs, the top one at least with no label or writing on it, lying on the desktop tucked halfway behind the monitor. Aren't you supposed to put these in a box or a sleeve? She held it up to the light, tilting it and watching the rainbow colors playing over its silver surface. Curiosity overcame her then and she popped the disk into the Mac Mini's slot.
A window popped up, full of icons in the shape of 35 mm film clips. She double clicked one, named only "3sum127.mp4".
Another window opened. There in a nondescript bedroom were three men, all unclothed, one of them trussed up in a black leather harness. He was bent over on the bed, presenting himself, while another man knelt between his splayed legs and the third stood expectantly behind—
The door to the bedroom flew open. "Deanna!" Mike said, in a tone of utmost annoyance. "I told you never to use my computer—"
Without a word Deanna leapt up, grabbed Mike's arm, and tugged him over to the desk. "Ow, Deanna, don't squeeze so hard," he complained. "You've got your own computer now, I'm sure you can see why I'm upset..."
Deanna pointed. The harnessed man was grunting in pleasure, jacking himself off with his face pressed into the mattress. Mike's lipless mouth opened but only a strangled, "Oh," emerged. Deanna quit the program with a flick of the mouse then dragged the CD-ROM icon to the trash. The Mac Mini ejected it into her waiting hand and he brandished it under her husband's nose.
"What the fuck is this?"
"Mike, I put up with a lot of shit from you. For the kids' sake I accept all your fucking around without complaining. Hell, I almost make it easier for you! I work on excuses for why you're away from home all the time. I think I've gotten pretty damn creative at it. You should understand that, you're a writer.." She spat out the last word, not bothering to hide her contempt.
"It's not like that, Dee. I'm doing research for a character in my next novel—"
She slapped him. "My god, do you really think I'm stupid enough to buy that old excuse?"
Mike said nothing.
"I'll be honest. If you want to look at videos of guys hung like mules banging away to Depeche Mode, I don't really care. But you will not leave a heap of porn lying out in the open on your desk where anyone can see it."
"C'mon, Deanna, the kids never come in here."
"How do you know?" She scooped up the whole pile and pushed past Mike on the way to the bedroom door. "These are going in the trash, Mike. Not after they've spent a few seconds in the microwave first."
"No!" Mike ran after her, tugging her arm. "You said you didn't care."
"I didn't. But maybe I'm starting to. No more, Mike. At least do a better fucking job of hiding it."
"But DEE!" he cried, palms out in supplication.
"Go fuck yourself," said Deanna, not looking back.
Mike crashed into his chair, head bowed. He heard the microwave door slammed shut, heard the beeping, then the door slamming shut again. There were footsteps and then the crash of the front door opening and closing.
At least I'm alone now. Merrie and Robin were out with Elly, probably at the ice cream parlor or maybe a movie. He'd have an hour alone, if Deanna didn't decide to come back. He started Adium up. A few seconds later, a window blinked open.
* hi * it said.
# hello weed #
* hows it going *
# not good #
# she found the discs you left with me last week #
* ;_; *
# can you make more #
* its no problem hun *
* ill bring them by in a few days *
* or maybe you can come up here *
# it might be hard #
# dee is really mad this time #
* aw *
* hugs *
# its ok #
# ive got some of the others you made #
Mike got up and went to the bookshelf across the room. There weren't many books on it that were his. Most of them were past Christmas or birthday gifts: a Roget's thesaurus, a novel of Tom Wolfe's, a book of the best American short fiction of 2003. He'd tried reading the first short story in the last book one day when he was bored but he got tired of it after a few pages.
The heaviest of all of the books was the Merriam-Webster's dictionary, Deanna's first gift to him. Taking it down and hefting it, he felt a twinge of regret that he hadn't looked through it much. But he'd never had the patience for big words. The ones he already knew were fine, weren't they? But he did use the book for something. Opening it he carefully removed a thin object from under the dust jacket, a CD-ROM in a paper sleeve. He replaced the dictionary and went back to his desk. There were so many pictures on the disc, so many little movies. Weed had made it for him years ago. He'd seen everything on it many times but he never tired of any of it. He opened up a few of the pictures, feeling the mood on him as he paged through them.
# got one of your first discs out #
# dees never found it #
*youre usually so good at hiding things*
# learned it from my mom #
# there was this one time she found some gum i put on the bedpost #
# wanted to save it for later #
# she was so mad #
# but she never found the rest of it #
* lol *
* how did dee find those cds then *
# i got careless #
# dee came home early #
# forgot to put them back under the mattress #
Mike flipped through some more pictures.
# weed #
# are you alone? #
* :D *
* yes *
Mike's hand touched his belt buckle.